Oh, Christmas Tree!

Evergreen? Try everpink, steampunk and Greek-themed trees at Toronto’s Gardiner Museum, where the cherished symbol of Christmas takes on a whole new meaning

It’s that time of year again when decorated pines, firs and spruces overtake the city. Some call it the Christmas Tree Apocalypse and keep their distance from the usual targeted areas of shopping malls, public parks and storefronts. Others are illuminated by the brigade and ride out the season gawking at the twinkling, tinselled sensations, their carol books, mittens and hot chocolate in tow.

Whether you’re a Christmas tree lover or hater, whether you find them inspiring or a little overwhelming, the festive symbol has found a refreshed sense of purpose at Toronto’s Gardiner Museum. For the past 26 years, the museum has hosted its 12 Trees exhibit, inviting 12 of the city’s much-loved designers to deck out a tree for a good cause.

This year’s rendition of the exhibit is one for the books, with a roster of stylists that include the likes of fashion designer Kimberley Newport-Mimran, Hilary Farr of W Network’s Love It or List It and Steven Sabados and Chris Hyndman of CBC’s Steven and Chris. And with a theme that supercharges our holiday spirits and unites Torontonians in pride, each tree in the 2014 exhibit is inspired by a Toronto neighbourhood. From the fiery ribbons of Chinatown’s tree to the jolly, sparkly Mirvish Village to the steampunk-esque Distillery District, exhibit-goers can watch their favourite stomping grounds come festively to life.

“Visiting 12 Trees is about enjoying community during the holidays — sharing an experience in the galleries with your friends and family.  These shared moments are what create meaningful, lasting memories,” says Patricia Robinson, development and programs co-ordinator at the Gardiner Museum. “The holidays are largely about coming together, and this is a great way to celebrate the unique things that we all share and love about
this city.”

Fittingly titled 12 Trees: The Toronto Edition, the 2014 exhibit installment runs from Nov. 12 to Dec. 14, 2014, during which time the museum will transform into a designer forest that would make Charlie Brown’s jaw drop. Once the exhibition wraps up, each tree will be donated to a charitable organization of the museum’s choosing, spreading the cheer to those who need it most this time of year.

The tradition began in 1988 and has evolved into an essential topper of the GTA’s holiday to-do list. Browsing the trees is as much an enriching experience for onlookers as it is for designers, who are challenged creatively and emotionally as they play with these unique, natural canvases.

“As someone who’s lived in the city her whole life, it’s always great to get out there and be a part of something,” says Susanne Shaw, the visual manager at Holt Renfrew’s Bloor Street flagship location who was commissioned to create the tree for the “downtown” neighbourhood. “Life gets so busy and it’s so easy to get caught up with work, but this wonderful cause breaks through that.”

For tickets to this Toronto tradition, visit www.gardinermuseum.on.ca

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Amanda Storey

Amanda Storey