More than 200,000 people work in the Financial District each workday, and many more cross through the downtown core on a regular basis. While we’re all familiar with the architecture of the area and its grand scale, many visitors are too busy or too rushed to notice the public art on display at street level. Due to the number of major office towers and the public art installations within them, the Financial District is said to have the highest concentration of publicly accessible art in Canada.
1) City People – Royal Bank Plaza
Coming out the doors of Union Station, the building on the corner of Front and Bay Streets is Royal Bank Plaza. On the steps leading up to the building on Front Street sit “City People.” This piece was created by Catherine Widgery, and consists of 18 painted aluminum cut-outs of people, meant to reflect the passing pedestrians in the area. These people line the stairs and are mounted on poles which allow them to turn in the wind.
2) Gallery of Inuit Art – Toronto Dominion Centre
Heading north towards TD Centre is the Gallery of Inuit Art. TD Bank has been collecting artwork from Canada’s Inuit people from the Arctic region since the mid 1960s, and now has more than 200 pieces. The gallery was opened in 1987 as a co-operative project between TD Bank and Cadillac Fairview. It’s an extensive collection of Inuit Art and is free to the public.
3) Courtyard Cows (The Pasture) – Toronto Dominion Centre
Across Wellington Street lay seven life-sized bronze statue cows in the courtyard of the TD Centre. These cows are a fan favourite—during the warmer months, workers in the Financial District sit among them during lunch hour. You can do it too, if you can find a free cow to hang out with! Created by Canadian sculptor Jo Fafard in 1985, the cows represent the roots of Canada’s agrarian economy.
4) Businessman Walking – Commerce Court
Across Bay Street is Commerce Court, which holds several pieces of art. In the lobby of Commerce Court East stands a small, sharply dressed man. The bronze statue was created by William McElcheran in 1986, and is meant to represent those who work in the Financial District every day.
5) Tembo, Mother of Elephants – Commerce Court
Back outside, in the courtyard of Commerce Court roams a small (read: large) family of elephants. A bronze statue of a mother and two baby elephants stands in the southwest corner of the courtyard. Lined up single file, the mother elephant leads her offspring to water: the fountain in the middle of the courtyard. Tembo was completed in 2002 by Derrick Stephan Hudson, and is currently on loan from the L. L. Odette Foundation of Windsor, Ontario.
6) Commerce Court North
Commerce Court North, is, well, the building north of the elephants. Until 1962, it was the tallest building in the British Commonwealth. To humanize the scale of what was then the tallest building in Canada, architects incorporated Canadian animals in the carvings on the outside walls to represent various industries. These animal carvings were a secret code of symbols: bumblebees represented hard work, squirrels represented responsible savings, and lions represented brave investing.
7) Two Circles – Bay Adelaide Centre
Continuing on our journey north is the Bay-Adelaide Centre. In the lobby of the Bay-Adelaide Centre East is Micah Lexiar’s work, Two Circles. As the name suggests, this art piece is made up of two circles—one facing Adelaide Street and one facing Temperance Street—which are made up of small ceramic tiles. Nobody knows the exact number of tiles used to create these pieces, but the installation took more than three months to complete.
8) Monument to Construction Workers – Cloud Gardens Park
Across the street from Bay Adelaide Centre on Temperance Street is Cloud Gardens Park. The Monument to Construction Workers was completed in 1994 by Margaret Priest, and consists of panels made with materials representing 25 different trades throughout Toronto. Contributions include work with concrete, rubble, brickwork, stainless steel, glass, and zinc. Cloud Gardens Park is open to the public and also includes a hidden gem of the Financial District: a fully functioning greenhouse.
Where to see it
This map is designed to help show you where in the Financial District these art pieces are. PATH connections between buildings are shown in orange. For a more detailed list of public artworks, see this map at the Toronto Financial District BIAs site.