Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Art of Transit: Newish Public Art Hits St. Clair TTC Line

I know I just did an article looking at light-based public art in Toronto, but one of the brightest public art ideas I've seen of late has been the newish installations along St. Clair West TTC shelters in Toronto. Toronto-centric site Yonge Street Media asked me to take a look at them back in December, and I'm so glad I did--the variety of artistic approaches is really pretty amazing considering the limitations of the format.

The resulting article was published today on Yonge Street's site. An excerpt:

For years, the corner of Oakwood and St Clair -- like many Toronto intersections -- has relied on commercial signage for injections of colour and identity. On most grey winter days, the blue and white of a Mac's sign, the purple serif of a second-floor Curves and the fire-engine-red of a Scotiabank logo are the only things that have stood out in a sea of brick and concrete.

But recently, all that changed when a bright, 40-foot-long artwork appeared on the intersection's eastbound TTC shelter. Packed with comic-book references and graffiti-esque doodles, the piece adds fun to a place that has long tended towards function.

This new addition to the streetscape, created by multitasking Queen West artist Mark Laliberte, is one of 24 vibrant artworks that were installed on top of St Clair TTC shelters at the end of November. From Yonge to Keele there's a surprising range of work by 21 artists—from Judith Schwarz's intricate metalwork and Sally McCubbin's glass cityscapes to Sarah Nind's Sidewalk Tango photographs and Panya Clark Espinal's Spirograph-inspired mixed media.

Another thing I really liked about this project is that it brings some previously gallery-only names to city streets, allowing traditionally "indoor" artists to try doing a permanent (or at least 20-yearish) outdoor installation. These types of artists going public for the first time on the St. Clair West line include Kristan Horton (who played on public art as infrastructural "icing"), Sara Graham and more.

Though the weather has been far from conducive of late for a public art jaunt, I highly recommend checking these out when you have the time. They run somewhat erratically along the St. Clair line from Yonge to Keele.

And yes, I was told that these installations come out of the TTC's own Percent for Public Art program, which sets aside 1% of construction costs for art. This is not to be confused with the City of Toronto's Percent for Public Art program, which is used separately with private developers on a noncompulsory basis. You can also check out news of upcoming art installations for future subway stations here on the TTC's site.

(Image of Mark Laliberte's St Clair West project snapped by Tanja Tiziana for Yonge Street Media)

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