The two placid models – Grant Wood’s sister, Nan Wood Graham, and the gentleman beside her was their dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby. They’re photographed in front of one of America’s most famous images. I remember seeing it up close in the Art Institute of Chicago.It’s a classic for sure. In the painting Nan Wood Graham is wearing the same cameo brooch she wore in the photograph. Within the brooch is Persephone, the goddess queen of the Underworld, wife of the god Hades. Wood decided to paint in the background an Iowa house. In his words, “these were the kind of people I thought should live in that house”. Gertrude Stein assumed the painting was meant to be a satire of rural small-town life.<ABOVE – Grant Wood, self-portrait, 1932, Figged Art Museum> Mr. Wood said he had not painted a caricature of Iowans, but rather a depiction of his appreciation.
JANUARY/2020 – The United Kingdom made plans to leave the European Union. One year later Prime Minister Boris Johnson successfully landed a deal. Not perfect, but decent.JANUARY/2020 – TORONTO’s Manulife Centre on Bloor St. W. at Bay, became a city within a city, occupying a prime piece of land in the downtown core. It features a subway connection, eight cinemas, a very large book shop, an LCBO liquor store, super market, a gym, the new Eataly food emporium, Birks jewelers, and a bank amongst other things.JANUARY/2020 – New York’s Metropolitan Museum celebrated paintings by Canadian Cree artist, Kent Monkman, on display at the entrance to one of America’s finest museums. Now his work is part of the Met’s collection.JANUARY/2020 – Australians helped Canada fight forest fires, and in return Canadian firefighters gathered in British Columbia for transport to battle the ferocious flames Down Under.FEBRUARY/2020 – In its sixth year Toronto’s winter stations returned with more than 273 ideas submitted from artists around the world.FEBRUARY/2020 – Several development companies and architects are working on Toronto’s enormous construction project bordering Wellington, Spadina and Front Streets. It’s called The Well, and will be home to a 36-storey office tower, six residential buildings, and 432,000 ft² of retail space. The goal is to pull together all the elements of a new community.FEBRUARY/2020 – Guelph’s Janet Morton wasn’t convinced she could do it, but she did it. The “it” was a knitted ‘tea cozy’ for a real house. With a good supply of wool and knitting needles in hand, Janet’s little house reached a unique level of contemporary art.FEBRUARY/2020 – NETFLIX launched a production hub in Toronto by locking up eight soundstages — four each at Pinewood Toronto Studios & Cinespace Film Studios. This sparked a space race for Hollywood players looking to shoot high-quality film and TV content in Los Angeles. So they came here.MARCH/2020 – Start a blog and it will sure keep you busy. I begin working on ‘torontosavvy’ most weekday mornings, with a cup of coffee, and the day’s illustrated stories at hand. After ten years, it’s now a satisfying way to start the day. I’ve found WordPress easy to use, inexpensive and you can also make money from it – although I’ve never tried.MARCH/2020 – Long haul truckers – both men and women – are the unsung heroes on both sides of the Canada/United States border. Truckers are depended upon to deliver the goods – feeding millions on either side of the 5,500-mile long border.MARCH/2020 – ‘Buffalo loves Canada/Canada loves Buffalo’. Our friends in Buffalo wrote to say “Dear Canadians – Our countries have closed the borders to non-essential travel. Moments like these remind us how fortunate we are to be neighbors — a friendship that has stood the test of time and underscored our shared interests and values. We cannot wait until life returns to normal. Take care, and be well!” – Your friends in Buffalo.MARCH/2020 – A research team from Toronto and Hamilton has isolated the agent for the Covid-19 outbreak. Thanks to collaboration among researchers from Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital, McMaster University in Hamilton and the University of Toronto the agent responsible for the outbreak of COVID-19 has been isolated.MARCH/2020 – WHITES, a Canadian giant, plans a new Toronto area studio to produce major movies. Whites Studios Edwards Blvd., is already booked solid and clients now require additional stages. With so many productions underway, space is at a premium.APRIL/2020 – Toronto and area’s wildlife population began increasing with the Coronavirus’s arrival. Foxes, coyotes, a black bear, and a beaver all made appearances in the city and suburbs. These days you can hear the birds singing before the sun comes up.MAY/2020 – There was another era when we all were scared to death, and ran for cover. It was the Atomic Bomb Age. Took some time to recover from that one. So we’re not the only ones who thought The End was near.MAY/2020 – In the merry month of May Canada’s economy added 290,000 jobs, which came as a surprise to economists.
