A tribute to the wonder of Winter Stations

Winter Stations bring an excitement back to the wintry beach. If you haven’t had a chance to saunter down to the water and enjoy this year’s art installations along the water, you have two more weeks to do so!

After taking part in the Winnipeg Warming Huts design competition a few years ago, Roland Rom Colthoff from Raw Design thought it would be fun to bring the concept to Toronto. His friend, Ted Merrick of Ferris + Associates, walks his dog (on-leash) along the boardwalk regularly and thought it would be great to beautify the lifeguard stands. Winter Stations was born.

In 2015, we started the competition and received over 200 submissions from all over the world for four stations. The fifth was offered to any post-secondary school. Ryerson jumped on board right away. Although it was a much colder winter than this year, people flocked to the Beach from all corners of the city and even beyond the GTA! The interactive stations appealed to all ages – kids and grandparents alike were swinging in the bright orange ‘Sling Swing’ and even those uninterested in swinging could have a seat upon the ‘Driftwood Throne.’

The Winter Stations project won a Toronto Urban Design Award in 2015. The crowd favourite – designed by Ryerson students, and the most Instagrammed Winter Station – ‘Snowcone’ also won its own Toronto Urban Design Award. These students were thrilled to be able to design and construct an exhibit with world-renowned architects. They were given the opportunity to be on a level playing field alongside their more experienced and accredited peers – a rare chance indeed!

This year, we received close to 400 submissions for four Winter Stations and offered three more to post-secondary institutions OCADU, Ryerson, and Laurentian. The jury had the extremely difficult task of choosing the winning designs. The goal was to have a diverse array of form, material, height, colour, and design with an emphasis on the ability to be interactive with visitors.

The highlight of Winter Stations 2016 is the ‘Fire Place,’ designed by internationally-acclaimed Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal. Many will know him for his design of the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec. How lucky are we to have him create a piece of art on our beloved Beach? At the Winter Stations Launch on Family Day weekend, locals and visitors were able to witness a beautiful and reverent moment when he gave an Aboriginal blessing of the ‘Fire Place.’

As with anything, it takes a collaborative effort to ensure success. We are thankful to the dedicated help from Friends of the Beach Parks promoting and participating in Winter Stations, as well as diligently being the fire starters. The Beach Village BIA was generous enough to organize trolley tours on Family Day weekend and to offer ongoing promotional support. Parks staff have been working closely with my office and the Winter Stations team (all volunteers) to help our event run smoothly.

Local schools have been out on field trips to view the Winter Stations. It is great for the children to be out in the fresh air, getting exercise, and learning about public art. If your child’s class has not been down for a tour, feel free to share Winter Stations information with teachers or have them connect with us!

Many other groups and organizations including photography clubs, the Toronto Polar Bear Club, East End Arts, and walking groups have all enjoyed the art installations. Park People profiled Winter Stations at its annual Park Summit (March 5 at 1:30 pm at Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park). The Beach is definitely on the map as a winter destination!

Winter Stations has been privately funded so far but in order to expand in future years, the team will look at applying for Toronto Arts Council grants.

We are always open to improvement so feel free to volunteer for Winter Stations 2017 or send us your suggestions. We are also more than happy to receive compliments any time!

See you ‘In the Belly of the Bear!’

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