Mayor John Tory visits Winter Stations

Mark Tholen, Jason Wong, John Tory and Mary-Margaret McMahon
Group of students and professor inside Steam Canoe
Tuesday, March 1, 2016 - 5:00am

Environmental Design professor Mark Tholen and his students were applauded by the Toronto mayor and city councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon on Sunday during a visit to the Steam Canoe installation.

Part of the Winter Stations exhibition on the Toronto Beaches, the structure is made of laminated wood panels curved like the prow of a canoe. Solar tubes at the rear of the structure generate fog by turning snow into steam.

Students Curtis Ho, Jungyun Lee, Monifa Onca Charles, Reila Park, Hamid Shahi, Lambert St‐Cyr, Jaewon Kim and Jason Wong worked with Tholen to create and install the temporary shelter.  

The exhibition, themed Freeze/Thaw, consists of seven installations built over lifeguard towers which visitors can enter, climb and interact with. OCAD U, Ryerson and Laurentian University were invited to submit their designs, while international artists and designers were selected via juried submission.    

Freeze/Thaw runs on the waterfront from Woodbine to Victoria Park avenues and continues through March 20.

Toronto City Centre

Womanifesto Toronto City Centre Logo
Tuesday, July 9, 2019 - 6:00pm to 8:15pm

Part of a two-year research project out of OCAD University that is looking at how we as citizens can make change happen to build community and turn forgotten places into vibrant spaces in Toronto. How can design and art support community-based placemaking? This workshop will focus on Toronto City Centre and is proudly supported by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam from Ward 13.

Confirmed guest story tellers:
Sean Lee, Director of Programming of Tangled Art + Disability.
Jay Wall. Principal & Creative Director of Rally Rally.

Venue & Address: 
Committee Room 1 2nd floor of Toronto City Hall A Street Reception
FREE and open to the public. snacks and refreshments will be provided.
Womanifesto information flyer

Redefining Public Art in Toronto

Toronto is poised to become a leader in public art after four decades of significant investment. At the same time, Toronto is at an inflection point; our investment and overall initiative has lagged vis-à-vis peer cities. Toronto will thrive if we renew our commitment to a powerful public art presence for our city and support that commitment with appropriate private and public sector institutional capacity, funding, and collaboration.

Spurred by this dialogue and by the relevance of public art to universities, researchers from OCAD University and the University of Toronto joined together to produce this report, Redefining Public Art in Toronto.

Funding for this project was graciously provided by the Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso, Leslie Gales, Metropia Developments/Howard Sokolowski, David Moos Art Advisory, Bill Morneau & Nancy McCain Foundation, the University of Toronto, and OnSite Gallery and the Office of the President, OCAD University. We acknowledge the important contribution of Ilana Altman’s research to our conclusions. We thank David Moos for inspiring us to undertake this project.

We also extend a sincere thank you to our informal Advisory Group: Mitchell Cohen, Elsa M. Fancello, Leslie Gales, Emanuelle Gattuso, Claire Hopkinson, Peter Kingstone, Nancy McCain, David Moos, Anthony Sargeant, and Carol Weinbaum.

We thank our readers who gave helpful feedback to our draft: James Booty, Rebecca Carbin, Stuart Keeler, Bruce Kuwabara, Ciara McKeown, Terry Nicholson, and Catherine Dean and her City of Toronto colleagues.

OCAD University Team

  • Dr. Sara Diamond, OCADU President
  • Dr. Marie-Josée Therrien, Associate Professor
  • Ala Roushan, Assistant Professor
  • Francisco Alvarez, Executive & Artistic Director, OCAD U Galleries System
  • Dr. Claire Brunet, Associate Professor
  • Derek Sullivan, Assistant Professor
  • Xenia Benivolski, Alumni/Independent Curator
  • Macy Siu, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Roman Romanov, Undergraduate Research Assistant
  • Jade Lee Hoy, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Robin Buxton-Potts, Coordinator

University of Toronto Team

  • Dr. Daniel Silver, Associate Professor
  • Noga Keidar, PhD Candidate
  • Dr. Analays Alvarez Hernandez, Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Yasmin Koop-Monteiro, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Dr. Mark Cheetham, Advisor Associate Professor


“Redefining Public Art in Toronto” provides a blueprint for the future of public art in Toronto. It makes a number of recommendations:


  • A renewed vision for public art in Toronto
  • Redefine public art
  • Public art everywhere
  • Simplify process
  • Robust funding for public art
  • Build new collaborations
  • Promote public art
  • Integrate public art into all future planning

Executive summary and major recommendations

Toronto is poised to become a leader in public art after four decades of significant investment. At the same time, Toronto is at an inflection point; our investment and overall initiative has lagged vis-à-vis peer cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and Ottawa. Toronto will thrive if we renew our commitment to a powerful public art presence for our city and support that commitment with appropriate private and public sector institutional capacity, funding, and collaboration.

