Ambrose Li
Two pieces of Bruce McLean’s work at Finch West that doesn’t even have a title

The sculpted columns at Museum and Finch West stations

Finch West has artwork by Bruce McLean (let’s say this fact has been widely reported so we can’t dispute it), but the work doesn’t even have a title. So what kind of art is it?

According to Ana-Francisca de la Mora of IBI, one of the architectural firms responsible for the station, “He designed the columns in the public space and the bus canopy.”‍[Note 1]

(That sounds like two things. Most reports don’t even mention the second thing.)

That doesn’t quite sound like installation art, does it.

I believe what we’re seeing at Finch West isn’t what we’d usually consider “art”. What we’re seeing is environmental design, and the fact that his work doesn’t have a title strongly suggests this is the case. McLean provided artistic input, but in the grand scheme of things, he was a co-designer.

In contrast to Finch West, we actually know quite a lot about Museum station. This still hasn’t prevented Wikipedia’s list of Toronto subway public art from not listing author or title, because apparently, whoever’s maintaining that list isn’t an artist‍[Note 2] so, perhaps, they don’t know how to interpret the information available.

We know the art was done by Diamond Schmitt (an archi­tectural firm).‍[Note 3] Since the work is in their portfolio, we actually know it was just called “Museum Station”.‍[Note 4]

Remember Finch West? Yes, the fact that it’s just called “Museum Station” is a strong hint that this was a design project, not installation art.

And we do know it was indeed a design project, because Diamond Schmitt says so. We also know the actual designers were A.J. Diamond, Giuseppe Mandarino, Gary McCluskie, and Michael Treacy (so I don’t know why Wikipedia refuses to acknowledge them). And we know unnamed curators and artisans (called “artists” in their portfolio) were involved.‍[Note 5] Yes, the architectural firm really divulged this much, and more.

Interestingly, according to their portfolio entry, they initially considered including artefacts from the Gardiner Museum, but after consulting with the unnamed curators, only artefacts from the ROM were chosen.

Given that it’s an architectural firm, curators were involved, and signage was designed, we can actually make a pretty good guess at what kind of design project it was: it’s environmental graphic design (EGD).


  1. Paul Gallant, “Public art project at new Finch West subway station featured at IIDEXCanada conference,” in Yonge Street (2015), accessed December 9, 2023, https://​www​.yongestreetmedia​.ca/​devnews/​iidexcanadafinchwestsubwayart12022015​.aspx.
  2. This is an educated guess, of course, based on the fact that many smaller pieces (that any artist would consider art) aren’t included and the fact that basic information like year, medium and dimension aren’t listed at all.
  3. Chris Bateman, “The top 5 public art installations on the TTC,” blogTO, September 10, 2014, accessed December 7, 2023, https://​www​.blogto​.com/​arts/​2014/​09/​the​_​top​_​5​_​public​_​art​_​installations​_​on​_​the​_​ttc/​.
  4. Diamond Schmitt, “Museum Station,” in Civic, accessed December 7, 2023, https://​dsai​.ca/​projects/​museum​-station/​.
  5. Diamond Schmitt, “Museum Station.”