I’ve mentioned the value of walking a few times – not just for our physical health, but also for our mental and emotional well-being. The greatest gift of the modern world – our ability to construct gigantic complex structures out of nothing but ideas, can also weigh us down badly, when we live too much inside them.
This is especially true when we think about the world, instead of witnessing it. Our data collecting brains find all sorts of worrying sources of second hand information (news, in particular) even when we’re too busy to go and look at the state of things ourselves. We might even become foolish enough to start taking these sources seriously, as a realistic picture of the world.
But when we do go out and look around we realize that while some lousy things are happening, some good new things are also happening – change, the overriding specialty of western civilization itself, continues to be chaotic, and sometimes rather beautiful.
Lets not forget – there are a lot of nice, smart and well-intentioned people out there who we haven’t met or heard of, who are working away on their projects just as hard as whichever bunch of stinkers we most enjoy railing against.
And while I can still mourn all the gems I can no longer show my friends, it would be the height of willful ingratitude not to allow brand new positives, to both charm and cheer me!
This is a very simple, and yet super-commendable example. Toronto has had arguments and debates about several downtown elevated roadways for decades, and while burying them altogether would be ideal (and ultimately also free-up billions in prime downtown real-estate) we lack the high-billions that would be required in the city-coffers, to even consider a big-dig.
So – how do we live with structures so widely hated? Make them lovable!
Swimmers and climbers (top photo)
From the east end out to the west – there are a huge number of projects which have, over the last few years, put playgrounds, skateparks, small performance spaces, local history museums, walking trails, bike-paths and most of all ART – everywhere, for all to enjoy.
Much deployment of a nifty new material, also – cheery coloured recycled rubber is used for the surface underneath the climbers, so you do get a nice impact-cushion if you fall on it, but you also don’t have to deal with the problem of animals thinking the playground is a litter-box.
This same material appears in many other places recently developed – much nicer to sit on than concrete or asphalt, it also allows for drainage on the grade. I’m guessing that it also means these playgrounds weigh many tons less than the equivalent in old style trucked-dirt construction (this is a very industrial latitude, right across the city – many soil problems from ancient industry).
Main point – the kids dig it! And indeed, climbers and play equipment have never been so diverse and artful as their latest generation. For all it’s problems, cultural Neoteny also has its value – kid-insight really helps, when you’re designing things for kids to enjoy.
The bigger kids dig it, too – which was great to see. This band of costumed heroes was having a lot of fun assembling there, and Nada had just the lens for the occasion! Me? I must be getting old. I ignored spider man and that nifty Captain America girl, in favour of the art. But I really loved the variety!
Not only that – there were familiar (visual) friends in attendance.
A number of popular venues and hangouts in Toronto were decorated by this always entertaining artist, way back in the eighties – the best known was probably “Lee’s Palace” – a famous subculture concert space on Bloor. Very little of that original eighties vintage scene survives intact, visually or otherwise – so I was really delighted to see this comparatively recent Runt work.
Like meeting a new friend, that you’re sure you’ve known for years already.
In the background, we can also see Nada making new super-friends on the four-square court, and enjoying her long lens. Amazing how many people will engage in friendly conversation, when you open light and friendly.
I am not certain that these three paintings depict specific local individuals, but I really really hope so. Perhaps east-end archetypes?
Personally, I would have put a racing-form in the old guy’s hand, even though the track has been gone for quite awhile, he looks a likely fan, to me – but I’m funny that way, forever superimposing lost history over that which remains (still looking to buy a racing-form for one of my art-model characters, just so I can mention our long and deep history of equestrian culture, to students who are too young to have ever seen any trace of it, downtown).
We’ve come across work by this artist in a number of spots around the city – and I really like the way each piece shows a lot of thought about situation, as well as the curiosities of the ‘canvas’ in question. The selection of individuals involved in these groups, varies widely and adds even more narrative fun to the mix. Levels of intention and amusement.
It’s still just an elevated roadway, mind you. But since they aren’t knocking down a whole lot of skyscrapers to build new playgrounds and skateparks lately – and more and more kids are living in areas that never used to be set up for them to play in safely – I say, rock on!
Adult playgrounds (I’ll grab photos, next time I spot one) also popping up here and there, with extremely clever simple long-wearing fitness equipment, almost all of which simply leverages your own body-weight. Many smiles and tentative tries – we’ll see if they too go from the curiosity column, to genuine neighbourhood usefulness, like this cool spot. More fitness and playing outside is good for everyone – not just the kids!