How is it this place has been hiding in plain sight?

Since last winter, during the depths of lockdown, I’ve been trying to coax readers outside to enjoy unexpected sights – public art located mere blocks from Cabbagetown. Now that temperatures are coming down once more it’s time to take advantage of re-opened galleries … as this Gentle Treasure Hunt series continues.

Let’s start westward from Parliament, along Carlton. Cut diagonally through Allan Gardens down to Gerrard Street and across Jarvis.

Using Joseph Lammirato’s telephone-pole art installations as your guide – on the north side of Gerrard Street are coloured panels of wood with small model cars attached to them – follow them continue as far as number 80, just before Church Street among a row of historic homes. Head up the stairs and through the door into a public art museum called Gallery Arcturus.

Those who have never been inside – especially locals – often feel immediate surprise: how is it this place has been hiding in plain sight?

Occupying two heritage townhouses for more than 20 years, these walls contain painting, sculpture, drawing and many works in paper, particularly collage. With only a small promotion budget (it’s a non-commercial public art museum) the gallery is terribly hard to categorize. I should know; I work there and have tried categorizing it for years.

If you are open to seeing a great variety of media – and are also prepared to navigate stairs — there are marvels to be found over four floors. Eight exhibits flow one into the next, all installed carefully by curator Deborah Harris.

Another surprise: Lawren Harris (no relation) depicted the buildings in his 1912 painting Houses, Gerrard Street which can be found in the McMichael Collection.

Much of the works in Gallery Arcturus were created by Toronto artists and quite a few were made in its studios or within the public exhibit spaces themselves.

More artistic riches are on display barely two blocks away … in the Ryerson Image Centre at Gould and Bond Streets. As a part of the university the RIC was closed for longer periods than required by provincial rules – but the curators made up for that by adorning nearby campus buildings with photographs. Even when the museum is closed visitors can partake in an outdoor exhibit at eye level and if you look well, you’ll also find pictures in unexpected second-floor displays.

The Image Centre’s indoor galleries hint at the vast holdings of this institution. Most of the exhibits feature recent works but ask about photographs from its collection. Some may be on display or part of scheduled talks by researchers.

Ed Drass works in communications at Gallery Arcturus, a not-for-profit public art museum on Gerrard Street East. You can reach him at

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