Toronto, ON

Tour the art—old, new and reimagined—of Toronto

Cosmopolitan allure—big city, bright lights—and culture make Toronto an art-lover’s go-to. Gaze at a Flemish Baroque painting or marvel at Indigenous street art, and see old architecture, like the 1892 Gooderham Building or Flatiron Building, contrast with the sweeps and angles of modern edifices, sometimes even morphing within one structure.

Like the Royal Ontario Museum, a cultural institution since 1914 with a world-class collection of 13 million art-works, cultural objects and natural history specimens—the most-visited museum in Canada. Its original Italianate/Neo-Romanesque building has been melded into the prism-like Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, a contemporary structure designed by Daniel Libeskind. Walk by in wonder. rom.on.ca

The 1892 Gooderham Building (Flatiron Building) (left); A contemporary structure designed by Daniel Libeskind (right). Photos by Dawson Lovell, Unplash; Tourism Toronto

Another reimagined space, including a glass-and-wood façade and show-stopping spiral staircase, is the Art Gallery of Ontario redesign by Canadian architect Frank Gehry. Here, you can see a collection that includes The Massacre of The Innocents (by that Flemish master, Peter Paul Rubens), alongside the Group of Seven. And, on now is an exhibition of striking black-and-white portraits by renowned American photographer Diane Arbus. ago.ca

Also revamped, the historic 1919 Tower Automotive Building in the city’s Lower Junction neighbourhood—once the tallest in Toronto and an aluminum factory that manufactured products for World War II— has become the Museum of Contemporary Art. The original structure is now a stripped-bare backdrop for modern-art exhibitions like the current interactive card-board installation by Carlos Bunga. moca.ca

The Art Gallery of Ontario redesigned by Canadian architect Frank Gehry (left); The Museum of Contemporary Art (right). Photos by Museum of Contemporary Art; Tourism Toronto

Yet another historic industrial site that’s been turned into gallery space is the Evergreen Brick Works. A former kiln building where bricks were made is now the TD Future Cities Centre, where immersive installations by a resident artist inspire visitors to ponder urban density, public space and diversity. evergreen.ca

Toronto artist, Indigenous muralist Philip Cote. Photo by Tourism Toronto

And throughout the city there’s the mix of old and new, with colourful street art on weathered walls in alleys or below once-gritty highway passes and subway bridges. In Underpass Park, designed by landscape architects to transform one such neglected space into a public park, local artist and architect Paul Raff’s “Mirage” is displayed on the actual underpass, its 57 octagonal stainless steel surfaces reflecting new life below. Another Toronto artist, Indigenous muralist Philip Cote, shares the oral traditions of storytelling in his public artwork—from a vibrant Anishinaabe woodland mural in the neighbourhood of Roncesvalles to a depiction of “All My Relations” in Allan Gardens, one of the oldest parks in Toronto.

It’s a big-city mash-up of art, industry, history, high-tech and creativity in the urban heart of Toronto.  — Barb Sligl

[MORE] Catch Hot Docs, the Canadian International Documentary Festival (the largest in North America) from April 30-May 10. hotdocs.ca

For info on Toronto: seetorontonow.com

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New York City, USA

Take to the streets and museums of New York City

The trees are bare, their graphic branches stretching across blue sky and frosty concrete and shiny glass amidst a forest of skyscrapers. New York City in winter has a stark beauty. But its frenetic energy is slightly softened, the constant buzz a bit muffled and every-thing seems to glow. Your breath puffs out in a big cloud as you crunch through Central Park in Manhattan. On the Upper East Side, the swish of ice skates at Wollman Rink mingles with the omnipresent hum of traffic on 5th Avenue. On the other side of the park, a short walk from Columbus Circle, people gather and take selfies at the “Imagine” memorial to John Lennon.

The Lower Manhattan skyline and street art near One World Trade Center. The "Imagine" mosaic memorial to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields on the Upper West Side of Central Park . Photos by Barb Sligl

There’s an introspective quality to the city in winter. Take to the streets and just walk. When it’s time to warm up, duck in to one of its more than 100 museums. On 53rd, the newly expanded MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) is a Midtown escape (starting February 9th is an exhibit on renowned photographer, Dorothea Lange).

