Mayor John Tory proclaimed 2021 as the Year of Public Art to further his commitment to the growing arts and culture sector in Toronto. Working in partnership with artists, arts organizations and communities across the city, the City of Toronto will engage with residents and visitors in a city-wide recognition of public art. The Year of Public Art will celebrate the body of work created by local and international artists and will be supported by arts institutions, developers and the City.

Tory stated, “Under my leadership we have seen the City’s arts and culture sector strengthened and furthered our reputation as a global creative capital. This has been made possible by our talented artists and our incredible collection of public art that adorns and animates our city. The call for the Year of Public Art for 2021 will better connect the public to the art, create more opportunities for the public to engage with art and, at the same time, provide greater opportunities for artists to use Toronto as their canvas to create challenging, ground-breaking works of public art. Our commitment to artists and the entire arts sector, can help us continue to make Toronto the vibrant and beautiful city that it is.”

The Year of Public Art will build on Toronto’s significant collection of public art works and improve public access to art. It will leave an enduring legacy through significant new art commissions, increased support to artists working in the public realm and diverse opportunities for meaningful engagement and interaction among artists, art and the public. The Year of Public Art will partner with Toronto’s leading cultural institutions and create new funding opportunities for Toronto artists through a new funding opportunity to be delivered by the Toronto Arts Council (TAC) for artist-led public art projects. More information on TAC grant programs is available here.

The City’s new 10-year public art strategy, to be presented to City Council for consideration, will seek to renew the City’s vision and commitment to public art. The strategy will include guiding principles and actions to enhance the impact of the City’s public art programs, and is being developed based on extensive community consultation including artist-led public engagement, community meetings and stakeholder focus groups.  A backgrounder on the strategy is available under Economic Development and Culture here.

In recognition of the many arts institutions and cultural hubs across the city that have made Toronto a centre of public art, the Year of Public Art will be delivered in close collaboration with a range of partners, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Bentway, the Toronto Biennial of Art, Luminato, the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto, Harbourfront Centre, the Power Plant, the network of local arts service organizations, OCAD University, Osmington (Union Station), Art Toronto and the TAC.

The City delivers three public art programs: the Public Art and Monuments Collection, the Percent for Public Art Program and StreetARToronto (StART). The programs have had a transformative effect on the city’s vibrancy, assembling a collection of public art that, in its scale and diversity, is of international significance.  More information about the City’s public art strategy and the Year of Public Art 2021 is available here.

The Year of Public Art will work closely with all Toronto’s major contemporary art events and City-led projects. It will include a renewed vision for public art with program expansions and multi-year artistic director appointments for Nuit Blanche and the Indigenous Arts Festival.

Dr. Julie Nagam will be the Nuit Blanche Artistic Director for the 2020 and 2021 festivals. Dr. Nagam is the Canadian Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, Collaboration and Digital Media and is an Associate Professor at the University of Winnipeg. Dr. Nagam’s research includes digital media and design, place-based knowledge and incubators, including development of an Indigenous Research Centre Aabijijiwan in Winnipeg.

“Art can be the catalyst to radically transform space and create social change because it can rupture places and spark difficult dialogues and knowledge for generations to come; in public space, in galleries and on the street. I envision the future with public art that is rooted in collaboration and connections to people, cultures and relationships and Indigenous stories to place,” states Nagam.

The two-year curatorial theme for Nuit Blanche will be “The Space Between Us”, focusing on the connections across urban, polar and pacific landscapes revealing the space between us as a potential site for sharing knowledge. Planned highlights of the Year of Public Art also include an expansion of Nuit Blanche to North York and Etobicoke.

Nuit Blanche, Toronto’s annual all-night celebration of contemporary art, is produced by the City in collaboration with Toronto’s arts community. Since 2006, this award-winning event has featured almost 1,571 art installations by approximately 5,600 artists. The 15th edition of Nuit Blanche is scheduled for October 3, 2020.

Nuit Blanche is now accepting submissions for 2020 through the Open Call program and Independent Projects program. Deadline December 16, 2019.

The 8th annual Indigenous Arts Festival (IAF) will take place June 19 to 21, 2020, under the artistic direction of Rhéanne Chartrand, a Metis curator and creative producer, and the curator of Indigenous Art at the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton. In 2020, the IAF will build on the recent success of the event’s expansion to include a greater focus on public art.


About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.