Toronto Through My Lens

Month: February 2024 (Page 1 of 2)

The Max Tanenbaum Sculpture Garden

The Max Tanenbaum Sculpture Garden is a semi-hidden Toronto gem. It sits on the west side of the Hennick Bridgepoint Hospital beside the old Don Jail at Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street East. I call it “semi-hidden” because the figures in the Sculpture Garden can only be seen from the Don Valley Parkway; they are practically invisible from either Broadview Avenue or Gerrard Street East.

These are marvellous figures, created by Canadian sculptor William Lishman (1939-2017). Since 2015, twenty of his works have been displayed outside Bridgepoint, a hospital for patients with complex chronic disease and disability.

The works of this talented creator are displayed at a number of Canadian locales. Amazingly, Lishman was dyslexic and colour blind, which must have made for an interesting time when creating these sculptures.

Designed in memory of the late businessman and philanthropist Max Tanenbaum, the colourful, life-sized pieces at Bridgepoint aim to celebrate the human spirit. According to a post on Hennick Bridgepoint Hospital’s website, the figures aim to express the capabilities of the physical form through dance, sport and movement. The sculptures complement our building and speak to the hope and aspiration we bring to our patients, families, and the community.

We are privileged to have an installation by William Lishman on our campus. These life-sized sculptures depicting human figures engaging in dance, sports and movement evoke a sense of wonder, The artwork inside and outside of our hospital has a positive impact on our patients, connecting them to the life of the community and city. We’re grateful to the Spiro Family who donated the work, which was designed in memory of the late Max Tanenbaum (1909-1983).
Dr. Gary Newton, President and CEO of Sinai Health System

If you would like to view a short YouTube video highlighting the Sculpture Garden, you will find one below:

A Few Bonus Shots

As I was leaving the Hospital grounds, I noticed these Sorel Etrog sculptures by the front doors:

The Max Tanenbaum Healing Centre

As an adjunct to this Sculpture Garden, The Max Tanenbaum Healing Garden can be found on the 14th floor atrium of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. The Princess Margaret website describes this garden as:

cultivated patterns of formal French gardens incorporating the artistry of hand-blown glass flowers, enclosed by an artificial boxwood hedge. The vertical walls feature decorative panels that add another visual dimension and unify a garden rich in colour, creativity and natural forms. The hand blown glass flowers have each been created to blend together in a colourful garden that resembles a rainbow; red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple are all represented in the garden with flowers that carry one colour or a blend of multiple colours and tones.

The few shots I’ve seen of the Healing Garden look amazing and I plan to feature it in a future post.

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:


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.


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.

“Across Time and Space, Two Children of Toronto Meet”

In 2011 sculptor Ken Lum completed his work: Across Time and Space, Two Children of Toronto Meet. The piece is located west off Bay Street and south of Dundas Street West, directly behind City Hall. It involves a long passageway from Bay Street to City Hall.

Two bronze sculptures placed on either end of this corridor represent historical immigrants to the area in the form of two children from different eras. The boy wears traditional Chinese clothing, closely related to the clothing worn during the Qing dynasty including the six paneled “Little Hat,” and the tunic with a mandarin collar and frog buttons which were popular during this period.

Pinned lettering in oxidized bronze separating the children reads: Across time and space, two children of Toronto meet…

The girl wears a simple collared, long sleeve dress with a bandana tying her hair.

The work calls the audience to think about the children’s divergent histories which have preceded their settling in Toronto. Specifically, the figure of the boy in traditional clothing is symbolic of the Chinese immigrant community through his cultural clothing. In contrast, the figure of the little girl in European dress, becomes a reminder of Canada’s white immigrant history, which has interacted directly with the Chinese immigrant history in the nation.

By facing the children toward one another, Lum uses his art to point towards a complicated web of national settler histories that converge and negotiate with one another, which has taken place in this very area of the downtown core.1

1Kaliyah Macaraig, Open Library

Jarvis Street Baptist Church

The Jarvis Street Baptist Church is located at 130 Jarvis Street, on the northeast corner of Jarvis Street and Gerrard Street East.

