Ice breakers transforms Toronto’s waterfront until the end of the month
February 21, 2018

In 2015 Toronto’s eastern beaches were transformed with Winter Stations, a temporary art installation that demonstrated something we’ve long believed – that public art can elevate the experience of the everyday. In 2017 the exhibition spread its frosty wings and introduced Ice Breakers to the city’s west end. This year, Ice Breakers is back and better than ever, with five wintertime installations bringing colour, warmth, and a little buzz to Queens Quay.

The five installations were selected in an international design competition that received over 100 submissions from around the world. Each artistic team was asked to submit an idea that paid tribute to this year’s theme, “Constellation,” exploring astrology, mythology, history, the earth, and the stars.

Photo courtesy of blogTO

Three Canadian submissions made the cut: the colourful twisting sculptures of Winter FanFare by Vancouver-based Thena Tak; Root Cabin, the rustic “tree house” every Canadian kid dreams of, by Liz Wreford and Peter Sampson in Winnipeg; and Through the Eyes of the Bear, an enormous red sculpture by Calgary-based artist Tanya Goertzen, that resembles a giant gummi bear.

The two remaining installations, Black Bamboo and Ensemble, came out of China and Portugal respectively, and round out this year’s exhibition with abstract designs that invite interaction with the bamboo (Black Bamboo) and wind chime (Ensemble) frames.

As in years past, the Ice Breaker mission is “to bring colour, warmth and activity to the water's edge, inviting people out of their buildings to take a winter walk along the Waterfront and appreciate the unique Toronto landscape at this time of year.”

Photo courtesy of blogTO

The name Ice Breakers is inspired by the utilitarian ships once used in Toronto’s harbour to break up frozen bodies of water, keeping commerce flowing into and out of the city. It’s also a testament to the power of design, bringing strangers together and sparking a fresh dialogue about Toronto's urban waterfront.

Ultimately, that’s the power of public art – to act not just as an Instagram backdrop (although we can attest that the #TOicebreakers are certainly popping up in our social feeds), but to spark conversation, to make you think, and to inject a little bit of the unexpected into daily life. So bundle up and head outside for a breath of inspiration and fresh air, Toronto’s waterfront awaits.

Ice Breakers is on from January 19 to February 25. For more information visit

Lead photo courtesy of blogTO