toronto raccoon bridge

Toronto bridge might soon be adorned with larger-than-life bronze raccoons

An understated yet crucial link between Parkdale and the Toronto waterfront will soon be recieving a unique makeover courtesy of a local artist, as selected by the city with your help.

Not to be confused with the long, segmented bridge at the base of Dowling Street, just a few minutes west, or the colourful Roncesvalles Pedestrian Bridge with its long, spiraling bike ramps even further west, the Jameson Avenue Pedestrian Bridge is rather short and rather plain.

While getting there is a bit of a scary jaunt that involves walking or cycling directly beside cars on what turns into an onramp for Lake Shore Boulevard, the car-free bridge exits directly into a waterfront park.

It's also highly visible to drivers on the Lake Shore Boulevard, the Gardiner-to-Jameson offramp, and to cyclists, hikers, bladers, et. al, along the Martin Goodman Trail from below.

It's a great place for some new public art, is where I'm going with this, and the City of Toronto has taken notice.

StreetARToronto (StART), a city-run program that's been tapping local talent to help beautify public spaces since 2012, is focusing on bridges as part of its latest initiative, aptly named "Art Over Bridges."

"To celebrate Toronto and the outstanding creative talent in Toronto, Micki Moore in collaboration with StART, has launched the 'Art Over Bridges' project to engage artists to design and install three dimensional artwork on bridges in Toronto," reads a description of the program on the city's website.

The goal is to eventually create "a series of vibrant and high-quality Art Bridges throughout Toronto,"and the Jameson Avenue Pedestrian Bridge is first on the list.

As for what it'll look like when all is said and done, there are three distinct options designed by three different big deal artists: Kwest, Dan Bergeron and birdO.

jameson bridge toronto

Dan Bergeron's 'In The Teeth' concept for the Jameson Avenue bridge makeover involves an impressive 7,000 tiny triangles. Image via City of Toronto.

All three proposed design concepts for the bridge are worthy of coming to fruition, but only one can actually be executed across the Jameson bridge.

StreetARToronto is asking members of the public to review and weigh in on the concepts to "help inform their selection of a concept to be
implemented on the bridge."

"All three proposals will be evaluated by Advisory and Technical Committees in November, and a final concept selected for implementation on the Jameson Avenue Pedestrian Bridge in Spring/Summer 2021 in celebration of Toronto's Year of Public Art," reads the survey document.

You can review all three design concepts and read about each artist's rationale here. They're all great, but one stood out to me more than the others because it involves GIANT RACCOONS! raccoon bridge toronto

If you want to see giant bronze raccoon sculptures installed over Lake Shore Boulevard, birdO should get your vote. Image via City of Toronto.

The design in question was created by birdO (aka Jerry Rugg), an internationally-acclaimed artist whose murals can be seen across the world and usually include animals. 

His Jameson Avenue Pedestrian Bridge concept, "Golden Raccoon Bridge," takes inspiration from the Toronto animals — the ones this city simply can't get enough of with their soft little dexterous hands and adorable bandit masks. 

"Team birdO's approach to public art has always involved a deep dive into the local culture," reads the submission. "Our stylized surreal scenescapes will most often feature a critter that speaks to the community hosting the artwork. As proud Torontonians, we didn't hesitate at the opportunity to immortalize the city's unofficial mascot — the raccoon!"

Very smart, birdO. Very smart indeed (though again, I must reiterate that all three works are brilliant: Kwest's is inspired by "a pulse like energy flow across and over the bridge" and will feature "Toronto-centric word art" cut into steel throughout).

toronto raccoon bridge

Just look at hims! Just look at hims' tiny little hands! Image via City of Toronto.
 

"Complete with our signature design elements and a metallic splash we aim to offer a golden snapshot of a scene we are all too familiar with: the highwire antics of a family of lovable bandits," continues birdO's description.

"Similar to the arts, raccoons can garner different opinions indeed, but we know our surreal golden creatures will bring a smile to people's faces."

Nine raccoons in total will adorn the bridge, all of them "cast in bronze and then top-coated with a weather and chemical resistant polyurethane" to create a gold shimmer.

Stainless steel frames will keep the critters nice and light, so that they're easy to secure, and the family of night bois will appear to be working (on something other than figuring out how to open our "raccoon-proof" green bins).

"Whether regarded as mischievous or adorable, it is undeniable that the midnight creatures are one of a kind," said birdO of raccoons in his submission. 

This guy, who recently spent a few days decorating another Toronto bridge (until he safely sauntered away with some timbits) agrees.

Lead photo by

birdO/City of Toronto


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