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About Us

Canada's leading contemporary outdoor art fair is celebrating 60 years of launching artists' careers this July 2-11, 2021

 

Toronto Outdoor Art Fair (TOAF) is the charitable non-profit organization behind Canada’s largest and longest-running annual contemporary art fair, showcasing 350+ curated visual artists & makers at Nathan Phillips Square every July. In 2021, TOAF celebrates 60 years of influencing the accessibility and growth of appreciation and participation in the arts in Canada. For this milestone event, TOAF presents a curated showcase of over 400 contemporary emerging and seasoned visual artists and makers from across Canada on TOAF’s digital platform.

60

Years of launching artists' careers

20,000

Canadian artists since 1961

$1 Million

In awards given to artists over 60 years


360+

Visual artists and makers annually

130,000

Art lovers and collectors

$2 Million

Spent on artwork sales

For sixty years, TOAF has been a key part in launching and sustaining the careers of 20,000 Canadian artists by directly connecting them to millions of art lovers, and public and private institutions. TOAF has given over one million dollars in awards, and continues to play an important role in nurturing the City of Toronto’s arts and culture sector while making art an integral part of the lives of Torontonians. In 2020, TOAF has shown agility, innovation, and resiliency in serving their community by transforming into Toronto Online Art Fair, providing an online platform that continues to make a meaningful impact on artists’ lives.

TOAF is known for hosting many nationally and internationally acclaimed Canadian artists under our iconic white tents at the early years of their careers including, Barbara Astman, David Blackwood, Edward Burtynsky, Ken Danby, Rob Gonsalves, Harlan House, Joanne Tod, and Jennifer Stead to name a few. Read what artists say about us.

TOAF is inclusive, accessible and radically welcoming to all artists and art enthusiasts.


Learn more about TOAF's
Free Public Programs

Art Talks and Tours

In collaboration with The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery and other programming partners, TOAF creates compelling, dynamic and engaging art talks and tours that offer insights into artists' works, art collecting and contemporary art topics.

Family Fun

We engage young art lovers and their families in high-quality art-making activities and discussions through Power Kids workshops, a young art collectors program and fun art talks just for kids.

Installations and Nested Exhibitions

Since 2011, TOAF has showcased contemporary installations, and site-specific work by acclaimed local artists. We select works that are exciting, dynamic and well-crafted to encourage the public’s engagement with an expanded vision of contemporary art.

Performances

In addition to providing hundreds of contemporary visual artists and makers a space to showcase their works and wares, TOAF also presents free site-specific dance pieces (or appropriated existing performances) for the cascading stage at Nathan Phillips Square. By offering these performances and tapping into the dance and music communities, TOAF audiences are able to expand their experiences of contemporary art.

Student Zone

We nurture the next generation of artists through partnerships with leading art schools and programs in the city such as OCAD U Career Launchers Program, Sheridan College, and the University of Toronto Scarborough. Our buzz-worthy Student Zone is a cultural treasure in the city with a loyal following and has sparked the discovery of fresh talents in thousands of art lovers since our inception. 

Art Encounters

At Toronto Outdoor Art Fair, we have established a rich tradition of launching successful careers and providing a highly accessible venue for artists and the public to meet face-to-face. For the past 58 years, we have aimed to remove barriers to the arts from the perspective of cost, approachability and by welcoming diverse artists and audiences.

We believe...

 

Art, our innate human expression, should be accessible and inclusive.

Investing in art is investing in one’s quality of everyday life.

Investing in the creative economy of the city is part of our civic responsibility.

History: Launching artists'
careers since 1961

TOAF began in the parking lot of the Four Seasons Motor Hotel in 1961 when founders and philanthropists Murray and Marvelle Koffler joined forces with former Director of the National Gallery of Canada Alan Jarvis, and artist Jack Pollock. Four years later, the Fair moved to the newly built Nathan Phillips Square.

TOAF was founded on the premise that artists have the right to show and sell their work directly on city property. Sixty years later, TOAF not only prevails but continues to innovate and reinvent the way we access art. 

"In 1960, my wife Marvelle and I had spent a weekend in New York where we were delighted in attending the famed Washington Square outdoor art show. On the plane home, we read in a Toronto newspaper that a group of artists had been ousted from the front of City Hall for trying to display and sell their artworks. Immediately, a great idea struck me! Why not invite these and other budding artists to show at a non-city-owned location.

The timing could not have been more appropriate. My partners and I were preparing to open the Four Seasons Motor Hotel on Jarvis Street in Toronto, and the parking lot and courtyard were ideally suited for this purpose. We chose the weekend of August 5 & 6, 1961. My friend, Alan Jarvis, former head of the National Gallery of Canada, chaired a committee of interested volunteers to mount the very first Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. And, as they say, the rest is history."

-The Late Murray B. Koffler, O.C., O.Ont. Founder, Toronto Outdoor Art Fair (formerly Exhibition)

Read TOAF Memories shared by past and present TOAF artists:

TOAF Memories: Janna Robins Walters & Doug MacBean →

TOAF Memories: Vera Fischer & David Johns →

Group at Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, 1977.Pictured front row, left to right: Aaron Milrad, Mayor David Crombie, Murray Koffler, Secretary of State John Roberts, Pat Fleischer, Hilda Wilson. Standing back row, centre, Allan Grossman. Ontario Jewish Archives, Murray and Marvelle Koffler.

(from left) Susan Cohon, Leon, Marvelle and Tiana Koffler, George Cohon, Murray & Theo Koffler at the opening day of the fair (1976).

 

Murray Koffler, Esther Phillips and Mayor Nathan Phillips, and sculptor Irving Berman,Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition in the parking lot of the Four Seasons Motor Hotel, 1961. Ontario Jewish Archives, Murray and Marvelle Koffler

 

"I did the TOAF directly upon graduating from OCA (now called OCAD University). There was a small group of us from the art college that all decided to do this together for moral support... I did sell a few pieces at the show and occasionally have run into people all these years later who remind me that they bought a piece there for a very reasonable price and how happy the work has made them over the years. I was happy that they took a chance on me, a young unknown artist... I think all young artists should do this show and learn what there is to be learned from the whole experience!" 

Barbara Astman, Photographer

"I spent a few summers in the early 80’s at the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair with my work. It was a great experience meeting fellow Torontonians and tourists and having a chance to tell my story. I even sold a few prints which made the experience that much better!"

Edward Burtynsky, Canadian photographer and artist

60th Anniversary Lead Patron

Public Funders

Special Initiative Supporters

Major Award Partners

Award Supporters

In-Kind Sponsors

Programming Partners

Media Partners

Community Partners