Brave the chill again and walk west and then south, from Midtown into Chelsea, on the High Line—a 2.3km-long elevated greenway and rail trail—amidst outdoor art and the canopy of that forest of sky-scrapers. At the south end of the High Line, another museum beckons, the recently relocated Whitney Museum of American Art, where you can immerse in the iconic works of artists like Andy Warhol.

RIGHT Looking up at the skylight within the ribbed structure of the Oculus at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Photo by Barb Sligl

From here, it’s a few more blocks to Lower Manhattan. Take the subway to One World Trade Center, where emerging into the station will bring a different kind of chill. Millions of daily commuters pass through its sculptural entryway, called the “Oculus,” which opens up dramatically to the sky. Brilliant white and suffused with light, it’s as if you’re levitating in the space. Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, says of the retractable skylight, “…we are framing a piece of Manhattan’s sky.” Sunlight projects onto the floor in what he calls the “Way of Light,” and at 10:28am on September 11th—coinciding with the time of the second tower’s collapse—it illuminates the central axis of the interior.

Exhibit at The Whitney Museum (left). The exterior of the Oculus by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, meant to reference a dove in flight (right). Photos by Barb Sligl

Outside, perched atop Ground Zero, the steel-and-glass structure takes the form of 350-foot wings—a bird-shaped reference to a dove. It’s sobering but up-lifting—and somehow brightens even the darkest days of winter.—Barb Sligl

[GO] January 21 to February 9 is NYC Restaurant Week, NYC Broadway Week and NYC Must-See Week: three weeks of prix-fixe meals and two-for-one tickets.

More info: nycgo.com

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Whistler, BC

Time to hit the slopes in Whistler

The dark-and-gnarly form of Black Tusk pokes high out of the spread of mountains that surround Whistler Blackcomb. Photo by Barb Sligl

On a bluebird day at Whistler Blackcomb (the ski resort opens on November 28 this season…get ready!), there are no bad runs. But if that sun is shining, take a ride all the way up the Peak Chair to 2,182 metres.

From here, there’s Whistler Bowl (hello, moguls) back under the lift, but the easier way down is around the backside of Whistler Peak, stopping for selfies by the inukshuk with Black Tusk in the background, a gnarly finger pointing into that blue. Glide past the spread of Garibaldi Provincial Park (peak after peak after peak) and zip alongside Little Whistler Peak and into the opening of The Saddle (a Whistler-level “blue” run) next to Glacier Bowl. The steep drop will get your blood pumping. Yee-haw!

Next up: 1,925 hectares of skiable area, 1,530 metres of vertical, more than 200 runs, 37 lifts, almost 12 metres of snow…and a wow traverse of the valley between Whistler and Blackcomb via the Peak 2 Peak gondola, the longest and highest such lift in the world (with Guinness World Records).

Whew. Take a break from the downhill action and recoup with après-ski in the village (from a chilled vodka in the ice room at Bearfoot Bistro to a well-deserved bottle of Whistler Brewing’s Lost Lake IPA) and then some cultural reflection at the Audain Art Museum (home to a beautiful collection of First Nations masks and works by artists like Emily Carr). And when the stars come out, go just beyond the buzz of the village to Cougar Mountain, where the award-winning multimedia forest walk Vallea Lumina is now open throughout the winter season.

Get “lost” in the beauty of Lost Lake, a short walk from the Upper Village. Photo by Barb Sligl

In the morning, if your legs are still burning, stretch them a slower way: a walk in the Upper Village to Lost Lake (the inspiration for that IPA—or two—last night). The body of water is a serene spot best taken in via the trail around its shores with pretty vistas framed by stoic trees. In late fall, you’ll get the last glimpses of bright-yellow leaves, another sunny counterpoint to the snowy white of the ski hill, which rises high above. Stay awhile and, yes, get lost in the Whistler vibe. — Barb Sligl

[GO] Hit the slopes: whistlerblackcomb.com

More info: whistler.com

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