Month: November 2019

Behind the Scenes of a Concrete Idea

Yonge + St. Clair has been seeing a whole new cast of publicly accessible, art and design projects to meet the needs of a neighbourhood that’s been buzzing with a newfound taste for cultural, and economic innovations in recent months. Whether it’s the birdO + Slate 10-Storey Mural, the new Studio F Minus mirrored art installation, or the ongoing roster of programming that alternates every season, creators and collaborators have been central to realizing the growing identity of this community. We spoke with Rick Schutte and Jacqueline Vandervaart, the designers and creators of an uncanny collection of concrete installations titled, “Inside Out,” which brought visitors from around Toronto to the Delisle Parkette, as part of Yonge + St. Clair’s art festival. The installation transformed an outdoor park into a familiar slice of home life through Jacqueline and Rick’s creative direction.




How did you get into installation art, and did you always know you would both be creating art?

Jacqueline: I have always been very interested in art from a very young age. My grandfather was an architect and has always been a huge inspiration of mine. Through his story telling I fell in love with art and architecture and hoped to create works of my own. Through my studies at the University of Toronto in architecture and my visual studies minor my desire to create artwork was only intensified. This installation is thus a product of these influences.

Rick: After studying the history of modern art in my first year of architecture, I fell in love with art, in every medium. With my background in construction, I knew Jacqueline and I would make a great team in approaching this installation competition.



The use of familiar household items in a park completely changes the context of what the park looks and feels like – what was the thought process behind Inside Out when you knew you’d be working with the 17 Delisle Ave parkette space?

J+R: After discovering that our installation was to be installed at the 17 Delisle Ave parkette space Rick and I were thrilled. The space perfectly complimented the installation and fulfilled our vision more successfully than we could have imagined. 

The thought process behind the organization of Inside out within the 17 Delisle Ave parkette space was motivated by the organization of a typical home. We placed the “front entry way” section of our installation (including a welcome mat and entry way table) where one would generally enter the parkette space. Following that leading inwards, a coat hanger and “shoe closet” space. We noticed that the parkette was naturally divided into three distinct section which we decided would represent the “rooms” of our installation. We decided that the centre section would house our “living room space” (including couch and tv) as this space typically sits at the centre of ones home. The “bedroom” and “bathroom” spaces were then placed on the two remaining sections chosen based on their ability to best compliment the pieces. Furthermore, the “kitchen” space was placed in between these section opposite to the “shoe closet” to create a general sense of balance. Finally, we installed a set of lights over each space to create both a sense of division and connectivity between spaces. 



What other projects are you currently working on?

J: I am currently working/experimenting with many different artistic mediums. Besides designing installations I additionally create many painted, collage and sculptural works. I have additionally been exploring the fashion world and have begun designing clothing. Furthermore, I accept tattoo and logo design commissions that I create in my spare time. 

R: My father owns a construction business, and I have been working alongside architects and engineers to produce technical drawings and renderings for his clients. In addition, we both design residential spaces such as detached and multi-unit housing. Through rendering, we are able to create realistic imagery and video walkthroughs of unrealized design projects for clients of Integro Studio. 



Can you let us know what the process of creating concrete household items involves?

J+R: Among other things the process of creating concrete household items takes determination, patience and a lot of hard work. We used a variety of different construction techniques and different kinds of concrete in order to bring this project to life. These techniques include silicone and wood-frame molding, sculpting, and dipping/coating existing objects in concrete. 

What are some things you hope people will take away when visiting, or remembering the Inside Out installation?

J+R: This work is designed to create an interactive experience that encourages playful exploration. This installation intends to act as a distraction/escape from the stresses of daily public/work environments and responsibilities, and function as a reminder of comfort, relaxation, and play. We hope that the Inside Out installation will transform peoples’ perceptions of what it means to experience public versus private spaces and encourage a reflection upon the ways in which one would interact with and feel in these distinctive environments. 

If people want to contact you about projects, what’s the best way to reach out to you?

J+R: We had an amazing time working on this project, and we are very grateful for the opportunity the Yonge + St Clair BIA has given us to work in this community. We would love the opportunity to work on any other art, installation, or architecture projects that come our way. Our emails are  and Instagram : @jacqueline_vandervaart, @integro_studio

Yonge + St. Clair has seasonal arts programming and an evolving roster of innovative ideas, follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to stay up to date.

