The Bentway partners with artists, designers, and creative organizations to generate seasonal exhibitions and special projects and events. Past projects on The Bentway site include installations, murals, performances, photography, sculptures, workshops, and interactive media projects.
The year 2020 has forever altered the foundations of public life leading to dramatic shifts in society’s understanding and appreciation of routine, mobility, sustenance, education and cultural production. In a time marked by great upheaval and prolonged uncertainty it is not surprising that we are questioning what we deem essential. From basic freedoms, to critical labour, to crucial kindness, now is the time to work collectively to ensure we are building cities, spaces and institutions that address these vital needs.
The Essentials is a digital public art exhibition presented by The Bentway as part of the City of Toronto’s BigArtTO campaign. The project invites selected artists to reflect on that which is essential now, reaffirming priorities and commitments for the post COVID city.
Echoing The Bentway’s relationship with the Gardiner, the exhibition is presented across three lake-side sites of industry, leisure, and infrastructure. During this pivotal time of transition for both the buildings and the city the works suggest further multi-purposing of civic assets. Collectively the projects reflect on Toronto’s past and imagine an urban future premised on fundamentals, all the while asserting art’s own essential role in that evolution.
a composition for an elegy to what once was and all that remains; or, a score for the past, the present, the future tenses by Erika DeFreitas
It's All Right Now - Summer 2020
It’s All Right Now was a public art project and a collective movement that confronted and captured our varied perspectives, experiences and understandings of life in COVID-19.
When entire communities, cities, or nations are tested, specific symbols and slogans tend to emerge as points of connection or collective rallying cries. The repeated chorus that “we’re all in this together” offers comfort in unity, but doesn’t necessarily reflect the spectrum of experiences, sentiments, and thoughts that we each hold.
In May, twenty Toronto-based artists were commissioned to respond to a simple inquiry: “What words are you living by?” The artists each created powerful textual responses in their own visual styles that, together, speak to the diversity and multiplicities of this complex moment: hopeful, fearful, forward-looking, introspective, joyful, even rousing.
Amidst the ongoing strain of COVID-19 — which disproportionately impacts BIPOC communities — and concurrent, widespread protests against violent injustices specifically targeting Black and other racialized peoples, The Bentway recognized the importance of foregrounding those communities’ voices within this project.
Second Nature - Fall 2019
When was the last time you looked up at the city sky and saw the stars, gazed at the moon, or paid any attention to the tides? As urban dwellers we are increasingly disconnected from the earth’s natural rhythms and systems. Second Nature, The Bentway’s Fall 2019 season, explored this disconnection and asks whether there is any possibility for personal connection given how far urban society has evolved.
In a city, like Toronto, human intervention influences almost every aspect of our environment, changing our relationship to natural cycles and systems. Smog and artificial lighting obscure the night sky and excessive construction contributes to the urban heat index, shifting seasonal behaviour. Despite these disruptions, seemingly “invisible” cycles found in nature, such as the waxing and waning of the moon, the ebb and flow of the tide, and the seasonal behaviours of flora and fauna, still impact our daily lives.
Throughout the Fall 2019 season, artists, activists, scientists and innovators worked to uncover and re-establish lost patterns and knowledge systems, changing our relationship to nature and our understanding of our physical environment.
Nuit Blanche Toronto - Creation : Destruction - Fall 2019
The Bentway was a location hub for Nuit Blanche Toronto in 2019, as part of the exhibition Creation : Destruction, curated by Layne Hinton and Rui Pimenta (Toronto), the curatorial duo behind Art Spin. The projects use the geography of the site as a way to explore the cycles of creation and destruction in nature and beyond.
All things reside on the borders of creation and destruction.
Inspired by its geographical area, this exhibition will challenge our understanding of these seemingly contradictory concepts. They are extensions of each other, forces that both deplete and feed one another. There is nothing more primal, more essentially human, than the paradoxical relationship between creation and destruction, it is the essence of the natural world and our place in it.
Communitas: The Spirit of Community - Summer 2019
In increasingly populated urban landscapes, the division and ownership of resources can become hotly-contested signifiers of identity and status, of regional and personal politics, and of ever-evolving civic histories.
The Bentway’s Summer 2019 exhibition, Communitas: The Spirit of Community examined what may be gained or lost by individuals and communities alike when unity, not division, is the norm. What happens when the private becomes the public, and when the solitary becomes the shared? In what ways does the conscious sharing of our spaces and assets lead to greater connection between the people in their midst? How do we choose to comport or represent ourselves, and what happens when those individual representations conflict with collective histories or perspectives?
Communitas brought together artists, urbanists, innovators, and community activators within the connective space of The Bentway to engage in radical experiments in collaboration, co-creation, and cohabitation: all of which are key to the future of our expanding cities.
Izhininjiiniwag – They Move in a Certain Way by Oasis Skateboard Factory with Chief Lady Bird, Aura and Ev Pakinewatik
If, But, What If? - Fall 2018
If, But, What If?, The Bentway’s Fall 2018 season and public art exhibition, explored what could be, what perhaps should be, and what may never be within our ever-evolving city.
The artists included in the multi-media exhibition explored Toronto’s past, present, and possible futures through a diverse set of projects that responded to the city’s built form, its natural resources, and its networks of infrastructure.
Using the open-ended tools of community conversation, collaborative incubation, and imaginative projection, the works in this exhibit behaved like The Bentway itself, identifying possibilities and boldly posing alternatives to the accepted — or seemingly inevitable — future of Toronto as a growing metropolis.
If, But, What If? included works from Michael Awad (Toronto), Steven Beckly (Toronto), Wally Dion (Upstate New York / Haudenosaunee territory), Mani Mazinani and Sanaz Mazinani (Toronto and San Francisco), Alex McLeod (Toronto), Sans façon (Calgary), and Jon Sasaki (Toronto).
Summer 2018 Art Exhibition - Summer 2018
During the summer of 2018, The Bentway inaugurated our new space with a series of art installations and activations. These pieces explored aspects of The Bentway’s physical environment, historical past, and lived communities.
Constructions of the Everyday - Winter 2018
Constructions of the Everyday, The Bentway’s inaugural public art exhibition, took place from January through to mid-March 2018.
Embracing the same spirit of transformation and translation the artists gathered for the Bentway’s inaugural public art exhibition find new value and beauty in the structures of everyday life.
Future Snowmachines in Kinngait (Colossus) by Janice Qimirpik, Moe Kelly, Embassy of Imagination and PA System
The first section of The Bentway – The Bentway Skate trail – opened to the public in January 2018. We were pleased to mark this occasion with a weekend long celebration, including a ribbon-cutting, the Mayor’s Skate Party, performances, and exhibitions.