TO Cityscapes

Toronto Through My Lens

Curves At The AGO

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) at 317 Dundas Street West is a near-limitless photography source of beautiful curves, gentle angles and spirals.

The building complex takes up 45,000 square metres of physical space, making it one of the largest art museums in North America and the second-largest art museum in Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) being the largest.

The gallery was established in 1900 as the Art Museum of Toronto and formally incorporated in 1903. The museum was renamed the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1919, before it adopted its present name, the Art Gallery of Ontario, in 1966.

The museum’s permanent collection includes over 120,000 works spanning the first century to the present day. The museum collection includes a number of works from Canadian, First Nations, Inuit, African, European, and Oceanic artists. In addition to exhibits for its collection, the museum has organized and hosted a number of travelling art exhibitions.

If you’d like to check out the latest exhibitions at the AGO, click here.

From The Vaults: Farewell, Jack

This post is based on an event from thirteen years ago, so I guess it qualifies for my so-called From The Vaults series.

A Bit Of Background

Everyone who has a pulse is familiar with the name Jack Layton (July 18, 1950 – August 22, 2011). Jack served as the leader of the NDP from 2003 to 2011 and was leader of the Official Opposition in 2011. Previous to that he sat on Toronto City Council, occasionally holding the title of Acting Mayor or Deputy Mayor of Toronto during his tenure as City Councillor. Jack was also the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Toronto-Danforth riding from 2004 until his death.

Jack rose to prominence in Toronto municipal politics, where he was one of the most prominent left-wing voices on the City and Metropolitan Toronto Councils, championing many progressive causes. In 1991, he ran for Mayor, losing to June Rowlands. Returning to Council, he rose to become head of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. In 2003, he was elected leader of the NDP.

Under Jack Layton’s leadership, support for the NDP increased in each election. The party’s popular vote almost doubled in the 2004 election, which gave the NDP the balance of power in Paul Martin’s minority government.

Jack died on August 22, 2011, after being diagnosed with cancer. He was survived by his wife of 23 years – our current Mayor – Olivia Chow.

Remembering Jack, Nathan Phillips Square

In the week before the funeral, Jack’s body was laid in state at Parliament Hill at the House of Commons foyer in Ottawa, then in repose at Toronto City Hall.

On August 26, 2011 a huge memorial for Jack was held in Nathan Phillips Square, outside Toronto City hall. It is from this memorial that my following pictures originate. It was a low-key but very powerful event; the love and respect for this man was clearly on display everywhere in the Square that evening:

Interment

Jack Layton’s ashes were scattered in three places: Cote St. Charles United Church in Hudson, Quebec where he was raised; on Toronto Island, where he was married; and at the Toronto Necropolis, near where he lived.

Here is Jack’s bronze bust atop a red granite pillar at the Toronto Necropolis:

Leaving A Legacy

For those interested, here is a CBC timeline of Jack Layton’s accomplishments

New Timothy Schmalz Sculptures

As I roam the city with camera in hand I’ve discovered one sculptor whose work appears in several places: Timothy Schmalz.

Timothy Schmalz is a prolific and gifted Canadian sculptor from St. Jacobs, Ontario. Most of his work personifies his devotion to Catholicism. Cast editions of his life-sized sculptures have been installed in major cities in front of some of the most historically significant Christian sites in the world.

Notable Work

Timothy Schmalz is best known for his Homeless Jesus sculpture he created in reaction to the many homeless living on the streets. That bronze sculpture was intended to be provocative, with Schmalz commenting: That’s essentially what the sculpture is there to do. It’s meant to challenge people.

As of today, over 50 bronze casts of Homeless Jesus are installed in religiously significant and historical locations around the world from Vatican City to Capernaum, Israel to Johannesburg, South Africa to Singapore.

We are fortunate to have a copy of Homeless Jesus here in Toronto, located at the doors to Regis College, 100 Wellesley Street West. If you would like to read my post on Toronto’s Homeless Jesus, you will find it here.

