Experiences

PAST

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July 2021

July 7-September 26, 2021

You’re invited to play your city!

Charting a route between installations and through the Niagara, Fort York, CityPlace, and Waterfront communities, the Play Path injects micro-moments of play into daily strolls around the neighbourhood.

The COVID-19 pandemic, while extremely difficult, has revealed new possibilities and agilities for cities everywhere, including here in Toronto. New forms of public spaces are embraced. Suddenly, expanded bike lanes and pop-up patios are not just imagined, but realized. Parking lots, porches, and balconies become fruitful performance hubs. Armed only with sidewalk chalk, children feel endowed with the confidence to transform their streets into giant hopscotch games.

Consider your in-between spaces – walkways, bridges, park trails, building faces – as playable canvases. Along the Play Path you’ll be invited to zoom, swing, zig-zag, make-believe, race, and offer public displays of joy back to the urban realm.

Photos courtesy of Heather Woolridge & Courtney W on Instagram

Special thanks to our Play Path partners:

  • Cossette
  • City of Toronto
  • Toronto Hydro
  • Fort York National Historic Site
  • Residents of 50 Bruyeres Mews
  • Residents of 20 Bruyeres Mews
  • Residents of 137 Fort York Blvd
  • CityPlace / Fort York BIA
  • Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre
  • Waterfront BIA

June 2021

June 19-September 12, 2021

Retro Rolla is a roller skate rental pop-up operating out of the shipping container at The Bentway. Skaters can rent four-wheel retro-style roller skates in bright summer hues (with matching protective gear) to explore the Fort York neighbourhood!

Hours of Operation:

  • Thursday - 6:00pm-8:00pm
  • Friday - 6:00pm-8:00pm
  • Saturday - 1:00pm-8:00pm
  • Sunday - 1:00pm-6:00pm
    *hours subject to change*

What you need to know:

  • Reservations are required. Beginning Monday, June 14, 2021 guests can reserve their rentals via www.retrorolla.com. Skate rental bookings are released every Monday at 1pm for the week ahead.
  • Face coverings are required. Wearing a face covering is required while skating, waiting in line to pick up roller skates, and in any indoor space on-site. Please review all health & safety guidelines.
  • Socks must be worn.
  • Bring ID to verify your identity. We accept valid driver's license, passport, health card, or any government-issued ID with a picture. (Student IDs not included.)
  • Pack light and keep your belongings on you at all times. Lockers are not currently available at The Bentway.
  • Arrive 15 minutes early to check in and get roller skates. Spots will be considered no-shows 10 minutes after their time slot has begun.

For additional information, visit Retro Rolla's FAQ.

June 2021

June 1-September 30, 2021

During her residency, Bekah is looking to explore stories of the land that Toronto and The Bentway occupy; what it looked like prior to contact and how it has changed throughout colonization. Her research will focus on traditional forms of play and recreation in Indigenous cultures found in these histories. She will incorporate her experience of reconnection as an Indigenous person in an urban setting with her research; specifically how access to land affects her journey and ability to participate in traditional forms of recreation. She aims to share her journey and findings openly, encouraging others to reconnect and heal.

Throughout this process, she will continue to consult trusted elders, creating respectful work that aligns with the teachings she has been given. This anchors her work in decolonization and ensures it is community-focused. Her aim for this residency is to create work that is educational, fun, and interactive, contributing to a more equitable future for all.

Flat jingle cone & rolling tool

Artist Statement

My research has taken me from looking at the history of the land Toronto and The Bentway occupy to the Dish With One Spoon wampum and its relevance to our lives today. My work is focusing on our responsibility as Toronto residents to honour this agreement.  I have both settler and Indigenous ancestry and so it is important for me to address how this agreement applies to all residents of this land, settlers included, regardless of how we got here. As tenants of this land, we all have a responsibility to respect this covenant and govern ourselves accordingly. 

Community participation will see residents of Toronto modifying flat jingle cones to depict forms of play and recreation they enjoy that require shared land, space, resources, and knowledge. These modified jingle cones will be rolled and incorporated into a larger piece that will be available for public viewing. For the purpose of this work, the land, space, resources, and knowledge are the dish that we must peacefully share. Participation in this project will be a reminder and a commitment by participants to follow the guidelines laid about by this agreement, respecting and caring for each other and the land in a way that will allow it to thrive once again.  

https://youtu.be/ONjRlPF71is

Q&A with Bekah Brown

Tell us a bit about yourself. How does your evolving knowledge of yourself and your community(ies) help to inform the growth of your art practice? 

