Rain drops, Paint drops … with Salsa

20 July 2014 – Saturday threatens rain & delivers on the threat. Who cares, I set out water-proofed where it matters. I’m headed for indoor drops of paint at an art show, little guessing just how many outdoor drops of paint I will see in the course of my subsequent walk.

First stop, Markham St. near Bloor St. West, and the arts market organized by Turtle House Art/Play Centre. I’d never heard of this NGO. I’m intrigued & impressed to learn that it provides free programs specifically designed to support children and parents who have come to Toronto from areas of great conflict. It’s important work, becoming more important with every news headline.

I’m here at the invitation of Poonam Sharma, the architect/artist I first met at the St. James Town Banner Project. I’m delighted to see her again — even more delighted to see, just 1 hour into the show, bright red SOLD dots on two of her paintings.

artist Poonam Sharma

So I bounce back outside in a happy frame of mind, made even happier by the Cuban music animating the other side of the street.

Salsa time! More specifically, rueda de casino salsa, a Cuban variant in which participants dance in groups, not in pairs.

Rueda Project salsa dancers

I talk — between twirls — with a young guy wearing a Rueda Project T-shirt. They’re here from Montreal for the weekend Salsa Festival, just one of 7 festivals throughout the city (from salsa to Chinatown to an Indie racing event), all of them firmly ignoring the weather.

A latte-break with my friend DJ (not Ottawa-DJ, but AGO-DJ), who joined me at the arts market, and then I start wandering my way back south & east toward home. It really is raining now! My boots, my jacket, my camera dry-sack all prove they deserve their waterproof labels; my trekking pants prove they are, as carefully claimed, water-resistant. Damp knees, in other words …

It’s a big old zig-zag that basically takes me south in combinations of streets & alleys lying east of Bathurst Street, a main N/S artery. My route is all by-chance-and-by-whim, and it yields — as I said at the start — surprising amounts of street art.

Also streetscape. Mixes of contemporary infill, renovated old Victorian, unrenovated old Victorian.

A quietly sleek new home that respects the scale of its Victorian neighbours, with suitably artistic chain-link detailing between house & garage …

new home, chain-link for the garage

… and, at the other end of that same tiny street, a vintage garage. “Vintage” being the diplomatic description.

old garage on Croft St.

I like finding scenes like this. They hurtle us back in time.

That’s on a slight jog to the east, soon I’m heading south again, trucking my way down an alley. Where I find an old friend: a POSER bunny!

a POSER bunny, in an alley near Bathurst St.

Not signed (or not that I see), but even I know a POSER bunny when I see one. There’s something about those ears… This particular image makes me think of the Playboy bunny, leaning drunkenly against the wall for support, but pretending he is still so urbane, so in control of the situation.

This same lane, or maybe another one …  Anyway, still dropping southward, and in an alley, with a hit of garage art. This one …

garage art near Harbord & Bathurst

… and this one …

near previous one, Harbord/Bathurst area

… and this one, which I know is by visual artist Emily Kouri, because she signed her name.

Emily Kouri's work, same alley

And another alley, yes those alleys just keep comin’. Not many murals here, but what there is sure catches the eye.

cherry blossoms, perhaps?

It makes me think of Japanese cherry blossom festivals.

Farther down the alley,  a hit of streetscape as opposed to street art. A very battered garage indeed, scrawled over with tags. Ignore that, look instead at the scrollwork near the peak of the roof, and the detail on the peak itself. How elegant this garage must once have been. For horses, perhaps?

once elegant, look at the details

I’m cutting back out to the nearest main street when I see a guy in a hoodie in an open doorway. We talk street art for a moment, and the way city bylaws force building owners to either take responsibility for the graffitis, paint them over, or pay a fine. Then he gives me a tip: Double back to Bathurst St., west side, just north of College. “Three sides of the building. Somebody must have commissioned it. It’s amazing!”

I do not ask for a street number. Pretty sure I’ll be able to pick out the right building.

Gee, do you think this might be it?

Shalak/Smoky work, Bathurst n. of College

I admire it from the south.

south face of the building

Admire it from the north.

north face of the building

Admire details (this one from the north face, around the fish tail near the lower left corner).

detail from north face

Signatures here, so I can give due credit. Big signature on the front door: Clandestinos. Neatly signed high on the north face: Smoky. Shalak. They are respectively Brazilian husband and Chilean wife, now settled here, part of the Clandestinos Crew.

I cross to the east side of Bathurst again, the better to admire the whole thing, and then see a tiny little artistic detail on this side of the street. It is at the south end of some concrete & wood fencing along the sidewalk, right next to Decent Auto Repairs (one taxi turning in, another up on the hoist).

So small, who’d notice, except by luck, I do.

tiny concrete mural by sidewalk across Bathurst

Humility. Respect-love, courage-love.

I think I know a good exit line when I see one.


Skyward. Mostly

17 July 2014 — My gaze isn’t skyward at the start — more over-the-shoulder, double-take, when did that arrive?

mural, Queen E & Seaton St.

Because I could swear  these murals were not here 7 minutes ago.

Well, I exaggerate, but you know what I mean. I last passed this bit of Seaton St. at Queen St. East less than a week ago, and far as I remember, this was just another grubby wall at the time.

A cheerful old geezer comes up while I’m trying to find an unobstructed angle for the next shot. “Real bright, eh?” I agree, and ask when the murals were done. “Saturday. I think…”

I cannot find an unobstructed angle for the next mural along, a thumping great parked car blocks my every attempt. I take a few shots anyway because — as perhaps you noticed, at the far right of the image above — the companion mural is by Birdo. Two new hits of Birdo (see previous post), one walk right after the other!

Birdo mural, Queen E & Seaton St

The weather is iffy, it caused the official Tuesday Walking Society outing to be Called On Account of Probable Rain, but I decided to go out anyway. My only goal is a latte at Balzac’s café down in the Distillery District so, after this unexpected burst of street art, I’m headed south-east with nothing more on my mind than coffee and Victorian industrial architecture.

This site was, for 153 years, home to the Gooderham & Worts Distillery — from 1837, when the first still set up, through Victorian-era growth that made it the world’s largest distillery, to its closure in 1990. It then lived a brief but wildly successful second life as a movie location  (+1700 films used the site, making it the 2nd largest location in North America outside Hollywood) before the complex of buildings was restored & reopened to a third life, this time as an entertainment/retail destination.

I’m walking south on Trinity St., still north of Mill St., the site’s northern boundary, but close enough to see a first silhouette in the sky.

from Trinity St., just north of Mill St.

It’s not the most photographed cupola on-site, in fact I’ve never really paid it any attention before, but I like the way it stands out against the sullen sky.

In through the Mill St. gates, on down Trinity St., another cupola, the one in the heart of the complex that everybody notices.

on Trinity St. inside Distillery District

I duck into Balzac’s, housed in the 1895 Pump House, many of the old features retained, and to great effect. You have to know what to do with these huge old industrial spaces, or their sheer scale can overwhelm you. These guys know. Anything they’ve added is equally bravura, totally up to the challenge.

