In the Art of the City

I think I am going to now remember the return of Fall as the time of the year when not only the leaves change colour, but when the city transforms into an art lovers paradise. I don’t know much about art. I know I like walking around museums, going to arts and crafts fairs, and checking out various exhibits – pretty much I like to look at pretty and interesting things (who doesn’t, right?). I guess I am just impressed by talent. Well Toronto had a lot of talent in the city to welcome Fall, with the Queen West Art Crawl and Outdoor Show, The Word on the Street Festival, and of course, Nuit Blanche. These are three annual events that I try to go to each year and wanted to share some of that experience through the use of some pretty pictures (because like I said, who doesn’t like to look at pretty and interesting things?).

QUEEN WEST ART CRAWL & OUTDOOR SHOW

Now unfortunately I did not get to see as much of the Queen West Art Crawl as I would have liked to this year. While the crawl lasts the entire weekend, I only managed to go down on the Sunday to check it out as it was raining on Saturday (which to me means stay at home in my pj’s and catch up on all of the bad TV I missed during the week). Sunday also coincided with the Word on the Street Festival – so I had to split up that day to be able to get to both festivals. Yay for good sneakers and public transit!

My favourite part of the art crawl is the outdoor show that takes place in Trinity Bellwoods Park. I love walking by all of the tents and checking out the work made by local artisans. It is also free – so no real barrier for anyone to attend (although donations are welcome!). You can buy all sorts of handmade crafts and art at the show, including paintings, photography, jewelry and pottery. I didn’t end up buying anything at the fair (mainly because I don’t have any walls that are currently empty in my tiny condo to place art on), but I hope to one day when I have a much bigger pad and want some one of a kind pieces!

THE WORD ON THE STREET FESTIVAL

For those of you not familiar with the Word on the Street Festival, it is pretty much a large one-day festival in the city that celebrates writing and reading. It’s a great place to hear local authors read passages from their work and answer questions, schmooze with local publications trying to pimp out their products, as well as just get deals on books.

I love this festival because it really has something for everyone. No matter the genre or type of publication (book, comic, magazine, newspaper, etc), you will probably be able to find something that interests you at Word on the Street. I also especially loved seeing all of the kids in attendance and how much fun they were having reading and watching the various performances. It is a great family event and there is tons of stuff to do and see to keep you busy for hours (and potentially empty out your pockets if you can manage to squeeze your way up to a booth to get some of the good pickings).

I didn’t manage to buy anything at the festival (mainly because I was pretty tired and didn’t feel like having to carry anything heavy home), but I did manage to score a very tasty samosa. Another great thing about festivals in the city is that there are fantastic food trucks available to get some tasty eats. This was definitely needed after an exhausting day of walking from the west end of the city to the north. It can definitely make a girl hungry!

NUIT BLANCHE

Nuit Blanche is probably the Mecca of all art festivals in the city. Each year, it seems to get bigger and bigger – not only in attendance, but in the number of exhibits to physically check out. I tried my best to see as much as possible this year, but had to end the night just before 2 am as I had an early morning flight the next day. It was a perfect evening for the event (well until about 1:30 am or so when the rain started), but felt that the city/organizers could have done a better job coordinating street closures. Intersections like Queen/University as well as Queen/Yonge were not closed down for the event making it very difficult and dangerous to cross the street as well as creating huge bottlenecks. I am certain that this was one of the event’s largest complaints and I am hopeful that it will be corrected for next year.

Overall, I was very impressed with Nuit Blanche. I think some of the exhibits were quite grande and spectacular, and really made for a memorable night. City Hall was definitely quite the scene with Ai Weiwei’s ‘Forever Bicycles’ installation as well as Boris Achour’s ‘The rose is without why’ light-up poem. However, none of the exhibits can really match the buzz and spirit that the city itself was generating that night. Toronto was kind of transformed into this magical place, filled with people just wanting to explore and enjoy the experience. This is how I always feel in the city when I am discovering something new, so it was great to experience that with thousands of other people that night.

