Summer bonus around Ireland Park
Updated: Aug 13, 2021
WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? Two good reasons to get out of the house: an urbex-like experience thanks to the Miotas/Myth art installation in an abandoned waterfront building + permission to come aboard the Empire Sandy for coffee or a cocktail.
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When I heard that an abandoned building on the waterfront had been taken over by artists before it was restored, I wanted to see this public art project first hand. Loved it! What a magnificent installation! One more reason to walk around the west side of Harbourfront.
A second great reason to stroll around this part of town is the Brass Monkey pop-up restaurant and bar, set up on the deck of the tall ship Empire Sandy, temporarily moored a 12-min walk away, eastbound.
The Irish connection
Miotas means "myth" in Gaelic. It is the name of the installation that will be on view at least until August 22 in the former offices of the Canada Malting Company. What is the Celtic connection to this site?
To make a long story short, on St. Patrick's Day 2019, the Canada Ireland Foundation (CIF) signed the lease on 3 Eireann Quay, the former building soon to be known as The Corleck, which will serve as their permanent home for events and exhibitions.
The Foundation is very attached to this site. In 2007, it created Ireland Park, which features Rowan Gillespie's emaciated figures hopefully looking up at the CN Tower and the silhouette of a large granite ship with names engraved on it.
This is a tribute to the Irish who arrived in Toronto in 1847 to escape the Great Famine. Imagine the context! More than 38,000 immigrants landing in Toronto, when it had only 20,000 inhabitants! Many of them went on to find relatives and friends elsewhere in Canada and the United States, but it’s no wonder that the foundation has such a presence nowadays.
. A mythical installation
The myth theme is anchored in the work of Montrealer Doras (Marc O'Brien), a multidisciplinary Irish-Canadian artist who graduated from OCAD in Toronto. The mural occupies the entire floor of a large room in the basement. Booties are provided to protect the colourful scene under our feet.
Aoife and the Children of Lir depicts a scene derived from the Irish Celtic mythology. This is the story of Lir’s four young children, who are transformed into swans by an evil spell from their jealous stepmother, confining them to this form for 900 years. The artist chose to represent the moment when the children are transformed into swans, to reflect the transition of the building. The evil woman was punished by being transformed into a demon.
Overall, the visit to Miotas very much feels like an urbex experience (the illicit urban exploration of abandoned sites)! We walk through the old corridors to enter worlds designed by each artist to address the theme (linked on Miotas’ web page).
For her poetic Fairy Ring, Caitlin Taguibao chose the symbolism of the mushroom, which springs from the end-of-life cycle of what came before it. Kirsten McCrea and JP King's Elegy for Lake Ontario seems directly connected to the landscape seen through the windows. The water of Lake Ontario seems to flow into the room in cheerful and colorful patterns, perpetuating the myth that the lake is now healthy.
Zizmet's Triple Deity installation is spectacular, filling our entire field of vision. La Pupille + Alfalfa The Dreamers' Room of Pleasures is both erotic and elegant.
One can book a free time slot online to admire the exhibition. When visiting, I was told that while the majority of the slots are marked as sold out on the site, we can get there in person with a good chance of getting a spot vacated by those who don't show up. Visiting hours seem to vary, depending on the volunteers available to run the site. I wouldn't be surprised if they added a few more days to the exhibition.
Note that parking can be quite expensive in that part of town, around $20.
While you're there
There are so many urban gems to observe between Ireland Park and Harboufront Centre, 1.5 km away. The artsy public benches, the fake fossils under our feet between the park and Queens Quay West, the funky Muskoka chairs on the pirate ship dock, and the beautiful Toronto Music Garden.
Oh joy! I discovered that the tall ship Empire Sandy, moored just east of the Music Garden, is home to a café (The Wanderer, Thursdays and Fridays 4-8pm and weekends 11am-8pm) and a pop-up restaurant (The Brass Monkey, open Thursdays through Sundays from noon-10pm) until it can resume operations. This three-masted tall ship is 203 feet long and was built in 1943. A beautiful setting to sip a cocktail while enjoying a ceviche.
To be seen further east, the yellow umbrellas of HTO Park East, the Amsterdam BrewHouse with a view of the lake, the architectural Simcoe WaveDeck just west of Harbourfront, the waterfront terraces in front of Harbourfront Centre, and the one at the Boxcar Social overlooking the Natrel Pond, currently empty but nicely adorned with motifs on the ground.
This is a complement to my walk #7: Queens Quay HARBOURFRONT Stroll, a 3.8-km loop in my latest walking guide Toronto Best Urban Strolls.
Nathalie Prézeau is the author of the 262-page walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls, You can get it online on Amazon, Indigo, in Toronto bookstores or directly from the publisher. The author delivers in Toronto and Canada Post takes care of the other destinations. You can also contact the author directly for pick up arrangements (with a discount) at 299 Booth Avenue (Leslieville) Toronto. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.