Toronto Sculpture Garden is now accepting proposals through October 26. The online information session will be held on September 21 at 1:30 p.m. To register for the information session, please email publicartcompetitions@toronto.ca.
City of Toronto public art opportunities and updates on commissions, installations and unveilings.

 

Project Overview

From its opening in 1981, The Toronto Sculpture Garden (TSG) commissioned temporary artworks by over 80 artists, in a small City of Toronto park opposite St. James Cathedral on King Street east. Until 2014, it was operated as a partnership between the City of Toronto and the Louis L. Odette family, whose non-profit L.L.O. Sculpture Garden Foundation funded and administered the exhibitions. Under the direction of Rina Greer, the TSG provided artists with the opportunity to work experimentally in public space, explore issues of scale and materials, and engage with the local community as well as visitors to the neighbourhood.

Pigro installation at night
Tony Romano, Pigro (2019), as installed in the Toronto Sculpture Garden

The 2021 Sculpture Garden projects will be part of the ArtworxTO program, the City’s year-long celebration of public art. This will include partnership projects guest-curated by Black Artists’ Networks in Dialogue (BAND), from May to September, and the Toronto Biennial of Art from October to December. To launch the year’s programming, the City of Toronto is inviting proposals from Toronto-based curatorial collectives, curators and arts organisations interested in programming the TSG from February to April, 2021.

In a unique opportunity, the Sculpture Garden is seeking proposals that embrace the outdoors and bring light and life to the cold and darkness of winter. The TSG is in the heart of the city, close to so many places where the public previously gathered; places of worship, restaurants and bars, theatres and performance spaces, all of which have been severely impacted by the pandemic. We are seeking work(s) that can speak to the multiple narratives playing out in public spaces now, historically, and in an imagined future.

As it will not be possible to install foundations, proposals are not expected to be primarily sculptural. This is an opportunity for performance- and event-based artworks (including music and other audio works, film and video projection, and ephemeral installations) which could also include a parallel online component. While the overall program should be original, existing works may be included.

Competition Process

The successful proposal will be selected by a specially convened panel, made up of ArtworxTO advisory panel members. The budget of $30,000 (+HST) includes, but is not limited to, all artists’ fees, materials, project expenses, transportation, insurance and permits.

Applicants are welcome to raise funds from other sources, and the City of Toronto has the ability to issue charitable tax receipts to potential partners.

Timeline

Call for Proposals: August 27 – October 26, 2020
Online Information Session: 1:30 to 2:30 p.m, September 21, 2020.
Deadline for proposals: October 26, 2020
Selection: Week of November 2, 2020
Program Duration: February 1 – April 30, 2021

Submission Requirements

All those interested in applying should email publicartcompetitions@toronto.ca for complete proposal and submission requirements.

Applicants are also invited to register for the upcoming information session. The information session is recommended but not mandatory. To register, please email publicartcompetitions@toronto.ca.

Winning Proposal by Quentin VerCetty

Toronto-based artist Quentin VerCetty has been selected as the winner of a public art competition designed to honor Joshua Glover, a man who escaped American slavery in 1852 and made his way to Canada assisted by the Underground Railroad. In 1854 Glover found work and shelter in the community of Etobicoke where a new park is currently under construction as part of the Kingsway by the River development in Etobicoke.

The creation of the Joshua Glover Park and Public Art Memorial aligns with the City’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Action Plan and specifically the recommendation to increase the visibility of Black history in Toronto.

VerCetty’s sculpture bust draws on composite events of Joshua Glovers’ life imagined through the lens of Afrofuturism. The artist depicts Glover as a charismatic Victorian dandy gazing confidently into the future while throwing off the chains of slavery with his mutilated cyborg arm. He clutches books to his chest suggesting that knowledge will set him free.

