Toronto Through My Lens

Tag: WellesleyStW

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.

Dr. Lillian McGregor Park

On September 29, 2022, a new park opened to the public – the Dr. Lillian McGregor Park. The park is located at 25 Wellesley Street West and encompasses the lot bounded by Wellesley Street West to the north and Breadalbane Street to the south. Bay Street condos to the west and the condo at 11 Wellesley Street West to the east form the rest of the border.

But who is Dr. Lillian McGregor, you may ask? Dr. Lillian McGregor (1924-2012), hailing from Whitefish River First Nation, was a dedicated nurse and community leader, recognized for her work in promoting indigenous culture and education. She received the City of Toronto Civic Award, the National Aboriginal Achievement Lifetime Award and the Order of Ontario and was the first indigenous woman to be awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto, and was the University’s first Elder In Residence.

The park features include pathways, seating, a playground and artwork by Kenneth Lavallee, a Métis artist from outside of Winnipeg. The artwork in the park recognizes regional Indigenous histories and cultures and honours themes important to Dr. McGregor, including health, spirituality and language.

The art is inspired by Dr. McGregor’s family clan sign (the crane) and by the elements of her childhood home on Birch Island (rock outcrops, water, and reeds). The aim was to envision the Park as a small natural refuge in the midst of downtown Toronto, a home away from home. The artwork is weaved throughout the site and fully integrated with the landscape.

Crane Sculptures

A family of cranes consisting of four separate, bent aluminum sculptures are perched on stone foundations. Each crane depicts a different stage of life according to the Medicine Wheel: Childhood, Youth, Adult and Elder.

Reed Screens

The laser cut aluminum screens are painted a teal shade of green to mimic the tall reeds in which cranes make their home. The placement of the Reed screens is flexible and expandable to cover any structure within the Park.

Feather Canopy

An abstracted feather becomes a canopy over the Wellesley Street entrance, providing shade and protection from the elements. The white feather is made of laser cut powder-coated white aluminum and supported on thick steel tube quills.

Medicine Wheel

In the central gathering space, a mosaic medicine wheel is inlaid into the pavement, at the convergence of the main paths.

Children’s Playground


There is a very long and complicated history of this patch of land where the park sits.1

The original plans for the 2.1 acre site worth $75 million back in 1984 was to create a world class opera house. Premier Bill Davis’s Conservative government held a design competition where Moshe Safdie was chosen for the $311 million project. The Opera House Corporation was created to manage the property. Approval was granted in 1988 and the existing buildings on the site were demolished, with plans to begin construction in 1991.

In October 1990, Premier Bob Rae and the NDP were elected. In light of the recession, the province wanted to reduce the project scope. When the Opera House Corporation stood firm, the province pulled their funding. In 1992, the municipal and federal governments withdrew their financial support.
The property became known as East of Bay Lands. The property remained mostly vacant, with the exception of being briefly used as a temporary skateboard park. The land adjacent to Bay Street was sold to Morguard who constructed condo buildings Opera House at 887/889 Bay Street in 1998 and Allegro at 909 Bay Street in 2000. A small piece south of Breadalbane Street was designated as green space. East of Bay Park was opened in 2002 as Leaf Gardens, and subsequently renamed Opera Place Park. The balance of the land east of Bay to west of St. Luke Lane became known as 11 Wellesley and reverted back to the province when Morguard didn’t develop it.

In July 2012, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam made a motion to City Council to purchase the land to be used as a park, but lost out in the competitive bidding process that started in August 2012. Lanterra was the successful bidder with a purchase price of $65 million. In October 2012, Councillor Wong Tam was successful in obtaining monies from the City’s Government Management downtown parkland dedication fund for the three Lanterra developments (The Britt, Murano and Burano) in the neighbourhood. Then-Councillor Doug Ford eventually ended up supporting the allocation of funds.

The City’s purchase of the land for the park was finalized in 2013, and a ground breaking ceremony was held in June 2015. The condominium building at 11 Wellesley started being built in 2015 and finished construction in 2020. The building of the park began when the building of 11 Wellesley was winding down, with substantial completion in November 2021. The title conveyance to the City of Toronto became complicated with blanket easements with the adjacent properties. The main portion of the park opened September 29, 2022 with the dog park portion scheduled to be open shortly thereafter.

Aerial photo courtesy of


The City of Toronto, Planning & Development
1 Bay Cloverhill Community Association

“Homeless Jesus”

In front of Regis College at 100 Wellesley Street West there resides a bronze statue inspired by Matthew: 25. Homeless Jesus – aka Jesus the Homeless – was installed in 2013 by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz. It highlights how Christ could be mistaken for a marginalized individual living on the street.

The Christ figure is shrouded in a blanket with His face covered; the only visual indication the figure is Jesus is the visible wounds on the feet.

At the doors of Regis College, U of T, is a bronze sculpture by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz depicting Jesus as a homeless person, sleeping on a park bench.

Worldwide Versions

There are multiple versions of the sculpture located worldwide, including the Vatican, New York and Madrid. In Canada, there are five other locations, including Ottawa and Hamilton.

Here are a few versions of this sculpture from around the world. Photos courtesy of the sculptor’s website:

Washington, D.C.
Vatican City
St. John the Divine Cathedral, New York City
St. George’s Tron Church, Glasgow, Scotland
St. Anne’s Square, Manchester, England
Sant’Egidio, Antwerp, Belgium
Sant’Egidio Headquarters, Trastevere, Rome
Hungary, Country Wide Tour, 2017-2018
Holy Magdalena Church, Bruges, Belgium
Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland
Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Singapore
Capernaum, Israel
Almundena Cathedral, Madrid, Spain

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