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Fairgrounds: an animated addition to Pan Am Path

Fairgrounds is a temporary sculpture gracing the section of the Pan Am Path that winds its way through the UTSC campus. (photo by Ken Jones)

Toronto 2015 is the largest Parapan American games to date, and we are celebrating all over the city with live music, food and art-accessible art.    

The talent, and skills of an impressionist, realist and abstractionist merged together to create Fairgrounds, an accessible sculpture for the Pan Am Path at University of Toronto Scarborough. Zarish Asif, Vineetha Sivathasan and Zee Bolad, three University of Toronto students, combined their diverse artistic backgrounds and passion for visual expression to create the sculpture. Fairgrounds, is a temporary sculpture that are part of the path during the Pan Am & Para Pan American games, through to October.

The journey started two years ago when Asif was browsing the internet, and came across a call for art instillations for the Pan Am Path.

Zarish Asif (UTSC BA, 2014, Art and City Studies)

Asif saw the ad and she sent it to all her friends the simple thought that they  “will get to do something nice, and have something for our portfolios.” At that point she did not realize what she was getting herself into, “Next thing you know it turns out to be quite a big deal, and a two year contract,” she said.

Prior to submitting their idea the girls had three meetings to discuss their designs, and assess strengths and weaknesses. “Zee was a huge influence in our practice at that point, and because of her we were discovering animation, and incorporating it in our designs,” Asif said.

Each person submitted a different design, with similar elements and decided that regardless of the design that would be chosen they would work as a team.

As a multi-disciplinary artist Asif enjoys sketching, and ink-drawings, but the most self- fulfilling project she has done to date was a political cartoon about Pakistan. “There is a lot of political discourse in the work that I like, discourse is my mandate, I need to connect with my audience,” she said.

She notes her appreciation for art comes from Pakistan. “I am from Karachi and we don’t have anything like the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) there.  We have galleries, we have museums, but they are nowhere near the kind of development with the kind of funding or mandate a facility here would have,” she said.

Vineetha Sivathasan

Sivathasan submitted the winning sculpture design that incorporated ideas from Bolad and Asif. Through various meetings with the Friends of Pan Am Path, the final design is a 4” tall interactive and accessible wooden sculpture, which features a series of animated images.    

A third-year Masters of architecture student, Sivathasan lights up when she talks about architecture, but she wasn’t always sure this was the path for her. Two years into her undergrad she realized that architecture is something she was passionate about, and rather than re-doing her undergrad she started to develop a portfolio. With the help of the portfolio, “Before I graduated my Bachelors I got accepted for my Masters,” she said.

“My thesis focuses on the Textile museum of Canada, I’ve been working there for two years and one of the problems that they have is that they are hidden. It’s a beautiful museum inside and they do a lot of great work. I want to focus on that site and revive it,” she said.

Sivathasan enjoys mixing art and architecture together, something she learned from another architect Thomas Heatherwick. “He looks at different areas for inspiration and transforms them into different buildings. He uses technology as well as art, and practicality. Art is boundless but architecture has certain restrictions,” she said.

When she can spare some time from architecture school she likes drawing female and male figures focusing on female suppression and submission.

Although the Fairgrounds project was tedious Sivathasan was motivated by the challenge. “I am honestly always looking for the next thing. I need to do something a bit more challenging. I need to do something exciting,” she said.

Zee Bolad

Bolad is in the final year of her undergraduate degree, studying art and near Middle Eastern studies. She chose those specific focus areas because “I’ve been in Canada for 14 years, and I felt disconnected from where I am from, which is the Middle East,” she said.

She left Egypt with her family, because of the bombings and attacks that became a constant reality. “When we were in Cairo, our doctors’ place had a political leader’s office right above him. That place would get bombed all the time, so I would have a whole bunch of missed appointments, they would call us and tell us not to come,” she said.

After landing in Canada on Valentine’s Day 2001, the first thing Bolad remembers doing is playing in the snow, “I read up on Canada before I got here because that’s what I am like. I do a lot of research,” she said.

Her passion for animation and research led her to choose UofT as the school to do her bachelor’s degree because she wanted access to Robarts. Animation is a key element within Fairgrounds, the visitor can rotate the top and look through to see images.

“I wanted to do something with animation and storytelling that’s my love. Vinetha wanted to do something with doors and Zarish wanted to do something with an optical illusion because she loves optical illusions. They were all combined into the design,” Bolad said.

Scott McRoberts, UTSC director of athletics and recreation, and Kim Tull, community development and engagement manager, were also a part of the project working alongside the three artists.

“At the end of the day they were very collaborative, they communicated well, they were a pleasure to work with,” McRoberts said.

“This is an ambitious project to be involved in, and to be involved in it while you’re also in school, it’s a huge thing,” Tull added.

Both McRoberts and Tull hope that the sculpture brings a new awareness to the community and visitors will take the time to appreciate the link between sport and culture, in addition to beautifying the valley.


© University of Toronto Scarborough