The Bentway Announces a “Summer of Play”

June 17, 2021

Exploring how “play” can help drive our urban recovery, The Bentway presents a neighbourhood-wide program of playable installations, playful moments, talks, and audio experiences.

The Bentway launches Playing in Public this summer, a collection of outdoor and online projects that invite you to rediscover “play” in the city. By the neighbourhood, for the neighbourhood, the program includes  8 art installations, a connective Play Path, roaming and audio experiences, and more.

Playing in Public spreads out across “The Bentway and beyond” into local parks, public spaces, and sidewalks throughout the Fort York, CityPlace, Niagara, and Waterfront communities. Participatory and “playable”, it has been designed to offer COVID-safe engagement for local residents to explore their city in new ways. Installations (including work by Daily tous les jours, Esmaa Mohamoud, Assemble, Studio F-Minus, Thomas Mailaender and Erik Kessels, Pierre Poussin, The Street Society, and Nelson Wu and biosphere) are rolling out in the coming weeks; with the full exhibition launching in early July.

Playing in Public takes inspiration from the deeply intertwined relationship between play and public space. From playgrounds and basketball courts, to interactive signage and apps that map the city in new ways, play exists both within the boundaries of built public spaces and outside of them. Artists, designers, and planners have long used games to ask questions about the city – investigating new approaches to education, navigation, identity, and history. How does play change the way we feel and interact in public space? How has the nature of play changed in a mid/post-COVID city?

“COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of public space as a site and source for play, physical activity, and well-being” says Ilana Altman, Co-Executive Director of The Bentway. “This is even more pronounced in dense, high-rise urban communities, like the ones near The Bentway, where access to adequate public space is limited. The artists, designers and creative partners involved in this season are giving us a glimpse of an urban future where play has reshaped our shared spaces for the better.”

The Playing in Public lineup includes:

Eight (8) creative installations, including new forms of basketball, play equipment, and music-making:

Connective wayfinding linking the installations together:

  • An interactive Play Path that guides visitors through the neighbourhood and offers opportunities to “play the city” with engaging interventions on local sidewalks, bridges, bike rings, and building faces, and six (6) “Tiny Games” developed with the Hand Eye Society
    Opening July 3 (approx.)

Roaming experiences to discover:

  • Audio playcasts offering reflections on play in the city with: Britta B. (spoken word artist); Dan Iaboni (parkour practitioner; founder of The Monkey Vault); youth in conversation with Urban Minds
    Available July 3
  • A joy-inducing, smile-spreading pop-up by Stuart Semple (UK) that reminds us how play can help us through our toughest times.
    Various (secret) dates and locations
  • Artist residency with Bekah Brown (Toronto; Anishinaabe) exploring Indigenous traditions of recreation, culture, and sport as tools for resistance, healing, and reconciliation
    Throughout the summer
  • Toronto-based Retro Rolla will offer paid roller skate rentals onsite. Pre-registration is required. Visit for more information. 19+ visitors are also invited to a post-skate sip next to the Skate Trail on Saturdays later this summer, courtesy of Smirnoff Berry Blast.
    Opening June 19, Thursdays to Sundays
    The Bentway, 250 Fort York Blvd

Online talks on play as a strategy for urban recovery, co-presented with World Urban Parks and 8 80 Cities:

  • Featured guests include: Alex Bozikovic, Mitchell Chan, Jen DeMelo, Adil Dhalla, Tim Gill, Alexandra Lange, Melissa Mongiat, Amanda O’Rourke, Janie Romoff, and Luis Serrano  
    On July 13 and September 7

More information and updates will be available at

This summer The Bentway asks people to come play together (safely) again.

Playing safe is our priority. We encourage the public to safely explore this exhibition.

Please note that there may be construction on-site while the final pieces are installed. Please be aware of your surroundings.

Please use the installations as intended. Do not climb to unsafe heights or take other unnecessary risks. Actively supervise any children under 10.

Please be COVID safe and follow all current public health guidelines:

  • Respect gathering limits
  • Stay 2m apart from people outside your household
  • Wear a mask
  • Please plan around anticipated busy times (i.e. weekends, evenings)
  • The installations will be monitored. If too many people are gathering, we will turn off, fence off, or ask people to leave the exhibit.
  • COVID-19 is a fast moving and complex situation, please stay tuned to our website for all COVID-19 announcements relating to Playing in Public.

City of Toronto, the Waterfront BIA

Concord Adex, TAS, Fort York National Historic Site, Cossette, Craft Public Relations, Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

The Bentway’s local neighbours, artists, and play partners.

Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, Government of Ontario, Ontario Arts Council, Balsam Foundation, Fondation DRG, Park People Public Space Incubator, TD Bank Group, RBC, The Michael Young Family Foundation, The Hal Jackman Foundation, The McLean Foundation, Partners In Art, CityPlace Fort York BIA, Consulate of France

Playing In Public is presented as part of ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021-22.