Modern saunas, cold plunges and communal bathhouses are popping up across Toronto. These permanent and temporary spaces are welcomed breaks from our everyday. They’ve become places to soothe our souls, invigorate our bodies, and to clear our minds. PUBLIC SWEAT is the latest experience presented by Art Spin. It will merge the traditional health and wellness benefits of hot-cold thermal therapy with the contemporary art world and we’re here for it. Grab your bathing suits and your besties!  All of this will land at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre from March 15 to April 23, 2023.

There will be five different saunas to explore within a span of a pre-booked two-hour visit. Saunas are set at various temperatures and visitors are invited to enjoy them at whatever pace they choose. In addition, participants can spend time cooling off outside and sitting by the fire or even opt for a cold bucket rinse to experience the full hot-cold thermal cycle.

There will also be an indoor lounge with snacks and drinks available and more art programming. Bathing-related reading material will be on hand so anyone can sink into the lounge with a good book after the saunas.

Art Spin has a history of presenting art in unique and unconventional locations.

“We were first known for our bicycle led art tours that paired a massive group bike ride with curated art projects,” said Layne Hinton, Co-Executive Director & Co-Curator.

“Over the years we’ve seen how engaged people are when they are experiencing art outside of a traditional gallery or museum, particularly when there is a physical and participatory aspect to that experience, so it made sense for us to continue to explore this programming format – this time with saunas instead of bicycles!”

Rui Pimenta and Layne Hinton, co-executive directors and co-creators.

There will be over 20 artists whose work you can explore at Public Sweat.  More will be featured in upcoming scheduled programs. We’re eyeing their Sound Bath music series and the changing video works in the Mobile Sweat sauna.

Hinton tells us there is a mix of local, Canadian and international artists. “We sought them out based on their previous work and its connection to themes related to sweat bathing. Some examples include, social interaction, the body/mind connection, and rest as a form of protest.”

They commissioned artists to design the saunas. Hinton explains what they were after. “We were looking for a unique combination of sculpture or architectural experience, paired with an interest in those same sweat bathing themes. It’s a real challenge to make a work of art that is also a functioning sauna, but our artists’ have struck that balance beautifully.”

Throughout their research process, Hinton and the team came up with a list of themes and questions related to sweat bathing.  Based on this, they invited the artists to consider them. They discovered most of the artists already had pre-existing relationships to sweat bathing in their work. Consequently, they all brought a lot of ideas to the table as well. “It’s been a really collaborative process and we’re so lucky to get to work closely with all an amazing roster of artists,” said Hinton.

A few of the artists involved

One of the artists designing a sauna structure, Christie Pearson, has traveled the world, trying different  bathing experiences. “She literally wrote the book on it – so she drew from her wealth of personal research to come up with a unique design for a geodesic sauna with a heated granite floor that harkens back to ancient Roman baths.”

Hinton also tells us about artist Rihab Essayh. “She has a lot of textile-based works that speak to the idea of ‘radical softness’, where the act of empathy and care for others is viewed as a political act in a society that often privileges indifference. She employs this in an installation that creates a sort of colour bath, immersing participants in a quiet and contemplative space to feel softness.”

Simone Jones’ sauna structure takes inspiration from industrial era ‘wood burners’. These silo-like structures existed in sawmills to burn off scrap material and sawdust. “She takes this form and augments it with baroque flourishes to create a sauna that becomes a place for contemplation and wonder,” explained Hinton.

public sweat - bathhouse - Harbourfront Centre

What else can you expect?

Aside from the sauna experience, she also tells us that some two-hour sessions will have additional live arts programming. Also, look out for performances, readings, or small workshops over the coming weeks. Whether you visit during a live program or not, there is much to explore in your two-hour visit. Sounds like we may need to go back a few times! Stay tuned as we’ll be experiencing this ourselves!

Public Sweat takes place from March 15 to April 23, 2023, at Harbourfront Centre, Toronto. Visit the Public Sweat Website to book a time and learn more about the artists involved as well as how to prepare for a session.