Like the enormous chandelier, whose first life was in a vaudeville house somewhere.

chandelier in Balzac's coffee shop, Distillery District

But then, you’d expect artistic flair from a coffee micro-roaster named for author Honoré de Balzac (“Coffee is a great power in my life…”), whose first location was in the theatrical city of Stratford, Ontario, and whose other 7 locations include the equally theatrical city of Niagara on the Lake, as well as Toronto’s Distillery District, Reference Library, and Ryerson Image Arts.

Well-caffeinated, I wander on. Back north just a bit, still very east-end-downtown, and take Gilead Place as a shortcut on up to King St. I admire again, and photograph again, the big red “A” halfway up the block.

in Gilead Place s. of King East

And notice there is another letter, equally large but grey, facing it. So grey I’ve never seen it before. So grey I cannot now remember which letter it is.

Almost at King St., the tempting aromas from the Morning Glory café on King already tickling my nose, and I stop again. More red. This time, the proven charms of red geraniums, dancing away in their window boxes, bright against the black balconies — which in turn are oddly bright against the dull sky.

Gilead Place just south of King St. East

I’m on a roll. Looking skyward is paying off quite nicely.

It does so yet again at King East & Sackville, where huge eyes peek out over the top of a small (but bright, very bright) autobody shop.

peek-a-boo at King E & Sackville

And then… and then I forget the exact sequence. A few more streets, then eastward down an alley just south of Queen St. It doesn’t yield much until I’m almost at Sumach St.

Where I stop, and laugh, and pick my way around a mucky patch (blessing my waterproof walking boots) so I can catch these ELICSER faces in the sky.

The Magic Building, from the alley, artist ELICSER

I know where I am. This is the north-west corner of The Magic Building, 60 Sumach St. Yes, that really is the name, and it’s well-deserved — for all the artwork on the building, along with the assorted arts-related activities that go on inside.

Out of the alley, onto Sumach. The sun suddenly escapes the cloud cover, and gives my street-side shot a backdrop of blue.

The Magic Building, from Sumach St.

It’s enough to make you believe in magic.




It’s quite a story:

founded in 1832,

the first still set up in 1837,

growth & 153 years of continuous production during which Gooderham & Worts became the world’s largest distiller,

closed in 1990,

interim new life as a movie location (2nd largest in North America outside Hollywood)

current life

“P” is for Paint

15 July 2014 — Last post, Pavement & Parks, I noted that a third “P” snuck into the outing. As in, P-for-Paint.

Here’s how it happened. We’ve left Lee Valley  Tools, we’re back on King St. West, and we turn north on Portland St. to make our way back home, route undecided. Then I glance down an alley and … boom … we follow this guy.

in alley east from Portland St. n of King West

Beyond him we can see a cross-alley, this one N/S parallel to Portland, and that looks promising, so on we go. With an admiring side-glance for the bamboo grove somebody has created on the side of his garage.

garage in alley east from Portland ST

Now heading north again, in an alley jumping with paint and life. There’s Green Goggle Guy…

alley parallel to Portland

… and a portrait by Jarus (sorry, his is the only name I’m sure of) …

Jarus portrait, in alley parallel to Portland

,,, and a cheerful hit of what I think (but don’t quote me) is called ‘wildstyle’ where all I can really decipher is “Toronto” and “Yo Crews” …

in alley parallel to Portland St

… and then a brand new category of garage art.

3D, thank you very much, built in layers, and continuing across the inside of the sleek roll-up garage door. Tucked into all this art work, an equally sleek Bimmer.

3D garage art, alley parallel to Portland St

Next,  a birthday greeting. Birthday greetings are fairly common — but so are in memoriams. Each makes me pause for a moment, though with very different emotions. This time it’s a happy moment.

birthday greetings, street-art style

The alley leads us across Richmond St. West where, just for about half a block, it reverts to P-for-Parks.

Taken a bit loosely, I grant you, since really we’re entering the Alex Wilson Community Garden. It is dedicated to someone who packed a lot into just 40 years of life (1953-93): writer, teacher, landscape designer & ecologist. Also beloved of many, or this organic community garden, with its 40 small allotments, would not have been named in his honour. The plaque quotes Wilson, the quotation begins…

We must build landscapes that heal, connect and empower, that make intelligible our relations with each other and the natural world…

The plaque also bears a short Ojibway quote, so I am not surprised to see a raven watching over the Garden.

Alex Wilson Community Garden, 522 Richmond St West

And now look, look toward the rear left of this next image of the garden. Look between Phyllis (magenta shirt) and the white garden chair, and just beyond them. See? See the patch of pink & turquoise framed by shrubs?

looking north, in Alex Wilson Community Garden

After we walk slowly, gently, through the Garden, we emerge into more P-for-Paint.

Oh, yes indeed!

into Graffiti Alley

And we laugh, because — though we hadn’t anticipated it — we know immediately where we are. Graffiti Alley!

Yes yes, Toronto’s renowned Graffiti Alley that runs between Portland & Spadina just south of Queen West; the alley I often call Rant Alley since CBC-TV’s Rick Mercer films his weekly rants in here; the alley I last visited in winter snow & ice. Here we are.

We follow the alley east toward Spadina, crossing Augusta St. where even rental cars get in on the act.

rental car, Graffiti Alley & Augusta

Last visit, slithering around on melt-slick ice hummocks; this time strolling along, admiring the gentle touch of blossom-heavy vines on every ledge …

summer in Graffiti Alley

Most of what’s here is familiar to me. I squeak with delight at some particular old faves, including this detail from a larger mural of nostalgic (or ironic) tributes.

detail, Graffiti Alley mural

And then we’re at Spadina, back on serious city pavement. Corner of Queen West, the elegant Victorian turret I admire anew every time I see it …

S/E corner, Spadina & Queen West

… curiously echoed by a contemporary turret we notice soon afterward, not on Queen West but visible from it.

towers seen from Queen W near Spadina

And one final delight on Queen St. West, a last hit of Paint.

I chortle at the sight. I fell in love with this guy’s style some 9 months ago, the minute I saw his Rainbow Horse in a line-up of garage art squeezed between Trinity Bellwoods Park & Dundas St. West. He was anonymous to me then, but now I know his street name.

a new Birdo, on Queen West nr Spadina

Ladies & gentlemen, meet Birdo. He of the exuberant paint-pot. I gave you a teaser of this creation in my previous post; here it is in full.

And on that high note, I prance on home.


Pavement & Parks

12 July 2014 — A Double-P outing for the Tuesday Walking Society this week, and we had an objective for each “P.” Phyllis wanted a downtown pavement loop that would take us past Lee  Valley Tools, since she knew they carried nifty crank radios; I proposed a sub-agenda of noticing slivers of park enroute – all those mini-parkettes that slide among our downtown towers, creating huge pleasure in tiny spaces.

What we didn’t know was that a third “P” would be added. For paint. As in, street artists. As in… Birdo, and this technicolour beastie of his discovered on our return route along Queen St. West.

detail, Birdo street art, Queen St. West

But more of that in my next post. This one is all about the first half of our walk — the Double-P.

We immediately head south to King St. East, & start walking west. It will take us right past the downtown Toronto outlet for Lee Valley Tools (near Bathurst St.), and it’s a good walk in its own right — a main artery with lots of pavement, but also mini-parks & greenery all along the way.

