By Adrienne Roman
Winter is a time when barren white landscapes blanket the snowy horizon.
One international design competition in Toronto is shattering the sterility, proving that art can be enjoyed in any environment regardless of the temperature. Designers from around the world are proving that the beach isn’t reserved only for summer fun.
The Winter Stations International Art Competition has been captivating the public since 2015. Launched as a collaboration between local firms Raw Design, Ferris + Associates and Curio, it brings together a range of diverse designers from around the globe with a distinct message to share. The competing artists use the lifeguard towers along the beach as a visual anchor point and are asked to incorporate the structures in the final design. Sponsorships cover the cost of materials and labour, sustainably sourced through local businesses, and submissions to enter the competition are free of charge.
In 2021 Winter Stations collaborated with the Distillery District and showcased
“The Epitonium,” a nature-inspired seashell installation from an Iranian design team. Hamilton’s Pier 8 was also transformed into an exhibit space.
“Resilience” was the theme of last year’s Winter Stations, highlighting the importance of community strength and fortitude over adversity. Winning Canadian design team Kathleen Dogantzis and Will Cuthbert’s “The Hive” was displayed at the R.C Harris Water Treatment Plant, a visual and interactive hexagonal structure depicting a honey bee colony. Their installation demonstrated similarities between the resilience of the honey bee and that of community adaptability during challenging times. During colder months, worker bees sustain their hive temperature by using the energy from stored honey to generate body heat within a tight hive cluster, a colony response that echoes the collaborative support network that’s often launched when human communities
Councillor Brad Bradford was grateful to be a part of the competition.
“It was quite the honour to be a co-chair and juror for Winter Stations this past year. The last two years proved to be a challenging time for everyone in our community, with our artists being particularly hard hit. But through our darkest times, we also saw the best of Beaches-East York, and that’s what 2022’s exhibit was all about: resilience. Winter Stations brings life, art, and culture to our Beach and lifeguard stations, and attracts diverse talent from across the globe. We’re very fortunate to have this forum for art and community right here in the East End – it’s a landmark for neighbours and residents near and far. The exhibit has played an integral role in community building since 2014, and I look forward to many great years of Winter Stations ahead,” Bradford said.
Paul Bieksa, Executive Director of The Beach BIA, is happy to promote artistic events that beautify the local landscape, uniting the business community and neighbourhood. The 2022 Winter Stations installations inspired the BIA to run its own parallel Youth Art Competition to further the creative spirit. The submissions included a wide variety of artwork produced in a number of different mediums. The winning artists were awarded gift certificates and their art was featured in bus shelters. Juliette B. from Notre Dame High School won with her expression of the “resilience” theme, a painting of a healthy green tree growing from a stark grey rock bed.
“Since the very first competition, The Beach BIA has had the privilege of being involved in supporting where we can as we’re always happy to see the Winter Stations installed in our neighbourhood. The unexpected visual impact and vibrancy on the cold and empty beaches are always a sight to behold. These beautiful pieces are always appreciated by the neighbourhood but they also draw people that want to see art in a unique setting, from across Toronto and beyond. I personally had a blast on the jury panel and being able to see the vast outpouring of creative and unique submissions that this contest generates from around the world,” Bieksa said.
Winter Stations is a reminder that the Beach is beautiful all months of the year. It gives locals and visitors the chance to discover the vibrancy of Toronto’s cultural neighbourhoods, and the opportunity to make connections with each other and personally interact with interesting installations. With entrants from over 90 countries, the world of design is now watching talented creators transforming environments and creating impact.
Vakis Boutsalis, Vice-President and Partner at kg & a, has been an integral part of creating connections with developers and ensuring yearly sponsorship runs smoothly.
“Each station is fabricated by us, built to the specifications of the winning design team, bringing the vision to life. It’s wonderful to see the progression from local coverage to see the competition reach the international design community, and it’s exciting to speak with the artists about their work and get to enjoy the revitalization of the Beach in the winter,” Boutsalis said.
The 2023 Winter Stations edition will be launched during the Family Day long weekend in February, and will be located between 1867 Lakeshore Blvd East and the Ashbridge’s Bay parking lot.
You can keep up to date with Winter Stations public art installations on their website at winterstations.com or on Instagram @winter.stations.