News / Edmonton

Toymaker lights up Edmonton Freezeway

Local artist Dylan Toymaker designs light installations out of recycled material for new skating path.

Dylan Toymaker's art installation lights up the ice at the Edmonton Freezeway pilot project.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

Dylan Toymaker's art installation lights up the ice at the Edmonton Freezeway pilot project.

As skaters took to the new Freezeway pilot project Tuesday the ice and surrounding trees were splashed with the colourful light installation work of Dylan Toymaker.

“Pretty sparkly things are a little bit of a habit for me,” he says.

Over the last few years Toymaker has become Edmonton’s go-to artist for original light pieces for outdoor festivals like the Flying Canoe, held every February in the Mill Creek Ravine.

The city approached him about doing an installation for the Freezeway’s pilot project and he put together the current display in about two months, using recycled materials.

Over the entrance from the main skating rink at the Freezeway are a set of eight lights — “so new I haven’t even named them yet” — Toymaker cobbled together from his collection of vintage ash trays and candy dishes.

Lights made from vintage ash trays and candy dishes.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

Lights made from vintage ash trays and candy dishes.

At the center of the path’s figure-8 pattern are a series of oval lampshades, which University of Alberta alumni may recognize from the original 1970s art deco interior of Lister Hall.

“Someone decided to store them because they might be useful,” Toymaker says. The alumni association gave them to him to use for an installation for their 100th anniversary.

Lights made from former lamp shades from Lister Hall at the University of Alberta.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

Lights made from former lamp shades from Lister Hall at the University of Alberta.

“Afterwards they told me to take them away as they didn’t want to see them again. I still have many of them, and they make lovely things.”

Also in the trees are eight of the same type of wood-cut lanterns Toymaker has made for winter festivals around the city.

Carved wooden lights at the Edmonton Freezeway.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

Carved wooden lights at the Edmonton Freezeway.

Toymaker’s biggest challenge at the Freezeway was a lack of electricity. The city was reluctant to run power to the site for a pilot project, so initially everything had to be solar-powered — a tall order in Edmonton … in the winter …  in the woods, no less.

Toymaker took lanterns developed over seven years of winter festivals and replaced their lights with the most efficient ones he could get, which allowed him to use a slightly broader spectrum of LED — “Which makes the lighting nerd in me very excited,” he says.

In the end, additional safety lights were brought in and Toymaker was able to tap into their power supply, but many are still solar-operated.

He hopes the experience of skating through allows people to experience his work in a different way.

“I see these lights more often than most people but I think for most people it counts as something a little bit out of the ordinary and inspiring.”

Toymaker’s lights will be up all winter, turning on at dusk and staying on until 11.

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