Famous Daredevils! Globe Cat!

29 May 2014 – I’m back home, where happy children frolic atop rainbow skyscrapers…

St. James Town art on hoardings, Sherbourne & Wellesley E.

Oh all right, not really. But on the murals covering hoardings at Wellesley East & Sherbourne they do, and isn’t that fun?

The artwork celebrates children’s art programs in the nearby St. James Town complex, and I’m grateful. Nothing seems to be happening behind the hoardings, so at least we have cheerful art to  look at instead of a dreary empty lot.

I’m on my way to meet Phyllis at the Wellesley subway station. The Tuesday Walking Society is back in action, and we’re headed west, hoping to catch the cherry blossom display on the U of Toronto campus. It may be over by now, we’re not sure, but checking the possibility at least gives us a direction for our walk.

Another hit of downtown street art before I get to our rendez-vous. I’m waiting for the light to change at Wellesley & Church, and see all this colour exploding across the building. And a hot dog kiosk, all set up for summer! New season, new streetscape.

N/W corner, Wellesley E & Church

Phyllis & I meet up, head on west, our route taking us past the provincial government Macdonald Block. “Let’s go look at the hallway art,” I say. “Kay [mutual friend] gave me the tour last year.” Phyllis, a former provincial civil servant, laughs. “Let’s! I was in & out of that building all the time, but for meetings. So… head down, preoccupied… who had time to notice the art?”

When Queen’s Park (provincial government) needed more office space in the 1960s, they built this block, with a central core linking four towers, each named for a former premier. They also commissioned a lot of art: sculptures for the external courtyards, and 25 works of wall art, in various media, by a range of established and rising artists — e.g. Harold Town, Jack Bush, Kazuo Nakamura, A.J. Casson, Alan Collier, Tony Urquhart.

We start walking the halls, our clothing and backpacks in obvious contrast to the business attire around us. A security guard nods a pleasant hello. We agree this makes us feel good: we’re not thrown out, not even challenged. A round of applause, please, for democracy.

Then a be-suited, be-tied young man asks if he can help us, turns out he thinks we’re looking for some public meeting. We explain we’re prowling for art; he beams at us and starts quoting Shakespere: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…” He urges us to visit his favourite mural, the one by Donald Lewis that illustrates this famous passage.

We do see it, but the only panel I photograph is this one. Complete with famous daredevils. (As promised above.)

"Niagara Falls with a Collection of Famous Daredevils," Tony Urquhart, 1968

See? That’s Tony Urguhart’s contribution: “Niagara Falls with a Collection of Famous Daredevils,” 1968, acrylic on chipboard. I can’t name the daredevils (though if you click on that hyperlink you’ll get more info), but I can at least show them to you in close up.

detail of Urquhart's "Famous Daredevils"

If you want even more of the Macdonald Block art collection, visit — or revisit — my blog post of almost exactly one year ago. “Art! inside, outside, up and down”  includes images from that earlier visit with Kay.

We visit the inner courtyard before we take off, and then segue into the park at Queen’s Park Cres. & Grosvenor. It’s still within the general sweep of government buildings, and we notice a couple of women on a bench in the shade, consulting paper & electronic notes as they talk. “Taking the meeting outside,” murmurs Phyllis, who’s done it herself.

“Every now and then the Ministry of Natural Resources would sell Ontario fish here, raising money for charity,” she adds, the look on her face showing she was back at one of those events. “Whitefish from Lake Huron, pickerel from Lake Erie…”

Then our attention switches to the glorious blossoms. Flat rosettes of white dogwood, and fluffy pink up and down the branches of Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis, I looked it up). So pretty. All that springtime energy, against a bright blue sky.

Eastern redbud blossoms, beside Queen’s Park

Just as well we enjoyed those blossoms, ’cause once we get to  Harbord & Huron —  site of the grove of cherry trees donated by the Japanese Sakura Foundation to the University of Toronto — nothing but green leaves. The blossoms have come & gone. Ah well!

On to Kensington Market, tucked away just west of the Spadina Avenue Chinatown. It’s always good for a wander, its narrow streets a palimpsest of generations of immigrants and their first homes, first shops. Once British, then Jewish, then Portuguese, now a lot of Latin America, but, finally, a delicious mixture.

With a love for punning shop names.

Lettuce Knit, Nassau & Bellevuye Av.

Lettuce Knit??? Oh dear, oh dear. And just opposite, some kind of beauty boutique called “Curl Up and Dye.” Nearby, a tattoo parlour with “The Pearl” in large letters.. and below that, only slightly smaller (though much paler), “Harbour.”


on Kensington Av.

Explosions of graphics and colours and styles. Explosions of sound. Lotsa music, mostly recorded but a few buskers as well. We hear an enthusiastic (if not hugely talented) rap artist as we head one way down a block; on our return some 15 minutes later, she has been replaced by a classical violinist.

Last time I was here, I bought whacking great supplies of spices; this time, I seem just to be admiring, not buying. Phyllis picks up some halvah. We start south on Kensington Av.

on Kensington Av.

Love the mannequins…

Not wanting to dump ourselves out onto Dundas Street just yet, which somehow seems the end of the adventure, we  instead turn into a laneway heading west.

Which isn’t a laneway at all, it’s a real street, with a real name, even if it is barely more than a block long. Fitzroy Terrace, who knew?

We admire this cottage-y scene mid-block …

in Fitzroy Terrace

… and the cul-de-sac at the end …

end of Fitzroy Terrace

… and then reverse gears, since that is what you have to do with a cul-de-sac.

We wander some more, still avoiding Dundas, and end up on another tucked-away strip of pavement. It has even more homes than Fitzroy Terrace and sidewalks and everything, yet no name that we can find. (I will never understand the logic of Toronto street names. And non-names.)

Brightly coloured homes, one of them with an Escher-esque fish-to-birds bas relief up the front wall. (I only later, looking at the photo, spot the op-art above the doorway.)

homage á M.C. Escher?

There’s a final reward, when we finally — finally — make our way to Dundas Street. Globe Cat! In truth, I’d noticed him before, but had forgotten him.

How could I? How do you manage to forget a bright orange cat, atop a globe atop a long pole, but ready to spring at any moment?

Globe Cat! Augusta & Dundas West

Soon the bright sky turns grey, the breeze picks up, it has that smell of rain in it, and the air rumbles not with the usual streetcars, but with thunder. We’d been promised early-afternoon thunderstorms. Plop, plop, big fat raindrops, right on cue.

I’m happy. A good welcome-home first walk. (Now if I could just stop waking up at 2 a.m., with my body insisting it’s 7 a.m., life would be perfect.)



Leave a comment


  1. The joys of Jet lag Penny, but all worth it for your wonderful adventure.

  2. Great post. Some wonderful photos here. Love the building next to The Pearl, great decoration.


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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