10 Inspiring Exhibits, Shows and Pop-Ups Not to Miss

Toronto is buzzing with all things art and culture, and at any moment there’s a new pop-up, thought-provoking exhibit, mind-blowing performance or unique event going on.

Toronto’s renowned museums, incredible theatres, wide-ranging music festivals, pop ups, public installations and underground art scene inspires travellers and locals alike – all year round. Here are 10 inspiring reasons to visit soon – from the mainstream to the underground.

1. Experience the magic of Cirque du Soleil’s legendary Alegria

Born and bred in Canada, Cirque du Soleil has flourished into the largest theatrical producer in the world. From September 12 to December 1, 2019, Cirque returns to Toronto with Alegria, one of their most famous shows – 25 years after its premier in Montreal.
Cirque du soleil Alegria in Toronto
Aerial High Bars from Alegría | Photo by M-A Lemire ©2019 Cirque du Soleil
Cirque says Alegria is about “an emerging movement that strives to shake the established order, instilling hope and renewal to bring light to a world in perfect harmony”.

2. Discover Toronto’s most intimate venues through Artery

Back in the day, folks would often gather in someone’s home for an up-close-and-personal performance of theatre, music and more. Artery is bringing back that sense of intimacy and connection to art, artists and local communities by turning living rooms, backyards, rooftops and various other unique spots in the city into pop-up performance spaces. Check out a show, make new friends and experience Toronto as a local would.

3. Immerse yourself in local art at The Funhouse

Built inside a former Buddhist temple turned dance studio, this ultra-fun Funhouse enlisted more than 30 Toronto artists – including Jazz Cartier, Jeff Blackburn and Lights – to create immersive, multi-sensory experiences inside a 7,500-square-foot space. The result is a 1920s-inspired maze of kaleidoscopic rooms, retro corridors and secret nooks.
The Funhouse Toronto Underground Ballroom
Artist Alana Kindree beside her mermaid creations in the Underwater Ballrooom |Photo by Ded Pixel

4. “Play” your part with Outside The March’s participatory Theatre

One of Canada’s leading immersive theatre companies, Outside The March performs unconventional theatre in unconventional spots that often involve audience participation. Previous experiences include performing in kindergarten classrooms, a parade with Queen Elizabeth in Toronto’s Greek neighbourhood, taking over churches and at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Its fall production of Annie Baker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “The Flick” showcases minimum-wage employees wasting away in a single-screen movie theatre that still projects in 35 mm. “The Flick” will begin its month-long run on October 6.

5. Experience Broadway at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre

The critically acclaimed hit Broadway musical “The Band’s Visit” is making its Canadian premiere this fall in Toronto from September 17 to October 20. Visit an unusual town that’s way off the beaten path, brought to life when a band of lost musicians arrive out of the blue.  With 10 Tony Awards wins, including Best Musical, it’s one of the most Tony-winning musicals in history.
The Band at Ed Mirvish Theatre Toronto
The company of The Band's Visit | Photo by Matthew Murphy

6. See Sandra Brewster’s “Blur” exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

The AGO is one of Toronto’s most architecturally admired structures, last renovated by famed architect Frank Gehry. One of the largest galleries in North America, its collection includes close to 95,000 works including Canadian visual artist Sandra Brewster’s “Blur” series currently on display.

7. Check out impressive collections at The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

Metallica’s famous guitarist Kirk Hammett has created a vast collection of classic horror and sci-fi movie posters. The It’s Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection examines the connection between artistry, emotion, and popular culture through a selection of works from 20th-century cinema (on until January 5, 2020).

If you’re looking for a party with an artsy backdrop, the ROM transforms into a multi-level dance party for ROM Friday Night Live, with live bands, DJs, food and drinks every Friday night from October 4 until November 29.

Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum at Night  

8. Go on a city-wide art crawl thanks to the Toronto Biennial of Art

For 10 weeks every two years the city is transformed by exhibitions, talks, and performances that reflect the local context while engaging with the world’s most pressing issues of our time. In an effort to make contemporary art available to everyone, the Biennial’s free, citywide programming aims to galvanize citizens, bridge communities, and contribute to global conversations from a variety of perspectives. Enjoy the 72 days of free art from September 21 to December 1, 2019.

9. Step beneath the highway to explore The Bentway’s myriad of offerings

The Bentway is a unique and innovative public space that transforms the 1.75 kilometres beneath Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway into a new gathering space. Check out activities and events year round: public markets, art exhibitions, festivals, theatre, free musical performances, communal dinners, yoga and tai-chi classes and more.

10. Experience an intimate (and secret) Sofar Sounds concert

Sofar Sounds is a global network of artists that puts on intimate, invite-only secret performances in unconventional venues around the city.

Toronto Sofar at The Bentway-T Dot Bangerz Brass Band

Sofar at the Bentway, T Dot Bangerz Brass Band | Photo by Conor McSweeny

About the Author

Toronto-based Journalist and wanderluster Charmaine Noronha has traversed the world of journalism like she has the globe, exploring varied roles and publications. She launched her career as a reporter with The Toronto Star, was the EIC of Vervegirl Magazine and worked for The Associated Press for more than a decade. Most recently, she was a Lifestyle editor at HuffPost Canada. She's also a travel writer with a penchant for adventure, culture and all things edible.

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