Given the cultural diversity of Toronto, its Indigenous population, ongoing development, population growth, and the strength of its public institutions, Toronto should be known for the reach, diversity, and transformational power of public art in its downtown core and across its neighbourhoods and communities. Toronto is Canada’s largest city and a dynamic hub of economic activity and immigration. It is increasingly a vertical city where the public realm plays a critical role in its social and recreational life. Public art can educate and engage youth, spark tourism, help us to understand ourselves better, and enhance our day-to- day experience of the urban environment. Public art can be a powerful force that serves many constituencies and can unify and challenge us across our cultural identities and neighbourhoods.

While at a turning point, Toronto has benefited from decades of significant investment in public art. City policy has harnessed the unprecedented development boom to make public art a compelling presence in the downtown core and other areas of intense growth. Development is now moving into other neighbourhoods, heralding opportunities for continued developer-driven public art investment outside of the downtown core. The number of public art works within the city borders is at an all-time high (700 public artworks in Toronto from 1967– 2015), and various programs co-exist to deliver large-scale permanent work, festivals, and temporary and ephemeral installations across multiple media and scales.

Yet there are gaps and challenges. The City of Toronto lacks a public art master plan. Outside of intensive development zones, public art is scarce; and in the urban core there are few sites where it is aggregated into larger or interconnected projects. In comparison with other cities’ public art policies and bylaws, Toronto lacks strong policy tools to bring public art to underserved areas. The City of Toronto does not mandate a significant place in its own infrastructure plans and budgets for public art. Moreover, Toronto’s formal public art guidelines have not kept up with emergent global public art practices, which increasingly encourage more open and diverse ideas of what public art is and can be, emphasizing the power of public art for audience and viewer engagement. Even within the limits of its current policy framework, there is much that the City of Toronto could do to expand the scope and vision of public art. For example, public art created through the City’s own capital projects offer opportunities to realize projects beyond sculptural work, thereby redefining the notion of permanence when it comes to public art.

Over the last four decades public art has galvanized neighbourhoods around the world, yet in Toronto it is a relatively untapped tool for engaging with and promoting vibrant and inclusive communities. Inspired by the potential of art in public space, a vigorous dialogue has sprung up from many sources with the goal of making Toronto a leader in global public art practice. Participants seek to evaluate current practice and explore future opportunities to expand the definition, practice, and support for public art in this city. Though this conversation transcends policy, policy is a key part of the puzzle. Spurred by this dialogue and by the relevance of public art to universities, researchers from OCAD University and the University of Toronto joined together to produce this report, Redefining Public Art in Toronto.

While the final chapter provides an in-depth discussion of our conclusions and recommendations, major recommendations are summarized below and structured into immediate actions and midterm actions.

1. A renewed vision for public art in Toronto


  • The City of Toronto must renew its commitment to public art.
  • Establish the goal of international leadership in public art.
  • Establish the goal of public art everywhere and end “public art deserts” outside the downtown core.
  • Launch a one-year public art working group to develop a public art master plan (called for in the 2003 Culture Plan for the Creative City but never implemented). In the short term, establish a timeline and oversee implementation of immediately actionable proposals in this report. Include City of Toronto staff, public art experts, artists, developers, planners, and architects.
  • Augment the public art master plan with an implementation plan and integrate public art planning into other key City planning documents and core values.

2. Redefine public art


  • Change Toronto’s definition of public art to encompass artworks of different typologies, durations, and media, from the temporary and ephemeral to semi-permanent and permanent installations and sculpture, media art, and performances, reflecting best practices in leading cities.
  • Define inclusive eligibility for professional artists, interdisciplinary artists, and teams that include (for instance) artists, designers, architects, landscape artists, and new media artists-engineers.
  • Support local, international, and emerging artists’ projects.
  • Create opportunities for Indigenous and culturally diverse voices.

