TO Cityscapes

Toronto Through My Lens

desiFEST 2024

Last weekend played host to desiFEST, the annual celebration of South Asian music, art, food and culture, held in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square. In this, the festival’s 18th year, the entertainment lineup consisted of exclusively Canadian talent. Mayor Olivia Chow was also on hand to address the audience; she was the first-ever Mayor to participate in desiFEST. The festival lasted over 12 hours, wrapping up at 11:00PM that night.

Here’s a bit of what last Saturday afternoon offered:

Dancers

BollyX hosted by Dance with Safa

Games

Music

Maple Masala Band

This homeless guy was feeling the vibes of the Maple Masala Band and decided to do something about it…

Shirjeel Jackson

Food (lots of it…)

If you’d like to learn more about desiFEST, click here.

Roehampton Avenue Sculptures

Continuing on in the Yonge-Eglinton area, I came across a couple of interesting sculptures on Roehampton Avenue:

What’s Your Name?
by Ilan Sandler (2011)

This sculpture is located at 70 Roehampton Avenue beside “The Republic” condo building. What’s Your Name? identifies North Toronto Collegiate Institute (NTCI) students past and present by reproducing their proper names and handwritten signatures on the sculpture’s stainless steel surfaces.

One sheaf shows all the first names of students who have attended the school since 1912, beginning at the top of the inner page. Each name is present only once, and at the moment it first appears in the school record. The chronological list includes new names through to 2010 with a total of 2053 different names. The names of the last students to occupy the original NTCI building appear at the bottom of the outer page.

The second sheaf creates imprints of the students’ public and private identities by contrasting the names of those who attended the school over the past century with a selection of signatures from alumni and current students.

‘What’s Your Name?’ is often the first question we ask someone, and by answering we announce ourselves to each other and to the world. During adolescence our relationship to proper names tends to change; a name is no longer something given but something made, crafted and personalized through the deliberate art of the signature. Schools, and particularly high schools, are where the proper name and the signature intersect.

Paper and print, which are the core tools of education, become dynamic sculptural forms on which an imprint of students’ public and private identities is inscribed.
Ilan Sandler

Points of View: Looking North
by Tony Cragg (2023)

Located outside the condos at 101 Roehampton Avenue is a work entitled Points of View: Looking North. The stainless-steel sculpture combines precise geometries with expressive organic form — an exploration between the rational and emotional aspects of material forms:

The entire material world, whether natural or man-made, consists on a fundamental level of rational geometries-ratio. Our appreciation of their complex appearances is, however, our emotional response. ‘Points of View: Looking North’ combines these apparently very different worlds and traits of human thought.
Tony Cragg

“Stargate”

Outside the condo buildings at 150 and 155 Redpath Avenue, there is an interesting 2-part sculpture entitled Stargate.

Designed by Toronto and Krakow-based artists Blue Republic (Anna Passakas & Radoslaw Kudlinski), the 2016 installation includes alien-inspired pieces on the two west side corners of Redpath Avenue, fronting the entrances to the condo towers at 150 and 155 Redpath.

The crew of blue and yellow characters, each weighing thousands of pounds, create a window into outer space, both through the bold creatures themselves and their surrounding landscape of swirling vortices.

150 Redpath Avenue

Our inspiration for this piece came from the unique diversity of this city. For some, moving to a new neighbourhood is like moving from one universe to another. So many people bring various experiences and cultures with them from all over the world. We are both science fiction fans, and we felt that “Stargate”, drawing from this popular genre, could be the glue between these narratives.
Radoslaw Kudlinksi of Blue Republic

155 Redpath Avenue

Inspired by both Eastern and Greek mythology and science fiction, Stargate serves as a connection between different worlds and a call to explore the unknown.

The “Village Gateways”

On Church Street there are “village gateways” which indicate the boundaries of the Church-Wellesley Business Improvement Area (BIA). The markers consist of two 22-foot signposts with swirling rainbow blades. At night, lights inside the markers illuminate writing on the cube base, which reads: Church-Wellesley Village. Each of the two markers is accompanied by a colourful utility box depicting caricatures of people living in and around the village.

The gateway markers were designed by architect Claudio Santo and installed during early 2013. Claudio Santon says the BIA gave him a fair amount of artistic freedom within certain design specifications. He says they wanted a representation of the rainbow flag, which is iconic of the Church-Wellesley Village. They also wanted the markers to convey a sense of inclusion, because everyone is welcome in the Village.

The South Gateway

The South Gateway is located at 484 Church Street, on the west side of Church Street between Wood and Alexander Streets. It accompanies the The Village utility box (left, in shot below):

The North Gateway

The North Gateway is located at 557 Church Street, outside Hasty Market, between Gloucester and Monteith Streets. It is also coupled with a fun and colourful depiction of village folks on a nearby utility box (right side, below):

A Yorkville-Annex Walk

The Annex is one of Toronto’s oldest neighbourhoods. It has an old world feel to it and is somewhat diverse, including U of T, trendy eateries, art galleries and one-of-a-kind shops. On its side-streets are gorgeous residential homes — many built around 1880.

For this walk I started at Bay Street, crossed Scollard Street, went down Hazelton Avenue, then on to Yorkville Avenue. From there I completed the rectangular route of Avenue Road, Prince Arthur Avenue, Huron Street, Lowther Avenue, returning to Avenue Road.

Scollard Street

Let’s start out with some beautiful spring tulips on Scollard Street:

Table of Love

At 120 Scollard Street there is this absolutely delightful sculpture called Table of Love by the artists Gillie & Marc.

The text accompanying the work reads:

Even though it was their first date he asked her to marry him. And she said YES. They say when you know, you know, and Dogman and Rabbitwoman both did after just one date. They met, they had dinner, he asked, she said yes. And within a week of first meeting each other they were in Nepal getting married in the foothills of Mount Everest. They still love going on dates together, sharing food, laughter and conversation. And after all this time – to adventure, to chance, to each other – they always say yes.

