Toronto Through My Lens

Musical Boxes

While working feverishly on my new site TO Utility Boxes (which is now complete by the way), I noticed a few utility boxes that could be grouped together thematically to portray Music and Dance in Toronto.

With that out of the way, here are some Toronto utility boxes dedicated to music and dance in our city:

Jeff Healey Tribute

Utility box painted by artist Adrian Hayles, 2018
147 Tecumseth Street just south of Queen Street West

I had looked forward to photographing this box for some time. When I finally reached the site I was extremely disappointed to see the damage done by taggers and vandals since the piece was created in 2018.

The box artist comments on his work:

Jeff Healey is a profound member of our Rock and Roll Canadian history and his knowledge of jazz is unmatched. His part in the classic movie Road House will forever mar my memory. Jeff once owned a bar called “Healey’s” at the corner of Bathurst and Queen just a couple of blocks away from his freshly painted bell box. At first, like with most public projects, I was meet with very suspicious eyes as passers-by would question my reason for being there spraying. After about two hours, the piece started to take form and the compliments came pouring in.

Queen Street Vibe in the 80s

Utility box painted by artist Glen Guerin (aka Noxious), 2018
4 Markham Street, southwest corner of Markham Street and Willis Street

Ah yes, Carole Pope and Nash the Slash. So 80s, so Queen Street West back in the day. It was all about the look – shoulder pads, raccoon eyes and bandages.

The box artist comments on his work:

The theme given me was local musicians of the “Queen St. Days”. As a patron of the Gary’s Horseshoe days, then a regular on the “Queen St. scene of the 80’s” I thought of many, many artists I’d like to commemorate in a mural who inspired me as a young artist. Then it hit me, NASH THE SLASH! However, boxes are usually two panel, and who to compliment him, but his friend Carole Pope of Rough Trade. One guy in a car stopped and yelled out who they were, gave me a thumbs up and moved on. Another middle age woman with a thick accent told me she saw Rough Trade in Poland when she was younger (who knew?!). Others were curious and asked who they were and I explained the best I could. All in all, it was a fun and learning experience and I’d do it again any day.

Echo Beach, Far Away In Time

Utility Box painted by artist Julii McMillan, 2019
5 McCaul Street, northeast corner of Renfrew Place and McCaul Street

Continuing in an 80s Queen Street vibe, this box is an excellent tribute to Martha & The Muffins.

Gordon Lightfoot

Utility box painted by artist Adrian Hayles, 2021
6 Scollard Street, in the Frank Stollery Parkette

Gordon Lightfoot… a Canadian institution.

Tribute to Salome Bey, Canada’s Queen of the Blues

Utility box painted by Adrian Hayles, 2021
2 Grosvenor Street, northwest corner of Grosvenor Street and Yonge Street

Bell Box Murals comments on this box:

If the style looks familiar, this DJ/artist/muralist has done numerous murals in the City. In 2016, Adrian took 8 weeks to paint a 22 storey Downtown Yonge BIA music mural on the north wall of 423 Yonge Street, just south of College Street. The next year, he painted the south wall of the same building, continuing the musical theme. Adrian also painted a substantial mural on Reggae Lane in the Oakwood Avenue/Eglinton Avenue West area.

The Dance

Utility box painted by artist Keight MacLean, 2017
230 College Street, northeast corner of Huron and College Streets

The box artist comments on their work:

‘The Dance’ celebrates Toronto’s communities, past and present, as a literal dance. Everyone holding hands in a continuous circle around the box, jumping and dancing barefoot and smiling and laughing. Bright fluorescent splashes of colour weave in and out of the dancing group to further highlight how people come together in Toronto to form a unique tapestry.

Dancer

Utility box painted by artist Louise Reimer, 2017
542 College Street, northwest corner of College Street and Euclid Avenue

The box artist comments on their work:

The design is an homage to dancer. In our current world, where most people work at highly sedentary jobs, it is important to promote movement and an active lifestyle. Dance is not only exercise, but expressive, non competitive, and joyful. All cultures have some form of dance, which brings people together and allows for joy and expression. Contemporary dance is the result of a lot of work done by pioneering women, and especially queer people, and people of colour, which deserves to be honoured. These groups of people are all cultural producers in Toronto who still struggle for space and recognition within the art world.

Parkdale Social Club

Utility box painted by artist Cesar Rodriguez, 2017
2 O’Hara Avenue, northeast corner of O’Hara Avenue & Queen Street West

The box artist comments on their work:

‘Parkdale Social Club’ pays tribute to the history of vibrant music and arts communities in Parkdale. It was a great experience. I met many interesting people and met some friends who happened to live and work around the neighbourhood. Some people brought me gifts and others were interested in commission some of my work as well. I was not expecting that. Even a guy who seemed homeless said he had money and would love to get some of my art.

Piano Hands

Utility box painted by Jerry Silverberg, 2013
244 Bloor Street West, northeast corner of Bedford Road & Bloor Street West

Outside The Box comments on the work:

Jerry Silverberg’s box is located across from the Royal Conservatory of Music. He chose to depict hands playing piano to acknowledge the presence of the conservatory and create synergy between the two.

Sams + A&A Records

Artist and date unknown
189 Mutual Street, northeast corner of Mutual Street & Gerrard Street East

This box is a bit of a mystery; the only ID on the box is the artist’s email address: myyummyart@gmail.com. I appreciate the throwback touch, though, to when record stores at Yonge and Dundas ruled that stretch of Yonge Street.

The box is affiliated with 6 St. Joseph House.

That’s about it for now. Special thanks to Vince who, after running an editorial eye over my new Utility Box site, suggested this box theme 🙂

And of course, I can’t publish this post without giving one more shameless plug for my new site:

1 Comment

  1. David

    I walk by these boxes and never really take notice. My bad! I truly love the fact that artists spend time to make our city more interesting and colourful. I will change my ways and try to be more observant. Thanks Marvin forgiving me a jolt

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