First hit: a sidewalk herb garden near Jarvis in front of — and for — the  Japanese restaurant Hiro. Talk about fresh, local produce!

Hiro restaurant herb garden, King East

More sidewalk offerings, this time wonders of a nearby antiques/décor shop. I’m struck by the old Lake Muskoka sign in the pail, rustic & vintage as all-get-out — but also priced for modern urban deep pockets. We admire, and keep walking.

collectibles basket, King East nr Jarvis

No. Let me be precise. We do not immediately walk on, because I spy our first mini-parkette right across the street. In a way, you have to know it’s there to know it’s there: it is very narrow & the streetcar stop screens the entrance.

parkette, n. side of King East nr Jarvis

But I do know it’s there, so we defy traffic, weave-dodge our way to the north side of King, and peer in. It’s a charmer.

interior, parkette King East nr Jarvis

I’m always amazed, and heartened, to see how much good can be achieved in so little space.

Phyllis points to a plaque halfway up the old building immediately west of the parkette. “Toronto Patriot” it says. I have to look this up later, to discover that it was an early newspaper here in Upper Canada, relocated from Kingston to York (as Toronto then was) in 1832 by entrepreneur Thomas Dalton & his wife Sophia. The paper was “staunchly pro-British and strongly conservative,” says one account, and Dalton expressed his views with fiery zeal.

Not surprising, perhaps, that he died of apoplexy in 1840. More surprising, perhaps, that widow Sophia promptly began running the paper herself. While also raising their eight children.

More mini-parkland between Jarvis & Church streets: Market Lane Park, running N/S between King & Front. Here, too, the entrance is almost obscured — though not by a modern transit shelter. This time by a old horse-trough fountain, now in a minimalist, very contemporary surround.

Market Lane Park, King St. E.

I like the mix of elements. Victorian fountain, modern context, rack of Toronto Bike Share bicycles, guy-with-cell-phone.

Walk in a bit, and it’s all leafy and lovely.

Market Lane Park, King St. E.

Mind you, it’s typically rowdier on summer Sunday mornings. Then it becomes spill-over for the weekly antiques market next door.

And yet another tiny park, on the same stretch of King East.

This is the Toronto Sculpture Garden, with its cascading wall of water against a neighbouring building, and its 20-foot stack of “1st generation” (cf. the plaque) Honda Civics, created by Canadian artist Jed Lind.

Toronto Sculpture Garden, 115 King E.

Quite appropriate, all those car bodies. Before it became the Toronto Sculpture Garden, this 80′ x 100′ space was a parking lot.

We cross Yonge St.; King East turns into  King West; & soon we’re stopping for another delight, just east of Bay St.

Artistically, I find it worthy of inclusion in  a sculpture garden somewhere, except it’s a whole huge bank building, so you have to admire it in its own setting. Once headquarters for the Bank of Commerce, now Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, this art-deco structure was completed in 1931 and is glorious under any name.

I particularly like the pillars. There are the usual floral insignia, goddess faces & animals. My favourite is this guy.

1931 Bank of Commerce HQ, 25 King St. West

I thought he was a modest little squirrel. Now, looking at that tail, I’m inclined to think beaver. A pseudo-heraldic beaver? (Street art in limestone? Which raises some sort of philosophic question. Do sufficiently elegant materials transform street art into Art?)

More art, we want more art, and we know where to find it. Practically next door, because we are now in the heart of the city’s traditional finance district, where the big banks fight it out for architectural prestige (along with market share).

Where architectural prestige is concerned, Toronto-Dominion gets some serious bragging rights. The TD Centre complex (just west of Bay) was designed by Mies van der Rohe.

We don’t spend any time peering up at those sleek black towers (though they are very fine indeed). We’re here for cows! And we know we’ll find them, tucked among the towers.

The Pasture, 7 bronze cows, Joe Fafard

“The Pasture” — complete with 7 bronze cows, by Canadian artist Joe Fafard. I’ve photographed them before, finding them especially amusing (& striking) when winter snow & ice highlight their curves. But yes, they are also a lot of fun lazing around in the summer sun. Today, a lot of humans are lazing around as well.

We wait for a green light at King West & University and, as always, I admire yet again the mirrored tower on the N/W corner. Its angles throw wonderful reflections any time of day, in pretty well any weather.

N/W corner, King West & University Av.

More reflections just a bit farther west at Simcoe Street, this time in a pond not a mirror. We’re peering down at the Roy Thomson Hall patio, all arranged for its summer-long series of free Thursday late-afternoon concerts.

Roy Thomson Hall, King West & Simcoe

An Australian band called Wagon launches a new album at its concert on July 10; next up, July 17, Sun K and Grey Lands. The Roy Thomson website describes Sun K as grassroots folk-rock-blues, while Grey Lands are more into pop-rock & psych-folk.

I think I’ve just used up a year’s quota of hyphens.

Walk on, walk on, and there’s Mountain Equipment Co-op on the north side of King near Spadina. I’m always a sucker for MEC, so I super-casually ask Phyllis: “Um, want to dive into MEC for a bit? Check out the clearance racks?” And yes, she’s all for it. “Good idea,  I’m looking for a small backpack…”


She not only buys a backpack, we suddenly realize that of course MEC will also carry crank radios, so why not comparison shop? And we do, and there one is, and she likes it, and she buys it.

So we don’t need Lee Valley Tools after all, but it’s so special we go in anyway. We buy nothing, but we stroke  beautifully designed, beautifully crafted woodworking and gardening tools on our way through — many of them Lee Valley’s own product lines. Founder Leonard Lee (1978, one Ottawa store) received the Order of Canada for what this family-owned business has since achieved, and he deserves it. Son Robin, now president, carries on in the same spirit.

Then on a whim we decide to head north on Portland St., and see what might become an interesting route back east.

That’s when the third “P” kicks in. P-for-paint.

Street art, alley art, graffiti, old & new.

I’ll show it to you next post. (P-for-post…)





Alleys & Animal Life

2 July 2014 — Enough parks & nature for a while; time to revisit some alleys. So I do.

This cat is not the first animal I meet — he’s just the first to stand still for a photo.

cat by Tokyo, alley off Parliament s. of Carlton

The first cats are alive-alive-oh, in an alley near my home. I’m trucking along when a man steps out a doorway & whistles. I’m immediately 8 years old again, because this is the exact note-pattern my dad whistled to call our family dog. Except this time, 2 cats come scurrying into view, their legs going ’round like pin-wheels. “Never saw a cat come to a whistle before!” I say. He grins, & holds up a huge bag of cat chow. “Food time!”

It’s a fun scene, and at least momentarily consoles me for the fact that a couple of lanes where I remember art are now very boring indeed. Great patches of white paint where murals used to be — already defaced in places with scrawled tags. Hardly an improvement.

So gumble grumble until I turn east from Catbird Lane onto Dr. O Lane, and look into a dog-leg leading to a parallel (& unidentified) alley to the north.

n. off Dr. O Lane

This is new — or, at least, new for me. I perk right up, & step into the space for a closer look. A young woman lugging groceries follows. She sees my camera and offers, “Good mural.” I agree. “Too bad about the garbage.” I also agree.

detail of mural off Dr. O Lane

So let’s all ignore the garbage and enjoy the cityscape.

