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THE INDUSTRY LEADER: Industry and municipalities work together to provide public art

THE INDUSTRY LEADER: Industry and municipalities work together to provide public art

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THE INDUSTRY LEADER: Industry and municipalities work together to provide public art

by David Wilkes, BILD

We need more collaboration to create thriving complete communities where people can live, work and enjoy their leisure time.

As development in our region intensifies, public art is flourishing in our communities. Besides beautifying the places where we live and work, these sculptures, murals and LED installations create a sense of community, evoke civic pride and invite tourism. Many of these works are the result of creative partnerships between our industry, municipalities and artists.

In the City of Toronto, a large proportion of public art is funded through the Percent for Public Art Program, which has developers contribute 1 per cent of the gross construction cost of projects to public art. In return, the city may allow them to increase the height of a building or build a denser development, an exchange permitted by Section 37 of the Ontario Planning Act. Depending on the size of the contribution, it may be used to commission an art installation on site, pooled in the city’s Public Art Reserve Fund, or a combination of the two options.

In the last five years, the program has seen the completion of approximately $25 million in public art, with additional funding secured that has not yet been spent. Since its inception, the Percent for Public Art Program has enriched Toronto with more than 150 pieces of public art. Many are part of condominium developments and enjoyed by residents and passersby alike. An example is a work titled “We Are All Animals,” located in a public plaza in front of a condo near High Park. The installation, commissioned by the developer from a Toronto-based art studio, consists of a long bronze bench, a trio of coyote sculptures and an LED screen showing an ever-changing digital rendering of High Park’s landscape.

Another remarkable piece of art that people can enjoy as a result of collaboration between industry and the city is “Guard with Balloon Dog,” a stencil attributed to the anonymous graffiti artist Banksy, which is on display in the PATH system near 1 York Street. It was found on the wall of a former office building in the Harbourfront area. Before the building was demolished, the developer salvaged the panels, had them professionally restored and eventually had them installed, along with a commissioned companion piece, as a public art contribution accompanying its major mixed-use project in the area.

Other municipalities in the GTA are also building their public art collections thanks to partnerships with our industry, despite the fact that public art contributions are voluntary. For example, in Mississauga, a two-part metal and glass sculpture called “Migration” depicting birds in flight, forms a gateway over Duke of York Boulevard where it meets Burnhamthorpe Road. The work was jointly funded by developers behind two nearby condo projects and the City of Mississauga.

In Markham, kids and kids at heart can ride a colourful piece of public art, a merry-go-round featuring characters that evoke Canada, such as a beaver, a Mountie, a moose and a salmon. The carousel, made by Canadian-born California-based artist Patrick Amiot, is called “Pride of Canada,” and was made out of repurposed materials collected across the country. It is the centerpiece of an extensive public art initiative that is being spearheaded by the developer behind the major mixed-use development in downtown Markham. The eclectic public art collection includes street art photography in an underground parking garage and a floral light sculpture over the entrance of a shopping centre.

I could fill several more columns with examples of art that we all get to appreciate because of innovative partnerships between our industry and municipalities. As our region continues to grow, we will need more of this kind of collaboration to create thriving complete communities where people can live, work and enjoy their leisure time. With elections approaching this year, BILD will be asking questions about how we can work together to make this vision a reality.

David Wilkes is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Associatio (BILD).

He can be found on Twitter, Facebook, BILD’s official blog, and bildgta.ca.


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Menkes unveils installation attributed to Banksy

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Menkes unveils installation attributed to Banksy

Menkes Developments, unveiled a public art installation in downtown Toronto on February 13, featuring a stencil attributed to the anonymous British artist Banksy, referred to as “Guard with Balloon Dog.”
Designed in the stenciled approach to graffiti art associated with works by Banksy, the piece was originally applied to the rear facade of the vacant building previously situated at 90 Harbour Street in May 2010, when Banksy visited Toronto following the release of his film, Exit Through the Gift Shop. The same weekend in May, six other works attributed to the artist appeared throughout the city.


