Arts and culture events, Toronto

Devyani Saltzman is a founding curator of Luminato, Toronto’s festival of arts and creativity. Here’s her pick of Toronto's finest cultural experiences, from opera to ice cream

Despite having worked in Toronto’s local arts scene all my professional life, I’m constantly surprised and delighted by the city’s new multidisciplinary performance spaces. Visitors will find incredible work in all sorts of intimate, interesting environments, from converted department stores to apartments above the local bank. It’s a fantastic insight into the fabric of the city, as well as to its contemporary culture.

Independent theatre

A slew of fantastic independent theatre companies have recently found new permanent homes in the city. To see some of Toronto’s best contemporary theatre, head to The Theatre Centre’s newly-minted space in a former library and converted heritage building on Queen St. West. Toronto’s newest ‘live arts hub and incubator’, the centre’s excellent programming includes hybrid productions by Toronto’s Volcano Theatre and The Cape Farewell Foundation, plus guest talks by visiting companies like Belarus Free Theatre. Afterwards, walk down Ossington Ave. and grab dinner at cosy bistro Union, followed by ice cream at Bang Bang Ice Cream & Bakery for the most delicious ice-cream sandwiches in town.

Contemporary dance

To catch cutting-edge contemporary dance, check out Daniels Spectrum, in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood. Once Canada’s oldest and largest social housing project, the neighbourhood has gone through a major revitalization. Daniels Spectrum hosts performances by Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, one of Toronto’s best contemporary site-specific dance companies, and even the annual Regent Park Film Festival. Afterwards, stroll for ten minutes to Parliament St. for some of the best Thai food in the city at Sukho Thai.

Art and photography galleries

Three of Toronto’s most interesting gallery spaces were also venues in the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, the largest photography event in the world, which occurs every year, in May. At the beautiful Ryerson Image Centre, you’ll find exhibitions showcasing major Canadian and international photographers, and images from the Black Star Collection – a key photojournalist holding of nearly 300,000 black-and-white images documenting major events in the twentieth century. MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, always has a provocative programme of exhibitions in the pipeline, and it’s not far from the BAND Gallery. Located in a converted apartment above a bank in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood, the gallery opened with a major exhibition of Gordon Parks’ work – one of the seminal figures in twentieth-century photography – and is currently showing work by Haitian artists.

Fringe opera

To experience opera in some unusual venues, take a look at Against the Grain Theatre’s season. The company has performed in a variety of spaces, from the top floor of a turn-of-the-century former department store to the TranZac Club, the city’s Australia-New Zealand club, where it staged La bohème, with popcorn and beer on sale to the audience. Against the Grain’s upcoming production, Uncle John, will be a modern, English adaptation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

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