Welcome to CONTACT 2021!

Over the past year we have collectively experienced immense shifts to the social and cultural landscape worldwide. The year 2021 marks CONTACT’s 25th anniversary, and as we maintain a steadfast commitment to our mission of providing a platform for exceptional lens-based projects by Canadian and international artists, we also recognize the vital importance of adapting schedules to maintain public safety protocols and keep our artists, partners, and audiences safe. 

With respect to ongoing restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, all indoor exhibitions planned for our Core program in May at artist-run-centres, galleries, and museums will open later in the year. In keeping with the Festival’s traditional May launch, outdoor installations will be on view in public spaces across the city (dates to be confirmed, pending government lockdown guidelines), featuring compelling works by exceptional artists whose practices reflect the intense upheaval of the present day, and global awakenings that have inspired hopeful futures. Issues addressed include the perception of Black bodies in contemporary and colonial paradigms; Indigenous perspectives on land, culture, sovereignty, and colonialism; intersectional experiences of queer artists; representations of women’s bodies as sites of power that challenge history; the state of the environment and the impact of human activity on climate change; and isolation, survival, and courage during times of pandemic. 

Collaborating with artists and cultural partners across greater Toronto, CONTACT fosters a deep engagement with photographic imagery and a heightened awareness of critical subjects and creative practices that are central to the times. The Festival affirms artists’ roles in building awareness and stimulating dialogue with important issues, whether individual, collective, or global. Many of these projects envision more inclusive realities and honour diverse voices—visually transporting viewers to places of strength and resilience. 

While CONTACT is not currently planning any onsite events or gatherings this year, it is our hope that viewers will be able to safely enjoy these artworks in public space during the course of their everyday outdoor activities, at an appropriate physical distance from other viewers. We are excited to offer some new ways of engaging with the Festival virtually on our redesigned website, with conversations, live presentations, video screenings, and photo essays rolling out throughout the month of May, and beyond. For the first time, our website will feature brief audio talks about each public installation, providing unique insights into the projects as described by the artist(s) and/or curators. QR codes posted at selected installation sites will connect visitors directly to these audio tracks, making them accessible both on location and from home. 

In addition to our Core program, Juried Call Exhibitions are planned at established galleries, and Open Call Exhibitions present work by emerging artists at local galleries and alternative locations across the city. Several of these exhibitions can be seen outdoors, in storefront windows, or virtually, while other venues are eager to safely welcome you by appointment as government guidelines permit.*

CONTACT is very fortunate to work with a number of incredible communities and many remarkable partners—our most sincere thanks goes out to all of them. We are very grateful to our title sponsor, Scotiabank, and major sponsors Nikon Canada and PATTISON Outdoors for their active engagement in the arts over the years, and who continue to support the growth and success of the Festival. We gratefully acknowledge the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Council for providing tremendous assistance in producing new and innovative projects annually. Our sincere appreciation goes to our numerous funders and sponsors, and to the resolute individuals whose donations have been critical.

We recognize that in spite of the enormous challenges and the heavy toll that the pandemic has taken on our communities over this long year, there is still much to celebrate—not least of which is the vital role that art has played in keeping our spirits afloat and our minds engaged during this time; the ongoing human connection and resilience that art engenders; and the community, creativity, and hope that it elicits. We invite you to celebrate along with us, safely, until we can meet again!

Best wishes to you and your loved ones for safe and healthy days ahead, from the CONTACT staff and board of directors.


*Please check the CONTACT website regularly for updates, and be sure to check venues’ websites or call ahead for the most accurate information on public hours or closures.