VerCetty's sculpture bust of Joshua Glover
Credit: Quentin VerCetty

The winning proposal was selected unanimously by a panel comprised of artist David Chinyama, Julie Crooks (Associate Curator of Photography at the Art Gallery of Ontario), Neil Park (Etobicoke Historical Society), Gaëtane Verna (Director of the Power Plant), and Tim Whiten (artist and Professor Emeritus at York University).

VerCetty is an award-winning visual storyteller, art educator and graduate of Ontario College of Art and Design University. His work uses speculative narratives, such as Afrofuturism, to address issues of representation, immigration and decolonization and has been featured in countries such as Mexico, Haiti, Peru, Australia, United Arab Empire and Germany.

The Joshua Glover Public Art Memorial will be installed in 2021, as part of the City’s ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art, a year-long celebration of art and community in 2021. It will highlight Toronto’s collection of public art and the artists behind it, provide opportunities for artists to develop new public art projects, and encourage people to connect and engage with public art.

Project Overview

Joshua Glover escaped slavery in 1852, and made his way from St. Louis, Missouri into Canada assisted by the Underground Railroad. In 1854 he found work and shelter in the community of Etobicoke. His story was important to the abolitionist movement, and in general to Canada as well.

Fittingly, the project is to be located in the new Joshua Glover Park (4208 Dundas Street West, Etobicoke) in the Lambton Mills area where Glover settled after arriving in Canada. Naming the small park after Joshua Glover was decided by participants of a survey organized in 2015 by the City’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division in consultation with the local Ward Councillor out of three possible names that according to new city policy was shortlisted and brought forward.

For much of his life Glover lived in a small house in Lambton Mills, owned by Thomas Montgomery the proprietor of Montgomery’s Inn where Glover found long time employment. He married twice, both times to settler Irish women, which marked two of the earliest inter-racial marriages in Etobicoke. Glover died in an Old Age home in Newmarket at the age of 74, after having been embraced by the community of Etobicoke throughout his life.

No photograph or drawing has ever been found in the historical records of Joshua Glover. To this effect, Arts and Culture Services and the Etobicoke Historical Society aim to add a symbolic sculptural tribute rather than an imagined likeness to Joshua Glover’s memory. Through a one stage public art competition the design concept submissions by professional visual artists or artist led teams will be judged on the strength of their ideas. Artists with lived experience as Canadians of African Descent and artists with lived experience of the African-Canadian diaspora were strongly encouraged to apply.

Historical Background

The first enslaved African recorded on Canadian soil was brought to these shores at the beginning of the 17th century, in 1628. It was only after large uprisings by enslaved Africans in the United States of America and the Caribbean that in 1833 abolitionists managed to successfully convince British law-makers to render slavery illegal on lands now claimed by Canada. This law took effect on August 1, 1834, when approximately 1 million enslaved Africans in British colonies (including what is now Canada) were freed under the British Parliament’s Slavery Abolition Act, (1833). Joshua Glover is important today, as his life story exemplifies one of Canada’s under-explored examples of people of African descent historically working to re-shape Canadian society into one that is more welcoming and respectful to immigrants and refugees.

Joshua Glover Park, aerial view, no text

Joshua Glover’s story also resonates with the citizens of Racine and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In Milwaukee at the intersection of Glover Avenue and Booth Street there is a large plaque that recounts the dramatic “Rescue of Joshua Glover”. After escaping St. Louis, Glover was recaptured and incarcerated in a jail in Milwaukee. Led by local newspaper owner and anti-slavery activist Sherman Booth, 5000 people stormed the jail, set Glover free and facilitated his journey through safe houses along the Underground Railroad to freedom in Canada. The public outcry surrounding the Glover case and the legal prosecution of Booth after the rescue advanced the cause of the abolition of slavery in the United States.

Joshua Glover’s story has captured the creative imagination of many; it produced books, a play, an opera, and a one man show which had its recent debut at the Montgomery’s Inn museum this past summer. While this visual art commission initiated by the Etobicoke Historical Society is dedicated to the memory of one black man, it carries the burden of history rich in symbolism and will be a fitting addition to the growing cultural production inspired by his life.