Billed as a "thoughtful disruption to the visual landscape of urban life," the Deer Heads collective's romp through downtown leaves most passersby who encounter the herd of misfits in papier maché antlers looking like deer caught in the headlights.
Organized by Montrealer Hazel Meyer , the deer project, part of biennial art-in-the-pools weekend Wade (July 7-9), is part performance, part protest, a statement about runaway development dislocating wildlife.
"Deer kind of represent the epitome of wildlife and even innocence, like Bambi," Meyer says.
The stops through Kensington Market and Grange Park include different "watering holes" where the city once rushed with water and teemed with wildlife.
"Water is something we generally don't celebrate," says another "deer," Aisha Hassan . "Creeks are hidden and fountains just don't exist in public spaces as much as in other countries, so hopefully we can push to create more of them."
Meyer tested her project last summer in Ottawa and in September in Calgary, where she says "we had some weird reactions. People were making rifle-shooting gestures at us."
Aside from some befuddlement here, most Torontonians seem to embrace the idea of deer running loose on the streets. We encounter a few "Where's Rudolph?" and "Santa's coming early this year" remarks. Some cars even yield for the herd.
"It's weird," says Sarah Hornestein , who really seems to be embracing her new deer identity. "It's like the first instinct for me is to walk in the street."
Club Monaco manager Jeff Machael welcomes a quick prance in his store on Queen West. "They're cute," he says.
But even the truest deer can't resist a quick transition back to the human side, popping into a store to buy shoes. "I needed something for my hooves," quips Anthony Johnston .
The fawns, stags and does do a quick sniff around Speaker's Corner and, after posing with Japanese tourists, head to the next watering hole at Trinity-Bellwoods, where more Wade activities ensue.
At the end of the day, the deer need to cool their hooves. Though no drinking's allowed from said watering holes, popsicles prove a suitable substitute.