When I Was Sick

During the course of one day I recently came across two new (to me) sculptures by Timothy Schmalz. The first is entitled When I Was Sick and it can be found in front of the Church of the Redeemer at 162 Bloor Street West, on the corner of Bloor Street West and Avenue Road. It was unveiled on September 24, 2023:

Let The Oppressed Go Free

The other new Schmalz sculptor I’ve discovered is entitled Let The Oppressed Go Free. This enormous sculpture is located in front of Regis College at 100 Wellesley Street West, at the corner of Queen’s Park Crescent. The work was unveiled on October 25, 2023.

Schmalz was requested by the Vatican to create a sculpture on the theme of human trafficking. The depicts former slave St. Josephine Bakhita opening a trapdoor as she frees figures that represent human-trafficking victims.

The sculpture contains almost a hundred figures representing the different faces of human trafficking including sex exploitation, forced labour, debt bondage and more. Men, women, and children, including an infant are shown to demonstrate the wide range of victims of human trafficking:

The sculpture’s inspiration and name come from the Bible passage Isaiah 58:6:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

The original of this massive bronze sculpture is installed in the Shrine of St. Bahkita in Schio, Italy.

Honourable Mention

Also of note, there is a Timothy Schmalz sculpture in front of St. Paul’s Bloor Street (227 Bloor Street East), entitled When I Was a Stranger. This piece invites pedestrians to sit on bronze stools, joining the cloaked figure of Jesus Christ. I will be publishing a future post about this sculpture, so stay tuned for that.

If you would like to learn more about the artist, Timothy Schmalz’s website is found here.

So Long, Icefest

Traditionally, one winter event I always look forward to in Toronto is the Bloor-Yorkville Icefest. It makes for a great photo opp and a chance to admire some truly amazing ice sculptures created by very talented artists.

The event is usually held about this time every year, so about two weeks ago I started prowling the Internet for event details. After practically reaching the end of the Internet and not finding any listings for Icefest (except for stale information from last year’s event), I learned that the Bloor-Yorkville Icefest has been permanently cancelled after many successful years of its run… say WHAT!?

To that end, I finally found the following media release on the Bloor-Yorkville BIA website:

A Message from Bloor-Yorkville Icefest

Bloor-Yorkville Icefest is an annual event, produced by the Bloor-Yorkville BIA,
for the past 17 years, bringing the community together to celebrate winter and to
support important charitable causes.

Unfortunately, we have made the difficult decision to cancel Icefest for the
foreseeable future. This decision was made in response to logistical challenges
and limitations, which have impacted our ability to organize and execute the
event successfully. We are immensely grateful to all our suppliers who have been
incredible partners in developing Bloor-Yorkville Icefest through the years, and
we also would like to thank the community, our businesses and our annual
sponsors for their continued support.

Well… crap! Another Toronto tradition bites the dust…

The Bloor-Yorkville Icefest Gallery

So, in light of Icefest’s demise I present to you a collection of images from its past few years – an Icefest Retrospective, if you will. Just click on the first image to launch the slideshow; hovering your mouse over the image will pause the slideshow.

Enjoy…

The Toronto Inukshuk

The Toronto Inukshuk resides in Toronto Inukshuk Park at 789 Lake Shore Boulevard West, west of Coronation Park.

The sculpture is one of the largest of its kind in North America, according to the City of Toronto. It stands 30 feet high and its arms span 15 feet. Made of granite, it
weighs about 50 tonnes. The Inukshuk was unveiled in 2002 to commemorate World Youth Day, when Pope John Paul II visited the city.

The Inukshuk, a sculpture made up of piled stones, is a familiar symbol of the Inuit, mostly found in the Arctic landscape and often used as a navigational tool.

This Inukshuk was designed by Nunavut-born artist Kellypalik Qimirpik.

Former Mayor Mel Lastman spoke at the 2002 unveiling. His speech is engraved on this granite slab next to the Inukshuk. Part of it says:

World Youth Day has been a true navigational guide for millions of young people throughout the world. The Toronto Inukshuk invites each one of us to become beacons of light and hope, striving for justice and peace in this world.

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