Usually, I talk about art that’s already in existence. Today is going to be a little different. Over the weekend I took part in Create Your Path, a visioning exercise organized by Crazy Dames collaborative that is part of the planning process or StreetARToronto’s (StART’s) installation of street art along the West Toronto Railpath.
Crazy Dames is a collaboration between artist and teacher Jennie Suddick and urban community and cultural planner Sara Udow. Taking their cues from Jane Jacobs, urban planner extraordinaire and original Crazy Dame, Suddick and Udow come together to create communal and experimental public spaces. Their goal is to generate dialogues and understanding about how to live, work, and interact with each other and with the cities we live in. For the Create Your Path initiative, they are working on behalf of StreetARToronto (a City of Toronto Transportation Services program) and with input from the city’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division and Ward 18 Councillor Ana Bailao to facilitate a partnership between stakeholders in the trail, the community, area businesses, local artists, and the city to manage the creation of 5 works of art along the West Toronto Railpath.
The West Toronto Railpath was opened in 2009. A hidden Toronto gem, it is a rail-to-trail, multi-use path for cyclists and pedestrians located in the Junction neighbourhood of the West End. The path runs from Cariboo Avenue, north of Dupont, down to Dundas Street West, using the abandoned railway roadbed purchased from St. Lawrence and Hudson Railway. Designed by Scott Torrence Landscape Architects, the path is populated with indigenous and sometimes sensitive plant species using seeds harvested from vegetation from the area. The path also preserves the integrity of wetlands found along the corridor, an important feature because marshes act to clean and maintain waterways, serves as a habitat for wildlife and birds, as well as contributes to the overall biodiversity of the area.
Another great feature of the trail is that it is also accessible by a ramp at Dundas Street. This allows members of the community who have mobility challenges the ability enjoy this urban parkland. This is an important feature because all too often people with disabilities are left out of the planning process for public amenities like parks and nature trails. Finally, the trail also incorporates a series of plazas at the intersection points of neighbourhood streets, intended to provide meeting points for people using the path and members of the community where they can gather and chat or simply enjoy the view.
As a result of their work in the space, Scott Torrence Landscape Architects won the Toronto Urban Design Award of Excellence in 2011.
The copy has been updated to more accurately reflect the range of agencies involved in the Create Your Path initiative.