It looks like no further artistic activity on Dr. O Lane, so I stay with the dog-leg. Another mural I haven’t noticed before, on the north side just before the parallel alley makes its run out to Parliament St.

detail of mural off Dr. O Lane

And then, starting along that alley … I meet Alley Cat!

Alley Cat, by Tokyo

Love it.

Out to Parliament, and a backward glance along the wall, with the edge of the cityscape mural just visible beyond it.

wall n. of Face Furniture, off Parliament St

I note the slogan — “XYZ – Build & Destroy” — and read, try to read, the tags in a neat box of artist credits.  JAH, for one — no surprise; one of his distinctive face murals is immediately east of this mural, on the side of optical shop Face Furniture. I can also make out SOTEEOH (get it?) & Tokyo, but not the others. I don’t recognize a credit for DANILO but do recognize his green “spaceship.” (Or whatever it is.)

JAH has done another face mural near-by, this one in an alley butting onto Parliament just north of Carlton.

mural by JAH, off Parliament n. of Carlton

The golds are luminescent in the afternoon sun.

So. JAH, SOOTEEOH, DANILO. They paint together, and they’re about to have a month-long exhibition together. It’s called GRIND, and what else would you call a show being hung in a coffee shop?

Opening party Saturday July 5, 6-12 p.m.; come one come all to the Jet Fuel Coffee Shop, 519 Parliament St.

Jet Fuel, 519 Parliament St.

I get a double hit of animal life up Darling Lane. There’s a cheerful mural on the fencing behind Nettleship’s Hardware Store, co-credited to Nettleship’s & Tokyo, showing farmyard scenes under the slogan, “Support Riverdale Farm.”

I’m all for that, but what makes me laugh is the pissed-off look on the rooster’s face. I totally sympathize.

Support Riverdale Farm mural behind Nettleship’s Hardware

All those pigeons. Ick.

More wandering, and eventually I start looping south again, checking out Broadcast Lane (just east of Parliament) as I go. A mix of old artwork & new.

Definitely old. Trigger-Finger Guy is memorable! (For the first time, I notice the reference to Jet Fuel in the words by his ankles.)

garages in Broadcast Lane, e. of Parliament

Farther south, something new. Doughnut Moustache Man.

in Broadcast Lane

And finally, something old. And very peaceful too, amid all the surrounding noise, both aural & visual.

in Broadcast Lane

“You are here,” yes I am,  but not for long. A few more turns, a few more alleys, and I’m almost home.

in a Cabbagetown alley

Not street art, but streetscape, and I really like it. I can’t come up with any good art or architecture arguments for this, I think it’s something to do with the spill of roof decks, tier by tier, stepping down from the top floor to ground level.

I see the man who whistled for his cats when I was starting this walk. Now he’s busy talking with his next door neighbour, but we smile & flick fingers at each other as I pass.

That’s nice. I like that.


Monty Don & the TBG

30 June 2014 — English garden writer & broadcaster Monty Don has probably never heard of the Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG) — but there is a link nonetheless.

My partner & I are hooked on the engaging, informative Monty Don TV gardening series, so whenever one is available here, we watch. Friday night we watched the last in his French Gardens series, being shown on TV Ontario; Saturday I took myself off to the TBG, determined to channel my inner Monty Don & soak up the delights.

detail of "This Garden Grows Love" in TBG

And yes, I loved it.

This one word from “This garden grows love” — spelled out across some hedges — sums up my own feelings quite nicely. The TBG isn’t large (at 4 acres, it is apparently the smallest botanical garden in North America), but it has impact. It has been extensively enhanced & upgraded within the last decade, and has become a very 21st-c. place to seek gardening information & education.

Or just to have a happy wander. And, since it sits within a City park (Edwards Gardens) that flows into two other City parks (Wilket Creek & Sunnybrook), you can wander forever. I choose to wander … but I have my eye out for some information as well.

I park near the Demonstration Courtyard, with its straw bale storage shed, topped by a green roof that is rapidly greening & growing in the summer heat. (How quickly we rocket from winter to summer!)

straw ale shed, TBG

In along the Entry Garden Walk, created by Dutch designer Piet Oudolf in New Wave style, with its waves of grasses, shrubs & trees to create a “sophisticated meadow.” More sophistication: the stainless steel sculpture by Canadian artist Ron Baird.

Entry Walk to TBG, sculpture by Ron Baird

And behind all that, a glimpse of the angular George and Kathy Dembroski Centre for Horticulture (a LEED Silver-certified building), with its own Green Roof. At 223 sq metres, rather larger  than the one on the storage shed!

I’m headed into the building, but first I tuck into the Floral Hall Couryard for just a moment. In this heat, the sight & sound of water cascading down that steel mesh curtain is a joy. I read the labels for the Colorado Spruce this side of the water curtain & the Hyde Hall clematis on the far side — it would be ungrateful not to, with so many labels fulfilling the educational mandate everywhere you look, so much of it the work of volunteers.

I see chairs & tables being set out for a wedding reception later today. Saturday in late June, every pretty site in town must be chock-a-block with weddings!

What snags my eye the longest, though, is — I learn, as I stoop to the label — the Anemone blanda “White Splendour.”

Windflower clump in TBG

Windflower is its common name, & though I’m sharing the image with you, it’s really for me. I’m embarking on some back yard garden work of my own, so I’m looking for ideas.

Into the Centre, past the tempting gift shop (I am so strong), past a sign for the upcoming wedding and another for a workshop on “Horticulture as Therapy,” and right into the Weston Family Library for a handful of pamphlets and a closer look at some lovely horticulture-related artwork on the walls.

Then I look out the window & do a small double-take.

TBG beehive seen from library

It’s a real bee hive. The signs on the sliding doors politely tell you NOT to slide them open. “Bees at work.”

Back outside, into the Beryl Ivey Knot Garden, where I look up and see the much-reworked, restored, reborn Spiral Mound.

Spiral Mound, from TBG Knot Garden

It looks rather like fluffy green twirls of soft ice cream, and has proved just as tempting. Which is fine, they always did want people to climb it — but not criss-cross it every which way, and trample it to death! Problem now solved, it seems. The narrow path is bricked, delicate little chains block potential short-cuts, and frequent notices ask us to stay on the path.

I climb — staying on the path — and look back down at the Knot Garden, and one face of the Terrace Garden beyond.

TBG Knot Garden, from Spiral Mound

Looking the other way, I see the whole Garden Hall Courtyard, used for outdoor gatherings in season. It’s so appealing with its waterfall and water channel that I go straight to it once I’ve spiralled my way back down the Mound.

First the waterfall , with its related plantings …

waterfall in TBG Garden Hall Courtyard

… and then the channel, planted with (labels & a pamphlet tell me) acid-loving perennials, trees & shrubs. It is very refreshing here, in the heat.

water channel through TBG Garden Hall Courtyard

I linger; I see another couple finally shake themselves into action again with an agreed “¡Vamenos!”; I watch a Japanese couple pause, murmuring softly to each other as the wife drops to her knees for some close-up photography.

