Playing in Public

The Bentway

July 7–September 26, 2021
July 15, 2021
Play as a Recovery Strategy (part one): July 13, 12pm
Play as a Recovery Strategy (part two): September 7, 12pm
Online lectures, RSVP below

The Bentway
250 Fort York Blvd
Toronto ON M5V 3K9
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The Bentway presents a neighbourhood-wide program of playable public art installations, playful moments, talks, and audio experiences.

The Bentway launches Playing in Public this summer, a collection of outdoor and online artist-led projects that rediscover “play” in the city. Driven by partnerships with creatives, residents, local business associations, public spaces, and civic leaders, the program includes 8 art installations, a connective Play Path, roaming and audio experiences, and more.

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 post-COVID city?

Installations are open now and include work by Daily tous les jours (Montreal), Esmaa Mohamoud (Toronto), Assemble (UK) Studio F-Minus Toronto), Thomas Mailaender (France) and Erik Kessels (Netherlands), Pierre Poussin (Toronto), The Street Society (France), Nelson Wu and biosphere (Toronto), Stuart Semple (UK), and Bekah Brown (Anishinaabe; Toronto). 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.

“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.”

Playing in Public includes playable art installations: Walk Walk Dance by Daily tous les jours (Montreal); Double Dribble by Esmaa Mohamoud (Toronto); Big Red by Assemble (UK); Nil:Nil by Studio F-Minus (Toronto); Play Public by Thomas Mailaender (France) and Erik Kessels (Netherlands) co-commissioned with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival; Jax by Pierre Poussin (Toronto) co-commissioned with Concord Adex; Dream Street by The Street Society (France) co-presented with TAS; and Midsummer Mix Vol. 1 by Nelson Wu (Toronto) and biosphere (Toronto) co-presented with the Waterfront BIA.

The exhibition also includes connective wayfinding linking the installations together through an interactive Play Path that guides visitors through the neighbourhood and offers opportunities to “play the city” and six (6) “Tiny Games” developed with the Hand Eye Society. In addition, audio playcasts offer reflections on play in the city with Britta B. (spoken word artist), Dan Iaboni (parkour practitioner and founder of The Monkey Vault), youth in conversation with Urban Minds; Happy Clouds by Stuart Semple (UK) reminds us how play can help us through our toughest times; and an artist residency with Bekah Brown (Toronto; Anishinaabe) explores Indigenous traditions of recreation, culture, and sport as tools for resistance, healing, and reconciliation. Finally, a series of online talks co-presented with World Urban Parks and 8 80 Cities, featuring Alex Bozikovic (moderator), Mitchell Chan, Jen DeMelo, Adil Dhalla, Tim Gill, Alexandra Lange, Melissa Mongiat, Amanda O’Rourke (moderator), Janie Romoff, and Luis Serrano explore the ways play can support our urban recovery. 

Playing safe is our priority. We encourage the public to safely explore this exhibition and abide by all public health guidelines.

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

Presenting Partners / Local neighbors and play partners / Supporters (details at