No.9: Contemporary Art & the Environment

No.9 is an arts organization that uses art and design to bring awareness to environmental concerns. We deliver programs in schools and in the public domain designed to encourage the use of creative thinking to resolve environmental issues and to promote a sustainable lifestyle.

Imagining My Sustainable City BrainstormingOur Impact Why We Exist

Building Sustainable Cities From The Ground Up! We empower youth to design and build their future sustainable cities.  

BGL on the Don River installation launch Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

No.9: Contemporary Art & the Environment was launched in Canada in 2006 with the mission to provide contemporary artists and designers with the unique opportunity to create public works of art that would bring awareness to pressing environmental issues. Loosely structured on the art organizations of Creative Time in New York City and Artangel in London, England, No.9 took on the added mission of using the power of art as a catalyst for social and environmental change. Bringing awareness to environmental areas in need of attention, innovative educational outreach projects and installations in high trafficked public spaces soon became strategic focuses for the organization. Examples of these approaches include an installation on the polluted waters of the Lower Don River in the spring of 2008, the Iain Baxter& Ecoartvan that visited 11,000 students at 26 intercity elementary schools in the spring of 2010 and No.9’s ongoing programming at Pearson International Airport, where 10 million travelers pass through each year. Strong collaborative partnerships with other art and environmental organizations has allowed No.9 to produce results well beyond its size and financial means. Since it’s inception in 2006 hundreds of thousands of Canadians have scene No.9’s public installations and tens of thousands of elementary school students have been introduced to art projects that bring awareness to pressing environmental issues.

Accolades and Accomplishments

Since its founding in 2006, No. 9: Contemporary Art & the Environment has flourished and become an important provincially recognized arts organization.  Since its inception, No.9 has  attaining charitable status and raised over $1,000,000 to deliver public art installations and educational programming across the City of Toronto.  

Through No.9’s art and design programs, over 11,000 elementary school children and 100 teachers in the Greater Toronto Area and eight priority neighbourhoods.  No.9 has worked in 74 classrooms across all 44 wards of the city.  These students participated in programs that teach ecological literacy through art and design-based approaches.

To date, No.9 has produced 21 major, temporary public art installations created by high profile Canadian and international artists. These installations have resulted in bringing awareness to some of our most pressing environmental issues such as: climate change, food and energy consumption, water and waste management, sustainable city building, animal habitat and species preservation.

Our Programs How We Do It

Imagining My Sustainable City - educational outreach program teaching sustainable architecture and urban planning to grade 7 students. One school in each of Toronto's 44 wards in collaboration with the TDSB

Art Train Conductor No.9- mobile public art project bringing awareness to issues of mobility and public transportation

ECOARTVAN – mobile eco-art educational outreach program

Pearson International Airport Exhibitions – ongoing public art and design exhibitions with an environmental theme

Photo Contest – an opportunity for youth to express their concerns for the environment through photos.

Evergreen Brickworks – on going contemporary art exhibitions with an environmental theme

Imagining My Sustainable City

Imagining My Sustainable City: Appreciating Place and Envisioning a Future Toronto is a collaborative initiative between the arts organization No.9 and the Toronto District School Board. Since September, 2011, No.9 has taught Imagining My Sustainable City to 37 classes in 31 wards of the City of Toronto. 

This project introduces one Grade 7-8 class in each of Toronto's 44 wards to a four-day sustainable urban planning and architectural design program. No.9’s Architect-Educators work closely with students to deepen their ecological literacy and engage them in an exciting exploration of envisioning their neighbourhood as a sustainable hub within the city.  Collectively, the students' visions for their sustainable Toronto lead into discussions of civic engagement, governance and living a sustainable lifestyle. 

Projects initiated by students’ designs are beginning to take shape.  Students at Pierre Laporte Middle School designed a farmers market that will become realized in the coming years.  Financial support to construct a student-designed play space at Dixon Grove Junior Middle School is pending, with the hopes of constructing seating, a play space and community garden on site in the spring. 

Funding and Program Partners

Imagining My Sustainable City: Appreciating Place and Envisioning a Future Toronto is a collaborative initiative between the arts organization No. 9 and the Toronto District School Board.

No. 9 would like to thank its sponsors without whom this project would not have been possible.

