Public Space Fellowship Program at The Bentway

Call for Applications released: July 29, 2020
Application deadline: August 21, 2020
Fellowship dates: September – November 2020


The Bentway re-imagines how we build, experience, activate, and value public space together. Our work is anchored by a new and growing site located under Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway, which we operate, maintain, and program as a platform for creative practice, public art, and connected urban life.

As a new model for public space in Toronto and a forum for social engagement, The Bentway continues to evolve amidst the changing landscape of the city, developing opportunities and partnerships that address the key issues of our time.


During a time marked by interrelated crises of public health and safety, there is a clear need to broaden the public space field to include more perspectives in the development, operations and programming of public space. The Bentway’s Public Space Fellowship aims to address these gaps and ensure that lived experience and varied forms of expertise are prioritized alongside traditional education. Additionally, the Bentway is committed to creating more opportunities within the public space field for BIPOC and other communities that are frequently left out of civic dialogue and city-building. Acknowledging the limitations and shortcomings of traditional processes, The Bentway seeks to support underrepresented and suppressed voices by listening, learning, and creating meaningful partnerships that improve our skills, perspectives and approaches.

The Bentway’s Public Space Fellowship will help build capacity in the next generation of diverse leaders that will steward the future of public space, ensuring resiliency, inclusion and equitable access. Fellows will act across disciplines and engage in unique collaboration with urban space practitioners, creatives, and organizational partners to support new initiatives and ongoing research. They will also help inform The Bentway’s growth plans, commitments, and actions to deliver on its mission and core values.


The accessibility, visibility, and adaptability of public spaces are the main forces shaping its inclusivity. Yet, in a post-COVID city those principles will have to be balanced with competing needs for user safety and enhanced space management.

Amidst the COVID crisis, we continue to bear witness to emotionally and physically violent racial injustices playing out on city streets, in parks, and in open spaces – some during this public health crisis that already disproportionately impacts vulnerable and oppressed communities. The risks that specifically follow BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) citizens in their public lives are indisputable, and must be rectified.

Fellows will engage directly with The Bentway’s Safe in Public Space initiative and assist The Bentway’s efforts address the following questions:

How can we meaningfully respond to this moment and drive new thinking and action about equitable and accessible public space? How must public safety be redefined in response to COVID and systemic racism? How can we introduce new voices and amplify the work of those already investigating/tackling these issues? What city will we re-build together?

Safe in Public Space aims to achieve the following goals:

  1. To broaden the definition of public safety to address new public health challenges as well as systemic inequities and ensure that there is a shared social contract governing public space access and use.
  2. To develop a safe space tool kit that captures key references and recommendations, guides public space audits, steers strategies and policy development for public space operators and programmers, and captures key considerations for future public space planners and designers.
  3. To develop and implement a community-informed safe space commitment and action for The Bentway site, organizational practices, and future under-Gardiner spaces.

In addition to the Call for Fellows, the Safe in Public Space initiative includes a series of commissioned creative projects promoting safety and equitable access to public space; an audit of The Bentway’s current practices, tools, and amenities; consultation with a core advisory group of organizational and professional partners; the development of a publicly accessible tool kit with key recommendations and best practices for public space operators, programmers, and designers; the development of a community-informed safe space action plan for The Bentway site and future under-Gardiner spaces


The Bentway will select two (2) emerging professionals to work as part of The Bentway team on the Safe in Public Space initiative for a 3-month period, on a full-time basis. Priority will be given to BIPOC candidates and those representing other underrepresented/suppressed perspectives. Fellows will work collaboratively with staff, partners, and advisors to complete research and public-facing written pieces, creative explorations, support projects, consult with peer advisors, shape the initiative, offer interdisciplinary perspectives, etc.

Reporting directly to the Senior Manager of Programming and the Special Project Lead, tasks will include, but not be limited to the following:

  1. Evaluation of Metrics for Safety
    – Research and appraise common metrics for tracking of ‘safety’ in public space
    – Explore and evaluate how safety is being defined through protocols/mandates
    – Work with creative partners to extract key learnings from projects
    – Propose and consider new metrics
  2. Public Health + Public Space Demographic Study
    – Undertake archival research / historical record of the influence of public health on policy, planning and design 
    – Investigate social and economic impacts on public health and access
  3. Support the Bentway’s Site Audit
    – Work with Bentway staff to document and explore current practices, tools, and amenities to evaluate perceived risks and existing barriers to the successful creation of a healthy, inclusive, and accessible environment
  4. Contributing to the Toolkit and other channels
    – Synthesize research and community feedback as well as learnings from the audit and creative interventions
    – Compose writing, articles, photo essays and/or public-facing research

Prospective Fellows should have a keen interest in public space (its use, development, programming, and guiding policies) and be able to infuse their own expertise and enthusiasm into the process. Based on their personal experience and perspective, applicants are invited to outline additional and/or alternate lines of inquiry addressing the stated goals of Safe in Public Space that they wish to explore during the fellowship.


