This summer’s best art and books events in Toronto

Summer isn't summer without David Sedaris, Afro-futurism, Harry Potter, a deep dive into Canadian identity and a critical examination of lumbersexual fashion


Meet your hero David Sedaris

Humorist David Sedaris is one of the few authors whose voices you can hear in your head, thanks to his appearances on radio shows like This American Life and, well, the tone of his voice: deliberate, pointed and filled with wonderful jokes, many of them anecdotes from real-life experience or diary entries. Theft By Finding is a collection of those entries, selected from the diaries he’s kept faithfully for more than four decades, which have inspired many of his previously published essays.

June 2 at Indigo Bay and Bloor (55 Bloor West), free (book signing of Theft By Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 with proof of purchase from any Indigo, IndigoSpirit, Chapters or Coles), chapters.indigo.ca

Get AfroChic

This highly anticipated arts exhibit is back after a two-year hiatus with a new and improved cultural celebration. Founded in 2010 to spotlight Afro-Canadians in all areas of the arts, it’s celebrated for its special focus on Afro-Canadian fashion, design, music, fine arts and all things AfroChic. CBC’s Amanda Parris hosts the Met Gala-esque AfroFuturism-themed event on June 10. Bring your most avant-garde designs and forward thinking businesses to get a look into the future of culture, arts and business.

June 10 at Design Exchange(234 Bay), $30-$40. afrochic.ca

Welcome Ydessa Hendeles home at the Power Plant

As a gallerist in 1980s Toronto, Ydessa Hendeles supported the careers of massive Canadian artists like Rodney Graham and Jeff Wall through Queen West’s Ydessa Gallery (now closed). In the 90s and early 2000s, her Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation on King showed off works from her personal collection by international sensations like Jeff Koons and On Kawara. Hendeles’s distinctive curatorial voice evolved and she become an artist in her own right, dividing her time between New York and Toronto since the foundation closed in 2012. We can’t wait to see what the legend has in store for her first retrospective at a public gallery.

June 24-September 4 at the Power Plant (231 Queens Quay West), free, thepowerplant.org

Take a musical voyage to Hogwarts

Touring the music of nerd-franchise juggernauts has become a bit of a cottage industry for symphony musicians as of late (see also: Legend Of Zelda Symphony Of The Goddesses and Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions). The latest to roll through town is Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone – In Concert, which features a full screening of the debut Potter film, accompanied live by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and a choir performing John Williams’s magical score. It’s the perfect kind of activity for Muggles of all ages, and of course, attending in costume is not only expected, but encouraged.

June 27-29, Sony Centre for the Performing Arts (1 Front East), $49-$99, sonycentre.ca

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Wrap your head around Canadian identity at the AGO’s Reframing Nationhood show

So far, Canada’s sesquicentennial year has felt like it’s been less about rah-rah nationalism (though that is definitely a thing) than an opportunity to take a sober look at our treatment of Indigenous people. The Art Gallery of Ontario is picking up on the latter theme as part of its exhibition Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood. It asks some of the country’s best emerging and established artists to rewrite and reclaim the official narrative of Canadian history. Where has Canada come from and where is it going? The exhibition features artwork by Robert Houle, Seth, Gu Xiong, Esmaa Mohamoud and Yu Gu, plus talks by Camille Turner, Camal Pirbhai and Barry Ace.

June 29-February 18, 2018, at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West), $11-$19.50, ago.net

Relive the art (and life) of Tom Thomson 

Who killed Tom Thomson? The Canadian artist icon who inspired the Group of Seven has fascinated Canadians since he mysteriously went missing and then washed up on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park 100 years ago. Thanks to the wonders of social media, Thomson lives. A Twitter account (@TTLastSpring) dedicated to the last months before his death on July 8, 1917, follows the journal entries of his last spring. The official cause of death was drowning, but conspiracies abound surrounding the circumstances after the grave where his body supposedly lay was exhumed and the bones found were from an ancient Native burial ground. Experimental Canadian filmmaker and artist Joyce Wieland, who counted Thomson as an artistic inspiration, based her 1976 movie, The Far Shore, on his life and death. Now the works of the two come together in a Canada 150 exhibition at McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg. Entitled Passion Over Reason, a flip on Wieland’s Reason Over Passion, her quilt work inspired by prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s motto (which Margaret Trudeau famously tore apart in a fit of rage during an argument with her husband). The show promises “a critical approach to our fascination with Thomson and examines how today’s current culture of hipster or lumbersexual fashion, as well as cultivation of outsider creed, has confirmed what Wieland pointed to in the 1970s: Thomson is Canada.” 

July 1-November 19 at McMichael Canadian Art Collection (10365 Islington, Kleinburg), $15-$18, mcmichael.com

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