Hazelton Avenue

Outside Gallery Gevik at 12 Hazelton Avenue I encountered The Chorus, a 1966 sculpture by the Canadian artist Sylvia Lefkovitz:

I’ve always thought this sculpture dark, depressing, foreboding; it fills me with a sense of dread, à la the Dementors in the Harry Potter movies…

Time to move on to something a little cheerier…

Prince Arthur Avenue

Prince Arthur Avenue was named for the Duke of Connaught (1850-1942) who became Governor-General of Canada from 1911 to 1916. He first visited Canada in 1869 and this street name appeared on the Toronto registered plan in 1870.

I’ve been wanting to revisit Prince Arthur Avenue for a while. I’ve always admired the historic homes and buildings on this relatively upscale street:

15 Prince Arthur Avenue
“This dwelling dates to the 1870s. Its side entrance is innovative for the time, but the general tone is conservative as symmetry prevails under a conventional gable roof. Of special interest are the pairs of semicircular arched windows across the façade”.

If you’d like to read my post dedicated to Uno Prii’s architectural creations in the Annex, click here.

Painted utility box outside 20 Prince Arthur Avenue
The Duke of York – 39 Prince Arthur Avenue
The Duke of York Pub is a Toronto landmark restaurant with a long history. It opened in 1976 and has been in successful operation since.
36A Prince Arthur Avenue
Outside the restaurant Trattoria Fieramosca
“Rosamund” by Frances Gage (1968) – 50 Prince Arthur Avenue
“Able to work in a variety of media (wood, plastic, terracotta, plaster and cast stone) and execute a number of techniques (carving, modeling, commercial bas-relief, garden sculpture and portraiture), Frances Gage is one of Canada’s most prolific sculptors. After studying at Oshawa Collegiate and Technical Institute (1943), the Ontario College of Art in Toronto (1951), and the Art Students’ League in New York (1953-55), she received a scholarship from the Royal Society of Canada to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where she remained for two years.

Frances Gage’s numerous commissions include a twice-life-sized sculpture and four walnut relief panels for Fanshaw College in London, Ontario (1962), a portrait relief of Dr. Bertram Collip for the University of Western Ontario (1963), crests for the Metro bridges in Toronto, a fountain for the rose garden of Mrs. F.S. Albright of London, Ontario, “Woman,” a marble sculpture for the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, and many others. A member of the Council of the Royal Canadian Academy, and teacher at the Artists’ Workshop in Toronto, her other accomplishments include the Rothman purchase award (1965) and the development, with the help of her engineer father, of a new durable material called epoxy-resin. Her work has been shown in several group exhibitions, perhaps most notably at the International Congress of Medallic Arts in Florence, Italy (1984), but also in Colorado City, Colorado (1987), Helsinki, Finland (1990), and London, England (1992).”

Lowther Avenue

Construction of permanent dwellings began on Lowther Avenue around 1875, and shifted to the semi-detached houses that are so characteristic of the 1880s.

82 Lowther Avenue
“Architect Frederick H. Herbert designed this 1896 house, which is part of an attractive group of houses lining Lowther Avenue. This home’s hallmark is a circular tower with terra cotta stylings accompanying the dormer. The requisite arches and recessed entryway mark a Romanesque inspiration”.
80 Lowther Avenue
This home is a City of Toronto Heritage Property, built in 1900 by architect F.H. Herbert.
78 Lowther Avenue
This heritage Eaton Coach House was originally built in 1899. It was converted into luxury three-unit condos in 1985. Suite sizes range from 1800 square feet to 3500 square feet. One of the units is currently on the market for a mere $4.295 million. Alternately, one can rent the townhomes – in 2017 they were renting for $14,000.00 per month. The listing agent says Ryan Reynolds once lived here for a little while.
39 Lowther Avenue
Carriageway Houses: 25-29 Lowther Avenue
“The Georgian style had come and gone and not quite come back again when this singular duo was constructed in 1875. Although not much older than their neighbours, the twin units recall an earlier urban type far removed from high-Victorian eclecticism. Restrained in detail and guided by symmetry, the houses follow the standard Georgian rules. Curiously, however, the central focus is a shared carriageway (which led to the backyard stables), topped by a gingerbreaded gable. The latter contains an oriel window, the only eccentricity in an otherwise tempered composition. Number 25 (the left side) gets the oriel”.
31 Lowther Avenue
This cute little house is a Heritage Property, built in 1877.
6-8 Lowther Avenue
This double house is a Heritage Property, built in 1892. It exhibits the Bay-n-Gable architecture theme of that era, embracing a Romanesque arch.

Avenue Road

Returning to my starting place of Avenue Road, I noticed this intriguing sculpture entitled Figure Catching a Fly by David Altmejd (2019).

Made of bronze, the sculpture sits in front of the Yorkville Private Estates at 200 Cumberland Street; the front of the sculpture faces Avenue Road.

“Altmejd’s bronze statue, standing more than eight feet in height, fancifully updates the traditional bronze figurative monument. Clad in billowing, flowing robes, the sculpture’s striding female figure arrives like a deity, simultaneously gesturing downward to earth and skyward triumphantly. With arresting appeal, Almejd’s animated bronze figure conjures the history of the Yorkville neighbourhood that in the 1960s became Toronto’s epicenter of fashion, fine art, and nightlife, signalling the city’s sophistication and cultural aspirations.” – storeys.com

That’s it for today! Thanks for joining me on this mini-tour of Toronto’s Yorkville-Annex neighbourhood.

References:
Old Toronto Houses by Tom Cruickshank
storeys.com
waymarking.com

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