Next a swing through the Kitchen Garden — all produce donated to a food bank, says a sign — with its raised demonstration beds of good companion plantings for Toronto conditions.

3 beds in the TBG Kitchen Garden

Here’s a trio, with the Catchiest Title Award going to the one in front, no contest. “Fig-Pig Patio,” it says, followed by “Beat the Grocery Bill” and “Fall & Winter Vegetables.”

These 4 acres pack an extraordinary range of themes, conditions, looks. Out of the Kitchen Garden enclave, and into Nature’s Garden, which uses its trails to replicate two distinct Ontario native-plant habitats: Toronto ravine-system conditions in the western portion, which lies in the Wilket Creek ravine; and in the eastern part, a recreation of Canadian Shield conditions, found north of the city.

in Nature's Garden, TBG

A rock, some daisies, & the nodding red bells of Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). Such contrast to, for example, the Knot Garden!

By now I’m walking myself out of the TBG site, moving seamlessly into Edwards Gardens, which borders Wilket Creek here just south of Lawrence Ave. East. Just before I hit the wooded slopes, some Dancing Fool Trees, caught unawares.

installation in Edwards Gardens

No, you’re right, it’s an installation. I wish I had found artist credit somewhere, but no luck…

I start down a trail through woods, dropping into the ravine toward the creek, and pause for a moment in the deep shade. Every nook has its wedding party taking photos!

a bridal party in Edwards Gardens

They leave, I scramble on down, then walk back along the creek through the rhododendron gardens, past mounds of hostas large enough to hide an elephant, and eye yet another wedding party, this one perching on a narrow little pathway in the terraced rock gardens on one creek slope. I sit & glug some water from my Royal Australian Navy water bottle, which comes into its own again every summer. (Thank you Alan, the gift that keeps on giving!)

Across a little footbridge over Wilket Creek, climb up through the rock gardens, enjoy seeing how many people are enjoying the parks and the TBG … and then I swerve so as not to disturb another very common site visitor.

This one as ubiquitous as the wedding parties, and to be found — like the wedding parties — in clusters all over the grounds.

Canada Goose

The Canada Goose is a noble bird. I mourn its descent, in popular opinion, to that of pest. It truly is a victim of loss of habitat. What can it do?

I’m cheered to see that someone has taken a quill, and tucked it upright among some impatiens.

goose quill among the impatiens, TBG

A tribute, I hope.

I pass a policeman, taking a short break in the shade & listening to baseball game play-by-play, thoughtfully dialled so low as to be almost inaudible. “Who’s winning?” I ask. “Blue Jays are now,” he says happily, “just hit a home run.” I quip, “It’s because of you! You have to keep listening!”

We both laugh, and I’m still smiling a bit as I cross the parking lot to collect the car & head home.



Acrobat Cat & the Flagstones

26 June 2014 — There is no reference to flagstones in the caption for this drawing — one of the many iconic cat images created by English cartoonist Ronald Searle back in the 1960s.

Searle "Acrobatic cat"

Instead, the caption reads: “Acrobatic cat discovering quite unexpectedly that it is too old for the game.”

The cartoon is a wry illustration of one of those defining moments in life, a moment when an unavoidable fact — which until then you have managed to avoid — up & smacks you between the eyes.

Or in the small of the back.

Which is where it smacked me, a little while ago, when I lifted a rather heavy flagstone during a gardening spree in my back yard. “Walking woman discovering  quite unexpectedly that she is too old for the game …”

The back became worse not better over the next while, and I’ll spare you the details because what could be more boring? When I grew sufficiently tired of creeping around like an aged snail, I went to see my physio & massage therapists. Both helped me hugely & were kind enough not to scold, limiting themselves to the gentle comment that walking is not enough.

Time to get back to the Y.

I found my workouts really exciting when I was preparing for the Iceland trek — I’m on a mission! But, post-Iceland, they lost their allure. The flagstone incident taught me there are things in life with even less allure. Creeping around like an aged snail, for example.

So… as of last week, I’m back at the Y.

And, honestly, what am I moaning about? Quite apart from the eventual physical payoff, there are many immediate rewards. Some take place at the Y; others, enroute.

To get there I cut through Allen Gardens. First I admire yet again All My Relations, the Anishnabe mural art covering some construction hoardings in the park …

Women's Memorial Wall, "All My Relations,: Allen Gardens

… and then I enjoy the way the 1910 cast iron & glass conservatory plays peek-a-boo with the trees …

Allen Gardens glass conservatory

… and then I stand behind Green Dog, guardian spirit of the park’s off-leash compound, to watch the woofs at play. (Green Dog is more than a pretty face. His ear, as you can see, doubles as a leash hook.)

Allen Gardens off-leash dog park

Soon I’m up at Church & Alexander, where I get to dance across the pedestrian walkway, all spiffed up for WorldPride 2014.

Church & Alexander painted for WorldPride

So I’m already amused & up-energy when I hit Central Y‘s main doors on Grosvenor St., just west of Yonge.

Central YMCA, Grosvenor St.

I check in, climb the stairs 3 levels …

main staircase, Central T

… and look to see if I’m in luck. I am! There is an empty squash court, my preferred spot for tai chi.

squash court logo, Central Y

After tai chi, I climb the remaining flights of stairs, right up to the Green Roof. Central Y is surrounded by high-rise condos & office buildings …

towers surrounding Central Y

… but the Green Roof itself is an oasis.

Central Y Green Roof

The running oval (a glimpse on the right) is the only carry-over from the original all-concrete roof. We’ve added an open-air studio (its lattice “walls” are on the left) and lots & lots of plants & shrubs. I tuck into a shady corner with a mat, and do my program. (Just rehab phase, at the moment.)  From mat level, I can see flowers & grasses & tumbling ground cover, and I can hear — louder than the backgound big-city hum — the splash of water jets on stones.

detail of water feature & solar panels, Central Y Green Roof

Early & late, there are some classes up here, but at this time of day, there are only a few of us. Walking, stretching, running, sun-bathing, reading.

I don’t know what Acrobatic Cat did after his big discovery, but for me… there is definitely life after flagstones.






Downtown Magic for the Solstice

22 June 2014 - I don’t know, as I walk east yesterday along Dundas St. East toward Regent Park, that I’m headed for Magic City.

“Magic” is not a bad word, though: I’ve already heard the church bells of St. Batholomew’s Anglican toll 1 p.m., then drumming from somewhere; I’ve admired the eager activity in St. Bart’s allotment gardens & the clusters of balloons tied to assorted posts; I’ve seen other people also heading east …

… and now I’m watching, with total delight, a handful of teenagers cavorting on the plaza steps leading into Regent Park. (Just two shown here.)

girls on steps, Regent Park

I start to laugh. Just imagine: I’m here thanks to a water main break!

Yessir, that’s how I found out about Magic City. Friday I was indulging in some sidewalk gossip with neighbours as we watched City workers control the gushing water — such are the amusements of downtown life — when almost-next-door neighbour Tom asked if I was going to the Regent Park celebrations on Saturday. My confused face prompted him to explain it was the official opening of the real park-park for the subsidized housing complex that, until now, has had a Park only in its name.