I am of Welsh, Mennonite, Anishinaabe, and mixed European descent.  I grew up knowing I had Indigenous ancestry but didn’t think much about it until I was in my 20’s.  I was a privileged white kid who could choose whether or not I acknowledged it and I chose to ignore it.  Thankfully, family members chose to acknowledge our Anishinaabe ancestry and learn, which encouraged me to do so as well. I’m still early on in my journey of learning and reconnection; I’m basically a baby but I can honestly say that the more I learn about where I come from, the more I feel like myself and this applies to every aspect of my ancestry.  Knowing who I am, who my ancestors are, and where I come from is where my work starts.  I often focus on what I’m currently learning in conjunction with issues Indigenous communities experience as a result of colonialism, working with community members and elders to tell stories in an honourable and respectful way.  With my work, I aim to create safe spaces where Indigenous people feel seen and loved while also offering the non-Indigenous community an opportunity to learn about some of their Indigenous neighbours.  This feels especially relevant now that the non-Indigenous portion of Canada is finally choosing to see fragments of the genocide committed against Indigenous peoples in this country.  When I think about it, my work is personal (and scarily vulnerable) in that it very clearly shows my journey of growth, as it is a form of processing, communication, and healing for me.  Honestly, I still question whether or not I have a right to claim my Anishinaabe ancestry at least once a day but I also strive to use the gifts Creator has given me to honour the sacrifices of my ancestors and do the work to become an ancestor future generations will be proud of. 

How have acts of recreation and play manifested in your work to date? What opportunities does The Bentway’s Playing in Public season create for you moving forward? 

Until this moment, I hadn’t noticed how vital a role recreation often plays in my work.  Whether it was jingle dancers or audience movement required to activate a piece, recreation has often been involved in some way.  While doing research for this residency, I’ve had moments where I feel like I’ve lost the connection to play and recreation but it always comes back around and connects in a very natural way. The Playing in Public season has given me the opportunity and reminder to have fun with my work.  It has also reminded me how important play and recreation are in daily life for not only physical health but mental and emotional health as well.  I’ve consciously realized how play and recreation, while fun and light hearted, can also be used as tools for healing and resistance.  Powwows, for example, were banned by the 1876 Indian Act, as were any cultural and spiritual ceremonies along with the wearing of traditional outfits.  It wasn’t until 1951 that this ban was lifted.  Because of this oppressive history, I see powwows, with the different styles of dance and regalia, as an act of pride, resilience, healing, and resistance.  This realization has helped me to approach my work differently, recognizing that the simplest things can have the biggest impact, that the act of playing can be the strongest form of resistance there is.  

You were originally intended to be The Bentway’s Artist in Residence in 2020. What’s challenging about taking on an artist’s residency in this particular moment? How do you think your approach will change, based on everything that has happened over the last year? 

With everything that’s happened this year, I feel honoured to have the opportunity to create public art because creating helps me process, communicate, and heal.  The biggest challenge I’ve encountered creating art at this time is finding a way to make it accessible both online and in person (if it’s safe). My goal is to create work that tells stories, that allows the audience to feel what I felt creating it.  I find this more difficult to achieve online when a lot of the audience’s sensory functions can’t experience the piece like they could if they were physically in the same space.  These challenges are pushing me to think in new and different ways.  COVID restrictions have, oddly enough, encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and collaborate more with artists whose areas of strength differ from mine.  It’s been really nice to be able to work with other artists and connect with them on a project; breaking up the daily life isolation we’ve all been experiencing. I feel that working with other artists brings so much life into a project, combining experiences and perspectives, learning from and leaning on each other.  It helps me see the world through someone else’s eyes.  This is an invaluable experience as it helps me better understand someone’s experience and relate to them.  It makes me a better neighbour, friend, and ally and I think that’s what we need more of today; understanding that when one of us wins, we all win so we should be fighting for each others rights.  

What are you most looking forward to while working on The Bentway site — with its histories, with its features, and with its surrounding communities? 

