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Can a photograph be a monument? Let's reimagine Toronto's public art –



There is a thing that happens sometimes, when you have spent years planning a project, and by the time you are ready to launch, the world has changed in such a way that you land hip deep in a relevant conflagration.

This is where the City of Toronto finds itself with last month’s call for applications for ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021. A city-wide year of public art programming, ArtworxTO will kick-off the city’s new Public Art Strategy (2020-2030), at a time when cities everywhere are grappling with how we build and experience public space together.

Timing is everything, as the kids say, and the horrific timing of 2020 these past six months has seen the intertwined crises of the pandemic and the protests force us to confront inequities of all kinds, including those present in public space.

Amidst the private mourning, turmoil and devastation, both public space and public art are currently being radically questioned, disputed and transformed, as we confront the threat of COVID-19 transmission, as well as the long-standing systems of racism and colonialism in this country.

Lack of access, private appropriation and worrisome crowding are all pertinent safety issues. But while public spaces have only just become hazardous to some, Amy Cooper and police forces everywhere have simultaneously underscored how some of us are used to feeling safe in, and entitled to, public space, and many of us aren’t.

That safety and entitlement is constructed in a myriad of ways, and public art has been too often complicit in contributing to the upholding of certain values and ideas and people at the very real expense of others.

This summer, folks across the world have had enough of the commemoration and valorization of oppressive ideologies; they have responded by creating public art through murals, street painting, music, and dancing in the streets, and by redecorating or taking down public monuments.

Meanwhile, here in Toronto, a petition to rename Dundas St. launched by Toronto-based artist Andrew Lochhead has spurred a review led by city manager Chris Murray, which “might ultimately touch all named City streets, parks and facilities, public monuments, and civic awards and honours, potentially leading to a variety of actions (e.g., renaming streets, removing monuments, revoking awards, or reinterpreting any of these).”

As Murray wryly concludes, the city is at a “particularly turbulent moment in its history,” but as we contend with that turbulence, it offers us opportunities to right some wrongs as we address the challenges we’re facing.

After years of criticism of the city’s public art policies, ArtworxTO is attempting to do just that, with its strategy framework stating a commitment to advancing reconciliation in Toronto through Indigenous place-making, and laying out 21 specific actions endorsed by Toronto City Council.

This is a call both to our artists and the work that they plan to make, and to us as audiences and the work that we are willing to support. The strategy’s success relies on us all.

And, full disclosure, as part of my Photo Laureate duties, I’m delighted to serve on the Mayor’s External Advisory Committee for ArtworxTO, because I’m keen to help ensure that success — I want these new public art opportunities to support a diversity of artists and act as a catalyst for meaningful civic engagement for as many Torontonians as possible.

Given that our new public art strategy also embraces the temporary and art-that-is-not-just-large-sculptures, I’m also focused on encouraging our photographers to participate, even if they’ve never made public art before.

There are currently only a handful of photography projects in the city’s collection of nearly 400 works of public art, and photographic art has long had to compete with advertising, editorial and commercial images in public space.

Together with technological limitations on durability, perhaps this is why there are so few permanent photography works in the city. But in this moment of reconfiguring our approach, the timely question is begged: Could a photograph be a monument?

Astutely, I have answered this question in advance for you by sharing the image above, documenting an unforgettable 2017 project by Cree/Saulteaux/Métis artist, Lori Blondeau.

Installed for the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival at Ryerson University, Asiniy Iskwew celebrates and gives homage to Plains Indigenous rock formations, significant ancient sites created for sacred and rite-of-passage ceremonies and for recording battles and histories.

The photographs were seamlessly adhered to the site’s two-billion-year-old boulders, inscribing a narrative of Indigenous resilience into the landscape. They stayed up for just under four months, and I visited as often as I could, to sit in reverence and to marvel.



The word “monument” finds its origins in the Latin verb monere, to remind, to advise, to warn, and I wish Asiniy Iskwew was still up to do all three.

Consider this my own call then, Toronto photographers. Permanent or not, let Blondeau’s work inspire how you tackle Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021. Let us remind of neglected histories, advise of current injustices and warn of future troubles.

I can’t wait to see what you do.

Michèle Pearson Clarke is Toronto’s photo laureate for the next three years. Each month, she takes a different photo and talks about why it’s important to the city and why you should take a look at it. Follow her on Instagram @tophotolaureate.

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Petrolia Discovery offering tours and art show Saturday – Sarnia Observer



Oil and art are set to mix Saturday at the Petrolia Discovery heritage site.

Liz Welsh, with the Petrolia Discovery Foundation, is shown at the oil heritage site in Petrolia. It is offering self-guided tours and an art show and sale this Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Paul Morden / The Observer

Oil and art are set to mix Saturday at the Petrolia Discovery heritage site.

The foundation that operates the working oil field and heritage site in Petrolia has been opening the gates for self-guided tours on several Saturdays during the summer and fall, and this Saturday’s event will include a show and sale by local artists and artisans.

The Artist Day and tours run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is by donation.

Foundation board member Liz Welsh said the event was organized for local artists who missed out on traditional shows and sales during this year’s pandemic restrictions.

