The Waterfront BIA has teamed up with partners from across Toronto to bring to life unique ways to experience the lively art and culture the city has to offer along the water. With activations taking place at major Toronto waterfront landmarks for the spring and summer months – from a sculpture made out of smoke as a part of the Toronto Biennial, to the return of the beloved Redpath Waterfront Festival, and so much more food, art and music. There will be no shortage of exciting things to do and sights to see along the water this spring and summer. See below for a list of all the exciting programming to explore!

How To Build A River

WHEN: May 13 – September 6, 2022

WHERE: Villiers Street Median, Port Lands

Since 2019, Toronto-based artists Vid Ingelevics and Ryan Walker have documented the transformation of the Port Lands Flood Protection Project, one of the most ambitious civil works projects in North America. Part of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, their third series of photographs, How To Build A River, documents the extraordinary operation of building a new mouth for the Don River and the innovative bioengineering practices used to construct this complex ecology. The photographs will be displayed publicly on wooden structures along the Villiers Street median to be observed and enjoyed by all.

Our Home and Haunted Land

WHEN: May 20 – 22, 2022 | 8 p.m. – 11 p.m.

WHERE: Canada Malting Silo at Queens Quay and Bathurst

Sponsored by the Waterfront BIA, created by Nadine Valcin and Priam Givord, and produced by Ngardy Conteh George and Alison Duke of OYA Black Arts CoalitionOur Home and Haunted Land is a large-scale 2D projection made to explore the colonial legacy linked to key landmarks in Toronto. The ten-minute visual journey reveals the hidden histories that haunt us and make visible the Black and Indigenous presence on Turtle Island and Tkaronto. The stories will be projected on a loop on the silo through the evenings.

JUNIOR Festival

WHEN: May 21 – 23, 2022 

WHERE: Harbourfront Centre (West Campus)

JUNIOR, Toronto’s international children’s festival, is Harbourfront Centre’s multidisciplinary festival for kids ages 4–14. Taking place annually over the May long weekend, it’s one of Canada’s largest children’s festivals, co-curated by Mary Francis Moore, Associate Artistic Director of the Confederation Centre of the Arts, and Nathalie Bonjour, Director of Performing Arts at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.

Through theatre, dance, music and art, JUNIOR’s programming inspires “Big Thoughts for Growing Minds,” acknowledging children’s big questions about the world and their place in it. While official summer programming will be announced in more detail in May, festival-goers can expect an event that explores what it means to be connected to each other and the community around us in a joyful way – at a time when personal connection has never seemed more important.

100 Days of Summer

WHEN: May 20 to September 5, 2022 | Fridays from 6 p.m – 9 p.m.

WHERE: 585 Queens Quay West & 1 Queens Quay West

This spring and summer, the Waterfront BIA will welcome back 100 Days of Summer by Art & Water, Canada’s first and only floating arts and culture festival for its Cultural Group’s Summer Music Series. Taking place at two locations along Queens Quay on weekends from May until September, performances will bring together songwriters, musicians and other artists from all walks of life to deliver art and culture into the daily lives of Torontonians, inviting everyone to stumble across captivating performances at the waterfront from Canadian artists.

The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery Presents Paulo Nazareth: STROKE

WHEN: May 20 – August 28, 2022

WHERE: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

As part of the Summer 2022 season, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery will present a show by Brazilian contemporary artist Paulo Nazareth titled STROKE, encompassing a selection of long-term projects and a new body of wor for his first solo exhibition in Canada. Known for his long-duration performances and installations, the projects on view will include The Red Inside (2018 – ongoing), a series that sees the artist follow the Underground Railroad (a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States in the early to mid-nineteenth century, providing escape to enslaved African Americans) from New Orleans to Toronto. The exhibition also features Dry Cut (2019 – ongoing), a series of monumental sculptures depicting Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Tommie Smith that underline Nazareth’s interest in networks of resistance that was originally installed at the Rockefeller Center in New York City, and will be displayed in locations along Toronto’s waterfront from Sugar Beach to The Power Plant. The presentation of these sculptures is in partnership with the Waterfront BIA.

STREET: Summer 2022 at The Bentway

WHEN: May 26 to August 21

WHERE: Under the Gardiner Expressway and surrounding neighbourhoods

The Bentway’s summer 2022 season, STREET, includes a series of public art installations, roving performances, workshops, conversations and celebrations that explore all things street, or what urbanist Jane Jacobs called the city’s “most vital organs.” Running May 26 to August 21, STREET invites the public to see the streets of Toronto anew – both under the Gardiner Expressway and along roads, sidewalks and public spaces in surrounding neighbourhoods. The season includes notable exhibits like PARADE, a major new work by Tony Award-winning set designer and artist Mimi Lien and Bodies in Urban Spaces (May 26-28) by choreographer Willi Dorner, in which audiences follow a colourfully-clad group of dancers as they entangle with architecture on a breathtaking tour through Toronto’s streets. 

Toronto Biennial of Art

The Toronto Biennial of Art is Canada’s leading visual arts event focused exclusively on contemporary art from around the world. For 10 weeks every two years, local, national and international Biennial artists transform Toronto and its partner regions with free exhibitions, performances and learning opportunities. On now through to June 5, 2022, this year’s Biennial features an eye-catching, one-time-only performance to enjoy along the waterfront by renowned feminist artist, educator, and author, Judy Chicago, sponsored by the Waterfront BIA. 

