ArtVenturist is a new column where we explore public art throughout the city.
BY: Roland Brener
LOCATION: 281-285 Mutual Street
Unless “Radio City” is home, you’ve likely never passed through “Radioville,” a tiny village set within the micro community of high rises near the Church-Wellesley Village. What once was the site of the CBC headquarters before it moved westward to Front Street is now—surprise, surprise—another condo development.
A spot rich with history, “Radio City” is where Canada aired its first radio transmission; it also housed the studio of famed comedy sketch troupes Wayne & Shuster and The Kids in the Hall.
Hints of the past are revealed only by name and design, with the word “Radioville” marking its entryway.
Radioville is a reconfigured public art piece that riffs on “Capital Z” (1993) and “Endsville,” (1997) the earlier works of its artist, Roland Brener.
It’s a natural progression from Brener’s take on the Monopoly-ish houses he first fashioned out of cardboard to its final iteration as flat-surfaced, stainless steel sculptures, each weighing about 50 pounds.
“Capital Z,” the original, would have been out place had it been installed outside the gallery space and situated within the new housing developments. The idea of the piece’s grouping of cookie-cutter town homes coexisting with crude cutouts, which represent the projects, would’ve been jarring.
Instead, with “Radioville,” we get 36 abstract shapes of varying sizes and heights that also closely resemble the radios of the 1930s and 60s, according to John Warkentin, who’s written a definitive survey of public art in Toronto. They double as seats and play structures—an extension of the playground just yards away.
Children walking by can’t resist hopping from one puzzle piece to another, and can easily wedge themselves in its narrow slots to descend the sculpture, use the circular and rectangular cutouts to climb on top and play leap frog. It’s no wonder Brener, who died from cancer a year after it was installed, thought “Radioville” was meant to thrive in the outdoors.