So here I am. I cut across the new-laid grass toward the Aquatic Centre that borders the park’s eastern edge. Phase by phase, Regent Park’s outdated housing units are being replaced by new accommodation — plus amenities that were never part of the spartan original, and finally make this a normal neighbourhood community, part of the city all around it. The Aquatic Centre opened last year; now, finally, here is the park to complement it.

I can see orchestra members tucked close to the building, beginning to warm up. The TSO (Toronto Symphony Orchestra) will be there, Tom had told me, part of a program that — according to the City invitation — will turn Regent Park into Magic City, “alive with pipes and horns, voices and drums, ice cream trucks and orchestras, all to celebrate the opening of Toronto’s newest City park.”

They forgot to mention ribbons.

confused dachshund, happy ribbon dancer

See that column of ribbons on the right-hand side of the photo? That’s the  Ribbon Dervish. Well, so I call him, but the ribbons are so all-enveloping that in fact I don’t even know the dancer is a “him.” I just know he/she is some fine dancer. Who knew you could break dance dressed like this, without tying yourself in knots?

People love it. The dog can’t work it out, and barks in frustration.

I’m wiggling into the crowd around the TSO when I see my friend Michaela. She has a clipboard, and looks official. Turns out, she is! I know her originally from mutual volunteer work at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario), but she also works with the renowned dance troupe Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie (“collaborating with people and place”). Turns out Bill Coleman directed the entertainment program & Michaela is doing some on-site coordination.

She reminds me that this day is full of reasons to celebrate — the Solstice, National Aboriginal Day, the start of WorldPride 2014 in Toronto, and this new park. There’ll be lots of music and dance in addition to the TSO, including community and grassroots organizations like the Regent Park School of Music & the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre.

I peek at the TSO over a Regent Park volunteer’s shoulder.

TSO members at Regent Park opening


They’ll do more playing after the opening speeches, I realize, so I wander off — and see there are individual musicians dotted about the grass, each with a fascinated audience.

Harpist, at Regent Park opening

There’s a third little girl, just out of frame, and a little boy as well. He’s listening as intently as the girls, but fingering his soccer ball at the same time.

Every kind of music is on display. Don’t want a harp? How about a sax?

sax player, at Regent Park opening

Behind him, you get a glimpse of one corner of the new playground that is part of this park — along with community gardens, a greenhouse, a bake oven, an off-leash area for dogs, both hard and soft surfaces for community use, a splash pad, trees & benches.

The most theatrical musician is surely this drummer — see the flourish of his left arm? The children’s heads follow each sweep.

drums & flourishes, at Regent Park opening

Speeches, inevitably, and I shouldn’t be snarky. This is a happy day, the culmination of a lot of municipal, provincial, corporate & grassroots effort.

The local councillor; the former mayor (at the time this project was approved); the former MPP (provincial representative) & also the current one; Daniels Corporation (developing the new complex, with a lot of support for arts, culture & local groups); Toronto Housing (which donated the land); a young resident speaking for the community — they’ve all earned the right to mark this moment.

There must be hundreds of people here. Thanks to decent loudspeakers everyone can hear and most choose to listen. But … people can also enjoy some side entertainment at the same time!

a dancer at the Regent Park opening

It all works together just fine.

Then there are the dogs.

Lots of dogs, almost all leashed & behaving themselves, but quietly finding things to do, as words continue to fill the air above their heads.

Like contemplating tattoo’d legs.

speech-time, at the Regent Park opening

Or showing off their snappy headgear.

best hat in the crowd, at the Regent Park opening

Speeches over, people start using the green space for their own impromptu activities. Boys are kicking soccer balls about; some little girls are playing badminton — no net, but they’re happy seeing how long they can keep the bird in the air.

I weave around them all, and go check out the lines of white tents to the north of the park. They fill the corridor between the new structures and the buildings still waiting their turn.

There’s just one farmer’s tent, selling fresh produce — but there’s also a sign announcing a weekly Farmers’ Market here every Wednesday all summer long, from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30. All the other tents feature prepared food and drink.

food & drink tents, Regent Park opening

I buy a glass of fresh sugar cane juice (lengths of sugar cane nearly lined up, ready for the grinder), though I almost choose fresh coconut water instead. And good grief, all the other things I could sample! Everything from gushi chicken (no, I don’t know what that is) to Zimbawean style pies (“made with locally sourced ingredients”) to coconut & nut honey-lime kebabs to dayglo pink cotton candy, which is being swirled out of its tub in the best 1950s fairground tradition. Oh, and a soft ice cream truck at the far end, as promised in the City invitation.

I look to the north. With so many of the new buildings now up, it’s a shock to see the austerity of the old ones.

original Regent Park units

Yet even they now have resources for their residents. This sign advertises the Multipurpose Centre inside, with its library, computer classes, gym, ESL, Heritage Club, Home Work Club, crisis response and seniors services.

One of the speakers reminded us of another recent transformation in the area: the renamed and redeveloped Nelson Mandela Park Public School just to the south. (There has been a Park Public School on the site since 1853; it was renamed after Nelson Mandela’s 2001 visit, and subsequently enlarged and enhanced.) I decide to go take a look on the way home.

I turn south from Dundas St. East onto Regent Park Blvd. and, as I pause to admire the murals on the construction hoardings, I’m overtaken by two young boys who are sprinting flat out for the school. Both are panting, but one still has enough breath to urge his companion: “Come on! We’re late for soccer practice!”

I’m happy to see the “Diversity” mural finished. A project of PATCH (art for construction sites), it was just getting started when I walked by a few weeks ago.

Diversity mural, with Mosa McNeilly

Meet Mosa McNeilly, community artist and on the artist roster of Inner City Angels. I don’t know her, but I see  this interesting looking woman taking a photo of the mural. I ask if she’d like me to take one of her with it. Which I do, and then I ask to take one for myself, which I do, and then we talk. “‘Diversity’ is an important message,” she says. “We need to get past just one version of things, it needs to become the norm to hear multiple perspectives.” I agree, pointing to what nature teaches us: there is strength in diversity, mono-cultures are vulnerable. We part with a smile.

The school is now in view, just south of this boulevard. No wonder there is a mural panel honouring Nelson Mandela himself.

Nelson Mandela mural, to north of Nelson Mandela Park Public School

The first quote reads: “Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela”; the second, “‘It’s always impossible until it’s done’ – NM”

I turn right, walk along the north edge of the school yard. Yes, soccer practice is underway.

On the other side, more murals on the hoardings, including this one by ELICSER, a Toronto street artist who also does commissioned work and has done a lot for the Regent Park project.

ELICSER hoarding mural, Regent Park

The real sign by the painted artist’s brush gives contact info for anyone with questions about what’s going on in Regent Park.

I think about the day. About the likely impact of the Regent Park Revitalization on people’s lives & behaviour. I’m not stupid enough to think that adding facilities guarantees there will be nothing but positive, mentally/physically healthy behaviour in the future. Still, if people want to behave this way, they now have places where they can do so.

So, it’s good. Not perfect, maybe not even great — what do I know? But definitely good.


