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How the 59th Toronto Outdoor Art Fair became an online success

November 27, 2020

During a time where showcase and sales opportunities for artists have halted due to the pandemic, TOAF was able to replicate the sense of community and enthusiasm for contemporary art that has been woven into TOAF’s DNA for the past 59 years. By hosting artist-led Studio Tours, Instagram Live artist chats and virtual panel discussions, TOAF became the online hub for artists and art lovers to gather and connect.

Showcasing 300+ participating artists, the first online iteration of the fair created income and exposure for independent artists during a much needed time. For the month of July alone, TOAF garnered over 800,000 pageviews—a 300% increase in visitor traffic to the website and facilitated sales of over 600 artworks throughout Canada, the US, and as far as Japan and Hong Kong.

Read our 2020 Annual Report

What artists had to say about their experience with the online fair:

“TOAF’s move to create the virtual 2020 fair was incredibly innovative. I commend the team for their vision and the resources that they quickly put into place to support all participating artists.”

- Cheryl Rock, Winner of 2020 Mayor’s Purchase and Best of 2D Works Award

“This year was yet another challenge. With the pandemic, I think a lot of us were scared that TOAF wouldn’t happen, or it wouldn’t be as good as past years. Luckily, they managed to pull off a beautiful transition to digital, both through the online store and all of their great online events and content. Seeing it all come together and seeing all the familiar faces really brought a tear to my eye and when I received the ‘Best of Painting’ award... I was just overcome by the thought of how much this show has done for me.”

- Keight MacLean, Best of Painting Award Winner 2020

"The online fair is a brilliant idea! Not only does it allow us to still get our work out there and make new friends and clients, it levels the playing field for disabled artists. I am looking forward to building my online gallery and connecting with potential customers and collectors."

- Steve Kean, Best of Photography 2017 Award Winner

“I feel thrilled to connect with art lovers who could appreciate my philosophy and life experience. This year, TOAF made us share our hearts and minds with art lovers from different places all over the world, with such a user-friendly digital platform with no pain. Hurray! Thanks for providing me, one of the emerging artists, with such great exposure and a reputable stage to find homes for my babies.”

- Christy Chor, Ceramic Artist

In addition to the new online format, TOAF’s first major fundraising campaign, Gifts of Heart, sparked the generosity of many avid supporters and new donors. The campaign raised $36,000 to bring art to frontline workers as a token of gratitude while supporting TOAF artists.

Also new in 2020 was the series of Curated Collections, put together by highly-acclaimed curators and artists like Robert Houle, The Jealous Curator and Arounna Khounnoraj from Bookhou. The various Collections provided new perspectives and different access points to TOAF’s vast inventory of artworks and introduced new visitors to TOAF from the curators’ immediate audiences.

TOAF continued its tradition of celebrating artistic excellence by presenting $20,000 cash and in-kind awards. A group of expert judges selected the outstanding artists who demonstrated originality, workmanship, and innovation.

Discover our 2020 Award Winners here.

TOAF Executive and Creative Director, anahita azrahimi, remarks on the overall success of this year’s adaptation:

The online fair’s success was a result of the nimble structure of our organization combined with the team’s agility to respond on the fly and grow our organization in ways we never imagined. The most rewarding and inspiring part of this journey was the eagerness of our community of artists, curators, and programming partners like The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, StART Toronto and Tangled Art + Disability, to collaborate and work together with the same agility to provide exemplary programming.

We are incredibly grateful and humbled by the momentous gifts from the The Koffler Family Foundation, Lindy Green Family Foundation, The Rudolph P. Bratty Foundation as well as the City of Toronto, whose support ensures that TOAF can navigate these uncertain times safely and celebrate the legacy of our organization for our 60th Anniversary in 2021.

Thank you for joining us!

60th Anniversary Lead Patron

Public Funders

Special Initiative Supporters

Major Award Partners

Award Supporters

In-Kind Sponsors

Programming Partners

Media Partners

Community Partners