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Farewell to Summer Pt. 1 – BuskerFest

Toronto sure does know how to send off summer in style. As back-to-school time quickly approaches, there is no doubt that it feels like summer is dwindling down. To celebrate this last weekend of summer bliss, Toronto had numerous festivals and activities going on throughout the city. I managed to check out 3 of the larger festivals including BuskerFest, Fan Expo and the CNE (otherwise known as the Canadian National Exhibition for those of you not familiar with Toronto acronyms!).

The first festival of my very busy weekend was BuskerFest. I think this is the 3rd or 4th year I have attended, and it seems to get bigger and better each year. It was actually surprising to learn that this festival has been around for 14 years as I just heard about it not that long ago. This festival is very special to Toronto as it the largest epilepsy awareness event in the world, and the only festival in the world produced by a charity – Epilepsy Toronto. As soon as you enter the festival grounds (which occupied Yonge Street between Queen and College Streets vs. its prior home around St. Lawrence Market), volunteers politely ask you for any amount of change or money you can spare to help support the 40,000 living with epilepsy in our city. We only had a bit of change on us, so we gave what we could and made our way inside (only to notice about 20 minutes later that one of the volunteers had placed a sticker on my arm without my knowing. Sneaky sneaky volunteers).

busker scheduleUpon entering the grounds, we quickly found the festival schedule and mapped out the various acts we wanted to check out (really, I just wanted to see the USA Breakdancers because who doesn’t love people spinning on their heads?). After taking a picture of the schedule (to use for future reference so we didn’t need to keep returning to the big sign — genius I know!), we decided to venture off and check out some of the acts already mid-way through their performances.

The first act we caught was the Twin Tango. I am not really sure how to describe this performance. I saw a large stripper pole which immediately caught my attention and a man climbing up it with a rose in his mouth (wouldn’t you be intrigued by this?). We hung around for a few minutes to watch “Harold” do various flips and turns on the pole trying to impress a girl who sat on a chair and watched him. After reading the description in the handy busker fest newspaper, I learned that this was actually a love story of a man trying to woo the girl into his arms. I guess coming halfway through the act didn’t help put the pieces of that story together.

On our way to the next stage, we passed some fantastic installations and performances such as Marie Antoinette, the CANDYman and Krazy K (stilt walker). No matter where you turned, it seemed like there was something to see. There was some serious sensory overload walking through the streets of downtown Toronto.

As we continued our way north along Yonge Street, we managed to make it Yonge-Dundas Square where we got to hear some live music and watch some really fantastic balloon twisters in action. There was a quite crowd as the two twisters whipped up some impressive crowns for various kids in the audience. I have no idea why I am always impressed with clowns and people that can manipulate balloons this way. Maybe because I can barely blow up a balloon, let alone twist it into some sort of random animal or head-piece. Sigh. If only I could. Oh the possibilities.

As we continued to kill some time before heading back down to check out the USA Breakdancers, we stumbled upon The Flying Dutchmen –  a pair of crazy uni-cyclists/jugglers who are dubbed “The Rolling Stones of street performers”. We caught the end of their show where they juggled flaming torches at one another while riding the unicycles. I think I was more distracted by their costumes than the flames though (maybe that was part of the trick?). What I found pretty cool about watching a lot of these buskers is that many of them are from abroad and are brought into town for this festival. This was very noticeable when you heard the Australian accents of the performers in Natural Wings as they did their aerial routine at the festival.

The big finale of the night was the USA Breakdancers. I didn’t really know what to expect, but based on the quality of the performances I had witnessed that evening, I knew I was going to be in for a treat. The USA Breakdancers were a 3-man team that consisted of two breakers and an MC (also known as Julio “Klown” Santiago). The show combined some great breakdancing skills, but also had some humour that was provided by Julio. Probably the most entertaining part of the show though was when they asked men from the crowd to come up on the stage and have a dance-off. Something about watching middle aged men get their groove on to some hip-hop beats was very entertaining. The white-man overbite always cracks me up. In all honesty though, the group put on an amazing show and had some great tricks up their sleeves. It was a perfect way to end the evening, and definitely has me excited to see the performance line up for next year’s festivities.