Skip to Content


Exploring how “play” can help drive our urban recovery, The Bentway presents a neighbourhood-wide program of playable installations, playful moments, talks, and audio experiences.

July 7, 2021 [Toronto, ON] - The Bentway launches Playing in Public this summer, a collection of outdoor and online projects that invite you to rediscover “play” in the city. By the neighbourhood, for the neighbourhood, the program includes  8 art installations, a connective Play Path, roaming and audio experiences, and more

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. Installations (including work by Daily tous les jours, Esmaa Mohamoud, Assemble, Studio F-Minus, Thomas Mailaender and Erik Kessels, Pierre Poussin, The Street Society, and Nelson Wu and biosphere) are rolling out in the coming weeks; with the full exhibition launching on Wednesday July 7.

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?

“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.”

The Playing in Public lineup includes: 

Eight (8) creative installations, including new forms of basketball, play equipment, and music-making:

  • Walk Walk Dance by Daily tous les jours (Montreal)
    A series of contactless music-making lines that demonstrates how participation and interaction can create new spaces for play even amidst COVID-19 protocols. It’s simple: step, jump, roll or dance.
    Fort York Visitor Centre, 250 Fort York Blvd
  • Double Dribble by Esmaa Mohamoud (Toronto)
    A surrealist basketball court questions the accessibility of play, featuring 28 hoops of varying sizes/heights and wildly dysfunctional courtliness running up to the highway above. In this impossible game, how will you write your own rules for play?
    The Bentway, 250 Fort York Blvd
  • Big Red by Assemble (UK)
    Inspired by an unrealized drawing by Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi, a soaring red play sculpture suggests boundless childhood imagination. Step up; slide down. Hang out and dream in the spaces between.
    The Bentway, 250 Fort York Blvd
  • Nil:Nil by Studio F-Minus (Toronto)
    An endless soccer game plays out on larger-than-life devices. The first monument to the era of COVID-19; a portrait of play in pandemic times.
    The Bentway, 250 Fort York Blvd
  • Play Public by Thomas Mailaender (France) and Erik Kessels (Netherlands)
    Co-commissioned with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

    Compulsive collectors draw from the photographic archives of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) to activate a constructed urban playscape, recalling memories of past “summers of play” in the city’s iconic fairgrounds.
    The Bentway Studio, 55 Fort York Blvd (next to Canoe Landing Park)
  • Jax by Pierre Poussin (Toronto)
    Co-commissioned with Concord Adex
    One of the world’s oldest games is re-imagined, scaled up, and embrightened by the colours of the new 2SLGBTQQIA+ flag. All players are welcome.
    Under the Gardiner at Dan Leckie Way
  • Dream Street by The Street Society (France)
    Co-presented by TAS
    This utopian mural was co-created with youth from Paris and Toronto, inviting visitors to experience the ideal city from a child’s vantage. A perfect backdrop to learn, make believe, and record stories.
    125-133 Niagara St
  • Midsummer Mix Vol. 1 by Nelson Wu (Toronto) and biosphere (Toronto)
    Co-presented with the Waterfront BIA
    Everyday icons and architectures of Toronto’s waterfront are transformed into various levels of a hyper-local video game, complete with an 8-bit inspired soundtrack. Level up your waterfront stroll.
    South side of Queens Quay West (Bathurst St to York St)

Connective wayfinding linking the installations together:

  • An interactive Play Path that guides visitors through the neighbourhood and offers opportunities to “play the city” with engaging interventions on local sidewalks, bridges, bike rings, and building faces, and six (6) “Tiny Games” developed with the Hand Eye Society

Roaming experiences to discover:

  • Audio playcasts offering reflections on play in the city with: Britta B. (spoken word artist); Dan Iaboni (parkour practitioner; founder of The Monkey Vault); youth in conversation with Urban Minds
  • A joy-inducing, smile-spreading pop-up by Stuart Semple (UK) that reminds us how play can help us through our toughest times.
    Various (secret) dates and locations
  • Artist residency with Bekah Brown (Toronto; Anishinaabe) exploring Indigenous traditions of recreation, culture, and sport as tools for resistance, healing, and reconciliation
    Throughout the summer
  • Toronto-based Retro Rolla will offer paid roller skate rentals onsite. Pre-registration is required. 19+ visitors are also invited to a post-skate sip next to the Skate Trail on Saturdays later this summer, courtesy of Smirnoff Berry Blast.
    Thursdays to Sundays at The Bentway, 250 Fort York Blvd

Online talks on play as a strategy for urban recovery, co-presented with World Urban Parks and 8 80 Cities:

Featured guests include: Alex Bozikovic, Mitchell Chan, Jen DeMelo, Adil Dhalla, Tim Gill, Alexandra Lange, Melissa Mongiat, Amanda O’Rourke, Janie Romoff, and Luis Serrano  
On July 13 and September 7.

More information and updates to Playing in Public programming are available at

This summer The Bentway asks people to come play together (safely) again. 

Playing safe is our priority. We encourage the public to safely explore this exhibition.

Please use the installations as intended. Do not climb to unsafe heights or take other unnecessary risks. Actively supervise any children under 10. 

Please be COVID safe and follow all current public health guidelines:

  • Respect gathering limits
  • Stay 2m apart from people outside your household
  • Wear a mask
  • Please plan around anticipated busy times (i.e. weekends, evenings) 
  • The installations will be monitored. If too many people are gathering, we will turn off, fence off, or ask people to leave the exhibit.COVID-19 is a fast moving and complex situation, please stay tuned to our website for all COVID-19 announcements relating to Playing in Public.

City of Toronto, the Waterfront BIA

Concord Adex, TAS, Fort York National Historic Site, Cossette, Craft Public Relations, Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

The Bentway’s local neighbours, artists, and play partners.

Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, Government of Ontario, Ontario Arts Council, Balsam Foundation, Fondation DRG, Park People Public Space Incubator, TD Bank Group, RBC, The Michael Young Family Foundation, The Hal Jackman Foundation, The McLean Foundation, Partners In Art, Smirnoff, CityPlace Fort York BIA, Consulate of France

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

Duncan Peng Craft Public Relations






About The Bentway

The Bentway re-imagines how we build, experience, activate, and value public space together. Of the city; about the city; for the city.

The Bentway Conservancy is an independent charity, a not-for-profit profit powered by vital partnerships with the City of Toronto, residents, supporters, artists, creatives, city-builders, and dreamers.

Our work is anchored by a new and growing site located under Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway, which we operate, maintain, and program as a platform for creative practice, public art, and connected urban life. As a new model for public space in Toronto and a forum for social engagement, The Bentway continues to evolve amidst the changing landscape of the city, developing opportunities and partnerships that address the key issues of our time.

Phase 1 of The Bentway – under the Gardiner from Strachan Avenue to Fort York Blvd – opened in 2018 and knits together seven local neighbourhoods with nearly 100,000 residents, creating a gateway to the Waterfront, while providing access to important attractions and destinations – from Fort York National Historic Site, Ontario Place and Exhibition Place to Harbourfront Centre and the CN Tower. The Bentway offers year-round activities and events, public art installations, recreational amenities and programs, community programming, performances, and more.

The Bentway
250 York Blvd.,
Toronto, ON M5V 3K9