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Getting Artsy in Pape Station

Have you ever wondered about the photographer behind the photo art installed in the newly renovated Pape Station? 

By Lindsay Reid Luminoso 


Fifty years ago, Pape Station was just a concept. The Bloor-Danforth subway line had not yetbeen opened. The Danforth area residents had access only to a limited bus service and a streetcar loop. Today, Pape Station averages over 27,000 patrons accessing the subway and buses every day. On September 28, 2009, construction began to make Pape Station more accessible and upgrade its features to the twenty-first century.

When you enter the newly restored station, it is evident that a lot has changed. Toronto Transit Commission kicked off its Station Modernization Program with Pape as its prototype. Just like Museum Station, with its antique, historical feel, or St. Patrick Station with its green tiles, Pape was transformed to fit with the surrounding community. 

PapeOnline2The Art Design Review Committee for Pape Station held a public art competition in 2007 and Allan Harding MacKay’s concept titled, “Source/Derivations” was chosen. “The artwork represents changes from the realism of being in an actual place to the abstractions of memory brought upon by time, travel, or distance,” according to Toronto Transit Report on the May 21, 2008 meeting regarding the Station Modernization Program. There are now 112 pieces located in and around the station.

MacKay has had a prolific career spanning several decades. The Canadian Department of Defence invited MacKay to cover a war assignment through his works on two separate occasions. In 1993, he went to Somalia and in 2002, went to Afghanistan. Canadian War Museum currently holds the largest collection of his pieces from these assignments. Yet, in 2012, MacKay publicly protested against the Canadian Government by destroying several of his works. He wanted to demonstrate his anger and bring public attention to the treatment of veterans and aboriginals in Canada.

Some of his collections are included at the Canada Council Art Bank, National Gallery of Canada, PapeOnline3Canadian War Museum, Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and Museum of Contemporary Art Calgary. Notably, MacKay co-designed the Ontario Veterans Memorial located on the front south lawn of Queen’s Park.

Currently, MacKay’s latest work, “Selina & The Horse Rescue”, is exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Calgary until February 2, 2014.

Next time you enter Pape Station, take a second or two to explore the transformative works of art. According to MacKay, “moving, from representational images through a series of variations, expresses a visual narrative that is intended to challenge and delight the eye while providing a journey of exploration for the viewer.” The images are distorted to take you on a visual journey. See if you can find derivation images of the stairs and escalator from the old Pape Station, or perhaps the images of the Royal Canadian Bank and the Church of the Holy Name. The derivation images are unique and meant to take you into an abstract experience, if only for the few minutes you are waiting on the subway platform.


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