Art Breaks Free from Gallery Walls

“I thought you were solid but you’re just fluff.” — Erika James./Photo by: Sarah Samwel

Art is breaking free from the confines of gallery walls and spilling out onto the streets of Toronto.

Though the city is not always considered as an artistic hub like some other international cities, there’s a sort of renaissance happening. Over the last two years, the lifeguard stations on Toronto’s beaches have been redesigned to make them works of art. During the cold winter months, they have been covered in massive sculptures or dangling fabric. As well, the city has mandated plans to include public art in its plans to revitalize the waterfront.

One of the latest additions comes in the form of art dioramas from the Open Field Collective run by artists Erika James and Scott McDermid.

“Toronto is starting to be open to a new era of public art,” said James. “People are hungry for art in their surroundings and people don’t have time to go to galleries, or it’s not a part of their daily life.”

Officially launched in December 2014, the Open Field Collecitve now has 10 dioramas across the city. Located on residential property, residents can sign up on a volunteer basis to have the art showcased on their front lawn for a period of one to two years. Then the installations are moved to a different location in the city where a new community can enjoy them.

The art within the boxes is not limited to one particular style. There are sculptures, paintings and multimedia designs.

“The type of art is often three-dimensional and you don’t see that in public art very much,” said McDermid. “The shape of the boxes gives artists a way to use the same strategies in a public gallery space.”

According to the artists, they have never seen anything like it before. There are a few individuals doing similar projects around the world, but none on the same community scale. It’s a real Toronto original.

James and McDermid remarked the overwhelming excitement from the community.

“The response has been really, really positive,” said McDermid. “I see some people lifting up thier kids to look at them and going back repeatedly.”

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