Gold: Bombardier, Canada Council for the Arts

Silver: Urban Space Property Group, Ada W. Slaight Fund at the Toronto Community Foundation, Ontario Association of Architects, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation

Bronze: John & Marion Taylor Family Fund at the Toronto Community Foundation,, Great Gulf, tasdesignbuild, Diamond Schmitt Architects, KPMB Architects, BrookMcllroy, Levitt Goodman Architects, dtah, Eb & Jane Zeidler, Rick & Priscilla Brooks-Hill

Program Partners: Toronto Pearson Airport, Metrolinx, Toronto District School Board

In-Kind: Toronto, Midtown Wadetech, 3M

Program Impact

Since September, 2011, No.9 delivered the Imagining My Sustainable City program to 37 TDSB grade 7-8 classes, reaching over 1,100 students in 31 different city wards.  These students have become leaders and agents of change within their neighbourhoods; they see their community in a new light after participating in No.9’s programming, and have new ideas about how to turn an underutilized space into a thriving, sustainable hub.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

“The arts help fuel innovation and creativity – critical components for successful city. The arts help us commemorate our past, understand our present, and imagine our future.”

If society’s expectation is for the creative class of the next generation to drive the new green economy then we must take on the responsibility of providing that generation with the necessary tools to do so. Changing attitudes about our environment over the long term starts with making a strong impression on our students now. The integration of art as a means of capturing young students imaginations and focusing their attention on our pressing environmental issues is crucial in bringing about social and environmental change.

Participant Vignette

For a week in November 2011, architects from No.9 worked with 31 Grade 7 students and their teacher at Fairmount Public School, a TDSB Arts-Based Curriculum School, on a project called Imagining My Sustainable City.  The goal was to link 3 sites for a new environmental education center connecting to and educating the public about the unique attributes of the Scarborough Bluffs.  The process was intensive for all involved, and after a week of hard work and collaboration, the students each created individual structural models.  These were integrated into 3 larger site models representing their vision about what their neighborhood might look like in the future.

For us, the No 9 Imagining My Sustainable City Project led to unexpected results as some of the students in the class began to push concepts much further than expected in the weeks following the five day project.  We have since continued with the theme of sustainability and urban planning and students have created 3D digital representations of their models using Google SketchUp, positioned some of these on Google Earth, and we are currently studying the feasibility of actually building on the Bluffs site one of our student’s proposed structures.

Additionally, as a year-end culminating activity, students wrote ambitious inquiry based research essays integrating many disciplines as they evaluated possible solutions to our growing local and global environmental concerns.  The disciplines integrated into the final essays include many of the following;

Language (reading, writing, oral communication and media literacy, inquiry and research, information technology and information management);

Mathematics (data management, backing up arguments using data, algebra in order to understand concepts of invasive species growth, measurement and geometry, co-ordinates);

Science (heat, particle theory, effect of climate on structures, global warming and climate change, pollution, green energy alternatives, healthy and sustainable buildings, ecology and biodiversity of bluffs site, force and gravity on structures);

Geography (patterns in physical geography, mapping, themes of geographic inquiry including transportation, industry and energy use, infrastructure and urban planning);

The Arts (Creative Process and Critical Analysis Process);

Visual Art and Design (3-D digital design, architectural design, street art, site specific art);

Aboriginal Education and Native Studies (concepts of sustainability and community)

As an Arts-Based Curriculum School, Fairmount Public School is a place where students learn to apply their research and explorations to more personal applications.  By creating and reflecting on their audience and the function of their art, their motivation to learn often becomes more intrinsic and therefore much deeper.  Developing a vision by interpreting curriculum goals based on Ministry Expectations is an essential starting point, but the expression of the Expectations can be left more open to the individual students, without necessarily restricting what these expressions of the curriculum goals might be.  This is how we can achieve ‘unexpected’ outcomes, and by integrating disciplines in a meaningful and relevant way, the No 9 Imagining My Sustainable City Project fits into a learning environment that promotes creativity, critical thinking, critical analysis, and self-reflection for all participants.   --Richard Baxter, Grade 8 Teacher Fairmount Public School

No.9 and CAF Educational Exchange Collaboration for Chicago’s Urban Sculptor Design Jam

The collaboration between the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) and No.9: Contemporary Art & the Environment has grown through both organizations’ commitment to educating youth about sustainable architecture and urban planning.  Over the past two years, No.9 has brought Imagining My Sustainable City (IMSC), a four-day workshop that teaches sustainable architecture and planning to grade seven students, to 31 schools in Toronto.   

