The Toronto Outdoor Art Fair at Nathan Phillips Square

me at nathan phillips square

My love for The Toronto Outdoor Art Fair is long standing. Now in its 57th year, this weekend-long event, packed with tented booths featuring the work of so many talented artists, is held annually in Nathan Phillips Square (in front of City Hall, beside the old City Hall).

I first attended the art fair as a teenager, when my friends and I wandered from The Eaton Centre, where we'd gone for a shopping trip. I grew up in Malton, west of the city, and every few months or so, we'd make a big trip downtown, taking the bus to the Kipling Subway station, and then the train downtown. Our afternoons usually involved a walk along Yonge Street, a visit to what was, in our opinion, the best shopping mall ever, a hamburger at Wendy's, and then a bit more shopping before heading home. The time we happened upon the outdoor art fair, we'd forgone the after lunch shopping and decided to walk westward along Queen Street West. We were quite thrilled to spot the tidy rows of tents in Nathan Phillips Square.

I bought a small ceramic plate during that first visit, glazed in shimmery shades of royal blue and bottle green. I thought it was one of the lovliest things I'd ever seen. I was pretty sad when, years later, my boss accidentally broke it when he and his wife were over for dinner. I'd been using it as a soap dish in the washroom and when he went to use the soap it had stuck to the dish, which ended up smashing on the floor. It was my fault because I knew the soap had a tendency to stick to that dish, but it looked so pretty. Anyway, I was sad about the breakage, but of course, told him not to worry about it at all.

Since that first visit, I've tried to get to this annual fair as often as I can. One year, shortly after Nick and I had gotten engaged (we were engaged three months after meeting on a blind date in November 1998, and married within the year), we went together. That time I bought a print that still hangs in our living room today -- this one, by artist Isabelle Mignault. Regular readers (thank you) will have seen it in photos of our living room many times, so you already know we really like it!

While we don't make it every year, we have been many times in the twenty years since, enjoying a walk around, admiring all the impressive works and picking up gifts.

This year, the TOAF occurred the weekend of July 6th and we went on the Sunday. As you can see by the photos, it was a brilliantly sunny day. What you can't see but we all certainly felt, was that it was absolutely broiling out!

Here's a little look ...

approaching nathan phillips square toronto

at toronto outdoor art fair nathan phillips square city hall

at annual outdoor art fair toronto nathan phillips square

nick 1

me 2

↑ Posing with photographs by Maureen O'Connor. These are part of her "Threshold" series, produced with the cooperation of local animal sanctuaries and zoos, "photographed traditionally with film in the spaces seen here with the greatest care and respect for these wonderful creatures". Click over to her site to see the whole stunning series. ↑

toronto outdoor art fair at nathan phillips square

paintings by kari serrao at toronto outdoor art fair

↑ Paintings by Keri Serrao

at art fair

at toronto outdoor art fair painting by pat cantin and glass work by jennifer bennett

↑ Paintings by Pat Cantin and Blown Glass by Jennifer Bennett

nathan phillips square during toronto outdoor art fair

ceramics by hana balaban pommier at toronto outdooor art fair

↑ Ceramics by Hana Balaban Pommier


While the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair is over for this year, I encourage you to watch for it next year. Maybe we'll see you there!

Thanks for reading,
xo loulou

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2 Responses to The Toronto Outdoor Art Fair at Nathan Phillips Square

  1. knittedblissjc says:

    Oh wow, I’m dying over those Maureen O’Connor photographs, they are INCREDIBLE!! I feel like you just introduced me to my new favourite photographer……

    • Loulou says:

      I know … her photos blew me away. Her booth was really crowded when we were there, otherwise I would have loved to talk to her. There was so much great art at that fair. I wish we had more walls!

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