3. Public art everywhere


  • Build a district-oriented approach into a new Public Art Master Plan while simultaneously fast-tracking new local-area public art plans.
  • Deploy public art as a means to create community hubs and districts and to humanize and aestheticize much-needed infrastructure.
  • Commission public art as a means of social engagement, dialogue, and social interaction, including all City of Toronto neighbourhoods.


  • Integrate public art into specific plans, including those of TOCore, Parks and Recreation, and other Toronto agencies.
  • Aggressively deploy existing policy tools to pool public art contributions collected through Section 37 and City capital projects, hence creating dialogue across projects and spaces.
  • Strengthen policy mechanisms that permit pooling existing and future funds from private and public sources.
  • Establish a centralized and consolidated Public Art Trust Fund from City of Toronto capital projects and new funding sources, capable of targeting any part of the city.
  • Partner with Toronto’s existing Local Arts Services Organizations (LASOs) to build a strong public art presence in all parts of the city.
  • Support purchases of existing works and loans as an economically viable means to expand public art works.

4. Simplify process


  • Create a single Public Art Office that spans Culture and Planning. Ensure that artists are engaged in site and project planning to better guarantee quality, integration, and cost.
  • Create clear policies regarding process to acquire existing works: sustainability and stewardship for loans (lending practices), rentals, and purchases.


  • Create and more proactively implement flexible methods to acquire public art through open calls, invitational competitions (RFQ and RFP), commissions of new works, rentals, loans, and purchases of completed works.

5. Robust funding for public art


  • Implement Toronto City Council recommendation (2003) that the City of Toronto and its agencies apply a “per cent for art” program to all major capital projects, both for new buildings and infrastructure.
  • Create a set-aside to service conservation of City of Toronto art works over the next five years to bring works up to appropriate standards, including conservation and annual reviews by conservators who will issue reports and updates.
  • Mandate that the set-aside from developer-supported projects for maintenance (10 per cent or another agreed-upon amount) support an arms-length fund for conservation and annual reviews by conservators, who will issue reports and updates.


  • Create policy mechanisms that require developers to make public art projects a component of all new building projects in the City of Toronto, according to a clear set of guidelines. We acknowledge that the Ontario Planning Act does not currently enable this approach through Section 37. However, this practice is common in many Canadian, North American, and international cities. Possibilities include recognizing public art as an eligible development charge.
  • Develop new tools for funding public art. Possibilities include setting aside a portion of current billboard taxes for billboard public art, setting aside any new City hotel or vacant property tax, and provincial recognition of public art as an eligible development charge.
  • Create a central Public Art Trust Fund to support significant public art projects. This fund would pool City of Toronto funds with other potential funding sources.
  • Create specific project funds for Indigenous works, screen-based and media works, and works of shorter duration.
  • Create opportunities for artist-run centres and post-secondary institutions to commission public art works that are temporary, created by emerging artists, and/or community-based.
  • Require that all City of Toronto agencies contribute a fixed percentage of
  • their capital budgets towards public art.
  • After the task force completes its work, create a “Friends of Public Art" group to foster collaboration and dialogue regarding public art in the City of Toronto and to build the Public Art Trust Fund.

6. Build new collaborations


  • Collaborate with the Ministry of Canadian Heritage to ensure that there is a public art set-aside for investments in cultural spaces funding in Toronto.


  • Strengthen collaborative programs between professionals, public institutions, the City of Toronto, the Toronto Arts Council, Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), neighbourhood and civic associations, developers, and universities.
  • Promote public art exhibitions in public facilities, such as libraries, police and fire stations, community and civic centres, and municipal and provincial service centres, as well as cultural institutions and universities.
  • Embed public artists in many city agencies, on the model of Edmonton’s "Art of Living" plan, Seattle's Artist-in-Residence program, or Vancouver's Artist-Made Building Parts program.

7. Promote public art


  • Create online interactive tools to promote Toronto’s rich public art holdings by building on Ilana Altman’s The Artful City.
  • Develop ongoing support for expert-led engagement with artworks in partnership with universities, existing public art agencies, public art leaders, and other groups, in collaboration with Tourism Toronto. Community consultations and community involvement in the function, site, and conceptual approach of a given public art project should be woven into both the process of choosing artists and finalizing commissions.

