Toronto Outdoor Art Fair, 2022

July 15 – 17, 2022
Nathan Phillips Square

After a long hiatus it was a welcome sight to see the Nathan Phillips Square at the City Hall populated with white tents and over 400 eager artists attending their first live fair in years.

Executive and Creative Director of TOAF Anahita Azrahimi was happy to be back with a lively but hybrid model that also included online artists as well as programming. The director since 2016, she was faced with COVID in the previous years; the last fair was in 2019. Her team dug in and worked hard to create an online model as well, that would help the artist with sales and give them more exposure as well; over COVID more than 2000 works were sold online.

Executive and Creative Director of TOAF Anahita Azrahimi

In the first hour of the Fair over a hundred works were sold. The Fair now has also received funding from all three levels of art council funding as well as corporate funding. The online model helped build the profile of the Fair even more and as a result over 1000 applicants applied to be in this year’s Fair.

There was a variety of different works to please just about any collector. Artist, Morgan Jones said that during COVID he had good sales and he didn’t think that the pandemic effected buyers who were spending $3000 on a painting. Some of those collectors actually had money to burn as they couldn’t go away on holidays or do other activities.

Artist, Morgan Jones in his booth

Artist, Andrea Currie was happy with her booth at the Fair, nestled in the shade. She had originally lived in the Collingwood area but had moved to Toronto. It was her first time at the Fair. Ottawa native and artist Allen Egan had previously participated in an outdoor fair in Ottawa.

Artist, Andrea Currie

Allen Egan in front of his work

I talked to several artists from Montreal such as Marc Bourgeois and Julie Desmarais among others. They were happy to participate in the Fair and glad it was back to the live version. Montrealer ceramic artist Marlene Zagdanski was in good spirits and as a retired lawyer, now she had more time to be creative.

Marc Bourgeois

Julie Desmarais

Ceramic artist, Marlene Zagdanski

Photographer and film maker Nika Belianina was set up and ready to go with her booth. It was early in the day but the crowds were starting to build. Artist, Ross Bonfanti is a veteran of the Fair but still in the throws of setting up and getting a crowd at his booth, regardless of previous experiences. His partner Sandra Tarantino in the booth next to him was racking in sales with her nesting series.

Photographer and film maker Nika Belianina

Artist, Ross Bonfanti

There were lots of red dots for work that were reasonably priced and pleasing to the eye. I liked artist Lakshan Sivalogonathan paintings on urban culture and Deirdre Chase’s portrait paintings.

Lakshan Sivalogonathan

Deirdre Chase

Paul Aloisi, another artist – who has been busy applying for public work calls for submission – had his sculptural works set up in his booth. He had participated in the Fair some years ago and had returned. A native of Trinidad, Tessa Alexander had been introduced to the Fair years ago and now had her booth filled with colourful works.

Paul Aloisi

Tessa Alexander

I kept running into artists I had met previously in gallery exhibitions. Former York University grad Serena Kobayashi-LeBel was one such artist and was excited not just about the Fair but an exhibition she was curating at Propeller Gallery in the coming weeks.

Serena Kobayashi-LeBel

It was great to see such a variety of different works from so many artists. Alisa McRonald had some colourful fibre-based works and had travelled from Guelph to exhibit her works. Montreal artist, Julien Kandolo was still setting up his booth but was elated to already have lots of visitors to his booth. Urban themed artist, Karen Shaddick was pleased with the start of the Fair as was artist, Jibola Fagbamiye whose work caught my eye.

Alisa McRonald

Julien Kandolo

Karen Shaddick

Jibola Fagbamiye

I chatted with many other artists including Salbhi Sumaiye, Rob Croxford, another veteran of the Fair and Maureen O’Connor whose art works also got my attention as well as many other visitors.

Salbhi Sumaiye

Maureen O’Connor

This year’s Fair was off to a great start and the organizers, team TOAF and their leader deserve abundant praise for helping artists not just weather the storm but have them come out even stronger. I had only a few hours to visit but I was very impressed with the quality and the range of different art works on display and the professionalism of the artists whether it was their first outdoor Fair or they had returned as a veteran of the Fair. Visitors had reason to be happy with this new hybrid exhibition.

Text and photo: Phil Anderson

*Exhibition information: July 15 – 17, 2022, Nathan Phillips Square, Fri & Sat: 10 am – 7 pm, Sun 10 am – 5 pm. Free admission

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