I really like that I’m working in a location that is reclaiming public green space in Toronto that was lost due to things like the Gardiner.  That being said, The Bentway wouldn’t exist without the Gardiner.  It’s a strange paradox and layering of experiences that is reflected in who I am.  I carry the identities of both the colonizer and colonized; the part of me I am fighting to reclaim is the very thing that the other part of me set out to destroy.  It’s complicated and heavy and confusing but that’s reality.  The direction of my research has been heavily informed by this paradox as I look at the land’s history and uses (did you know there are underground rivers in Toronto? …I didn’t but now that I know it makes so much sense) in comparison with its current state; looking at the communities that existed here pre-contact and how they changed with colonization. I’m excited to have the opportunity to create work that brings communities together through collaboration.  I once heard someone say that we’re all here now and no one is going anywhere so we need to learn how to listen to each other and work together to create a sustainable future for all of us and for our earth (because let’s be honest, what we’re doing now isn’t it).

About the Artist

Bekah is a multi-disciplinary artist of Anishinaabe and mixed European descent who grew up on Dene territory. She uses beadwork, fashion, and multi-media installations to tell stories through collaboration with community. Her work focuses on the junction of what she is learning and what she sees in society, working to foreground issues colonialism perpetuates. She enjoys creating bold multi-media work, which she favours for the encompassing experience as she works to draw viewers in, creating opportunity for thought provocation and discussion surrounding her subject matter. Her work is a form of personal healing, connection, and communication between her and society.

Follow along on Instagram and Twitter

June 2021

June 25-September 25, 2021

Playcasts is a mini-series of thoughtful and creative reflections on the theme of our 2021 summer program, Playing in Public. We invite listeners to see play anew through three unique experiences of the city. From candid conversations and personal stories to spoken word, Playcasts has something for everyone.

Playcasts can be streamed from our website or downloaded to take with you on your daily walk and are best enjoyed while traveling along The Bentway’s Play Path.

Photo by Patrick Dep

Youth Perspectives on Play

Ryan Lo of Urban Minds hosts a candid conversation with three youth participants: Adriana, Enosh, and Matthew. All 18 and 19 years of age and living in the suburbs, these youth offer fresh insights into what play means to them and their generation.

https://soundcloud.com/thebentway/youth-perspectives-on-play

Never Stop Playing

Award-winning spoken word poet Britta B. reads a newly commissioned poem about interacting with the urban environment in playful and inclusive ways. Written, in part, from the perspective of a bee, Britta helps us reconnect with our own inner child as we play our way through the city.

https://soundcloud.com/thebentway/never-stop-playing-by-britta-b

Parkour and Play in the City

Stunt man and founder of The Monkey Vault Parkour gym Dan Iaboni believes that we need to keep playing as adults in order to stay young at heart and to thrive as we go about our daily lives. By sharing his personal journey to parkour, along with his philosophy on this distinctly urban practice, he challenges us all to find our own ways to de-engineer the city.

https://soundcloud.com/thebentway/parkour-play-in-the-city-by-dan-iaboni

Plan Your Play Walk

Locations

Installations

  1. Dream Street by The Street Society
  2. Walk Walk Dance by Daily tous les jours
  3. Big Red by Assemble
  4. Double Dribble by Esmaa Mohamoud
  5. Nil:Nil by Studio F Minus
  6. Play Public by Thomas Mailaender & Erik Kessels
  7. Jax by Pierre Poussin
  8. Midsummer Mix Vol.1 by Nelson Wu & biosphere

Tiny Games

  1. Find Jimmy! by Kris Piotrowski
  2. Before They’re Gone by drogen
  3. A Serpent Slumbers by Allison Cole
  4. Dance Anatomy by Alicia Payne
  5. The Garrison and the Gardiner by Kaelan Doyle Myerscough
  6. Secret Landscape by Diana Andrea Guzmán Valencia

Bike Shares

Twelve Locations throughout the Play Path and neighbouring spaces

Landmarks

  1. The Bentway
  2. Fort York National Historic Site
  3. Garrison Crossing
  4. The Bentway Studio & Canoe Landing Community Recreation Centre
  5. Canoe Landing Park
  6. Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre

The Bentway is an open and accessible public space. 

The Bentway is committed to being a safe space for all our visitors. We do not tolerate violence, harassment, or intimidation of any kind. The Bentway represents the local area and the range of interests and cultures that make Toronto such a vibrant city. Our mission is to ensure that the Bentway remains relevant, inclusive, connected, safe, and responsive to its local community and the City of Toronto as a whole. We strive to respond to the changing/reoccurring needs of the City of Toronto and our local community. 

