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Gardiner Museum

15 Things To Do in Toronto This December

This festive month is filled with a mixture of holiday merriment and family-friendly activities.

New Year’s Eve at Nathan Phillips Square. Photo courtesy of the City of Toronto.

12 Trees: Let There Be Light at The Gardiner Museum
To Jan. 7
A tradition since 1990, this year’s edition is co-curated by author and visual artist Douglas Coupland and focuses on light as a symbol of hope. Evan Biddell, Vivian Wong, Julia White, Alex McLeod, Connor Crawford, Christine Dewancker and Katherine Strang are among the contributing artists who have designed themed trees. This year’s creations include an animated winter dreamscape and a disco-ball tree.
Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Park

Home Alone in Concert
Dec. 1-2
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, joined by the Etobicoke School of the Arts Junior Chorus, performs John Williams score from the 1990 smash hit during a live screening of the movie. The hit comedic film sees Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister take on two bumbling burglars by himself (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) when his family accidentally leaves for a trip without him.
Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.

St. Michael’s Choir School Annual Christmas Concert
Dec. 2-3
The angelic voices of the St. Michael’s Choir School, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, perform both secular and sacred carols to herald the Christmas season, including “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Hallelujah,” and Handel’s “Messiah Part I.”
Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

150 Years of Canadian Christmas at Casa Loma
Dec. 2-Jan. 7
The city’s palatial castle celebrates the season with a 40-foot tree designed by Canadian icon Jeanne Beker, along with eight other trees throughout the estate. Live entertainment features illusionist Professor Wick and ice skating performers Glisse on Ice. Kids can seek out Santa Claus at his castle workshop, decorate edible treats, and partake in arts and crafts.
1 Austin Terr.

A Christmas Carol. Photo by Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

A Christmas Carol
Dec. 7-24
Bah-humbug! Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge discovers his heart and the holiday spirit after visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future in this adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic presented by Soulpepper Theatre Company.
Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane

Peter Pan
Dec. 8-31
Escape to Neverland with J.M. Barrie’s iconic character, Peter Pan. The boy who never grows up encounters an assortment of colourful characters including pirates, fairies, crocodiles, and even ordinary children like the Darling siblings. This musical rendition by Soulpepper Theatre Company is sure to capture the imagination of the entire family.
Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane

The Nutcracker
Dec. 9-30
A true holiday classic featuring the Sugar Plum Fairy, dancing bears, and cannon dolls, is masterfully choreographed by James Kudelka and set to music by Tchaikovsky. The National Ballet of Canada transforms E.T.A. Hoffman’s traditional tale with enchanting dance numbers, elaborate costumes, and lavish sets.
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W.

The Lorax. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax
Dec. 9-Jan. 21
The North American premiere of this Dr. Seuss fable about protecting the environment gets the stage treatment. Direct from London and adapted by David Greig, Dr. Seuss’s colourful world is reflected with bold sets and costumes, puppets, and an original score by Charlie Fink.
Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St. W.

The Illusionists
Dec. 12-Jan. 7
Marvel as seven world-class magicians perform dazzling displays of wizardy and more right before your eyes. Back by popular demand—last year’s shows sold out—new performers are part of this year’s line up, including Darcy Oake, a.k.a. The Grand Illusionist, who performs death-defying acts, while Raymond Crowe, a.k.a. The Unusualist, is a mime and ventriloquist, and An Ha Lim, a.k.a. The Manipulator, mesmerizes audiences with card tricks.
Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. W.

Dance Me/Music of Leonard Cohen
Dec. 15
This Toronto premiere by Ballets Jazz Montréal (BJM) pays tribute to beloved Canadian singer, songwriter, and poet Leonard Cohen. This contemporary dance company, known for its expressive style and accessibility, selects music from the span of Cohen’s lengthy career.
Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, 1 Front St. E.

DJ Skate Nights on the Natrel Rink
Dec. 16-Feb. 17
Head down to the waterfront for a scenic twirl on the rink at Harbourfront Centre. DJs spin tunes every Saturday night, with hot beverage and bites available from the rinkside restaurant, Boxcar Social.
Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W.

Sing-Along Messiah
Dec. 17
Become part of the choir at this interactive show led by conductor “Herr Handel” as thousands of voices sing Handel’s beloved Hallelujah chorus. The Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, along with featured soloists Joanne Lunn, James Laing, Rufus Müller, and Brett Polegato, take part in this family-friendly concert.
Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St.

Disney on Ice

Disney on Ice Presents Reach for the Stars
Dec. 22-Jan. 1
Beloved friends from the Disney Kingdom, including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy, join a royal cast that includes Anna and Elsa (and their snowy sidekick, Olaf), Ariel, Rapunzel, and Belle for a musical skating spectacle. Sing along to such songs as “Be Our Guest,” “Let It Go,” and “Tale as Old as Time.”
Rogers Centre, 1 Blue Jays Way

Toronto Christmas Market
To Dec. 23
Inspired by traditional European Christmas markets—and named one of the world’s best by Fodor’s Travel—the magic of the season is on dazzling display at the pedestrian-friendly Distillery District. Good boys and girls can have a photo op with Santa, visit a life-sized gingerbread house, and take a spin on a carousel or a ferris wheel. Grown ups can head to one of several heated lounges and beer gardens throughout the venue and partake in craft beers, mulled wines, European cocktails, and hot toddies.
Distillery District, 55 Mill St.

