“Functional Art” (they call it)

16 August 2015 – Yes, that’s what they call it, and yes, it is functional — you can certainly rest your bottom in these chairs — but surely they deserve a happier description than that?

John St. Pedestrian Initiative

I am not chair-hunting, you understand.

My target is dark blue bias tape, the sort of sewing notion that used to be widely available but now is most typically found in the wonderfully chaotic little shops clustered in our Queen/Spadina rag-trade area. So — even though it is 30C, the temperature at which I’ve told you I just flop on the back deck with the cat — even so, I head for all that heat-belching downtown pavement.

Where I am rewarded. I find my bias tape!

Plus this whole line-up of bright & well-patonized chairs on John St., south from Queen to Adelaide.

John St. looking north to Queen West

The scene triggers memory. Yup, this is year 2 of the John Street Pedestrian Initiative, sponsored by the area BIA (Business Improvement Association) and designed to “enhance the pedestrian experience.” The be-muraled Muskoka chairs are part of the enhancement, and thus year 2 of their own art project: the BIA selects 3 graduating students from OCAD, an art & design university, to paint the chairs based on a given theme.

This year, Robert John Paterson, Boen Jiang and Sophie Paas-Lang were given the theme of John Street itself.

Which they have interpreted like this …

John St. chair

and this …

John St. chair

and, more figuratively, like this …

John St chair

and this …

John St. chair

and this …

John St chair

and this

John St. chair

and more, but all the other chairs are occupied, so no photo. I don’t quite have the nerve to tell people they don’t interest me but their chair does, so please move.

Before I wander on, I read the poster at the end of that long line of chairs (shown above). It explains how the initiative provides a place to relax and enjoy ourselves, “during the warm months of spring and summer.”

“Warm” hardly describes it, I think, dabbing at my sweaty neck.

And then, a few streets away, I see another poster.

parking lot south of Queen, west of Spadina

You have to laugh. There it always is, that other season, just around the next corner.


Leave a comment


  1. We were so caught up in the chairs, summer and heat… we chuckled out loud at the snow sign.

  2. i love these chairs and the word Adirondack…fun functional art…

  3. Too funny Penny….and just as summer has arrived here 🙂

  4. What a happy find. I WILL Do my eclectic collection of chairs! You share so generously, dear friend!

    • Well thank you, but I just celebrate what others do. And if it’s given you an idea for some chairs of your own … terrific!


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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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