Faith47 Update

Thank you Michael Sinnott! He commented on my previous post to tell us all that Faith47 is indeed the signature of a street artist, an amazing woman from South Africa who works pretty well all around the world. Michael thinks, and I agree, that it’s terrific to have something by her here in Toronto.



Old Faves & New Finds

15 June 2014 — This first photo has nothing to do with Saturday’s walk, but it does qualify as a new find… and I can’t resist it.

bike/bike art on McCaul St.

Bike. Bike art. Perhaps both. Anyway, neatly arranged on McCaul St. just outside OCAD U, so probably the work of one of those Art & Design students. I was moving fast, almost late for a meeting, but stopped for this. Wouldn’t you?

Some “new finds” on Saturday’s walk as well, though old favourites probably outnumbered them. On the other hand, each time you visit something, you enjoy it a-new, right? “This river I step in is not the river I stand in,” says the Heraclitus quote on the Queen St. bridge over the Don River, and the Proust quote on this blog’s home page reminds us that the voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

And, and… quite apart the wisdom of the ancients, there is seasonality to consider. The late spring view will be so different from the one in mid-winter!

This laneway home, for example, which I remember appreciating for its tidy cheer last December, despite the weak sun & piles of snow & ice. Now look at it, basking in the warmth of almost-summer.

laneway home nr Sherbourne & Gerrard

I don’t know what charms me more: the container gardening (including that barrel of herbs), the canoe, or the lovely old bricks of the structure itself.

More warm old bricks nearby, in St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Carlton & Bleeker streets.

St. Peter's Anglican, 188 Carlton St.

Built in 1863, the work of architect Henry Langley (who also designed the Toronto Necropolis), it is another example of Victorian Gothic Revival. I tend to think of Gothic Revival as being more ornate than this — the Necropolis stuctures certainly are — and what I love here are the relatively calm lines, in the two-tone brickwork characteristic of the era, and that final stretch to the sky.

Another stretch to the sky by another Victorian brick building, this one in a whole line-up farther north on Glen Rd. just south of Bloor St. & the Rosedale Valley.   This scenario is entirely secular in nature, real estate to be precise, and here salvation is due to bottom-line considerations.  Prettied-up Victoriana sells.

awaiting redevelopment, Glen Rd South

See? The façades are being saved, new construction will go behind, and this line of derelict buildings — latterly home to people of very modest means — will be rebuilt, repackaged and moved sharply up the socio-economic scale when seeking new owners.

I scoot on by, cross the pedestrian bridge over Rosedale Valley Rd., and — as I pass the spacious brick homes of well-to-do Rosedale — realize that bricks and brick work strike exactly the right note for this walk.

After all, I’m headed for Evergreen Brick Works. The reinvention of the old Don Valley Brick Works site down by the Don River, EBW is now “a community environmental centre that inspires and equips visitors to live, work and play more sustainably.” (Their words, admirably concise & accurate.)

There are various ways to get there, including car, bike & TTC shuttle bus, but I’m close enough to do it on foot — north into Rosedale, curl around onto South Dr., drop down Milkman’s Lane (great name) onto a walking trail & then north again to EBW.

I’m on South Drive when I see signage — and wonderful gates — for a park I never knew existed. Craigleigh Gardens.

Craigleigh Gardens Park, 160 South Dr.

It is extremely peaceful: rolling field of grass, many mature trees, lovely old benches. That’s it. And it’s a gem, tucked away on ravine-edge, in the heart of the city. It had been the estate of Edmund Boyd Osler — politicians & a key figure behind the creation of the Royal Ontario Museum — from 1877 to his death in 1924, and was given to the people of Toronto by his widow. (He was one of an illustrious trio of brothers: one, Britton Bath, was a founder of the law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt; the other, Sir William, was one of the four founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the USA.)

I wonder for a moment if there might be a direct path down the slope to the trail, but see none & head back to South Drive, to look for Milkman’s Lane.

I don’t see an official sign for the lane, though one may be lurking in the foliage somewhere. But I do see this sign!

near Milkman's Lane, on South Dr.

Totally unofficial & somewhat incorrect (it should be “Works” plural)… but it does the job. I follow the arrow, dropping onto a broad, steep, soft-surface trail, the slope well-maintained but daunting enough that marathon runners use it for training purposes.

I walk gently down, thank you, sharing space with adults & kids & dogs (on & off leash) and cyclists (on & off their bikes). One woman, her hair neatly hidden by her head scarf, encourages her child’s curiosity in a language I don’t know, but whose warm tone is perfectly clear. Soon after, another woman, her English clear and tone even more so as she discourages her off-leash dog’s curiosity about something smelly. As I pass, she rolls her eyes in mock dismay, and snaps the leash onto his collar.

Past wild roses (with lanes of traffic behind, we are close to, but screened from, Bayview Avenue), and a left turn into Evergreen Brick Works.

I always visit Ferruccio Sardella’s masterful wall map of Toronto’s watershed when I come here. It is a showpiece in the Tiffany Commons part of the site, along with mounded gardens, each one demonstrating a different theme (e.g. Native Grasses, Butterfly, Fall Flowering, Aspen, Fragrant…).

Toronto's Watershed, by Ferruccio Sardella, EBW

Ferruccio was lead artist with Evergreen while they reinvented this old industrial footprint, helping them carry out their objective of integrating art with nature throughout the site. (See also my 15 December 2013 post about Ferruccio & art on-site.)

I’m torn. Which way to go next? I opt for the Weston Family Quarry Gardens and Don Valley Brick Works Park. (Phew. You practically have to stop for lunch halfway through the name…) Evergreen is reseponsible for the old industrial-site footprint; the quarry gardens behind come under City Parks.

Remember, all this was once a brick works operation, using Victorian technology (and environmental & safety standards) to claw clay from the valley and turn it into the bricks that — literally — built the Toronto skyline. This land became this city.

A poetic thought, but not a pretty sight. Quarries weren’t. This one no more than any other, as you see in this old photo from Royal Ontario Museum archives

Don Valley Bick Works quarry, ROM Archives

It is mounted next to what are now the Quarry Gardens. They didn’t attempt to fill the void with earth, they contoured it and filled it with water, naturalized the surroundings, built walkways around and across. Now it is alive with nature, including human nature, and we have vantage points in all directions. I take a moment to look back toward the heritage buildings.

across Quarry Gdns to EBW

I wander for a while, then return to EBW proper and head for The Kilns, via the one new building on-site, which includes the Young Welcome Centre. Graffiti on the walls, not surprising, in fact welcomed. EBW is comfortable with street art.

graffiti on Young Welcome Centre, EBW

While abandoned, these structures served as home or meeting place for many people, and the walls bear witness to their presence. Evergreen chose to respect this heritage, retain it as part of the site’s history.

The Kilns were once — well, duhhh, you get it — were once the kilns, the long series of processes and ovens that baked the bricks. Today those long alleys have been maintained, but repurposed, and serve multiple functions with ease.

On my left as I enter, a photographic exhibit: “Detroit – Prairie & Pavement,” by Ian Brown, part of The Detroit Project. His photos are framed by the dramatic contours of the old space.

photo exhibit in The Kilns, EBW

To my right, I see through a gauzy divider to a speaker connected with “RISE – The Better Living Expo.” Some people sit on folding chairs to listen, others listen (or not) as they browse vendor stalls.

