GARGOYLES & DANCERS ALONG THE DON RIVER
by Catherine Duff.
Photographs by: Archie Tawatao, Oswald Parmar & Catherine Duff
Theme: Arts & Architecture
STOP 1: TOP OF RIVERDALE PARK EAST
The Don Valley ravine borders our urban landscape – re-shaped by it over the last 150 years, yet surviving and thriving adjacent to it. It is a silent witness to city development – the construction of the Don Valley Parkway, the straightening of the lower Don River, the revitalization of ravine wetlands and the growth of surrounding neighborhoods of Riverdale and Cabbagetown. Used as a landfill in the 1920’s this site, this area hold the rich history of early settlement of our First Nations peoples and then of European settlers.
The connective thread of the ravine-urban landscape, for me, is the art and sculpture which links the two.
STOP 2: BRIDGEPOINT DANCERS & HOSPITAL
The colorful and graceful metal figures gazing out over the Don River from their perch in the Max Tannenbaum Sculpture Garden of Bridgepoint Hospital inspire movement, activity and connectivity. The grounds which hold these sculptures, by Canadian artist William Lishman, are steeped in a rich history of early healthcare, epidemics and incarceration in Toronto.
In 1860, a House of Refuge rose on this spot to provide shelter for the homeless; years later it treated people for small pox, diphtheria and scarlet fever. The Riverdale Hospital watched over the Don River until 2002 when it was re-imagined into the Bridgepoint facility now standing. The only remnants of the past are the multi-colored circular tops adjacent to the main entrance. The Don Jail, dubbed a “palace for prisoners” and built in 1858 was annexed as the administrative wing of Bridgepoint.
The irony of Lishman’s colorful sculptures is the way in which the metal medium is re-shaped to evoke fluidity, flow and grace from an artist who was color blind.
STOP 3: BRIDGES ACROSS THE DON RIVER
The Riverdale Foot Bridge spans the Don River and connects the historic Cabbagetown and Riverdale neighborhoods while providing easy entry into the Don River trail. Walk north along the west side of the Don River to a smaller foot bridge. This walkway provides a stunning view of the Don River and its banks – a straightened and “channeled” waterway that accommodated early industry. As you cross the footbridge, pause and imagine the Don River that our First Nations travelled, the lush and meandering river which flowed into the Ashbridge’s Marsh prior to industrial re-shaping in the early 1900’s.
Heading north on the paved Don Valley Recreational trail, look skyward to view the Luminous Veil of the Prince Edward Viaduct, before reaching the final resting place of the gargoyles.
STOP 4: GARGOYLES IN REPOSE
Duane Linklater’s gargoyles rest haphazardly across this Don River field, a sharp contrast to their normally vigilant and watchful poses atop downtown Toronto buildings. These concrete cast replicas form the exhibit, Monsters for Beauty, Permanence and Individuality by the Omaskeko Cree artist from Moose Cree First Nation. The inaugural project for the Don River Valley Art Park Program connects and reflects the transformation of the Don River landscape by colonial settlers and their industrial projects over the last 200 years. These gargoyles sit perched atop buildings in downtown Toronto that were destroyed by the 1904 fire and rebuilt from the clay quarried and manufactured at the Don Valley Brick Company. Can you identify the downtown Toronto buildings which host these sentinel creatures perched atop the rooftops?
Walk End: Re-trace your route back to Bridgepoint Hospital and north to Broadview TTC Station for a 5km walk.