TTC Art Crawl
Jacob Reeleder | Content Manager
Blue Moth Creative Inc.
February 11th, 2019

Toronto winter activities are all about specific selection. If a venue is going to entice you to brave the face-searing icy winds, it has to be exceptional and easy to get to without freezing. A day spent art hopping is pure summer fun, but existential winter dread. What if there was a way you could check out some of the city’s best art, in multiple locations, and stay warm the entire time? Believe it or not, the TTC has the perfect answer.

While rarely discussed, the TTC has a pretty hefty art budget. New or renovated TTC facilities are required to use one percent of their capital budget to beautify spaces with permanent installations. While one percent might seem small, this amount can translate into well over $500,000 depending on the scope of the project. That’s a lot of cash for art. When those cold winter winds try to keep you inside, fight back by spending the day on a warm subway checking out some stunning art in multiple great locations and all for the price of a token.

Starting a bit off the beaten path, the six new Toronto stations that opened last year were designed to include installations from some great local and international artists. York University station has an incredible LCD wall that mimics the flow of the trains below. The effect is pretty awesome; Highway 407 turns a potential dark cave of a station into a splash of luminescent colour streaming from the sky on the LCD screen above.

Downsview Park brought back Toronto artist Panya Clark Espinal, known for creating a wild 3D secret “sweet-spot” installation at Bayview Station, to install Spin, an optical illusion piece that consists of large sweeping painted “brushstrokes” across the station interior walls and floors. Walking the corridors here almost feels as if you are striding along an artist’s canvas.

Panya Clark Espinal's "Spin". Walking the corridors here almost feels as if you are striding along an artist’s canvas. (photo:

Heading north on the system, Pioneer Station houses potentially the most controversial art installation on the TTC. It’s not what the art is, but what it could be that has the TTC heads nervous. Lightspell, an enormous LED text display on the station ceiling, is made to be an interactive piece where users are able to type out their thoughts and have the installation broadcast them overhead for the world to see. While this is an excellent way to make people feel more connected to their public spaces, it’s pretty understandable why the TTC is hesitant to turn it on.

Not willing to go that far North just yet? There are still many great places to catch a glimpse of what the TTC has on display. Line 1 and Line 2 are currently home to an art project that puts mental health on display. The series, titled Life on the Line, showcases the work of twenty artists who designed posters to show their feelings around mental health. While the works are spread out, you can catch most of them without straying too far from the downtown core. Make a game of it with your friends and see who can hunt down and snap a pic of the highest number of these unique posters.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more mapped out route, the TTC has refurbished seven stations along Line 1 and Line 2 with some pretty amazing art work. You can find the details on those stations here. As a bonus, many of these stations hit some very cool yet seldom visited parts of Toronto. Grab a day pass and hop off to explore some of Toronto’s hidden gem neighbourhoods (Chester Station area is definitely worth a quick trip to in the cold).

Now, no city-hopping art crawl is complete without a killer playlist – you know we wouldn’t recommend such a long journey without giving you some great tunes you’ve probably never heard of to keep you company. You can check out this curated playlist of the 101 best Toronto songs of 2018. All of these great tracks are by Toronto artists, and follow a ton of diverse vibes.

Happy TTC Art crawling!  In the comments below feel free to add any of your own favourite TTC art hot spots. Be sure to include graffiti finds and gorilla-art (even if it was just that bag blowing in circles on the tile floor that you filmed for 32 minutes the other day on your ride into work).

Jacob Reeleder is a writer, teacher, and social media expert, as well as Content Manager at Blue Moth Creative.