Toronto’s art scene is a vibrant expression of the progressiveness Canada is known for around the world. While there's plenty to explore all year long, some may say that the city truly comes to life with incredible style, art and design in the fall. Immerse yourself in the local art scene and explore the lesser-known galleries outside of big-ticket hotspots like the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Then, grab some late-night eats and drinks so you can continue the conversation well after.
Regent Park is arguably the largest revitalization the city has seen in decades. Its community cultural hub, Daniels Spectrum, is home to many art and community initiatives and organizations. Open to the public and free of charge, its Hallway Galleries showcase the work of artists from Regent Park and beyond. With its mantra, “Rooted in Regent Park, Open to the World,” it is home to some incredible organizations and collections that will inspire anyone who walks through its doors.
The Power Plant
Although The Power Plant has a large following that could easily put it on the same pedestal as the ROM and AGO, it also boasts a laid-back vibe that’s perfect for its Harbourfront surroundings. Touted as Canada’s leading non-collecting, public art gallery devoted to contemporary visual art—it’s more than a gallery. It also hosts lectures and features interpretive tools that invite visitors to question, explore and reflect upon their experiences. Essential to the cultural infrastructure of the city and country, it’s internationally recognized while championing groundbreaking contemporary Canadian art.
Once you’ve walked through the Powerplant and taken in all it has to offer, you can head just a few feet over to Boxcar Social, which overlooks Lake Ontario. It has an impeccable selection of both coffee and alcoholic beverages to cap the night off.
Just north of Mercer Union, you’ll find Cooper Cole, a stunning minimalist gallery often filled with bold and challenging artworks. Diverging from stereotypically pretentious spaces, this gallery highlights mid-career artists who defy genres yet predominately fall into pop surrealist styles.
As soon as you wrap up the gallery experience, you’ll naturally stumble upon The Greater Good Bar, which is virtually next door. The sequel to the wildly popular Get Well Bar, famous for being a craft beer video arcade, brings the same vibe to the area. What sets it apart? It serves pizza from North of Brooklyn Pizzeria. Bring an appetite.
Considered by many to be one of Toronto’s very first “Done By Community” spaces, Canvas Gallery will bring you north of the downtown core. It fosters professional, underground and grassroots art and cultural events in an effort to “bridge the gap between emerging and professional creatives and drive culture forward for marginalized groups.” The gallery has also hosted pop-ups and magazine launches.
End your night at The Stockyards, a local favourite for some down-to-earth, delicious BBQ. Unfortunately, its smash hit chicken and waffles are only available until 3 p.m. because of how popular they are. So, consider going before you visit Canvas. It’s a great stop for freshly made burgers and sandwiches as well.
West End Art Crawl
As you head further west, you’ll be blown away by how many amazing art galleries there are. Follow this route—you can’t go wrong. First, head to Mercer Union on Bloor. This non-profit, artist-centred space isn’t afraid of taking on ambitious projects. From there, walk south to Scrap Metal Gallery, which focuses on bold, critical and poetic contemporary art. Next door at the Daniel Faria Gallery, you can catch the works of select heavy-hitters such as Douglas Coupland, Shannon Bool and Mark Lewis. End the night at one of the best artist-run centres in the city, Art Metropole x MOCA Toronto. You’ll definitely walk away with a few new prints and books.
Consider heading south to The Drake Hotel afterwards, known for supporting local artists like Insa, Ness Lee and Tobias Williams. From there, continue the search for art on Queen West or turn it into a pub crawl. The night is always young in this part of the city.