Transportation

By TTC

  • 511 Bathurst (at Fort York Blvd)
  • 509 Harbourfront (at Fleet St.)
  • 121 Fort York-Esplanade at Gzowski Blvd (westbound) or Bastion St (eastbound)

By Bike

Use Bike Share Toronto’s System Map or download PBSC Urban Solutions or Transit app to locate stations and plan your route with real-time bike and station availability. Closest stations to The Bentway: Fort York Blvd/Garrison Rd, Fort York Blvd. (in front of Fort York Visitor Centre), Strachan Ave/Princes’ Blvd, Fort York Blvd/Bathurst St.

Bike racks are also located on-site.

Parking

Paid parking is available at 800 Fleet Street (also accessible from Strachan Avenue, north of Fleet Street) and at the Fort York Visitor Centre (250 Fort York Boulevard).

Washrooms

As of June 11, 2021 our washroom facilities are open from 10am – 7:30pm daily. Face coverings are required. Gender-neutral washroom(s) available. 

Free WiFi

Free Wi-Fi is provided by Beanfield. Sign onto Beanfield1hfree and get one free hour of WiFi at The Bentway.

The Bentway is free and open to the public every day.

September 2021

2021-09-14- • 12:00pm-1:30pm GMT

For decades, artists, designers, and planners have turned to play to better understand our environments and each other. Over the course of the Spring/Summer 2021 season, The Bentway will explore the history of play and its role in shaping decisions about public space through the Playing in Public exhibition and programs.

As we look to the future, we must consider the ways that COVID has altered our cities and the necessity of play for urban recovery. With long-running lockdowns in place at various times throughout the past year, opportunities for recreation and play have become critical to maintaining mental and physical health during an uncertain time.

As cities across the globe call for a “summer of play”, this two-part panel discussion, co-presented with World Urban Parks & 8 80 Cities, and featuring speakers for whom play is a core component of their work, we will explore the benefits of recreation as a tool for recovery and ask what play can teach us about building more resilient cities, public spaces, and communities.

Our second talk will explore how play has shaped the design of our cities over time and what play-based spaces reveal about shifting political, social, and cultural values. Panelists will reflect on play’s critical role in learning and development for all ages, and speculate on the ways the pandemic will re-shape play-based design and engagement in the years to come.

Following part one of the series, The Bentway is delighted to welcome Tim Gill (Writer, Scholar & Childhood play advocate), Alexandra Lange (Writer and Architecture & Design Critic), Adil Dhalla (Camp Reset), Mitchell Chan (Studio F Minus) and Alex Bozikovic (The Globe & Mail) as moderator.

https://youtu.be/P5E1TOjyrKQ

Speakers

Adil Dhalla

Adil Dhalla is a community organizer, social entrepreneur and dreams of a world where more people just play. He is the Director of Community for Reset, a social enterprise that has been making pop-up playgrounds since 2015. He was previously the Executive Director at the Centre for Social Innovation, Managing Director at Artscape's Launchpad, and is the Chair of the StopGap Foundation's board. Adil is a DiverseCity Fellow and a Common Futures Fellow.

Alexandra Lange

Alexandra Lange is a design critic and author of The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids. Her work has appeared in Architect, CityLab, Curbed, Dezeen, and Metropolis, as well as New York Magazine, the New York Times, and the New Yorker. She is currently at work on a book about the history and future of the American shopping mall, due out in 2022. 

Mitchell Chan

Studio F Minus co-founder Mitchell F Chan has exhibited innovative works across North America since 2006. For his innovative practices, he was awarded the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Trustee Scholarship in Art & Technology Studies. His work has been covered and discussed in numerous media outlets including VICE, Canadian Art, Slate, the Toronto Star, and Gizmodo. His gallery work typically explores the liminal zone between legibility and illegibility.

Photograph by Martin Godwin

Tim Gill

Tim Gill is a global advocate for children’s play and mobility, and an independent scholar and consultant based in London, England. He is an ambassador for the UK Design Council, and author of No Fear: Growing up in a risk-averse society and Urban Playground: How child-friendly planning and design can save cities. His website is www.rethinkingchildhood.com

Moderator

Alex Bozikovic

Alex Bozikovic is The Globe and Mail's architecture critic. He writes about architecture, heritage, planning, and landscape architecture in Toronto and beyond. 

He is a co-author of Toronto Architecture: A City Guide (McClelland & Stewart, 2017); and co-editor of House Divided (2019). House Divided was shortlisted for the Speaker’s Book Award of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

He won the 2019 President’s Medal for Media in Architecture from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada for his journalism. He also won the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario’s 2017 Media Award.

He has also written for journals including Azure, Architect, Architectural Record, Dwell, Frame, Landscape Architecture Magazine, and Spacing. 