New Year’s Eve at Nathan Phillips Square
Dec. 31
Bid farewell to 2017 and ring in the new year at the city’s central gathering spot, Nathan Phillips Square. Festivities begin at 8 p.m. (get there earlier to secure a good spot), featuring live performances, a DJ skating party, and an impressive fireworks display to cap off TO Canada with Love, a year-long celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial.
Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W.

10 Museum Shows for a Cultured Spring



Abbas Kiarostami’s exhibition, Doors Without Keys, continues at the Aga Khan Museum through to March 20 (photo: Craig Moy)

The permanent collections at Toronto’s major cultural institutions are always worth exploring, but this season their limited-run shows are also very compelling. From two distinct displays of doors to an anthropological examination of tattoo art, there’s something for everyone at these unique new museum shows.


Kent Monkman Puts Bulls in a China Gallery at the Gardiner Museum


Kent Monkman Gardiner Museum Miss Chief Buffalo

Kent Monkman’s installation, The Rise and Fall of Civilization, at the Gardiner Museum (photo: Craig Moy)

OCTOBER 15 TO JANUARY 10 The collection of ceramics at the Gardiner Museum includes more than 300 examples of 19th-century bone china. It’s possible that some of those pieces were made with bone ash from bisons—the skeletal remains of the prairie-dwelling animals, killed en masse for their pelts, were ground down and used as an ingredient in porcelain. Of course, the hunt also played a role in the devastation of Indigenous cultures across the continent; this knowledge underpins Kent Monkman’s new installation, The Rise and Fall of Civilization. A nine-foot-high, diorama-like “buffalo jump” incorporating a pair of taxidermy bison, a sculptural Miss Chief (the Canadian First Nations artist’s alter ego), smashed ceramics and more, the site-specific work serves as a rebuke of colonialism’s industrial practices. More subtly, it also forces us to consider a colonialist undercurrent in 19th- and early 20th-century art: sculptural bulls, inspired by Picasso’s famed cubist deconstruction, nod to Monkman’s assertion that while modernism represented for Western artists a freedom from established customs and norms, its appropriation of aboriginal imagery (then and now dubbed “primitivist” art) symbolized the flattening of native cultures.  —Craig Moy

• Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Park, 416-586-8080; gardinermuseum.on.ca
Map and reviews

Vote for Your Fave Ceramicist at the RBC Emerging Artist People’s Choice Award Exhibition


RBC Emerging Artist People's Choice Award Gardiner Museum David R. Harper

David R. Harper’s three-part Settlement… installation of ceramic objects (photo: Gardiner Museum)

JUNE 18 TO AUGUST 30 The possibilities of clay as a visual medium go far beyond bowls, plates and figurines. Ceramicists today use their material to craft strikingly unique pieces that tell stories and address contemporary issues. Five such Canadian practitioners—who’ve been working professionally for seven years or less—are acknowledged in the RBC Emerging Artist People’s Choice Award exhibition at the Gardiner Museum. Examine, for example, David R. Harper’s natural history–influenced objects, or Veronika Horlik’s sculptural installation, which references deforested and burned woodlands, and then vote to help determine the artist most deserving of this year’s $10,000 prize. Voting ends on August 3, with the winner announced August 14.  —Craig Moy


• Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Park, 416-586-8080; gardinermuseum.on.ca
Map and reviews

Toronto Museums Have the Best Views in the City


Toronto Museums Royal Ontario Museum

The Gallery of Chinese Temple Art, Gallery of the Age of Mammals, and Teck Suite of Galleries: Earth’s Treasures are among the Royal Ontario Museum’s many unique permanent exhibits (photos: Royal Ontario Museum)

It can be easy to take the Royal Ontario Museum for granted. If you’ve visited Toronto for any length of time, you’ve probably wandered through the museum’s halls and examined its vast holdings at least once. After all, the ROM has now stood for 101 years. No matter, though—if this is your first visit or, well, your one hundred and first, there’s always something to discover. Most patrons (especially those with children) make a beeline to the Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs on the second floor of the stark Michael Lee Chin Crystal, but we think you’ll find equal enjoyment examining the museum’s stunning assemblage of minerals and gems, and its vast holdings of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and South Asian art. Unique among Toronto museums, the ROM’s purview includes both natural and human history. Feel a bout of museum fatigue coming on? The fourth-floor contemporary gallery is usually a little quieter (though right now it’s hosting a big Douglas Coupland show), or just take a minute to stand in the ROM’s historic rotunda: its domed ceiling is composed of more than one million Venetian glass tiles, arranged in pictographs representing the world’s natural and cultural histories.