JUNE/2020 – Photo Radar was installed again on Monday, June 29th at 50 locations around Toronto. Anyone driving over 49km/hour would be hit with a fine of $718.JUNE/2020 – Covid-19 made it clear that Toronto needed to add more cycling infrastructure, and to be quick about it. Mayor John Tory got behind city council to approve the installation of an additional 25-kilometres of on-street bike paths. Councillors agreed, and the paths were opened.JULY/2020 – Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just get along together? A painting by California’s Alex Donis.
JULY/2020 – Toronto’s 10.2 million trees occupy – surprisingly – only 20% of the urban landscape. Half of them are in excellent or good condition; countless others suffocate in concrete boxes along urban spillways and city streets.AUGUST/2020 – There’s colour and movement in Yorkville as this posh neighborhood celebrates muralism and public art. Yorkville Murals is an annual three-day cultural event.AUGUST/2020 – From May onward property markets have been reeling in record prices and record sales. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the national home price index calculated a typical home sale at 3.3% to $637,600 from January to July. In Montreal the index rose 7.7% to $401,200 . . . . Ottawa jumped 9.4% to $502,500 . . . . in the Toronto Region it increased 4% to $876,100 . . . . and in the Vancouver area $1,023,100.AUGUST/2020 – A Toronto teacher, Lisa Wolfman, wrote to the Globe and Mail that she’s nervous returning to school. She wrote: “I am slated to be in a portable classroom with 26 students in a split class of grades 4 and 5. It will be impossible to put 26 desks at two metres apart. My board’s policy says that portable classroom doors are to remain locked at all times, and COVID-19 protocol is for fans to remain turned off to prevent possible spread.”AUGUST/2020 – The Art Gallery of Ontario reopened in July with several exhibitions. Book your timed-entry tickets in advance before arriving at the Gallery. Best of all, you won’t have to stand very long in a lineup. The cleaning schedule has been increased, and staff will be disinfecting high touch and traffic areas multiple times a day. Exhibits – Diane Arbus, Picasso and the Blue Period, and The Thomson Model Ship Collection – for starters.AUGUST/2020 – The Canada-US Border shuts down for the first time to non-essential traffic.AUGUST/2020 – Ontario will be giving up to $1.6-billion to municipalities to help public transit get through financial shortcomings. $400-million, a first phase of funding of that payout, will go to the Toronto Transit Commission.SEPTEMBER/2020 – River Street, paralleling the Don River, is evolving from low-rise to high. The neighbourhood offers both condominum apartments and reasonably priced rentals. Public transit and major cross-town streets add some pizazz to what once was a hangout for ladies-of-the-evening.SEPTEMBER/2020 – It was a long time coming, but Toronto’s Alexandra Park is putting on a brand new face. It’s going to be redeveloped.SEPTEMBER/2020 – CBC’s solid gold television hit, ‘Schitts Creek’ swept The Emmy Awards. In all major comedy categories the Canucks delivered a wipe-out. Top acting awards went to Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Dan Levy and Ottawa’s Annie Murphy.SEPTEMBER/2020 – Two Red Panda cubs were born at Toronto’s Zoo over a month ago. They’re getting bigger all the time. The Red Panda mother gave birth to them on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 14th. The Keeper Team wrote “As the cubs gain weight and strength we remain optimistic.”SEPTEMBER/2020 – friends were enjoying their afternoon coffee when a Stink Bug sat down beside them. Jo had her camera in hand, and took the photo of Mr. Stink. Her partner, George, said “Stink Bugs are an invasive species and that’s one of them. It’s a bit smaller than my thumbnail. Does it stink? Only if you squash it, which we didn’t.”
