Tag Archives: Radio City Music Hall

#69: Let Local Artists Dress Up the City To Brighten Those Bleak Winter Months

First, the back story. Last December, when I was in New York with Kristina, Manhattan was decorated like a Christmas card. You couldn’t walk more than a few blocks in any direction without encountering a giant star shining high above a major intersection, oversize wreathes or entire buildings gift-wrapped and tied in a bow of lights. More than once we ran into armies of two-storey high nutcrackers and drummer boys standing guard on city sidewalks.

It got us talking about how, during the cold and drab winter months, dressing the city up like this really enhances the spirit of the season and both literally and figuratively brightens the mood of anyone passing through the streets. These aren’t gaudy decorations or annoying lights but, in many cases, creative and expressive art installations.

The main photo on this page was taken in front of a sky scraper in the heart of Manhattan. The Christmas ornaments with the waterfall made passers by stop and gaze in awe. Following in the theme of plus-size decorations, there were a string of giant Christmas lights nearby lit up and “strewn” by the pavement.

Of course, Radio City Music Hall had a brilliant tree atop its marquee that lit up the intersection. I took the photo of the blue snowflakes inside The Shops at Columbus Circle. They were hanging two or three or floors up inside of the main entrance. The snowflakes changed colour every few seconds and brightened the mall and those emptying their wallets and credit reserves within. Then, in the walkway leading up to Rockefeller Center, an angelic horn section played visitors toward the skating rink and the trademark giant tree. There were so many more decorations I don’t have photos of.

This evening, as I look outside my window and see the cold rain hitting the slushy pavement, I long for the bright lights and spirit-lifting trimmings of the Big Apple. I don’t know if they keep the decorations up beyond Christmas, but it would be nice if they did. 

This sort of public art is really something that can enliven a city that experiences months of snow and slush each year. In the summer we have patios open and patrons taking to the streets to enjoy the weather. You can feel the spirit of the season surrounding you. In the winter, though, aside from around the holidays, the city often appears as a collection of gray buildings covered in snow and ice.

There’s no reason Toronto couldn’t turn to local artists to tackle the task of brightening our city streets during the winter. Investing in seasonal public artwork that can be reused or updated would breathe new life into the cold months and make every jaunt downtown or lunch break or date night a truly heightened experience. I know parts of the downtown core have rows of lights or a nice tree, but I’m talking about something more substantial and creative and spread around the GTA. The city could even hold a contest among the local artists and citizens could vote on what pieces they’d like to see in each neighbourhood. This would provide support and exposure for our homegrown artists and benefit every single Torontonian who enjoys seeing more than just slush and snowbanks between November and March.

I know cost is always an issue and frankly I’m sure there are ways around that. An organization could be set up to take donations to compensate artists. Or maybe they do it for free in exchange for the opportunity to have information about themselves and their work posted with their installation.

Either way, if cost is the only barrier, there are ways to work it out. The point is, with more accessible art that appeals to citizens of every age and race and that reflects the uniqueness of each neighbourhood in the GTA, Toronto may be the only city where its residents can’t wait for the cold to come. Especially when the dreary weather tends to make people grumpy, inspiring public art displays would likely result more smiles, more civic pride and perhaps even a few more tourists.

This post appears as part of the FOCUS 365 photo blog component of Bastard Type