Category Archives: Public Art

Humber Bay Pedestrian Bridge



Written by: Kirsty Howie
Photos credit: Montgomery Sisam

The Humber River, one of the two major rivers in Ontario, is 100km long and flows into Lake Ontario. Atop this body of water lies a bridge in a place that connects what use to be considered Toronto and Etobicoke, where the Humber flows out into the vast waters of Lake Ontario. Completed in 1994 the Humber Bay Arch Bridge is 139 meters long, with a width of 6.50 meters and cost a total of $4,050,000 to build. This bridge is also known as the Gateway Bridge/ Humber Bay Pedestrian Bridge as this is the best way to cross the city if not in a car.

The project was a complied team of the clients, engineers, artists, and architects, and “it was a true collaboration of many different disciplines” (Brad Golden, one of the team members). One of the architects hired for the job was Montgomery and Sisam Architects Firm; and Delcan oversaw the structural engineering as well as the construction supervision of the project. Ahmoo (Allan) Angeconeb from Lac Seul First Nation was the First Nations art consultant for the project. Ahmoo is often a guest lecturer in First Nations art classes. He is also a consultant and has been a judge for the Ontario Arts Counsel regarding First Nations Art. His work is featured in the in collections at the McMicheal Canadian Collection, Museum Institute of Indian Art, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, University of Onsabruck, and the Woodland Indian Centre.
Although Ahmoo was consulted for the project, unfortunately there was not much First Nation input in the project and the architects on the project chose the designs ( Everyone had a voice in the project, and it was not done by one individual person or firm. This is a reflection of First Nations culture as many times in many circumstances the whole community will have a chance to speak and give input, and the matter at hand cannot be dissolved until everyone agrees.


The bridge is a beautiful piece of art that honors the First Nations influence in the area, as the bridge sits on top of a heavily travelled trading route used by First Nations for more than two hundred years (Mongomery and Sisam), and played a key role in Canada’s development and history. This route allowed First Nations people to gain access to Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay (Montgomery and Sisam). The space was also shared with the French Settlers whom created a trading post near the mouth of the Humber River in 1720 (Museum of Archelogy). The top of the bridge displays the Thunderbird, an important symbol to First Nations people. The Thunderbird is the seer of all, being able to fly so high above all and it carries many significant traditional teachings. Under the bridge turtles, canoes, snakes and salmon are displayed, which act to commemorate the First Nations influence on the area, as well as the natural species that used to inhabit this space, but have since left due to pollution. It is a reminder that with the rise of the concrete world we need to remember and respect what used to be here, and treat it in a way that will enable these creatures to return and stay.


The Arch Bridge has won many awards including the Governor General’s Award of Merit 1997, City of Toronto’s Urban Design Award of Excellence 1997, Award of Excellence from the City of Etobicoke 1996, The Canadian Institute of Steel Design 1996, Canadian Architect 1995 ( The Bridge also won the Waterfront Centre Honor Design Award 1997, and lastly, City of Toronto Urban Design Award in 1997 (Ferris and Associates Firm).
On top of accomplishing all of these awards, the Arch Bridge is featured on the 15 most amazing and beautiful bridges list (international) coming in at number 14.

The photos below are of the fence that was around the construction site of the bridge. The team felt that since the fence would be up for at least seven years while the bridge was being completed it would make sense for the surrounding enclosure to relate to what would soon emerge. The design that was chosen for the fence embodies that of a Wampum Belt. In First Nations culture, specifically Haudenosaunee, the Wampum Belt symbolizes a contract between two groups, in most cases the Haudenosaunee and the European settlers. It is a treaty and bond that promises to respect one another and not interfere with each other’s ways.


The Nindinawemaaganidok / All My Relations Art Mural


In early January 2012 wooden fencing was put up around the construction area for the Gerrard Watermain Replacement Project. The hoarding (2 football fields in length) will be up until around May, 2015 to cover the underground tunneling site. The co-artistic producers, Tannis Nielsen and Phil Cote worked with a team of artists to create this monumental work of art which depicts 4 themes dedicated to Community, Water, Anishinaabe Teachings and History of the Land.

The Eastern wall is vibrant and honours indigenous communities across hemispheres: both the local Anishnawbe people and the people of Chile.

Women’s Memorial Wall (North-East) reflects First Nations cultural and spiritual teachings about women. Artist Amanda Murray and co-artistic producer Tannis Nielsen show the central theme of Woman, Water and the Moon. Sky Woman is at the centre of the mural with 13 moons in this mono-chromatic scene.

Traditional Teachings Wall (North) has Grandmother Moon on the left to Grandfather Sun on the right. Sky Woman and the Great Turtle in the Haudenosaunee creation story are shown along with colourful images of animals. History of the land continues with strong traditional images. First Man, animals, Thunderbird and other images paint an interesting timeline.

The south wall shows swirling water with images of plants, a dragonfly and life. Different styles of painting make this mural project an interesting piece of art.

This wall is the work of 21 community artists and depicts local and national indigenous history. Funding for the project was provided by C&M McNally Engineering.

The artists: Natasha Naveau, Rosary Spence, Gwen Lane, Angela Malley, Judy Rheume, Gary M. Johnston, Amanda Murray, Rebecca Baird, Cotee Harper, Graham Curry, Briana Stone, Lyndsey Lickers-Nyle Johnston, Isaac Weber, Honey Smith, Shelby Rain McDonald, Paula Gonzalez-Ossa, Kalmplex, Adrion Corey Charles, Ron Razor and Steven Henderson.

*Video and text by Peter Mykusz

Check out the project’s Facebook page:


House Posts

These house posts were commissioned by the Wigwamen Housing Corporation to commemorate the building of Wigwamen Terrace at 14 Spadina Road in 1979, and were donated to the Toronto Transit Commission. The Gitksan artists, who are known for their skilled carvings, are from Hazelton, British Columbia. Carved out of red cedar, these traditional housing supports depict an owl, wolf and a hawk. The owl was carved by Fedelia O’Brien, the wolf by Murphy Green, and the hawk by Chuck Heit.

House Post Plaque


“Art In The Subway.” Wigwam to Wigwam February 2003: 1. Print.

The NCCT’s Totem Pole

Photographer: Jon Johnson

Photographer: Jon Johnson

Much more than an identifying symbol, the Native Canadian Centre’s totem pole represents the strength, pride and power of the urban Native Community in Toronto. The 12m high totem pole was donated in 1980 by artist Don McLeay, born in Saskatchewan in 1940, of Plains Cree origin.

'antefixus21 - Flickr'

‘antefixus21 – Flickr’

On September 13, 1980 a pole rising ceremony was conducted on the front lawn of the NCCT. Using several tones of Red Cedar, the pole was designed with the use of clan systems from this part of the country to represent the coming together of people from different nations at the NCCT. Some totems presented are a bear with a salmon in its paws, a wolf with a human in its paws, raven, thunderbird, weasel, turtle, and a frog.

By Amber Sandy

'antefixus21 - Flickr'

‘antefixus21 – Flickr’

'antefixus21 - Flickr'

‘antefixus21 – Flickr’