8. Integrate public art into all future planning


  • Integrate public art into all aspects of urban planning such as urban design guidelines. Use public art to enhance the meaning and impact of policy priorities, such as affordable housing, infrastructure developments, or environmental awareness.
  • Review policy every ten years in recognition of the dynamic environment of Toronto.

Approach to research

The interdisciplinary OCAD University and University of Toronto team consisted of public art practitioners, curators, art and architectural historians, design thinkers, urban planners, and cultural sociologists. We deployed a mixed-method approach, beginning with a literature review. We then examined Toronto’s own history through an overview of policy documents, interviews, and a quantitative analysis of the number of public art works produced in Toronto over time to understand where public art is produced and who is producing it. We considered the Canadian and international field of municipal public art policy and practice through a rigorous evaluation of policy documents in order to identify trends and future directions in the field. We undertook a deep comparative case study with Montreal, again using documents and 40 interviews from both cities as part of our qualitative approach.

Public art bylaws, zoning, and funding models vary from province to state and from city to town, as delineated in this document. But a common theme across policy and legal environments is that cities with a strong commitment to public art find a way to realize that commitment, whatever their distinctive policy challenges may be. Measured against the international trends in the field, Toronto has not kept up in the ways that we document.

We are suggesting new elements of programs and strategy as well as the implementation of previously proposed but unrealized ideas. But we are also supportive of much that exists in Toronto, seeing ways to update its currency for now and the future. Although not focused beyond Toronto, our recommendations may bear relevance for other cities in Ontario and beyond.

The report is structured as follows: Chapter 1 provides a synthesis of our methods, while Chapter 2 is a literature review. Chapter 3 examines Toronto’s history and practice through its policy documents and patterns of public art development over time. Chapter 4 develops the international comparison, while Chapter 5 discusses the results of our qualitative research, interviews with key public art stakeholders in Toronto. Chapter 6 briefly reviews ideas from two public forums, the result of collaboration between the Art Gallery of Ontario and OCAD University. Chapter 7 articulates the results of a close comparative case study with Montreal.

Chapter 8 reiterates our recommendations. It was clear that Toronto could adopt best practices from other Canadian cities, such as Ottawa and Montreal, as well as from international leaders such as San Francisco, while continuing to lead in this city’s considerable commitment to public art — not only through ongoing investments by the developer community, but also by expanding the City’s own investment while pursuing other new funding tools.

Title banner for "Redefining Public Art in Toronto" with OCAD and U of T logos.
Monday, June 19, 2017 - 4:45pm
Lab Member: 
Dr. Sara Diamond
Marie-josee Therrien
Ala Roushan
Claire Brunet
Derek Sullivan

OCAD U Zine Library Open House

Art Book Week: OCAD Zine Library Open House July 10, 1 - 6 pm
Tuesday, July 10, 2018 - 10:00am to 6:00pm

Come visit and browse a collection of over 2500 zines, from uniquely handmade multiples, minicomics, poetry chapbooks, perzines, and much more! We will have a special display of recent acquisitions with a focus on indigenous voices, decolonization and multilingual publications.

This event is part of Art Book Week, a week-long series of events and activities that parallels the Toronto Art Book Fair. Art Book Week 2018 takes place from July 4-11 at various locations across the city. The goal of Art Book Week is to celebrate the unique artists’ book community in Toronto, as well as increase the visibility of new and exciting projects, spaces and artists.

Venue & Address: 
Learning Zone, 113 McCaul Street, Level 1. Also accessible from 122 St. Patrick Street.

Digital Literacy Day in Toronto

Digital Literacy Day in Toronto May 31
Monday, May 28, 2018 - 6:00pm to Thursday, May 31, 2018 - 2:45pm

The City of Toronto and the Toronto Public Library (TPL) are collaborating with a diverse spectrum of more than 35 local companies and organizations to host and produce more than 110 free events for all ages across the city.

Come to the Learning Zone on May 31 from 1 - 2:30 pm and sign up for a Toronto Public Library card. Librarian Irene Gotz will be on hand to answer any questions about services and content you can get for free with your Toronto Public Library card.



