Ambrose Li
Joy (2020; part), as seen on track level

What is Joy (2020)?

(updated )

It’s clear that Joy (1977) was art, but what is Joy (2020)?

I have been wondering ever since I realized Joy was back and saw pictures of the new work. The colours were “en­gin­eered to last”‍[Note 1] and looked quite uniform judging by the photos. I would have described it as environmental graphic design (EGD) except everyone keeps calling it an art installation.

So last Sunday I went to Glencairn station to check it out. The colours looked as uniform as they do in the photos. So, did Rita Letendre put the colours on the glass panels and laminate them herself,‍[Note 2] or did she specify the colours and tell the factory to do it for her?‍[Note 3] I find the latter more likely (and if so, by craft standards it would be design) but there’s no way to know; nothing has been said about the matter if Google is to be believed, and since we’ve already lost her, we can’t even ask her.

If she’s not been misquoted, she actually called it a mural.‍[Note 4] We still have no idea who did the fabrication.

(There’s this other mystery: How large was Joy (1977)? 55 metres according to La Presse,[Note 5] but Joy (2020) is reportedly 200 metres and it does look like 200 metres in the station.‍[Note 6] It’s hard to believe the old work was so much smaller.

Also, many say Joy (2020) is an “improved” version of the old work but it’s not. Yes it’s the same name, but the colours aren’t even the same.‍[Note 7] Joy (2020) is a completely new work.


  1. Georgiana Uhlyarik, “Hidden Toronto: Fire & Light Rita Letendre, 1928-2021,” Now, November 28, 2021, accessed December 14, 2023, https://​nowtoronto​.com/​news/​hidden​-toronto​-fire​-light​-rita​-letendre​-1928​-2021/​.
  2. See “Spreading Joy,” AGO Insider (Art Gallery of Ontario), September 23, 2020, accessed December 14, 2023, https://​ago​.ca/​agoinsider/​spreading​-joy.
  3. This might sound outrageous but we know Peters Studios in Germany fabricated Zones of Immersion for Stuart Reid and Proto Studios in the U.K., Sky Ellipsis for David Pearl. We’re talking about architectural glass. It is a possibility.
  4. Toronto Society of Architects, “Bringing colour, light and glee to commuters in the @takethettc’s Glencairn Station, the aptly named ‘Joy’ is a 200 metre long art installation by renowned Quebecois-Abenaki artist Rita Letendre,” December 3, 2021, accessed December 14, 2023, https://​www​.instagram​.com/​p/​CXCi​Yv​Est​D9/​.
  5. Éric Clément, “La peintre Rita Letendre n’est plus,” La Presse, November 22, 2021, accessed December 14, 2023, https://​www​.lapresse​.ca/​arts/​arts​-visuels/​2021​-11​-22/​la​-peintre​-rita​-letendre​-n​-est​-plus​.php.
  6. Zones of Immersion is 150 metres and spans the entire platform at Union station. Joy (2020) is longer than the platform.
  7. “Spadina Subway,” in The TTC 100 Years of Moving Toronto (City of Toronto, 2021), accessed December 18, 2023, https://​www​.toronto​.ca/​explore​-enjoy/​history​-art​-culture/​online​-exhibits/​web​-exhibits/​web​-exhibits​-transportation/​the​-ttc​-100​-years​-of​-moving​-toronto/​spadina​-subway/​.