On the slopes of the Don Valley, you'll find a magical spot where art meets forest meets convivial summer nights.
Here, the art is literally woven into the woodlands and wrapped around the bridges of Todmorden Mills (67 Pottery, 416-396-2819) as part of the No.9 Eco Art Fest. Even the functioning hillside beer garden is a living artwork pavilion, with terracotta steins that act as a metaphor for community and history.
Come during the day and you can learn to make one yourself, or pop by on a Friday or Saturday night, like I did, and you can fill that stein with local, organic beer or wine, then wander the grounds to take in the creative installations dotting the trails surrounding this mill-turned-museum.
Here's a little personal tour guided by a handful of the artists whose work you'll encounter until September 21.
VANISHING HOUSES, by John Dickson, an installation of small sculptures floating in an oxbow pond
"A house protects us from the elements, but these dwellings seem vulnerable, affected by small changes in wind and weather. The Don Valley was once densely populated, polluted and heavily industrialized. Now much of the evidence of that has disappeared as the valley has become more naturalized. This is a cycle that has continually repeated itself as communities move and settlements are abandoned. Once people have left, nature quickly reclaims the space. These mirrored houses speak of the temporary condition of human habitation as their rectilinear structures appear and disappear amongst their watery, natural surroundings."
LIKE A BRIDGE, by Sean Martindale, a salvaged string installation on a pedestrian bridge
"History can be considered a bridge between our present and both our past, and future. Ecologically, bridges connect spaces and allow us to transverse areas without necessarily interrupting the environments and waterways between. Like A Bridge also recalls the lyrics to the famous Simon and Garfunkel song Bridge Over Troubled Water. In the context of Todmorden's real bridge over actual water, the lyrics can be read in a more literal sense: our most troubled waters are those we've damaged, ones continuing to face environmental degradation."
THE MOBILE GARDEN DRESS, by Nicole Dextras
"The Mobile Garden Dress is a self-sustaining garden and shelter for the new urban nomad, complete with pots of edible plants on a hoop skirt that converts into a tent at night. This garment is 100 per cent compostable and recyclable. During the day, Madame Jardin interacts with people and engages them in conversations about plants, gardens and composting. At night she can sleep in her tent/skirt. Like a true nomad, her camp can be quickly transformed; her hoop skirt collapses into a lightweight framework, her organic cotton tent fabric becomes an elegant dress, and all her belongings fit onto her wheeled structure."