Fall is when Toronto truly comes to life with incredible style, art and design. Immerse yourself in the local art scene by exploring the lesser-known collections outside of big-ticket hotspots like the ROM and AGO. Then, grab some late night eats and drinks so you can continue the conversation well after.
You know a neighbourhood is on the rise when the artists start to infiltrate. Leslieville has been growing exponentially over the last few years and is home to Project, a gallery that opened its doors in 2013. Focused on local emerging and mid-career contemporary artists, its current exhibit features the work of abstract artist Callen Schaub. Titled ‘Energy,’ the collection of paintings encourages people to maintain a positive mindset and energy, using words and art to empower others.
Afterward, head down to Queen Street East to the Broadview Hotel. A new local favourite, it represents one of the most drastic transformations the city has seen. Once the notorious strip club Jilly’s, it’s now a go-to destination for its impeccable design, food and rooftop patio.
Regent Park is arguably the largest revitalization the city has seen in decades. Its community cultural hub, Daniels Spectrum, is home to many art and community initiatives and organizations. Open to the public and free of charge, its Hallway Galleries showcase the work of artists from Regent Park and beyond. Currently, the group exhibition, “(mus)interpreted,” features emerging young Muslim women who represent a spectrum of identities and realities.
For even more diversity after, head to Sukhothai on Parliament, the original location that has since spawned two others as well as more trendy Thai spots such as Pai. It’s a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves some of the best Thai the city has to offer.
The Power Plant
Although The Power Plant has a large following that could easily put it on the same pedestal as the ROM and AGO, it also boasts a laid-back vibe that’s perfect for its Harbourfront surroundings. Although touted as Canada’s leading public gallery devoted to contemporary visual art — it’s more than a gallery. It also hosts lectures and features interpretive tools that invite visitors to question, explore and reflect upon their experiences.
Yet if you’re simply passing through, you’ll be able to see the work of Amalia Pica, Michael Landy, Vader Attia and Sammy Baloji & Filip De Boeck. These current exhibitions range from sculptures to photography and video, and can be viewed for free. Once you’ve walked through, you can head just a few feet over to Boxcar Social, which overlooks Lake Ontario. It has an impeccable selection of both coffee and alcoholic beverages to cap the night off.
Coldstream Fine Art
Coldstream Fine Art can be found in the heart of the downtown core. Since it doesn’t have a specific niche, its mission is to represent talented artists from all corners of the art world. This is reflected in its past exhibitions, which include New York-based painter Gareb Shamus’s first Canadian show, “Squeezed”; German twin sisters Hanna and Franziska Barczyk’s “Bodies”; and a Toronto group photography show dubbed “This City.”
Since you’re right by King Street West, go bar hopping west, hitting places like Baro, Belfast Love, Locals Only and Lavelle along the way. You can’t go wrong with cocktails at any of these places and whatever you’re craving, there are plenty of diverse options. My personal favourite is just slightly north on Portland at Gusto 101.
West End Art Crawl
As you head further west, you’ll become overwhelmed with amazing art galleries to check out. Follow this route — you can’t go wrong. First, head to Mercer Union on Bloor. This non-profit, artist-centred space isn’t afraid of taking on ambitious projects like its current multi-media solo exhibition by Toronto-based artist Deanna Bowen. From there, walk down to Scrap Metal Gallery, which focuses on bold, critical and poetic contemporary art. Next door at the Daniel Faria Gallery until November 4, you’ll be able to see Allyson Vieira’s “Work Over Time,” a series of sculptures inspired by the ever-multiplying demolition and construction sites of her hometown, New York City. End the night at one of the best artist-run centres in the city, Art Metropole. You’ll definitely walk away with a few new prints and books.
Once you find yourself on Dundas West, consider heading south to The Drake Hotel, known for supporting local artists like Ness Lee. From there, continue the art crawl on Queen West or turn it into a pub crawl. The night is always young in this part of the city.
Just north of Mercer Union, you’ll find Cooper Cole, a stunning minimalist gallery often filled with bold and challenging art works. Exhibiting until mid-October is “How Deep is Your Love?” featuring pieces from Aline Bouvy, Thea Yabut and Jennie Jieun Lee.
As soon as you wrap up the gallery experience, you’ll naturally stumble upon The Greater Good, which is virtually next door. The sequel to the wildly popular Get Well bar famous for being a craft beer video arcade, it brings the same vibe to North Toronto. What sets it apart? It serves North of Brooklyn pizza. Bring an appetite.
Blank Canvas Gallery
Considered by many to be one of Toronto’s very first “Done By Community” spaces, Blank Canvas Gallery will bring you north of the downtown core. It fosters professional, underground and grassroots art and cultural events, most recently showcasing the work of Brando McClain (a.k.a. Eat Humans) for its ongoing series, “Stretch Your Canvas.” The gallery has also hosted pop-ups and magazine launches.
End your night at The Stockyards, a local favourite for some down-to-earth, delicious BBQ. Unfortunately, its smash hit chicken and waffles, are only available until 3 p.m. because of how popular they are. So consider going before you visit Blank Canvas. It’s a great stop for freshly made burgers and sandwiches as well.
About the Author
Meghan Yuri Young is the editor of her eponymous site encouraging readers to pursue happier, healthier lives through her own experiences. Follow her adventures: Meghan Yuri Young on Instagram.