This week, DesignTo is going full steam ahead on its annual showcase of local design, with window installations, group exhibitions and symposia – pandemic and snowmageddon be damned. For the lockdown-weary, there are dozens of inspiring highlights to take in free of charge; for design lovers in general, the program is a wellspring of ideating, exploring and making – all in the name of design. Here are a few events we’re especially looking forward to during the festival‘s run from *January 21 to 30:
*go to designto.org to check opening/closing dates, COVID precautions and fees (for talks)
A Dream of Home
Where: Dynasty Plant Shop, 1086 1/2, Queen Street West
One of the myriad window displays, A Dream of Home “conceptualizes a surreal experience of being transported to the Caribbean within the context of the city.” Curated by Ayanna Roberts, Fxrstnxme, Nya-Krystien Greene, Zoe Osborne and Mahogany Culture, the installation draws on the symbolism of plants and objects that evoke the islands to provide a touchstone for the Caribbean diaspora: “a dream of wash day in a backyard that has concrete blocks, a latrine or outhouse, jucking board and basin, a skinned football and a clothes line.”
Where: italDESIGN Showroom, 325 King Street East
Known for his vibrant silk-screened tapestries, Tony Yaw joins forces with King East showroom italDesign for this exhibition of everyday home decor pieces “stamped with the essence of beauty that would bring art into ordinary people’s homes.” The collection spans every room in the home, from the living room to the bathroom, and includes everything from wallpaper and tiles to furniture and textiles.
Where: ESP Gallery | Erin Stump Projects, 1558 Dupont Street
Running beyond the festival’s 10 days, and up to March 8, this group show brings together some of the biggest design talents in Toronto and beyond, among them Jamie Wolfond, Calen Knauf and Maria Hupfield and Kathryn Walter. The participants will show off “experimental crafts which may fall outside the traditional canon of their discipline.”
Full Moon Reflected On The Ocean At 01:34
Where: 91 Pelham Avenue (beginning Jan 27)
Interior design firm Mason Studio is relaunching its atelier as a hybrid space, with DesignTO as a tenant. As part of this occasion, which also marks its 10th anniversary, the firm is presenting two projects as part of the festival: a youth-led exhibition focused on place-making and “Full Moon Reflected On The Ocean At 01:34,” shown here, which “captures a universal yet individual experience of the moon reflected on the water.”
The Grief Gallery
Where: MADE Design, 70 Geary Avenue
Presented by Lisbon-based grief curator Charlene Lam, The Grief Gallery invites visitors to contemplate loss by appreciating the objects left behind by our dearly departed. “Visitors can honour their loved ones with a place on the physical and proverbial plinth, that mainstay of gallery spaces,” and there’s also an online platform where anyone around the world can contribute with images and stories. www.thegriefgallery.com.
Where: 8 Abell Street
Want to play God? You can summon the creation of new objects by Toronto-based Coolican & Company and Seattle brand Fin in this improv-inspired, real-time making series. The designers will “incorporate prompts from our companies’ social media audiences, and it will be documented on our accounts as we go (@coolicanandcompany; @findesignshop).”
No Such Thing as Normal
When: Tuesday, Jan 25 and Wednesday, Jan 26, 6pm to 8pm
The entire notion of “normal” – in the current era of defining the “new normal” – is dismantled in this online symposium that challenges us to think about the multitude of experiences that diverse individuals and collectives have always known. With participants including Zahra Ebrahim, EDIT Collective, Esmond Lee and Jutta Treviranus, the two-day talk series will explore this theme through such topics as inclusive design, artificial intelligence, healthcare and more. Among the key questions explored: “What have we learned during the pandemic about systemic inequality?” And, “how do we design a post-pandemic world that, to quote author and activist Sonya Renee Taylor, ‘fits all of humanity and nature’?”
Housing Affordability Series
When: Monday, Jan 24 2022, 6pm to 7:30pm and Tuesday, Jan 25, 12pm
Also online, these two events tackling Toronto’s affordability crisis – and what everyone from activists, advocates to architects can do about it – kick off with the TSA’s “The Affordability Crisis” on Monday, featuring Frank Clayton, Salima Rawji and Drew Sinclair. It continues on Tuesday at noon with an ideas forum, “Confronting the Housing Crisis,” which explores modular housing initiatives, rent-then-own models and community support and consultation, with Diana Chan McNally, Kellie Chin, Reverend Faith Fowler, Daniel Ling and Eric Philip.
With exciting group shows, stimulating window installations and thought-provoking symposia, DesignTO is staging a Toronto design festival that speaks to this moment in time.