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5 Best Exhibitions of DesignTO Festival


DesignTO Festival, formerly Toronto Design Offsite Festival, is Canada’s largest cultural celebration of design with over 100 exhibitions and events forming Toronto’s design week, January 18-27, 2019. Going into its 9th year, the DesignTO Festival transforms Toronto into a hub for creativity, taking design and art out of the studio and into the urban sphere, bringing people together to celebrate contemporary culture. We provide opportunities for emerging talent and engage the community with exceptional and accessible public programming. In January 2018, the Festival had direct participation from 800+ artists and designers, 140K + visitors, 95+ million press impressions, and 500+ million total brand impressions. This year we were there and selected the best exhibitions from all the DesignTO Festival days.


Reflective DesignTO Festival

At Delisle-St. Clair Parkette, superkül reflected on the role of the urban forest, both as infrastructure offering relief to the urbanity that surrounds them, and as spaces in which we, as animals, can regain our senses of adventure and playfulness. They asked the question – what if this bit of forest wasn’t so contained? An incredible exhibition at DesignTO Festival!

Before I Die…

Before I Die DesignTO Festival

The ‘Before I Die’ project reimagines the ways the walls of our cities can help us grapple with death and meaning as a community today. Candy Chang, artist and urban planner, created the first ‘Before I Die’ wall on an abandoned house in New Orleans after the death of someone she loved. There are now over 4,000 ‘Before I Die’ walls in over 75 countries and 36 languages, and with the support of OCAD University, one of these walls is here at the DesignTO Festival. These participatory installations served as an accessible memento mori where we could reflect upon our mortality with neighbours and passersby. Each response represented an individual’s unique desires and values, and each wall offered a snapshot of our shared anxieties and hopes, our collective joys and struggles. By creating spaces where we can share our inner lives in public, ‘Before I Die’ reimagined the ways we remember what really matters in an age of increasing distraction and flux. What do you want to do before you die? You should visit DesignTO Festival at least one time!

Living Studio

Living Studio DesignTO Festival

Innovation and design consultancy, Doblin, is housed in a studio many floors above the sidewalks of downtown Toronto, which means their approach to solving the messiest problems within Canada’s largest organizations goes unseen by the public – it’s a black box. They turned that box inside out and letting the public into their process for the first time. Attendees were able to wander into their ‘Living Studio’ where – over four days – their practitioners tried their best to solve a problem of public importance together with the public – that’s you! You could be part of the process!

One Who Protects a Sibling

One Who Protects A Sibiling DesignTO Festival

‘One Who Protects a Sibling’ is an OCAD University project in which pairs of Indigenous and Black makers exhibit the mediated objects and experiences that reflect the dialogues about each other’s identities, aesthetics, and relations to the land. Race relations in Canada are often viewed through the prism of Indigenous/European settler binaries. ‘One Who Protects a Sibling’ seeks to shift focus to explore Indigenous and Black relations through the direct personal connections between pairs of OCAD University Indigenous and Black students (Emily Kewageshig, Star Nahwegahbo, Bert Pringle, Renee Loeza Goycochea, Adé Abegunde and Aljumaine Gayle,) as well as the project facilitators, Jason Baerg [Cree Métis] and Dori Tunstall [African American]. Each set of partners co-created through dialogue mediated objects and/or experiences that provide deep cultural and emotional protection for each other. Through the co-designs, the design partners explored the history of Indigenous and Black relations in Canada, the shared conditions of marginalization that affect both communities, and issues of appropriation and misappropriation between the two communities. Starting with each community’s relationship to the land, the design partners speculate on future relations between Indigenous and Black communities.


Housewarming DesignTO Festival

‘Housewarming’ explored the idea of home at DesignTO Festival through objects that make references to habitational spaces, activated through the routines of day-to-day life. Works in this exhibition ranged from functional to representational forms, and many share a relationship to the body through suggestions of sustenance and care. Other works problematised the idea of the home, gesturing instead towards a subversion of stereotypical images, questioning whether or not these are always welcoming spaces. All of the work in the exhibition showed a skillful deployment of materials in ways that speak to varied and complex relationships with the idea of home.

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