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Future Retrospectives

Deadline: September 20, 2019

‘Future Retrospectives’ explores the diverse ways we can reframe materials, traditions, and techniques into new objects and contexts by shifting our perspective forward, and then looking back. This methodology of imagining the future by looking back provides us with a better sense of approaches and actions we can employ to progress and innovate. What can we discover about what we need through a future-past tense lens? What does our present or past offer us as a starting point for creation or innovation? What can we bring forward to get “there”?

The idea of a future retrospective can be addressed in many ways. We can consider imminent events or unknown possibilities that we must prepare for, and seek to create the necessary objects and strategies for them. We can reuse materials to create objects for the future, carrying their significance forward or transforming them along the way. We can speculate who or what we will be in the near future, and determine the things or frameworks we need to achieve or avoid our fate. There is even the possibility that maybe, for there to be a future at all, we must look into modes of preservation as an act of resilience.

Call for submissions

We invite submissions from artists and designers working in all mediums and formats. We are open to projects expressed in 2- or 3-dimensions, digital or analog, whether they be object- or concept-based.

Submissions of existing work or realized projects are preferred; however, we will consider submissions of speculative  work and projects that have not yet been realized.

Work and projects will be exhibited during the DesignTO Festival, January 17-26, 2020.

All submissions must include the following:

  1. A description of the project or work (max. 100 words) please be sure to  include the following details: title, materials/format, dimensions, year;
  2. a description of how your object or work connects to the exhibition theme (max 300 words);
  3. a short bio on you and/or your creative practice (max. 150 words);
  4. 1-3 images of the project or work (max. 1MB per image); and
  5. Your
    1. contact info (name, email, phone number, mailing address),
    2. CV, and
    3. website URL (if available).

Click here to submit

* Only submissions through the online form will be considered. *


All submissions are due Friday, September 20, 2019 by 11:59pm EST.

How much does it cost?

There is no fee for this submission or for participating in the Thematic Exhibition. However, if selected, you will be responsible for arranging drop-off and pick-up of your work to Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto. Artist’s fees will be paid to artists selected for the exhibition.

When and where is the exhibition?

The exhibition will open Friday, January 17 and run until Sunday, March 29, 2020. An opening reception will be held during Festival Week (date to be announced). The exhibition and reception will be held at the Artport Gallery, Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto. We reserve the right to modify dates if required.

What happens next?

Successful submissions will be notified by email by October 21, 2019.


Email any questions to Head of Programming Robyn Wilcox at [email protected] with this subject line: Thematic Exhibition + your name.


Going into its sixth year, the thematic exhibition is a signature program of the annual DesignTO Festival, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing design culture. This exhibition is co-presented with Harbourfront Centre.

Image credit: ‘Surface Tension’ (thematic exhibition 2019), photo by Christine Lim

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