The Harbourfront Center may attract 17 million visitors annually, but according to Patrick Macaulay, Head of Visual Arts at the Harbourfront Centre on Toronto’s waterfront, this not-for-profit never stops dreaming. The newest addition to the centre’s extensive and varied opportunities for community engagement, cultural expression and showcased creative endeavors? The Exhibition Common.
A large new public space in what was once a cement parkinglot, the Exhibition Common is an approximately 90x250 foot plot of greenspace devoted to the Visual Arts sector of the Centre’s programming. The Common operates as a completely outdoor exhibition space, featuring 40 large-scale steel structures around the perimeter that can display up to 72 works of art. The middle section, however, allows for community activities and events, like large scale free public yoga classes and markets. The Commons is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and is the largest outdoor exhibition space in Canada.
As a project, it raises awareness, encourages dialogue, and inspires people to participate in an opportunity reimage and redesign their communities for future generations.- Patrick Macaulay
The Commons was able to seamlessly weave itself into the preexisting Centre programming, while also providing an exciting artistic edge to the public space on Toronto’s the waterfront. “We have educational programs built into and around the Exhibition Common, creating a space for our School Visits and Summer Camps programs to engage with the art and their waterfront in a more meaningful way than ever before,” says Macaulay. “Nurturing the edifying nature of the space, each [exhibition] stand includes what we call ‘field notes,’ written by the photographer of each image-- small insightful statements from the artists that give the viewer background for the image and a window into the artist’s process. Because of the length of each exhibition (one year), viewers can come back numerous times and view the exhibition at their leisure.”
The inaugural collection on display at the Exhibition Commons, which faced the initial challenge of appealing to the broad audience of tourists and residents that visit this always-open part of the Centre, is called Nine Rivers City. The first of a two-year collaboration between the Harbourfront Center and the Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA), Nine Rivers City focuses on the importance of water systems to the natural health of the greater Toronto region. It features the work of six artists whose pieces strive to combat Toronto’s reputation as a Lake City or a Flat City with their artistic interpretations of the rivers and topography of the area. “We are excited to highlight the uniqueness of the river system in Toronto,” Macaulay said. “As a project, Nine Rivers City raises environmental awareness, encourages dialogue, and inspires people to participate in an opportunity reimage and redesign their communities for future generations.”
Read more about the Harbourfront Centre’s outdoor initiatives on their website, here.