In 2011, the Harbour Street property was purchased by Menkes for redevelopment and demolition of the building commenced. Aware of the Banksy work on the building’s facade, demolition crews were instructed to protect the panels of limestone on which the art was applied.  Subsequently, Menkes had the slabs removed, preserved and professionally restored in anticipation of finding a new home for the piece in the public realm.
“Banksy’s visit to Toronto was well documented, so we were aware of the presence of ‘Guard with Balloon Dog’ on the building when we began the process of purchasing the 90 Harbour property,” says Jared Menkes, vice president of the highrise residential division of Menkes. “As soon as we were able to do so, we took steps to protect the piece and were able to preserve and remove the slabs from the building during the demolition process.”

Art conservator Alexander Gabov of CSMO restores the Banksy piece, removing graffiti that was painted on it after the original Banksy was created. (Photo by Paul Casselman)

The 90 Harbour Street site was redeveloped into a mixed-use project encompassing two million square feet of residential and commercial space. The project features a 66- and 70-storey condominium tower, known as Harbour Plaza, and a 35-storey AAA commercial office building called One York, all situated on top of a four-storey retail podium directly connected to the PATH system.
Menkes sought to place the Banksy piece in a public space and eventually selected a location in the PATH network adjoining One York. The PATH is downtown Toronto’s pedestrian walkway network that spans 30 kilometres and features approximately 1,200 shops and services, as well as connections to all the major office towers in the financial core, major tourist and entertainment attractions, six subway stations and the Union Station railway terminal. The network is primarily underground but south of Union Station it moves above grade. As it crosses One York, the PATH is on the second floor on the north side of the project and this is where the Banksy installation is situated.

Restoration experts work to reassemble the Banksy piece following its removal from the building at 90 Harbour Street prior to its demolition. From left, forklift operator George Dickson, Matt Meagher of Museum Pros and structural engineer Ira Idzkowski of Torcon Canada. (Photo by Paul Casselman).

“This Banksy piece represents an exciting contribution to the public art landscape in Toronto and we wanted to reintroduce it to the public in a manner that was respectful to its origins,” Menkes said. “In 2015, we commissioned a limited design competition seeking ideas for its installation, and ultimately selected the concept proposed by Toronto-based designer Johnson Chou.”
Named “Speculum” (the Latin word meaning “an instrument to behold”), Chou’s proposal met the original objectives of both protecting the Banksy piece while displaying it in a publicly accessible way. It also included the creation of a companion piece, which would, according to the designer, serve as “a critique of the act of viewing art, that of an apparition of the original.”

Assistant conservator of CSMO Emily Ricketts applies finishing touches to the Banksy installa-tion in the PATH system at One York Street. (Photo by Paul Casselman)

“As an apparatus for viewing, “Speculum” is created to evoke the past, define views and movement and create an immersive and interpretive installation,” added Chou, noting that “as one walks west along the PATH, one sees “Speculum,” a mirrored, polished stainless steel cantilevered form that not only guides one past the underside of the escalator, but reflects what is to come around the corner.”
Around the corner, in the recess, sit the three limestone slabs containing the Banksy work in its raw form, extracted from the original building’s facade.
“The slabs are set off from the marble-clad wall that not only evokes the lobby and horizontality of the original building,” said Chou, “but draws passersby around to the back of the work, creating a space away from the flow of pedestrian traffic. This allows one to view an interpretative panel on the history of the building, at one’s leisure.”

Watching the curtain drop, from left designer Johnson Chou, Alan Menkes, Peter Menkes and Jared Menkes. (Photo by Paul Casselman)

The restoration of the Banksy, its re-installation, and the fabrication and installation are all part of a $2 million public art package included by Menkes in the Harbour Plaza/One York project.
http://www.menkes.com/

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