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Elly on the Arts: Hello from a trip to Toronto's arts scene

"Greetings from sunny (actually, not really, it’s raining and cold!) Toronto. We know this is usually a column about the Flin Flon arts scene, but a writer is supposed to write what they know and, at this moment in time, we are in Toronto."
A theatre curtain hangs pre-show.

Greetings from sunny (actually, not really, it’s raining and cold!) Toronto. We know this is usually a column about the Flin Flon arts scene, but a writer is supposed to write what they know and, at this moment in time, we are in Toronto, so we are far more attuned to what is happening here than there. We hope you will forgive us and take an interest in the Toronto scene for this one little column.

Today, we saw the Blue Jays play the Houston Astros at the Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto. Again, not the usual fare of this column, but in for a penny, in for a pound we always say so do bear with us. The Rogers Centre used to be known as SkyDome and many people still call it that. It is an astonishingly large building but not very interesting architecturally speaking. It reminds us of the golf domes that have sprung up all over the place, except bigger. We are certain that the mechanics of the roof are quite extraordinary, but from the inside, it appears only to be lined with steel girders. We also did not have an opportunity to see the roof slide back given the cold and rainy conditions so … Perhaps next time. The Jays did win and the crowd really did go wild.

There are many amazing arts happenings to see and do in the area. The Toronto Biennial of Art opened March 26 and runs for 10 weeks in venues large and small all over Toronto and the surrounding area. According to its website, “Toronto Biennial of Art’s mission is to make contemporary art accessible to everyone.”

“For 10 weeks every two years, local, national and international Biennial artists transform Toronto and its partner regions with free exhibitions, performances and learning opportunities. Grounded in diverse local contexts, the Biennial’s city-wide programming inspires individuals, engages communities, and contributes to global conversations.”

“The Toronto Biennial of Art launched in 2019 and was a popular and critical success. The Biennial provides expanded understandings of contemporary art practices and is building a legacy of free, inclusive and accessible contemporary arts programming in Toronto, Mississauga and their surrounding communities. As conversations about Truth and Reconciliation as well as inclusion, equity, and accessibility continue to evolve, the Biennial is committed to developing new ways of seeing and listening.”

We plan to see some of the installations including one at 5 Lower Jarvis Street which is very near St. Lawrence Market, the bigger brother of our own Wild Things Market held every September as part of Culture Days. The exhibit will be “Plague Masks” by artist Peter Jungen, which is a series of masks fashioned after the plague masks worn in the 14th and 15th centuries to ward off the Black Death or bubonic plague - only these masks are made out of Nike Air Jordan basketball shoes.

This artist had a major show at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, where he talked about his concerns with climate change and the contemporary art market. He utilizes consumer goods to make his art and he realizes that the art he makes is a commodity, to be sold again. The irony is not lost on him, yet he does have to make his living. We can hardly wait.

The one exhibit we will be so sorry to miss is an event by the artist Judy Chicago. She has been making smoke sculptures for many years in a project she calls “Atmospheres” where she sets off fireworks that shoot coloured smoke into the sky. The piece for the Biennial is called “A Tribute to Toronto” and will be set off on a barge out in Lake Ontario on June 4. It is certain to be beautiful but alas, we will be back in Flin Flon by then, wrapping up the Northern Juried Art Show. If you see us there, do remind us of the time our significant half (Tim) met the esteemed Judy Chicago - it’s a great tale that deserves some air time.