Play Talks presented in partnership with

July 2021

2021-07-13- • 12:00pm-1:30pm GMT

For decades, artists, designers, and planners have turned to play to better understand our environments and each other. Over the course of the Spring/Summer 2021 season, The Bentway will explore the history of play and its role in shaping decisions about public space through the Playing in Public exhibition and programs.

As we look to the future, we must consider the ways that COVID has altered our cities and the necessity of play for urban recovery. With long-running lockdowns in place at various times throughout the past year, opportunities for recreation and play have become critical to maintaining mental and physical health during an uncertain time.

As cities across the globe call for a “summer of play”, this two-part panel discussion, co-presented with World Urban Parks & 8 80 Cities, and featuring speakers for whom play is a core component of their work, we will explore the benefits of recreation as a tool for recovery and ask what play can teach us about building more resilient cities, public spaces, and communities.

Our first talk focuses on how COVID has impacted play for all ages and the strategies that have been employed to mitigate the negative effects of lockdowns over the last year. From virtual recreation activities to craft kit deliveries and distanced team-building, our speakers share their insights into the ways we stayed playful during the height of the pandemic.

We are pleased to include Jen DeMelo (KABOOM!), Luis Serrano (FUNdamentals of Play), Melissa Mongiat (Daily tous les jours), and Janie Romoff (Parks, Forestry and Recreation, the City of Toronto), as well as Amanda O’Rourke (World Urban Parks & 8 80 Cities) as moderator for this discussion.

The second part of this series will explore how play has shaped the design of our cities over time and what play-based spaces reveal about shifting political, social and cultural values. Panelists will reflect on play’s critical role in learning and development for all ages, and speculate on the ways the pandemic will re-shape play-based design and engagement in the years to come.

Watch Now

https://youtu.be/pUfvwqLkcdY

Speakers

Jen DeMelo

Jen DeMelo is the Director of Special Projects at KABOOM! and has been committed to ensuring that every kid has equitable access to high-quality and safe play opportunities for over 15 years. In her current role, Jen creates innovative program solutions that are responsive and meet the varying needs of kids and communities. Her experience stems from leading over 300 play infrastructure projects across North America, managing programs totaling over 20 million in grant dollars, and through creating innovative kid-centered programs during her tenure at KABOOM!

Janie Romoff

As General Manager for Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR), Janie oversees a division that provides an enormous variety of opportunities for Torontonians of all ages, genders, and abilities to play. PFR not only provides the spaces and facilities where Toronto plays – it also delivers a variety of play-related programs including camps, sports, arts, swimming, skate, and after-school recreation care programs.

Luis Serrano

Luis Serrano is a passionate workshop facilitator, team builder, motivational speaker & life coach. He has studied positive psychology, performed improv for over eight years, and facilitated hundreds of workshops as the CFO (Chief Fun Officer) of FUNdamentals of Play. He started FUNdamentals of Play to help teams and individuals maximize their potential through the power of PLAY by focusing on the things that matter: emotional intelligence, workplace wellness & creating joyful experiences.

Melissa Mongiat

Melissa Mongiat co-founded the art and design studio Daily tous les jours with Mouna Andraos in 2010. Daily leads an emergent field of practice combining technology, storytelling, performance and placemaking. Based in Montreal, their work has been presented in more than 40 cities around the world. On a mission to reinvent living together for the 21st century, the studio earned numerous international recognitions, including the UNESCO Creative Cities Design Award for Young Talents, Knight Cities Challenge Award for Civic Innovation, Fast Company Innovation by Design Award, Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Award.

Prior to Daily tous les jours, Melissa was based in London where she worked on a series of large-scale public interactive installations and co-founded Central Saint Martins’ research unit on responsive environments. Collaborations included the Southbank Centre, Philharmonia, Arup Foresight, and led to her selection by Wallpaper* magazine as one of the world’s ten breakthrough designers.

Moderater

Amanda O'Rourke

Amanda O’Rourke is the Executive Director of 8 80 Cities. Over 13 years she has driven the successful growth of the international non-profit through strategic planning, partnership development, and team building. Amanda has led diverse equitable mobility and public space projects in cities and towns across North America, Europe, and Australia. She enjoys working collaboratively with city governments and community partners to make it easier for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds to walk, bike, take transit, and build social connection and sense of belonging in public spaces. Amanda is also the Co-Chair of the Children, Play, and Nature Committee for World Urban Parks and is passionate about harnessing the power of play in creating healthy and inclusive communities.

Play Talks is in partnership with