Hands-on Experience
The Public Space fellowship offers unique opportunities for direct engagement in public space and with public space practitioners through site work and over digital platforms. Fellows will benefit from exposure to the day-to-day realities of public space operations and programming. Please note that due to COVID-19 may change the nature of work on site and in the Bentway office leading to a greater reliance on digital communication and coordination.

Cross-Sector Learning
Fellows will have the opportunity to work closely with creative partners, peer organizations, community stakeholders and multiple City divisions during the duration of the fellowship. They will gain a firsthand look at how public and private entities and individuals actively work to shape the public realm.

Fellows will be invited to attend education and engagement opportunities aimed at sharing individual perspectives, building connections, and furthering collective knowledge of the unique health and safety and equity issues faced by a diversity of communities. These opportunities may take the form of round-table discussions, working groups, information sessions, and more.

Professional Development
The Public Space Fellowship will lead to new learnings and relationships that will help the fellow further their career objectives.  The Bentway will assist fellows in their future endeavors by facilitating new connections, sharing information about professional opportunities and new developments in the field, as well as offering continued mentorship. 

Stipend: $3,000/month


Applicants must reside in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area and have demonstrated experience working in and around public space in areas such as: urban planning and design, architecture, landscape, governmental studies, public art, public health, public policy, anti-black racism, indigenous studies and anti-indigenous racism, unhoused communities, sustainability, and environmental studies.

We recognize and appreciate a wide range of experiences and expertise, both traditional and applied. Applicants are not required to have professional degrees in the above mentioned categories. We encourage applications from individuals who are undertaking relevant community initiatives to engage in city-building processes of critical importance in maintaining or regaining the strength and resilience of cities.

The Bentway is committed to fostering a positive and supportive creative environment that promotes equity and diversity and welcomes applications from persons with disabilities, Indigenous and racialized persons, women, and LGBTQ+ people. Priority will be given to BIPOC candidates, and other historically marginalized individuals, who have valuable professional and/or lived experience in inclusive placemaking.


The Bentway held an online information session for prospective applicants on August 6, 2020. If you were unable to attend and would like to learn more about the Public Space Fellowship Program and the Safe in Public Space initiative, watch below!


Complete applications must be received by no later than 11:59 pm on August 21, 2020 to be considered. Applications may be submitted via email with the subject line ‘Public Space Fellowship Application’ to [email protected]

Application Package Components:

  • CV (PDF format, no more than three pages)
  • Letter of Intent (no more than two pages), address the following two questions:
  1. How has your past experience contributed to the creation of inclusive placemaking strategies?
  2. How do you think you would benefit from the Public Space Fellowship program?
  • One (1) letter of support from someone who is familiar with your experience and skills


Proposals will be evaluated by The Bentway team, as well as representative(s) of a Safe in Public Space partner organization as required. Successful candidates will be contacted mid-August to arrange interviews.  Accommodations will be made available to those prospective candidates that are unable to attend an online interview, either through a phone-based interview or by means of an in person, physically distanced interview.

Fellowship applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  1. Relevance of the applicant’s experience and interests to public space development, programming and policy.
  2. Demonstrated experience working with marginalized and underrepresented communities, indigenous and racialized communities, unhoused communities, and/or other underrepresented populations.
  3. The ability to effectively meet and support the stated goals of the Safe in Public Space Initiative.

Candidates who are not part of the interview shortlist will be notified no later than August 28, 2020. In an effort to support all applicants’ ongoing professional development, The Bentway team will conduct a follow-up session October 6, 2020 providing feedback on the application, interview and review process. The session will also highlight opportunities for continued engagement with the organization, including professional development events, trainings, as well as contract and volunteer opportunities related to ongoing programming and operations.


  • All submissions are considered confidential
  • The submission of this application does not guarantee selection
  • The deadline for submissions is 11:59 pm on Friday August 21, 2020
  • Successful applicants will be contacted no later than August 28, 2020 to arrange interviews (no follow-up calls please)
  • Should you require further clarification, have any questions, or require accessibility accommodation please email [email protected]