OCTOBER/2020 – Early on Hallowe’en morning photographer Ross Winter went out and took some shots in Cabbagetown.OCTOBER/2020 – JUSTUS BECKER, Germany’s famous street artist, brightened up a newly renovated Green P parking garage, just off Yonge Street. It’s very hard to miss. The painting will be the first between Frankfurt and Toronto muralsts.OCTOBER/2020 – James and Louise Temerty gave the largest single gift in Canadian history to the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine. For more than a century, U of T Medicine, along with its partner hospitals have led the world in advancing human health and health care through groundbreaking discovery and innovation.OCTOBER/2020 – ‘THE ONE’ is a skyscraper under construction, which will turn out to be the tallest building in Canada. The first 18 storeys will include restaurants, event spaces, two major retailers and a luxury Hyatt hotel under the Andaz brand. The retail portion is scheduled to open in 2020. The residential section will have a total of 416 units.
OCTOBER/2020 – PETRINA BROMLEY, a Newfoundland actor who plays an actual Newfoundlander in Broadway’s ‘Come From Away’ musical said “We can never go back to before.” She grabbed her two terriers, and fled to St. John’s. There she would have public-funded health care. Now she’s teaching, working in television and spending her retirement savings. Ms. Bromley told The New York Times – “Newfoundland has felt really safe because there’s no community spread (of the coronavirus). It feels almost normal, except everybody is wearing masks.”NOVEMBER/2020 – VENICE fights its worst flooding in 53 years, thanks to strong winds and high tides. Venice is a city that’s been sinking almost from the time it was built. It’s been named aqua alta, or high water, with good reason especially in November and December.NOVEMBER/20 – A tiny owl brought some joy to New York City and Canada. It was like one of those Disney animations when a little owl travels to Rockefeller Center inside a giant Christmas tree. The workers, who’d be setting up the 75-foot-tall spruce discovered the traveler. The Ravensbeard Wildlife Centre said the little one is actually an adult, the smallest breed in North America. They fittingly named the Northern saw-whet owl “Rockefeller”.DECEMBER/2020 – David Mirvish and Frank Ghery’s colossal towers will someday soon dominate Toronto’s skyline. The towers – one 91 and the other 81 storeys of mixed use, high-ceilinged – will go up near the Princess of Wales Theatre in the King Street West Entertainment District. The Mirvish + Ghery project will occupy space on both sides of Duncan Street (aka Ed Mirvish Way), and their “canopies” will project out over the street.DECEMBER/2020 – It’s the beginning of the end for Mr. President. MAYBE! He’s being replaced in January/2021 by President-Elect, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice-President Kamala Harris. Both of them will have a real mess to clean up, left behind by Mr. President. Best wishes in all respects to upcoming President Biden and the American people!
<One of my favourite cartoons by BRIAN GABLE, Globe and Mail, Toronto><HAPPY NEW YEAR! May next year be a much better one.>
“I’LL BE BACK WITH MORE ‘torontosavvy’ in January/2021>
Few of us have that kind of background, whose sales are concentrated in about six weeks just before Christmas.JOEL ROBERTS POINSETT is the name-sake for North America’s bestselling potted plant, which is a native of Central America, and known as the ‘Easter Flower’ in Cuba and Spain. Poinsett himself travelled across Europe, Russia and Latin America, eventually becoming the US Ambassador to Mexico. Mexicans were not exactly fond of him, which may explain why a Mexican lizard was given his name. The day he died, December 12th, is also known as National Poinsettia Day.<PHOTO ABOVE – Allan Gardens, Toronto>
According to new data released by the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, things are looking up despite the pandemic. There were 8,766 homes sold in November 2020, up from 7,054 in November 2019. The average price was $955,615, up 13.3 per cent from $843,307 a year earlier.Detached home prices rose to an average of $1,202,281, up 15.2% from November 2019. Average condo prices fell 2% to $605,863. In TORONTO’s city centre, detached home prices rose 8.7%, townhouses went up 7.3%, and condo prices fell 3% from November, 2019. The number of condos that entered the market this November was almost double that of last year. Low-rise suburban homes have become increasingly popular since the start of Covid-19. Telecommuting and stay-at-home workers are seeking space over the convenience of downtown. – Excerpts from The Canadian Press, December 3/2020
<PHOTO – @seanfrankey . . . . #StreetsOfToronto>