The Church has its origins in a small group of people who first gathered in October of 1818, in what was then York, Upper Canada. By 1832, the congregation had moved to Lombard Street, and by 1848, to Bond Street. In the late 1860s, church membership was such that a new, larger building was needed.

In 1875, the church moved to the current location at the intersection of Jarvis and Gerrard Streets. A fire in 1938 destroyed much of the church building. At this point, a rebuilding was accompanied by an expansion of the Sunday school and offices.

The Jarvis Street Baptist Church was designed in the Gothic Revival style by the architectural firm of Henry Langley and Edmund Burke who served for many years at Jarvis Street Baptist Church as a Sunday-school teacher, chair of the choir committee, and deacon.

It was one of the first churches in Canada to be built with an amphitheatre-shaped interior. The ground floor seating is grouped in a semicircle, while the gallery above is horseshoe shaped. The gallery is supported by iron columns. Above the gallery, another set of columns support a faux-Gothic ceiling.

The church has been protected under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act since 1999.

The main facade of the building is made from brown stone obtained from the regions of Queenstown. The stone is laid unevenly with a pattern that varies in different shades of browns and dark yellows. The material used for the roof is Canadian slate.

The roof is constructed from a series of pitched segments centrally connected by a horizontally sliced dome. There are eight entrances, each consisting of solid oak double doors framed with pointed sandstone arches.

References: Jarvis Street Baptist Church website

Vincent, Murals & Alleyways

Yesterday I thought I might go to Chinatown to shoot the events of the Lunar New Year celebrations at Dundas Steet West and Spadina Avenue (it’s Year of the Dragon, by the way). When I got there I found the Dragon City Mall to be a little too packed for me, so I headed through Chinatown to see what other photo opportunities might present themselves.

Dundas Street West

Walking along Dundas Street West opposite the AGO, I spied Vincent van Gogh in front of the Mayberry Fine Art Gallery at 326 Dundas Street West:

One of the things that made this piece so compelling was its presentation in a three-dimensional perspective. van Gogh’s face is carved and embedded into the rest of the frame; unfortunately the effect doesn’t translate well in a photograph but is still impressive nonetheless.

I always love passing by the Mayberry Gallery as they consistently exhibit such interesting pieces street-side. This recent installment was promoting the Immersive van Gogh Exhibit at the Lighthouse ArtSpace Toronto, located at 1 Yonge Street. More info and tickets here. By all appearances it looks like a great exhibit.

Alleyway Murals

I made a turn on to McCaul Street and headed north. One very short block north of Dundas Street West I encountered a laneway leading off McCaul Street:

I could see quite a bit of colour in the distance so I went further in to check things out… I wasn’t disappointed with my findings:

This van was covered in street art. I guess anything that stood still long enough got the full treatment.
The lane itself is quite unspectacular, but I loved the street art
Exiting the alley, I noticed these hands gracing the side of someone’s garage

Just Off Baldwin Street

Walking further north up McCaul Street, I encountered another scenic laneway just south of Baldwin Street. This alleyway art was not quite as extensive as the previous lane, but interesting all the same.

Clearly, the artist was a Dr. Seuss fan:

The last mural before heading home:

The Future of Toronto’s “Cube House”

Last year I published a post on the unique “Cube House” in downtown Toronto. A lot of readers expressed interest in that post, found here.

The Cube House recently surfaced in the news, and I instantly thought of the post I had written earlier. Further to that, here’s an article on the Cube House from CBC News, written by CBC Toronto Reporter Ryan Patrick Jones.

Uncertainty swirls for Toronto artists after iconic cube house sold to developer

Property at Sumach Street and Eastern Avenue sold for more than $19M in November

Musicians renting Toronto’s unique cube house say they’re unsure how long they’ll be able to keep their creative gathering space alive after a new developer purchased the site.