I walk past both, ending at one of the long alleys which is being used to display a project done in collaboration with the Toronto District School Board and students in participating classes city-wide: “Imagining My Sustainable City.”

Each class has chosen an area near their school that they think could be put to better, “greener,” more community-minded use, and built a table model to illustrate their suggestion. The kids at Humbercrest Public School (Dundas & Jane), for example, took on “Rethinking residual space along the railway corridor.” Currently it’s a mix of storage facilities, commercial structures & abandoned industrial buildings.

Suppose, instead, it were a garden wall?

Humbercrest P.S. model, EBW

Yes! Create a garden wall to separate the tracks from the community, provide a natural sound barrier, and allow for the development of green space and community facilities…

I walk up and down, peer at models, read the sign boards. It’s encouraging, seeing what young people and their mentors can imagine. If only I could wave a wand.

I leave EBW as I always do, peaceful & happy & nudged to do just a little bit more myself, to live on good terms with my environment. The Brick Works has a couple of farewell presents for me, both to do with art in the city. Of course.

First, tanks against the walls of The Kilns. (Wish I could give artist credit. Couldn’t find it anywhere.)

tanks along exterior wall, The Kilns, EBW

And second, art — probably not EBW-commissioned — on railway bridge trestle walls, just at the south parking lot.

railway bridge trestle, nr EBW

This one has a name attached, at least I think it is the artist’s signature: FAITH47.

Now, finally, I make my way north to Pottery Rd., climb that steep incline back up the ravine wall to city level, and head home. Looking at heritage brickwork with extra appreciation as I go.


Clowning Around with Art (and a Dark Horse)

9 June 2014 — It’s the very definition of fun: exploring the 16th Annual Riverdale Art Walk and complementary Eats & Beats street event, with friend & fellow WordPress blogger, Rio the Clown.

She left her red nose at home, but not her fascination with (among many other things) the visual arts. We meet at the Artists’ Network information tent, a fitting choice since Rio is a member & also a past volunteer at the Art Walk.

So we walk, strolling past & occasionally into the white tents, one per artist.

artist Rod Trider, at Riverdale Art Walk

Given my weakness for streetcars, no surprise this work by Rod Trider is my first photo of the day. (I was hugely amused, just moments ago, to open Rio’s blog and see that she launches her own account of our day with the observation that I love streetcars… and a photo of a painting she did of the scene from inside a streetcar. I like it. Go see it for yourself.)

My photo of Trider’s streetcar montage catches reflections of the white tents that showcase each artist.

They are arrayed in tidy lines on the grass of Jimmie Simpson Park, Queen St. East near Logan. Perfect day, sunny but not too hot, happy dogs & kids & adults stopping to chat. Some visitors are a visual arts display all by themselves. Move in close on this hairdo!

among the tents, Riverdale Art Walk

We linger at Lorie Slater‘s booth, where Rio buys a print of some street art for a visiting relative (“There isn’t any, where she lives”). I admire Lorie’s take on  the abandoned kilns in the shuttered brick works in the Don Valley, before Evergreen turned the whole complex into the educational, inspirational & just plain magic Evergreen Brick Works.

old Don Valley Brick Works kilns, by artist Lorie Slater

Rio spends time catching up with a friend & fellow member of the Artists’ Network, King Wong. I circle his display, enjoy the quiet approach — only a few works, one per panel. I stand a long time before “Water Source.”

“Water Source,” artist King Wong

Just as, later, I stand riveted by “Oven Bird.”

“Oven Bird,” artist Christine Walker

This painting isn’t hanging in artist Christine Walker‘s tent — in fact, we miss her tent altogether. We see it later on display in a framing shop, as we walk along Queen St. East taking in the  sights, sounds & possibilities of the Eats & Beats part of the Riverdale extravaganza.

Which includes pop-up food stands, offering everything from delicate sips of oriental tea to… well, to old-fashioned snow cones.

Snow Balls! Queen St. E.

Only a moderate line-up, and I almost pull Rio to a stop so I can indulge in the Black Cherry version. But I don’t, because we’re close to our next planned destination.

And there it is, up against Hamilton St. — The Dark Horse Espresso Bar, this one, Rio tells me, the first of what are now 4 locations across the city.

An Americano for Rio, a latte for me (you knew that was coming), & we settle down to chatter & enjoy the visuals all around us.

Dark Horse Espresso Bar, 682 Queen E.

Not just the handsome logo on the bar, either — the work of Matt Durant, who also has a selection of works hanging on the walls. I’m also charmed by Tutu Girl.

See the bit of purple organza, sticking out to the left of daddy’s striped jersey? This little girl is quite normally dressed, except for that tutu, and she is very very very happy with her outfit.

I don’t remember a Ballerina Moment in my own young years, but it must be a common phenomenon. We quite regularly see  Tutu Girls at the Art Gallery of Ontario, always excited and eager for the adventure, & clearly pleased that they have dressed for it. I say, Hurray for their parents.

Soon after our coffee break, Rio and I split. She heads for a streetcar, I continue westward on foot, heading for home.

My route takes me past some nifty hula-hoop action at Queen East & Munro …

music & hula-hoop, Quuen E & Munro

She’s putting on a good show, but see how nobody is watching her? All eyes, including her own, are focused on the live musical combo, pounding out the beat that keeps her hopping & hooping.

I cut north on Carroll St., because there’s a photo I missed earlier today and want to capture now. The route takes me through Joel Weeks Park, where I’m diverted by young skateboarders & plonk down on a handy ledge to watch.

impromptu skateboarding in Joel Weeks Park

This skater, before launching himself on his next run, comes over and politely asks me to sit on a different ledge, please ma’am.  I comply and, once he does the run, understand why he wanted me safely somewhere else. Turns out my original choice was part of his obstacle course.

Other side of the park, I’m on Matilda Street, home to Merchants of Green Coffee, which my partner & I visit every Saturday morning for an indulgence after the weekly grocery shopping run. There’s always a message outsider the door — here is today’s.

Merchants of Green Coffee are focused!

Yessir. They know what they do, and it isn’t soup.


Bharatanatyam, Re-Visited

My previous post (Buttons & Banners) shows scenes from the recent launch of a community organization called St. James Town Arts. It includes one shot of a young dancer waiting to take part in a presentation of the traditional Indian dance form, Bharatanatyam. I learned a bit about it at the time from a young Bharatanatyam dancer, SJT Arts launchwoman named Poonam, a SJT resident and banner project artist. Later, I learned a bit more from my dancer/choreographer friend Gauri. (I’m so proud of Gauri: she receives her PhD in Dance from York University this week.)

Gauri traces the etymology of the dance form name to a treatise called The Natyashastra by Bharata Muni about theatre, music and dance as one art form, and explains: “That mode of performance is no longer practiced. What separated out from it as ‘dance’ seems to be given this name ‘Bharatanatyam.’ ” She adds: “The history of this name is fraught with identity politics… and its interaction with certain ideological formulations in India’s independence movement…”

Want to know more? Gauri suggests both a Wikipedia link and the more scholarly book, At home in the world: Bharatanatyam on the global stage, by Janet O’Shea.





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