Kathy Venter Sculpts Life at the Gardiner Museum

The Gardiner Museum features Kathy Venter's sculptures, like Coup-d'Oeil, this summer (photo: Gardiner Museum)

The Gardiner Museum features Kathy Venter’s life-size sculptures, like Coup-d’Oeil, this summer (photo: Gardiner Museum)

MAY 30 TO SEPTEMBER 15  The Gardiner Museum invites patrons to come face to face with the expertly realized sculptures of Kathy Venter. The South Africa-born, B.C.-based artist is celebrated for crafting—without the use of molds or internal armatures—evocative, full-scale clay figures modelled on contemporary members of her community but which nonetheless stand outside of time. Informed by historical sources such as China’s terracotta warriors and the Tanagra figurines of Ancient Greece, as well as the modern methods of artists like Viola Frey, Venter’s dignified, mostly female forms address life’s fundamental questions in an attempt to take the measure of our humanity. —Craig Moy

• Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Park, 416-586-8080; gardinermuseum.on.ca
Map and reviews

The Gardiner Museum’s “Transformation by Fire” Shows the Power of Art

A piece from the Gardiner Museum’s Transformation by Fire show (photo: Allan Nackan)

FEBRUARY 7 TO APRIL 28  Just as clay is sculpted by hands and heat, so too can a person’s experiences be molded and reconciled through art making. That’s the idea behind the newest exhibition at the Gardiner Museum. For 10 years the institution has welcomed women who have lived through intimate violence to workshops at which they’ve created ceramic art to express their pain and rediscover their strength. The unique results of the Gardiner’s sessions are collected in Transformation by Fire, which simultaneously offers a compelling rebuke of violence against women while showcasing its creators’ inspiring resilience in the face of trauma. —Craig Moy

>> Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Park, 416-586-8080; gardinermuseum.on.ca
>> Map and reviews

Hot Art: Pottery from Across the Pond

This mid-19th-century stoneware charger is among the many examples of British pottery now on display at the Gardiner Museum

MAY 31 TO SEPTEMBER 16 England is on many a mind this year, what with Queen Elizabeth II’s recent diamond jubilee celebrations and the forthcoming summer games in London. Clearly
it’s a good time to consider Britain’s myriad contributions to Western culture. One such touchstone, a centuries-old ceramics industry, is currently showcased at the Gardiner Museum; its Rule Britannia exhibition looks at the 400-year evolution of the United Kingdom’s world-famous pottery and porcelain, and how its products—from decorative chargers to commemorative plates and teacups—have informed tastes across the Commonwealth.

Modern Reflection: Gardiner Museum, Toronto

Every Friday we feature an inspirational travel photo of a Canadian destination taken by one of our readers.

Why we chose it: The use of reflection here is simply amazing. The layers—a reflection of the adjacent neoclassical Lillian Massey building over the Gardiner’s modern interior architecture over the skyline view of downtown Toronto through the slats—are dizzying, but somehow work. Just plain cool! (more…)

Hot Art: Illusionary Ceramics at the Gardiner Museum

Greg Payce's The Customs and the Spirit of the Nations: Occident (courtesy of the Gardiner Museum)

FEBRUARY 2 TO MAY 6 Remember those books of optical illusions you’d stare at as a kid? You know, the ones with the “impossible” Penrose staircase and Necker cube, or the Rubin vase, where faces could be seen in the negative space surrounding an object? Alberta-based artist Greg Payce has been exploring the latter illusion for years in his colourful ceramic works, many of which are currently on display at the Gardiner Museum. When the vessels are properly aligned, the viewer’s eyes are drawn not only to Payce’s intricate craftsmanship, but also to illusory human forms. Adding a further dimension to his concept, Payce also presents large-scale lenticular photos of some of his works.

Weekend Roundup: January 6-8

Friday: Demar DeRozan looks to lead the Raptors to a third straight victory

Friday, January 6
The NBA lockout finally concluded on Christmas day, the shortened basketball season is starting to pick up and our hometown Raptors are on a two-game winning streak. Cheer them on tonight as they take on the New Jersey Nets (including former “Mr. Kardishian” Kris Humphries) at the Air Canada Centre.

The Next Stage Theatre Festival is back for another year at Factory Theatre. The festival’s first weekend features top independent stage shows including The Tiki Bikini Beach Paradise Party A-Go-Go! and Living with Henry.

Drama meets punk rock as Broadway smash American Idiot continues its short-term run at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Featuring tunes such as “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” from Green Day’s Grammy-winning album, this contemporary musical is not to be missed.


Hot Art: Creative Presents

The Gardiner Shop (photo by Lisa Sakulensky)

Gift-giving season is here. Instead of settling for socks, why not pick out some Canadian-crafted jewellery, ceramics or paintings from these fine gallery boutiques:

1. Art Interiors has been exposing Torontonians to emerging artists for nearly 20 years. Its annual Festival of Smalls, from November 12 to December 24, offers a unique gifting opportunity, with hundreds of small works for less than $250.

2. The shop at the Gardiner Museum features curated retail exhibitions by Canadian ceramicists, as well as functional and decorative woodworking, glassware, jewellery and more.

3. Yorkville’s The Guild Shop showcases works by Ontario Crafts Council members. The abundance and diversity—everything from silk scarves to Inuit carvings—can be overwhelming, but attentive staff are more than willing to help narrow your options.