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Blue Road-eo

2007_09_23blueriver2.jpgWhile events like Luminato and Nuit Blanche are fantastic, Toronto is sorely lacking in quality, long-term public art.
Last April, Henk Hofstra created an “urban river” in Drachten, Holland. The Blue Road installation is an example of what mind-blowing urban public art can be.
Featuring 1000 metres of road painted blue and the phrase “Water is Life” written in eight-metre-high letters across it, the Blue Road is reminiscent of the waterway that used to be where the road is now. It’s a memorial to nature, but it’s also just plain awe-inspiring. There’s even a few cool tidbits along the road, like a sinking car.
The project took 4000 litres of paint and cost 75,000 Euros. Half of the cost was covered by municipal funds. Hofstra wants the road to be visible on Google Earth, but it hasn’t shown up yet.
Torontoist would love to see something like this in our city—publicly-funded art that makes the mundane world around us just a bit more magical. Toronto could learn a thing or two from Drachten.
More photos, courtesy of Wooster Collective, after the cut.



  • spacejack

    Remember when artists wasted 1,000,000 times less paint and created things 1,000,000 times more beautiful?

  • rek


  • McKingford

    Yes it is too bad that Toronto doesn’t have more/better public art. But if this is the alternative, I prefer what we have – ’cause that is an abomination.
    Although art can provoke, the sheer magnitude and vulgarity of that is overwhelming; I can’t imagine having that imposed on the public space. I just got in home from Dundas Square, and as offensive as the sight pollution is there, I think I would prefer it to what the Dutch have done. I’m surprised anyone wanting to encourage more publicly funded art would endorse this, since the surest way to bring it to an abrupt halt would be to thrust that monstrosity onto Torontonians.

  • antiboy

    I agree. It’s horrendous. And it’s rather ironic that they’re supposedly paying tribute to nature whilst polluting with thousands of gallons of (what I would assume would be) toxic paint.

  • Jaime Woo

    Our family painted our unfinished basement in that colour. It was an unfortunate choice.

  • Ryanvonzuben

    Anything but more asphalt grey. Looks cool. It’d be nice to see something similar for Garrison Creek.

  • rowrasaur

    Less is more.

  • Kevin Bracken

    This is amazing. It is almost as beautiful as The Gates in Central Park, and speaking of which, it is a wonder people don’t propose such a grand project in Toronto. Perhaps it’s because they are not sure we are a city of dreamers, or perhaps because we are not sure we could raise that much money.

  • rek

    I think it’s great.
    Toronto is full of dreamers. But Toronto doesn’t have any great public art because unfortunately on the public level, Toronto is a city that follows along a few years later and does a half-assed job of it.
    Give it a few more years and High Park or Trinity Bellwoods might have something comparable to the Gates, but they’ll be Scotiabank-red. And there will only be 10.

  • Mathew Katz

    I’ve always thought that if Kensington Market ever somehow became pedestrian-only (a la the Distillery), it’d be amazing to turn the roads into gigantic works of art – give some space to professional artists, and other space to kids with sidewalk chalk. Think of how colourful plain ol’ grey streets would get.

  • Svend

    It looks great now, but wait until it soon begins to fade, peel and collect soot.
    Toronto doesn’t need disposable art like this.

  • spacejack

    Actually I think there was a Gates-like installation several years ago, but it was in Grange Park.
    Honestly, people, that blue is friggin horrible. I’m guessing chosen for its price rather than its resemblance to real-world water. Can you imagine what it’ll look like after a few years of wear and tear in our climate? And cars cut in half to give the illusion they’re sinking – how gimmicky and clichéd is that? Not to mention the unintentional irony of wasting so much paint for an “environmental” message. Finally, there’s the whole copycat aspect of it all: “Holland did this, Europeans are cool, let’s do the exact same thing!” (I mean, sheesh, how about doing something a little different like, say, trace the original path of Taddle creek rather than just painting whole roads blue.)
    I think the idea fails it aesthetically, conceptually and originality-wise.
    If it’s a publicly-funded piece, we the public can debate the merits of the work, but let’s not accuse people of not being dreamers because they think this particular piece is ugly.

  • matty

    the irony of creating an “urban river” in a country that is probably 20% canals is pretty thick.
    at some point you just have to say “come on”

  • ElleDriver

    “It’s ugly!” It’s too blue!” “Vulgar!” Waa-waa-waa!
    The Europeans ARE light-years ahead of us, in terms of the arts. Europe has a long history of supporting the arts and artists, and this is reflected on how much government spending is given to art programs and galleries. Additionally, artists and designers are generally paid well and make a pretty good living, unlike here.
    We’re so fucking practical-minded, when it comes to creating public art: Will it offend? Does it have a useful function? Can we make money off it? How much will it cost us? Why are we wasting money on this anyway? Why bother at all?
    It’s no wonder the works of Christo or Claes Oldenburg would never be accepted in this city. (Well, except when it’s done on a much smaller scale by an art student in Grange Park.)
    Henry Moore’s “Two Large Forms” have become an AGO landmark now, but I have no doubt that if he had donated his sculpture today, and not in the 70′s, it would’ve been rejected. Why? Because it’s a big giant vagina. (Seriously.) Vulgar indeed.

  • antiboy

    ElleDriver: note the ecological damage of said art installation mentioned by several posters (and the irony therein).
    A giant vagina isn’t really gonna be shedding probably hundreds of litres of paint-tainted water into waterways and sewers every year. A giant “river” of paint probably will.

  • spacejack

    Actually come to think of it, our own CN Tower’s programmable LEDs are pretty darned cool as a public art display. I like em a lot more than this empty swimming pool-coloured road thing. Plus you can see them from all over the city.

  • ElleDriver

    You have to remember that this was created in April – I’ve yet to read or hear about the ecological damage that has apparently ravaged Drachten since then. No blue-colored CHUDs to report of, so far.
    And you’ve got to give the Dutch government and their citizens some credit: I’m going to assume they’re using organic paints (yes, they do exist.) Holland has one of the most sophisticated water management systems in the world. They know better than to do something stupid that would jeopardize the safety of their water.

  • Ben

    ElleDriver, I differ and guess that they would use typical road paints. I goes along better with the theme of the project.