“It’s an opportunity for arts and craft people who would normally be travelling around and spending their summer hitting up all of these shows and earning their income,” Welsh said.

The event will feature 15 vendors, socially distanced outdoors at the site for the walk-through show and sale.

Welsh said, “We’ve kept it very local” with nearly all of the vendors from Petrolia, and offering items ranging from jewelry to paintings, photography, as well as fabric and leather art.

“I think maybe one or two aren’t quite in Petrolia, but we filled up with Petrolia people first.”

Welsh said COVID-19 precautions will be in place during the show, and the self-guided tours of the heritage buildings and oil field. Volunteers will be at the site and visitors will be given plastic covered tour guidebooks that are sanitized between use.

“They get to support local art and local history at the same time,” she said.

Visitors are asked to use the site’s north entrance through Bridgeview Park.

The site’s plans for the event have been cleared with the town’s emergency management coordinator, Welsh said.

Visitors are being asked to use cash to make purchases from vendors, and to wear a face mask while browsing the art.

The site offers “lots of room to distance,” Welsh said.

“And, the weather looks like it’s going to be fabulous.”

Saturday will also feature live music by the Lambton Brass Quintet from about 10:30 a.m. to noon.

Welsh said the group is make up of members of the Lambton Concert Band.

She said anyone with questions about the event can call the Discovery at 519-882-0897, or contact the foundation through its Facebook page.

The tours at the Discovery have been “really well-received,” including a previous Saturday that featured a local car club. Welsh said.

“We had lots of people, that day,” she said.

The Discovery will also expected to be open for self-guided tours on the Saturday of the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend.

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Travel news: Local cultural events, live music and art classes – The Globe and Mail



Lekwungen traditional dancers in Saanich, B.C., in 2019.

Kevin Light/Handout

An expanded Culture Days 2020 launches Sept. 25 across Canada with the theme Unexpected Intersections, offering free livestream and in-person arts and culture experiences. Concerts, art classes, dance performances and self-guided tours are some of the options available until Oct. 25. Highlights include Nuit Blanche in Winnipeg, Behind the Wall: Making of a collective mural by the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre and the Yukon Arts Centre’s Waterfront Parade in Whitehorse.

Get a dose of live music at Vancouver’s Gastown Unplugged, a pop-up music series happening until the end of October. Wander the cobblestones or listen from a patio to local musicians at four locations including the Maple Tree Square Pop-Up Plaza.

At Vancouver’s Gastown Unplugged, listen from a patio to local musicians at four locations.

Gastown Unplugged/Handout

Supplement back to school with BIPOC history and stories: digital Doors Open Ontario has videos, virtual tours and photos from Canadian Black History sites such as Amherstburg Freedom Museum, Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society, Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historical Site and John Freeman Walls Underground Railroad Museum while Hot Docs at Home ( has launched For Viola, a documentary series focused on BIPOC stories and filmmakers, streaming for free.

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Kimpton Hotels has introduced Chief Virtual Learning Officers (CVLO), helping families on vacation with remote learning. Reserve access to an on-property CVLO and get set up with complimentary desks, snacks and school supplies. Now available at Toronto’s Kimpton Saint George (, the hotel currently offers a 15-per-cent discount on reservations made three days in advance for IHG members who book directly.

Writerfest in Kingston, Ont., in 2019.

Garrett Elliott/Handout

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2nd annual Newmarket Juried Art Show goes online –



The organizers of the Newmarket Juried Art Show (NJAS) took to heart the well-known credo that “the show must go on.”

With the closure of Serpa Galleries in Newmarket’s Old Town Hall due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, this year’s art show is being held online beginning Oct. 7.

“We believe the arts are integral to strong, resilient communities and that such resilience is increasingly important in the face of a changing climate and other global challenges,” said NJAS co-directors David Kempton and Peggy Stevens in a news release. “We hope to showcase Newmarket as an arts hub – both to the province and to itself. Newmarket has a thriving collection of artists.”

Paintings, photography, sculptures, mixed media and ceramics are among the mediums that will be on display by artists from across southern Ontario.

An online gala will be held Oct. 15, starting at 7 p.m. There will be cash awards announced at the gala for the different categories of artwork, as well as a Juror’s Choice award.

“Following on the great success of the First Annual Newmarket Juried Art Show in October 2019, we were very much looking forward to NJAS 2020. Then COVID-19 happened,” the organizers said. “After much discussion, we decided to go for it, and have created an online version for this year.”

The online version of the show included lowering the entry fee, making alternate arrangements for artists hit hard by the pandemic, and doing the jurying by Zoom.

In total, 112 pieces of work were entered by 40 artists from across Ontario, from Windsor to Reaboro, and Penetanguishene to Fonthill.

Of those, 31 pieces of artwork submitted by 28 artists — 10 of whom are from Newmarket and Aurora — were selected for the show. 

Judging was based on digital images submitted by the artists, and the images were “anonymized”, organizers said.

All award money and other support was donated by local citizens and small businesses.

The Town of Newmarket partnered with them to help make the show a reality, they added.

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