Art is lighting up the old Ontario Place grounds all winter, and here's what it looks like

Opening this weekend, Winter Light Exhibition is a free outdoor spectacle featuring 20 Toronto artists.

Opening this weekend, Winter Light Exhibition is a free outdoor spectacle featuring 20 local artists

Go towards the lights... Winter Light Exhibition features 12 installations by Ontario artists. Open daily until midnight, the free festival opens December 8. (Courtesy of Ontario Place Corporation)

Tis the season for winter festivals, and Toronto just got a new one.

Launching this Friday, Dec. 8, Winter at Ontario Place offers more than the usual hot cocoa and skating, though both options are available through March 18.

Break away from the concession stand for a spell, and you'll find its Winter Light Exhibition. Featuring a dozen installations by local artists, this public art treasure hunt is free to the public, and open daily until midnight.

If you were lucky enough to catch In/Future, the sprawling event that let people into the long-shuttered Ontario Place for a 10-day art festival, just note that this is a much more contained experience. Most of the work is kept to a short loop just beyond the skating rink — a fact that'll probably be appreciated as the temperature drops — and a handful of pieces can be seen glowing from the highway. 

Per the title, everything's illuminated — all the better for you to go roaming the abandoned log ride and silos under cover of darkness. (Just kidding, guys, don't do that.) All the art is outdoors, anyway, and to discover it, just go toward the light. Trees around the park are strung up with fairy lights to help direct visitors toward the good stuff.

As for what you'll discover, here are just a few of the installations waiting inside to test your nighttime iPhone photography skills.

Expanded Horizon

(Courtesy of Ontario Place Corporation)

Away from the main site and down by the water, you'll find Expanded Horizon, a project from local design duo Polymétis. They shared this tip during a preview tour earlier this week: plan your trip for sunset. The exterior of the piece is reflective, and when the sun goes down, Expanded Horizon creates a bit of a "Stonehenge effect" by the shore. But this one's not meant to be admired from afar — go inside and you'll experience an infinity room of mirrors and light that'll probably dominate Toronto Instagram feeds all season.

LUMOS

After you've made it through Expanded Horizon's selfie gauntlet, head west and you'll discover LUMOS, a triangular, interactive light sculpture by Matt DesLauriers, Steven Mengin and Jean-Michel Gariepy. It won't save you from the cold like the actual bonfire across from the skating rink, but the piece emits a red glow when people approach, a nod to old-timey warming huts.

Elevated Wavelengths

(Courtesy of Ontario Place Corporation)
(Courtesy of Ontario Place Corporation)

It's visible from several vantage points around the park — looking a bit like a giant laser that's pew-pew-pew-ing between the trees. But make sure you go see it up close. There's something magical about the spot where it's located — just close enough to Lake Ontario that on a windy night you can hear the waves crash against the beach. Artists Jeff Howard and Codrin Talaba write that Elevated Wavelengths was created to respond to the natural beauty of the spot. Two enormous blue rings — which are supposed to mimic waveforms — hang loosely in the trees. When the wind blows, they bob gently in the bare branches, making a meditative treat for the senses.

Reactor

From Burning Man to Ontario Place, artist Ryan Longo has toured Reactor around North America. It looks like a gnarled metal tree from another planet — which means it's perfectly at home among the artificial rocks and caverns of the old amusement park grounds.

Icicle Silo

(CBC Arts)

It's 12 feet tall, but it's dwarfed by the other silos on site. For this piece, Chris Foster built a smaller version of one of Ontario Place's signature towers. Lit up from inside by a cluster of jagged shards, like so many of the installations, it'll no doubt transform as the winter goes on. After a few snowfalls, those fake icicles will be growing icicles of their own.

Future Light Mural

(Courtesy of Ontario Place Corporation)

Fully visible from Lakeshore Blvd., this mural by Kizmet Gabriel is plenty trippy in the daytime, but when the sun goes down, reactive paints transform the sci-fi imagery. The picture changes colour, glowing red, green, purple and electric blue.

Winter Fields

(Courtesy of Ontario Place Corporation)

The sun is never closer to us than it is in winter. It's a fact that artist Tonya Hart emphasizes with this piece. Those curved acrylic threads represent the sun's magnetic fields.

Shine and Shimmer

(Courtesy of Ontario Place Corporation)

The log ride is long gone, but for the winter at least, Ontario Place still has a waterfall. That's LeuWebb Projects' Shine and Shimmer sparkling above the skating rink in this picture. On the side of the park's phony mountain, they've built this chute of tinsel and lights.

Winter Light Exhibition. Part of Winter at Ontario Place, Dec. 8 to March 18 at Ontario Place, Toronto. Open daily 5 a.m. to midnight. www.ontarioplace.com/winter

About the Author

Leah Collins

Leah Collins is the Senior Writer at CBC Arts.

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