In the heart of Canada’s largest metropolis, construction is more than a season — it’s a decades-long certainty. But even in a city desensitized to the backdrop of construction hoarding, street closures, tower cranes and concrete pours, the evolving urban fabric can still stop us in our tracks. On the downtown Toronto corner of Adelaide and Charlotte, the BAND Offsite public art exhibit is a striking case in point.

A collaboration between Labourers International Union of North America (LiUNA), property owners Fengate Asset Management, and the Black Artists’ Network in Dialogue (BAND), the temporary art program — part of the larger BAND Offsite series of installations — transforms an uncommonly handsome glass pavilion (previously used as a sales centre as well as a gallery) into a nearly year-long showcase for emerging Black artists. Set to run until December, the activation will comprise three months-long public art programs, the first of which was unveiled on February 15.

A Toronto Development Site Becomes a Showcase for Black Artists

Artist Frantz Brent-Harris and BAND Co-Founder and Director, Karen Carter in front of BAND Offsite.

Against Toronto’s grey winter landscape, Afrophilia: Beloved meets the eye as a radiant beacon. A large-scale work by Toronto-based Jamaican artist Frantz Brent-Harris, the piece is described as “a love letter to Black people and Black ancestors.” Visible from across the street and beyond, the vivid orange and yellow tones make for a bold and expressive presence, drawing visitors in. “By rejecting respectability politics, this work embraces the fullness of the human experience, guided by the Afropunk ethos, which stands firmly against racism, ableism, ageism, and any form of prejudices,” the description reads.

A Toronto Development Site Becomes a Showcase for Black Artists

Details of “Afrophilia: Beloved” by Frantz Brent-Harris.

In May, an exhibition by artist Leone McComas will take over the site for the summer months, while Natalie Asumeng’s Dreams of Yesterday and Tomorrow will transform the pavilion for BAND Offsite’s final months, beginning in September. According to Asumeng, the installation “explores the interconnectedness of nature and our deep-rooted relationship with the Earth’s elements.” And after that? A 58-storey residential tower is proposed for the future development site, which sits at the western edge of Toronto’s fast-growing Entertainment District.

A Toronto Development Site Becomes a Showcase for Black Artists

“Afrophilia: Beloved” will be presented at 355 Adelaide until April 28.

In the meantime, BAND Offsite reshapes a corner of the city with enticing and thought-provoking public art. “Since 2010, BAND has been dedicated to connecting Black culture to communities to inspire, enlighten, and educate through the arts,” said BAND co-founder and director Karen Carter. “We are excited to be working with LiUNA and Fengate in bringing Frantz’s, Leone’s, and Natalie’s experiential and multi-dimensional works to life. The collaborative spirit among the partners for this BAND Offsite project has been vital in showcasing the vision and creativity of the artists, and creating this experience to share with the community.”

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