Reaching New Heights With birdO’s Surreal Deer Park Mural

Yonge + St. Clair has a whole new outlook with a multi-storey mural overlooking St. Clair E that was completed in the early Fall of 2019. Adorned on the east-facing wall of 1 St. Clair E, artist Jerry Rugg aka birdO and his team, along with Slate Asset Management have set the tone for the neighbourhood’s cultural emergence, showcasing their newest surreal and wonderfully colourful work of art. The masked artist, Jerry Rugg, who goes by his artistic persona birdO speaks about his approach to creating this high visibility artwork in this ever-changing community, which is home to a storied past and its exciting future. We explore this Deer Park tribute artwork in this Q+A.




Yonge + St. Clair: Can you tell us more about how developing the birdO identity relates to your approach to art?

Jerry Rugg: The birdO identity stems from the principles of graphic and all things design. We always treat large scale murals as if they are giant layouts in the community. Therefore, looking to ensure that the piece itself lives harmoniously in its surroundings with a focus on visual language items such as size, scale, colour, and flow among others. birdO is an enigmatic character pulled from my main point of artistic inspiration; Surrealism. Thus, the character of the birdO identity is an extension of the surreal, whimsical artwork itself.



Y+S: There’s a focus on animals, bright colours and the suspension of belief (from a viewer’s perspective) when first viewing your work, how would you describe your art style and the underlying philosophy behind it?  

JR: I love to create “surreal geometric creatures”. My pieces are comprised of elements that are all familiar when viewed separately but when combined create a completely new sensation. I want my pieces to stand out as an oddity in its new environment but never to feel like an uninvited guest. You know when you are deep in thought or in a wonderful daydream and suddenly a loud car horn brings you back to reality? I love to think my work does the exact opposite, where you are surrounded and consumed by the lights, buzzers and sounds of the big city, for a moment it brings you back to imagination.



Y+S: What were some of the considerations you had in mind when drafting or conceptualizing the piece at 1 St. Clair E? And did living in this neighbourhood when you first moved to Toronto inform any of your decisions about this piece?

JR: As I use animal creatures as my subject matter for my artwork, this project had to feature a giant deer! I hadn’t painted one yet and was ecstatic about the opportunity. I had lived in the neighbourhood so long ago that I chose to actually look to the future of the neighbourhood rather than reflect on my experience in the past. While conceptualizing I would take walks through the trails. It had been many years since I truly took in the area. Much is changing! I wanted to create the feeling that I would get while walking the trails, the feeling that I could come across something magical around any bend.

Y+S: What goes into planning a mural of this size, and how do you accurately put it onto the side of a huge building?

JR: As much of the time painting on a large scale is also spent problem-solving. I have certainly built up via experience, there are many tricks of the trade using different types of grids etc.

Y+S: What role do you think public art plays in the development and dialogue of a community?

JR: I have been blessed to have painted in so many different types of neighbourhoods in so many parts of the world. Public art can be tricky, as it is always tough to please everybody but it is always team birdO’s aim to lead with a positive intention. I believe that is what is often felt as much as the physical artwork, that people care about the beautification of their neighbourhood. With a piece this large, there are so many people involved to make it happen, many hours and so many people looking to simply brighten a corner. I think that is what is considered with public art, that people are working with the intention of making people smile, think, or discuss. Public art is never trying to sell you anything and I think communities all over the world appreciate that!



Y+S: What do you hope that locals and visitors to the area who see the Deer Park mural will take away from it?

JR: I hope to inspire a few of our next generation’s great artists. I hope the neighbourhood takes away a sense of pride. I hope on a micro-level that people enjoy the colour scheme, concept, and craftsmanship of course but I hope that the neighbourhood feels the love from my project partner’s Slate, the local BIA, and Street art Toronto who were all involved in the previous large scale mural one block away. Two of Toronto’s largest murals are located in Deer Park!  I love when each viewer of my artwork takes away something different from it. I love that about art in general. I hope that locals and visitors feel it. You feel me!?