A Tribute to Toronto by Judy Chicago

WHEN: June 4 | 8:00 p.m. – 8:45 p.m. (Rain Date: June 5 | 8:00 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.)

WHERE: Sugar Beach, 11 Dockside Drive

Toronto Biennial of Art and Waterfront BIA presents A Tribute to Toronto, 2022, a newly commissioned site-specific work by legendary artist Judy Chicago. Chicago first turned to pyrotechnics as an artistic material in the late 1960s in an effort to feminize the atmosphere at a time when the California art scene was male-dominated. Between 1968 and 1974, she executed a series of increasingly complex firework pieces that involved site-specific performances around California. For the 2022 Biennial, Chicago will create her first project on water and her first Smoke Sculpture™ presentation in Canada. This one-of-a-kind Smoke Sculpture™ will be visible from the shore of Lake Ontario as a series of environmentally safe, non-toxic coloured pigments are released from a barge. For this one-time performance, the public is invited to gather at the waterfront to see the lake and sky transformed.

Two x 30 Dance Series 

WHEN: June 11, 18, 25, 2022 

WHERE: TBA – three locations along the waterfront

Exploring the link between our collective and unconscious patterns of movement and environment, Two x 30 will bring a series of 30 one-hour contemporary art and dance performances to Toronto, stretching across multiple landmarks this June. In partnership with the Waterfront BIA, three of the 30 performances will take place along the waterfront for passersby to view moving dances highlighting the complexities of human interaction and communication. Timing and location details to come. 

Harbour Square Temporary Floating Art

WHEN: July – September 2022

WHERE: Harbour Square Park Basin

Part of Waterfront Toronto’s Temporary Public Art Program, Harbour Square’s floating temporary art returns this summer as a striking, thought-provoking public art installation that continues to bring interest and diversity to the waterfront and across the city. The initiative is meant to engage a greater diversity of artistic voices to help reimagine and shift our relationship to and understanding of our landscape and shoreline. Artwork for 2022 will be unveiled in July.

Redpath Waterfront Festival

WHEN: September 17-18, 2022 

WHERE: HTO Park & Sugar Beach

For the first time in over two years, the much-anticipated Redpath Waterfront Festival, of which Waterfront BIA is a sponsor, is back and in-person for 2022. Over the course of two days in mid-September, city-dwellers and tourists alike are invited to celebrate the last moments of summer with a Water Weekend at HTO Park and Sugar Beach. The unique festival will feature both on-land and on-water programs, including Parks Canada representation to learn about Ocean Literacy and snap a pic with a giant inflatable beaver, appearances by members of the Royal Canadian Navy teaching attendees about what it’s like to be a sailor, and the can’t-be-missed Theodore TOO Tugboat, a 65-foot working replica of the original TV character. All of that, and plenty of music and food to boot. All aboard

Waterfront Artist in Residency 

WHEN: Ongoing 2022

WHERE: Various Locations on the Waterfront

Waterfront Toronto and the Waterfront BIA have come together again to bring Projects for These Warming Daysthe 2022 Artist in Residency program, to the waterfront. As the next official artist-in-residence, interdisciplinary Canadian artist Lisa Hirmer will focus on exploring the critical theme of climate change. Hirmer is known for her critically-acclaimed work that examines the relationship between human interaction and surrounding ecologies, speaking to larger ponderings about living through a climate crisis. With a longtime interest in the Toronto Waterfront, and a Master of Architecture thesis focused on the Don River, Hirmer aims to create meaningful experiential encounters for the community during her residency. ​ 

Hirmer plans to plumb the depths of these inquiries through a series of three temporary installations and performances between late spring and fall this year, that will write new meanings on the waterfront. Each piece will engage the observer in different ways. A planned carbon-negative sculpture in Aitken Place Park will provide space for sitting with the complexities and grief of climate change. Meanwhile, a text-based work appearing in public spaces along the waterfront will introduce the city to the new landscapes due to the renaturalization of the Don River. A third, performative piece will use a combination of voice, movement, painting and drawing to reduce the psychological separation between humans and our atmosphere.

Nordic Spotlights 

WHEN: Ongoing 2022

WHERE: Harbourfront Centre

As part of the Harbourfront Centre’s year-long multidisciplinary initiative, Nordic Spotlights will showcase contemporary Nordic culture from across the globe, with a series of unique experiences that highlight Nordic art. The installations, taking place throughout all of 2022, will feature work from various disciplines, from performing arts, visual and digital arts, design, literature, culinary and film, to shine a spotlight on the creativity and innovation between Canada and the Nordic regions of the world. 

Immersive Art Exhibits: Van Gogh, Klimt and Frida Kahlo

WHEN: Ongoing 2022

WHERE: 1 Yonge St. 

Immerse yourself – literally – in world-renowned art at 1 Yonge St. with the Immersive Van GoghImmersive Klimt and Immersive Frida Kahlo. These beloved digital art shows surround visitors with stunning projected animations of the artists’ most famous pieces of work, offering an experience of colour and detail like you’ve never seen before. 

Explore all the sunny activities the waterfront has to offer! For details on all the spring and summer programming, click here

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.