A series of easy solutions to some of Toronto's urban ugliness can be found in an unlikely place – the subway.
Pattison Onestop, which operates the video screens on the city's subway platforms, is showing several 30-second clips in connection with the National Film Board of Canada that depict ideas for making the no-man's land around Toronto's barren, low-income high-rises far more livable.
The clips are running on subway platforms throughout the TTC and show dilapidated sites in and around the high-rises along Kipling Avenue between Finch and Steeles avenues in northwest Toronto.
The clips artfully imagine, with animation, how an empty grass hill can be turned into a vibrant garden. Or how an alienating parking lot can become a farmer's market and a space for dancers. Or how an abandoned tennis court can be converted to a welcoming public thoroughfare.
The typical attitude among many is "to drive by a high-rise and you look the other way, because they are just so ugly, ubiquitous and they are all the same," said Katerina Cizek, a filmmaker who directs the Highrise project at the NFB, which involves multimedia works that examine the increasing density and declining state of low-income high-rise towers in Toronto and around the world.
The TTC clips and accompanying posters in the subway draw particularly from Highrise'sshort film One Millionth Tower. The film and accompanying online features (which can be seen at http://highrise.nfb.ca/onemillionthtower) match residents of the Kipling towers with architects and animators to dream very specific, very doable ways to make the area more attractive.
"For me, what I hope for Highrise as a whole and One Millionth Tower in particular is to take a second look at that high-rise, to take a second look at the possibility of the space and the possibility of imagination," Ms. Cizek said. Solutions can be as simple as taking down fences blocking access to these spaces.
Pattison Onestop isn't mandated by the TTC to run community and arts programming on its advertising screens. Yet the company said it does so throughout the year to connect more with the public. Other initiatives have included clips tied to the Contact photography festival, Nuit Blanche and the popular Toronto Urban Film Festival, which shows brief independent film clips and runs in September.