Toronto Artists Stage a Planter Intervention

June 3, 2011 by

Organizer, Sean Martindale’s intervention.

Within a 24-hour period between Saturday May 20th and Sunday May 21st, 2011, a group of 17 Toronto based artists, designers, gardeners and urbanites collaborated to create unique planter “interventions” of throughout the city in a project called Outside the Planter Boxes. Sean Martindale, the project’s organizer who was funded by a Toronto FEAST Project Grant, invited participants by declaring that “the interventions could take on any number of forms–from conspicuous (and perhaps only temporary) repairs, to straightforward weeding and planting, to sculptural additions or performance.”  Martindale asked only that the interventionists use their own best judgment and not cause any major permanent damage, create physically dangerous structures and situations, or introduce invasive or otherwise harmful species.

Heather Lee and Janis Demkiw’s piece features a tiny park bench with foliage reflected in a mirror on which it sits.

Martindale’s objective in tending to the neglected city tree planter boxes, was “to encourage more direct participation and interest in our shared public spaces–to demonstrate that the public can play a more consciously active role in how our city is shaped.”

A Lego wall and figures replace this planter’s missing corner, by Martin Reis. Notice the little tree.

Lining Toronto’s busy streets, these planters wer generally made of concrete and many are cracked or missing large chunks. Others had been replaced with standardized two-piece boxes. “However, some of these are too small for the existing mature trees and their roots,” explained Martindale, “leaving huge gaps between the two sides. More still contain only stumps, or have become garbage bins with little to no vegetation at all. ??To be clear, this project is not about pointing fingers.”

Bentley Ball’s intervention features a small basin with sign that reads “Great Canadian Swimming Hole.”

The chief interventionist said he hopes the project will reveal possibilities for alternatives and perhaps more biodiversity, creative gestures, and better city infrastructure.


  1. Wicked Gardener said:

    These are pretty brilliant, especially the one with the overflowing moss!

    — June 3, 2011 @ 15:47

  2. victoria lyon said:

    What a genius idea! Wouldn’t it be great if NYC (or even just a neighborhood of it) could do the same thing? I love the idea too of artists and gardeners and perhaps even landscape architects and urban planners all collorating in little pods all over the city to do something fun and awareness raising.

    — June 4, 2011 @ 08:16

  3. Annie Haven | Authentic Haven Brand said:

    I just Love, Love Love this share what a fun garden project this would have been to have been invited to! Would be fun to see this concept sweep across the country…

    — June 4, 2011 @ 09:30

  4. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    Glad you liked Annie–I know it brings out the part of you,,like me, that likes to break some rules once in a while!

    — June 9, 2011 @ 15:22

  5. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    Yes, Victoria, maybe you can start something up in the city?!

    — June 9, 2011 @ 15:22

  6. peter said:

    Public planter boxes are great in theory. They’re a refuge for nature in the city. A way of cleaning our air and beautifying our streets. But in practice, many public planters are untended or empty, too big or too small for the plants they’re meant to contain, or simply falling apart”.

    “Last month, Sean Martindale decided to do something about it in his home city of Toronto. With a grant from the arts organization Toronto FEAST, Martindale organized a project called Outside the Planter Boxes. He rounded up a group of local “artists, designers, gardeners and urbanites” to execute “planter interventions” in sites across the city. In the end, 17 participants made more than 30 projects in a single 24-hour period during the weekend of May 20.”

    — October 10, 2011 @ 22:30

  7. aluminum business cards said:

    The pinwheel flower planter will end up looking worse for the neighborhood when the pinwheel flowers get taken then toss on the sidewalk, gutters etc. I like how folks here in CA in SF, LA etc rescue the bare dirt areas around streets, especially in the middle of the street and plant flowers and even vegetables.

    — March 5, 2012 @ 03:39

  8. Agen Bola said:

    See the link in the post, it will take you to the supplierâ??s website.

    — August 17, 2012 @ 02:36

  9. Nature Reflected in Artist's Digital Billboard Tableaux - Urban Gardens Pingback said:

    […] from the real world as they passed artist Brian Kane’s temporary site-specific public art installation for a few weeks this […]

    — August 13, 2015 @ 17:24

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