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5 Hot Design Events to Enjoy During Cold Times

Combat winter-weather fatigue with our guide to sizzling seasonal attractions

By Eric Mutrie

Yes, it snowed again. And this far into winter, it’s getting less and less easy to feel enchanted by the natural beauty of fresh powder. But don’t get all hygge and go into full hibernation mode just yet. There’s still plenty of fun new programming playing out all across the city – both outdoors and in. Spend the next few weeks taking in these five fab events and the ground will be thawing before you know it.

Digital Origami Tigers by Australia's LAVA.
Digital Origami Tigers by Australia’s LAVA.

1. Toronto Light Festival

After December’s holiday decorations get packed away, things can be left looking a tad bare. Not true in The Distillery District, where the bustling Christmas Market may be over but the twinkling lights are still very much on. The neighbourhood’s latest draw is an outdoor art fest that showcases all things illuminated: clever neon signs, dazzling canopies of light strings and giant glowing tiger sculptures. The exhibition spotlights talent both local (Studio F Minus created a zoetrope viewing device that depicts a galloping horse) and international (Israel’s OGE Group angel wings are both heavenly and otherworldly). Come with a fully-charged smartphone – your Instagrams are sure to get glowing reviews.

Free, The Distillery Historic District, 55 Mill St
Jan 27-Mar 12

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A scene from Virtual Growth by Lieven van Velthoven, in which “living light” traces itself around elements it detects in the surrounding environment.

2. digiPlaySpace

Here’s one for the kids. Twenty-three interactive installations offer the iPad generation opportunities to engage with innovative emerging technologies. Control  Design I/O’s custom robot using hand gestures, paint a 3-D canvas by directing Frolic Studios’ flying ball of light, or teleport to one of Canada’s National Parks by way of green screen. It’s all enough to make you think you’ve walked right into 2001: A Space Odyssey, or some other once futuristic-seeming sci-fi flick your tykes won’t have heard of.

$11, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St W
Feb 18-Apr 23

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3. Ice Fest

There’s nothing vanilla about the 9000 kilograms of ice chopped and chipped into beautiful ephemeral art during Yorkville’s weekend exhibition of frozen sculptures. This year’s theme celebrates the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation. Expect to see carvings of the Parliament Buildings, a Mountie, and other patriotic landmarks and symbols. A $2 donation to the Heart and Stroke Foundation buys a classic Canuck experience: maple syrup taffy on ice.

Free, Village of Yorkville Park, 115 Cumberland St
Feb 25-26

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“Beacon” by Joao Araujo Sousa and Joanna Correia Silva.

4. Winter Stations

Sunburn easily? Here’s your kind of beach day. This annual festival invites local and international design teams to reimagine lifeguard stands as the foundation for playful art installations. The 2017 edition introduces eight shoreline attractions, each offering a fun distraction from the cold. I See You, Ashiyu by Toronto duo Asuka Kono and Rachel Salmela installs a Japanese hot springs-inspired steam bath ready to thaw frozen toes, while the monolithic Beacon by Portugal’s Joao Araujo Sousa and Joanna Correia Silva is a cylindrical wood structure with an opening at the top that emits a glowing light beam.

*Five additional installations can be found along the downtown waterfront as part of the coordinating Ice Breakers festival, on until Feb 26.

Free, Kew Beach, shoreline between Woodbine Ave and Victoria Park Rd
Feb 20-Mar 27

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5. Canada Blooms

Get your floral fix at this lush horticultural festival. The main attraction is a row of fantasy feature exhibits envisioned by green-thumbed landscape architects and garden designers. This year’s theme, “Oh! Canada”, introduces plenty of cozy Muskoka-inspired environments, but also a few surprises. Greer Design Group, for example, nods to the date of Canada’s Centennial by creating a garden that incorporates elements popular in 1867 garden designs (think porch seating and stone walls). Also blooming during the convention: displays of the latest lawn care tools, advice clinics and workshops about everything from veggie-growing to corsage-making.

$17, Enercare Centre, 100 Princes’ Blvd
Mar 10-19


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