Block Developments bought the 8,700-square-foot parcel of land at Sumach Street and Eastern Avenue, along with several nearby row houses, last year with plans to redevelop.

But Luis Vasquez, a music producer who’s rented one of the three cube units for the past year and a half, said he’s not sure what the plans are, the timeline — or what it will mean for the community of music lovers currently using the space.

“There’s this uncertainty,” he said. “We’re kind of in the dark.”

The ownership change is the latest in the saga of the unusual structure, which has been used as a billboard for a local coffee shop, a private residence and, most recently, as a space for recording artists and musical performances.

The cube house was built in 1996 by two Canadian architects inspired by cube homes in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. The three elevated green cubes include a residential unit and two commercial units.

While it isn’t a designated heritage property, the cube house land is listed on the city’s heritage register, meaning it’s believed to be of cultural heritage value or interest.

Vasquez, owner of The Audio Station, transformed his unit into a music studio where artists pay for recording, mixing and mastering services. He hosts live music and other community events on weeknights and weekends.

The cube house has become an important gathering place for musicians and music lovers, said Ronan White, a musician who puts on community events. He said he would be sad to lose it to development.

“The more and more these things happen, the less spots we actually have to congregate and be ourselves,” he said.

The potential loss of the cube house shows that art, culture and music aren’t being prioritized as the cost of living increases, Vasquez said.

“I think the community is really hurting for it.”

Redevelopment plans already underway

Plans to redevelop the cube house land have been in the works for years. 

Previous owners submitted a development application in August 2021 for a mixed-use community called Sumach Artsplace. It would have resulted in a 35-storey, triangular-shaped tower being built on the site with 443 new homes, including 324 market-rate condo units, 119 affordable rental units, and a public plaza. 

However, former co-owner Taso Boussoulas told CBC Toronto that the application fell apart shortly after it was submitted because it incorporated nine homes across the street that his company did not own.

Boussoulas said he had an “arrangement” with the homeowners but some pulled out. As the project sat idle, Block Developments swooped in.

“We negotiated a deal, something that we felt was fair for us and fair for them, and we sold,” Boussoulas said.

New developer working on ‘revised application’

Property records show Block Developments purchased 1 Sumach St. for $19.125 million on Nov. 30, 2023. That same day, records show the company purchased six of the nine homes across the street from the cube house.

In an email statement, Block Developments said it is working on a “revised application,” incorporating feedback from city staff on the previous proposal as well as “community priorities that have been flagged for us.”

“We are taking our time and do not want to rush this process until we feel we are ready for a robust resubmission that represents Block’s best vision for the site,” the statement said.  

The first quarter of 2025 is the earliest tenants would need to vacate the cube house, according to Block Developments. It did not respond to a question about whether the company plans to demolish or move the cube house. 

In the meantime, the developer said its staff are inspecting the buildings to identify any issues and to make essential repairs to make sure the units are “safe and suitable” for the existing tenants.

The company didn’t respond to a question about whether it plans to demolish or move the cube house.

Alex Walker, owner of recording studio 3CubeMusic, said he hopes he can continue running his business out of the cube house while the developer plans the site’s next steps. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

The city of Toronto confirmed via email that it’s been talking informally with the new developer about potential changes to the previous development application, but that no new plans have been formally submitted.

Alex Walker, a beatmaker and music producer, recently opened the 3CubeMusic recording studio inside one of the cubes. He hopes he can keep operating out of the cube for at least a year.

“The future is uncertain and it’s a little scary for me as a tenant here trying to run a business,” Walker said.

“I’d be happy just to be able to say that we were part of the cube’s legacy, you know? We go down with the building.”


Ryan Patrick Jones


Ryan is a reporter with CBC Toronto. He has also worked for CBC in Vancouver, Yellowknife and Ottawa, filing for web, radio and TV. You can reach him by email at

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