Venue & Address: 
Learning Zone, 113 McCaul Street, Level 1. Also accessible from 122 St. Patrick Street.
461-977-6000, ext. 2529

President’s message

Happy new year to all faculty and staff! I hope you had a chance to relax and re-energize during the holiday break and I wish you much success in 2018. My time is focused on an intensified lobby for funding for OCAD University prior to the provincial election. The goal is to establish a wider base of partners, industry collaborations and donors; to continue to press for design policy and support; and to refresh cultural policy at all levels of government. As well, I am in conversation with the City of Toronto on its future cultural and economic development policies, Smart City initiatives and overall support for public art. 

Launch: Zerofootprint Carbon Calculator

Tuesday, March 25, 2008 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm

OCAD President Sara Diamond and the university’s new Sustainability Task Force wish to invite you to the OCAD launch of the Zerofootprint energy calculator.

Sara Diamond and Ron Dembo, Founder and CEO of Zerofootprint, will be on hand to launch the Zerofootprint Calculator to the OCAD student, faculty and staff community and to speak about the partnership between OCAD and Zerofootprint.

About Zerofootprint:
The City of Toronto is partnering with Zerofootprint to launch Zerofootprint Toronto, the first ever community-wide initiative aimed at engaging all citizens to fight climate change on a massive scale.

"Zerofootprint targets large organizations such as collections of cities, multinational corporations, universities, schools and multinational communities, which may span many countries. We enable them with infrastructure that can measure, aggregate, track and manage their individual and combined footprint. We also provide them with the tools to foster a local marketplace with news, events and green commerce."

OCAD Sustainability Initiative:
OCAD is committed to advancing responsible environmental practices and promoting sustainability both through research and programs, as well as operationally. OCAD wishes to engage our community, both internally and externally, in dialogue and actionable means for waste reduction, recycling and reducing carbon emissions. The university will continue to support and launch a number of initiatives that reflect the concern the OCAD community shares regarding sustainability, and will continue to champion innovation that brings solutions to this important issue.

Venue & Address: 
Room 187, Level 1 100 McCaul St., Toronto, Ontario

Enid Robbie - In Praise of Cities

Enid Robbie
Saturday, December 1, 2007 - 5:00am to Sunday, March 2, 2008 - 5:00am

City of Toronto Culture, through its Market Gallery program, presents:
"In Praise of Cities by Enid Robbie"
from December 1, 2007 to March 2, 2008.
This exhibit provides the viewpoint of a committed urban artist and is the first retrospective of Enid Robbie's work from 1952 to 1987.

Venue & Address: 
The Market Gallery, South St. Lawrence Market 95 Front Street East, Toronto, Ontario

Digital Futures graduate students exhibit at City Hall anniversary

3D City Magic installation by Mehnaz Aydemir
Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - 4:00am

1965 was a rather amazing year: Canada got its own flag, Martin Luther King, Jr., marched from Selma to Montgomery, Sonny & Cher released their hit single “I Got You Babe” and Toronto’s futuristic new City Hall opened for business.

As part of the 50th-anniversary celebrations for City Hall – one of Canada’s most distinct architectural landmarks – two students in OCAD University’s Digital Futures graduate program created and mounted installations (OCAD U was an official exhibit partner for the anniversary event).

Beam Me Up!

With her interactive installation Beam Me Up!, Monica Virtue sought to transport visitors through time. Inspired by the Star Trek transporter set, Virtue incorporated sensors and wireless radios, as well as videos she created from images drawn from the City of Toronto Archives, Toronto Reference Library and Toronto Film, Television and Digital Office.

3D City Magic

Mehnaz Aydemir’s interactive installation featured a replica of City Hall created on site during the day by a 3D printer. In addition, Aydemir produced a children’s game that involved participants selecting and holding Plexiglas models of 12 historic Toronto buildings and activating a screen that provided information on the structures they had selected.


Grange Park Revitalization Project Community Meeting

Monday, July 7, 2014 - 10:30pm to Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 12:30am

Organized by the Grange Park Advisory Committee (GPAC)

Please come to this community meeting to review the feedback that was received from our April 22 meeting and to learn more about the design that has been developed for the Grange Park revitalization project.

In co-operation with:
Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
Grange Community Association (GCA)
Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U)
St. George the Martyr Church University Settlement
City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation

For more information, please contact:
Bev Carret, AGO –
Ralph Daley, GCA -
Joan Heeler, St. George the Martyr Church –
Ena D’Altroy, University Settlement -

Venue & Address: 
Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), 317 Dundas Street West, Toronto, Ontario
416-979-6660 ext. 477