To learn more about team birdO, visit their website, or Instagram, and take a look at their completed mural at 1 St. Clair E, just a few steps from the St. Clair TTC subway station.

Tunnel of Glam

GLISTEN UP. The Tunnel of Glam is now open for the 2019 – 2020 Holiday Season.

To learn more about event details, opening hours, location and more visit

The Tunnel of Glam is an 80-foot covered pedestrian walkway lined with over 14 million reversible sequins. Interactive and colourful, the tunnel represents the largest ever single use of the material, and will offer delight to families through the holiday season. The installation was commissioned by the Yonge + St. Clair BIA. 



About the Tunnel of Glam
On its shimmering surface, Tunnel of Glam is a loud, vibrant, glamorous centerpiece that draws visitors in by playing upon the appeal of all things shiny and sparkling – the twinkle of fresh snow, the glow of lights, the glitter of icicles.

With its grand scale and bright colours the installation sits like a gift to all. It is a present which promises new surprises every day, as visitors continually make and remake the interior to their own design.

Everyone is encouraged to interact with the 14 million plus reversible sequins. These act as analogue pixels, the scale of which begs for big, over the top movements. Why use just the tip of a finger – as we are forced to with a phone or tablet – when here you can use your whole hand, to make a mark by running from one end of the tunnel to the other?

Tunnel of Glam encourages individuals to write, draw, and alter their environment… no batteries required.


IG: @reinisjanulis

Event Details

For full event details, including dates, location, times and extras visit the official Tunnel of Glam website, or alternatively save the date on the Facebook Event page.

Tag and share your photos using #tunnelofglam



 Event Sponsored By:

Playa Cabana Touches Down At Yonge + St. Clair

Playa Cabana, the popular Mexican taquiera that has taken over Toronto’s food scene has sprung up a new location at 21 St. Clair E. Dave Sidhu, the founder talks about the new location, and the driving force behind the successful family of restaurants.



Yonge + St. Clair: With the growing number of Playa Cabanas around Toronto, now including the 21 St. Clair E location, we have to ask – What is the philosophy behind your popular cuisine and dining experience that’s contributing to its popularity?

Dave Sidhu: I don’t know that we have a philosophy but we are passionate about Mexican inspired cooking and creating spaces where people can enjoy themselves and hopefully that translates.

Y+S: From all the Playa Cabana locations you’ve launched, is there one you’re particularly proud of?

DS: To be honest this is probably the one I’m most proud of because it took the most out of me.  The build out took almost a year from planning to execution. I know we still have a ways to go now that we are open so that still feels challenging and exciting.



Y+S: What are some of the opportunities or motivations that made Yonge + St. Clair an attractive location to open a Playa Cabana?

DS: The energy at this intersection really attracted us to it.  There’s a strong business and creative vibe here. Slate, our landlord, has done an amazing job at rejuvenating the neighbourhood, they own a few buildings here.  They have a strong commitment to food & arts.

Y+S: Are there any specific approaches or certain offerings that the Playa Cabana at Yonge + St. Clair serves that’s different from the other locations?

DS: Something new from us here is our lunch menu (11am – 4pm) where guests can order at the counter then take a number and seat themselves.  We cook each dish to order then a server carries it to the table.  We did introduce new items for example the shrimp tempura tacos, which is a Baja style taco with a mirin-soy tempura salsa.

Y+S: What do you think are the most underrated aspects of Mexican cuisine?

DS: I think the most underrated aspect of Mexican food is that people think it’s always done cheaply.  It can only be done fresh and the proper way is to use the best ingredients.  For example we use a whole grain brown basmati rice (for our Mexican style rice) that not only costs twice as much as white rice but it takes twice as long to cook it.   We also use a wild Canadian cod for our fish taco. All of our pork is Tamshire from Niagara county, all our chicken is free range from Niagara county, and our beef (short-rib & skirt steaks) are grass fed from PEI.



Y+S: Did you always know that you’d be in this industry, and specifically Mexican taquerias?

DS: I didn’t know I was gonna be in this business but I’m a creative person so if I come across something that interests me I’m gonna try to expand on it.  And for me the creative aspect of designing the space and menus has always been a driving force.

Y+S: Any other exciting plans for Playa Cabana coming up?

