One track mind: Will artists come to love our new streetcars?
The first of Toronto's new streetcars rolled into town last month
, slick and shiny like something out of a sci-fi movie. Though they have the splash of red, black and white of our existing streetcars, they look decidedly different. Just as our current Canadian Light Rail Vehicle streetcars replaced the PCC streetcars in the 1970s and '80s, our new Bombardier Flexity low-floor trams will eventually become part of the fabric our the city.
But in the decades we've had the Canadian Light Rail Vehicle streetcars, they've become as iconic as the CN Tower. Like the UK's (now retired) red telephone boxes, Amsterdam's bollards, Venice's gondolas or Rio de Janeiro's tiled beachside walkways, you catch a glimpse of one and know exactly where you are in the world. For artists, especially, they have become a direct way to capture the spirit of Toronto. What's so appealling about this form of public transportation?
"For me, the streetcar is an intuitive image," says photographer Steven Crainsford
, who captured one in one of the works he had on show at last month's Queen West Art Crawl
. "It's the colour and the motion that's part of it."
Before he moved to Guelph, painter Ivano Stocco
used to sketch while riding the streetcars and they still manage to find their way into his work.
"I tend to stay away from stuff that's monumental," says Stocco. "It looks too much like a postcard. The streetcars are integrated into the fabric of the city. You can see an image of one and you can almost hear it."
When photographer Michael Toole
first moved to Toronto, the streetcars were a nuisance to him; they made driving a pain. But his eye was drawn to them; their look evoked another time. "It's the same way I'm attracted to the Distillery District and the Evergreen Brick Works."
And streetcars are certainly easy to love than buses, says Toole. "Buses don't get a lot of respect. They're noisy. The trains look like they belong here because they're on tracks."
For Miguel Freitas
, streetcars provide a shorthand to conjure a more magical Toronto. "There's certainly romance to them. There's something about them that everybody can relate to, whether they ride them or not."
So we had to ask: Do you think the new streetcars will be embraced by artists?
Crainford: "I won't miss the old ones. The new ones will become iconic in a few years."
Stocco: "I can't see putting those in my work. I tend to gravitate toward something that's a bit more run-down and used."
Toole: "I'm not sure. When they go away, people will miss them. It's part of my image of the city, that's for sure."
Freitas: "I don't think I'll incorporate the new ones into my art. Not right away."