Building on IMSC’s existing curriculum, the partnership with CAF combines No.9’s architectural programming with an organization that has established itself as a leader in architectural education.  No.9 brought IMSC educators, Elizabeth Lenell Davies and Barbara Lilker, to Chicago to teach the four-day course to the city’s youth for the Urban Sculptor Design Jam at CAF’s studio.  This collaboration initiated a Sister Cities Education Exchange that will link Toronto to Chicago through its shared investment in architecture and architectural education.

CAF’s students designed a nature centre consisting of a series of pavilions using Studio Gang’s landscape proposal for the southern portion of Notherly Island as their site.  Each student’s design contributes to the newly restored ecosystems by enhancing habitats for specific indigenous wildlife and creating opportunities for people to experience nature in the city.

Funding and Program Partners

The collaborative teaching efforts between No.9 and the Chicago Architecture Foundation were made possible due to the two organizations sharing the program’s expenses.  The CAF received funding in part from Hive Fund for Connected Learning.  No.9 funded the educators to implement the program.

Program Impact

The Urban Sculptor Design Jam impacted the program’s 16 youth participants, some of whom hailed from underserved, at-risk communities, and learned the power that a single voice may have on a community.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

“The Toronto Arts Council lists ten positive impacts of increased arts funding on Toronto’s neighbourhoods:

The creation of a more beautiful city

Increased cross-cultural understanding

Opportunities for at-risk youth

The attraction of new businesses

Increased citizen engagement and volunteerism

An increase in tourism

The reduction of crime

An improvement in the local economy

The creation of community pride

An increase in community organizational capacity"

The nature centre on Northerly Island designed by CAF participants would improve each point made by the Toronto Arts Council.  Increased funding to the arts can also provide opportunities for students and youth to think about their impact on the community, and how they may be able to make positive change in their city.

Participant Vignette

“It’s inspirational being in front of different individuals and learning their different styles and the uniqueness of everyone’s originality.  It really just brings out the best in me, because the whole spectrum and the whole idea is to bring these different personalities and different ideas, different opinions to collide.”

This participant was “trying to capture the instinct of the animal, the eel... because it’s going to be across the water”, connecting two portions of the island together.  The bridge has small, semi-circular windows across it that mimic the slick skin of an eel, while the shape of the bridge takes on a sinewy path, much like an eel moving gracefully though the water. 

This student had recently lost a family member, and participation in this class gave him a sense of belonging and confidence that was lacking prior to his engagement with No.9.  His presence and energy could be felt throughout the program, and he has expressed interest in taking additional design workshops after engaging with No.9.

What You Can Do

Imagining My Sustainable City

Activities a donation will support

Over a three-year period, No.9 will collaborate with the TDSB to deliver the Imagining My Sustainable City program to one grade 7 classe in each of Toronto's 44 wards. The cost of delivering this program to each school is $3,000, which includes all staffing and material expenses. To date, No.9 has completed the program in 31 wards across the city. Financial support for this program will allow us to complete our goal of delivering this program to one TDSB School in each of the remaining 13 wards by the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

Donations to Imagining My Sustainable City will also help to fund the final exhibition of student work at Evergreen Brick Works, where No.9 will display works from all 44 wards, and every school visited over the past three years.  This public exhibition will take place in May, 2014, and will run until August, 2014.  With thousands of visitors to the site each month, the impact of Imagining My Sustainable City will reach a massive audience, and ask them to question sustainability in their city.  The exhibition costs $10,000 to run, and a donation of this amount would be honoured with “Silver” sponsorship status.

Donation impact

With financial support, No.9 will be able to reach its goal of implementing Imagining My Sustainable City in each ward of the City of Toronto by May, 2014, and provide a sustainable vision for the city as seen through the eyes of today’s youth.

No.9 and CAF Educational Exchange Collaboration for Chicago’s Urban Sculptor Design Jam

Activities a donation will support

Investment in this program will allow No.9 to return to Chicago in the summer of 2014 and run a similar program with at-risk youth, giving them the platform to re-imagine their neighbourhood as a safe, engaging and sustainable place in the city.

Donation impact

Through increased support, No.9 will be able to increase the number of Imagining My Sustainable City participants across the cities of Toronto and Chicago, thereby increasing the number of informed, empowered and active leaders in these communities.


Andrew Davies
Executive Director
Charitable Number: 848276986RR0001

Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 398,794


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