DS: We are actually opening another Taqueria at Yonge and Eglinton next year.

To learn more about Playa Cabana, visit their website, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and stop by to grab a bite at 21 St. Clair E.

No Old Cliches with Ambiyan’s Indian Cuisine

We were grateful to catch Paul Sandhu for a moment, founder of Ambiyan restaurants, who was busily laying the groundwork for his second location right here at Yonge + St. Clair when we first visited him. Continuing onwards using the momentum of his original Unionville location, he has set up shop locally to serve modern takes on Indian cuisine you already know and love, inside the courtyard of 1560 Yonge St.



Yonge + St. Clair: What is the story behind the Ambiyan name?

Paul Sandhu: Ambiyan means mangoes in Hindi and some other Indian languages. Literally it means raw or baby mangoes. We wanted to give our establishment a name that would be Indian but not too cliche like Taj Mahal or Maharaja. So, after much brainstorming this was the name that appealed the most to the individuals involved in establishing Ambiyan in Unionville in 2009.



Y+S: What is the approach your kitchen takes to Indian cuisine that’s different from other restaurants?

PS: Our chef is very particular about not going overboard with spices, especially not overusing chilis and cayenne pepper; by using a variety of spices that differs from dish to dish, Ambiyan sauces and seasonings taste unique for each dish rather than all dishes tasting alike. The chef’s expertise in blending and using dozens of spices in proper proportions give each dish a unique and subtle flavour that lingers on the palate long after the meal is over.



Y+S: Are there any particular dishes your kitchen is particularly proud of?

PS: Some of our most popular dishes are butter chicken, lamb vindaloo, coconut prawn curry, chana masala, chicken biryani, and saag paneer. Patrons also rave about our freshly baked naan, especially the garlic naan. All items on our menu are very carefully crafted, and the kitchen is proud of them all, the ones previously mentioned are just some of the more popular ones.



Y+S: What were some of the motivations to open up a second Ambiyan location at Yonge + St. Clair?

PS: For years, so many diners at our Unionville location made the trek up North from Toronto, and urged us to open a location in the city. We felt that there was a lack of quality Indian restaurants in the Yonge-St. Clair area, which is a great neighbourhood, and therefore it would be a great location to begin our expansion into the city.

Y+S: What are some of the highlights you expect your diners to experience, or taste at your location?

PS: We want our diners to have one the best, if not the best dining experience for any type of restaurant in Toronto at AMBIYAN. We aim to provide them with flavourful food with such a memorable taste that they will not help but share their experience with friends and family, and beyond the food, we want to wow them with great service in an elegant but comfortable setting where they can feel at home. We feel that we have already accomplished this goal to a great extent because just about all diners that have dined with us have made it point to tell us that they had such an enjoyable experience that they will be sure to spread the word about Ambiyan now being their favourite restaurant in the neighbourhood.



Y+S: Outside of the dishes your serve, what are your own favourite dishes?

PS: I love so many different types of foods: Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and just about every type of cuisine. However, sticking to the cuisines of the India, I also love Southern Indian dishes like Dosa, and especially South Indian snacks, of which there are way too many to list here. BTW, most of the ‘Indian’ Cuisine served outside of India, is Northern Indian Cuisine not Southern or even Cuisine from Western or Eastern India. The diversity of Indian Culture, and the sheer variety of Indian Cuisines is beyond most people’s comprehension, even for most people from India.



Y+S: So what’s next for the local Ambiyan on Yonge?

PS: In conclusion, our goal is to make Ambiyan a long time neighbourhood favourite, where locals and visitors alike can enjoy a memorable meal but also come in to enjoy a glass of wine or sit at our great bar with friends for drinks and snacks. Although restaurants that serve Indian food are not known for their wine offerings, we do hope that Ambiyan will soon become known as a ‘Wine Bar’, with a great selection of wines by the glass and bottle. And best of all, we are featuring a mid-week Half-Price wine night on Wednesdays, so please tell all your friends and neighbours. See you soon at Ambiyan on Yonge, which is actually just off Yonge, in the courtyard of The Delisle Court Building at 1560 Yonge St.

You can also find more information about Ambiyan on Yonge on their website, Instagram or Facebook.