Once Upon Water art residency
International Call
Toronto Island, Canada

Facilitator: Teresa Ascencao

Program Dates: May 8–23, 2023
Submission Deadline: Feb 28, 2023 (*early bird Dec 15, 2022)


Once Upon Water is a two-week art residency to create artworks about the material and magical notions of water. Water is in constant flow and yet may present itself as still ~ a mirror that mesmerizes. In this state its reflective surface invites gazing at our physical selves, but also beyond our bodies to contemplate both our inner experiences and relationships with the outer world. Water gushes from deep below earth’s crevices, falls from elevations and hovers in misty formations. It traverses time, shape-shifts as it slides through various spaces, and is one of Mother Nature’s greatest Sculptors. At once, water pours out of taps in developed countries as a banal occurrence, while women in developing countries trek miles to fetch it clean. Alarmingly, earth is under threat of losing all its sea ice this century, while future wars are predicted to be fought over water rather than oil. Yet, the world’s greatest religions say water holds the power to purify and renew.

Once Upon Water will take place at Artscape Gibraltar Point on Toronto island, Canada. Due to record rains in 2017 and 2019, forty percent of Toronto Island flooded and the islands were closed to the public. The waters have since receded and island life is once again thriving, but physical traces and stories of the flood remain.

Residents work individually or collaboratively to create artworks that explore tangible and intangible concepts of water through media of their choice, such as photography, video, installation, drawing, painting, performance art, movement, sound art, media art, etc. Artists will have opportunities to socialize and integrate with people who live on, and visit, Toronto island. This programmed residency offers facilitation by multimedia artist Teresa Ascencao, resident artist talks, a special guest artist talk, gallery tours in the city centre, creative and critical dialogue by the shoreline, and plenty of studio time. Critiques of residents’ works occur individually with the Facilitator and through facilitated group discussions. There will be a closing exhibition of artworks created during the residency (if preferred, artists may show in open studio fashion).

Artscape Gibraltar Point is an artist retreat nestled against the magnificent natural backdrop of Toronto Island, and metres from the beach. It offers a distraction-free environment to focus on making art, and a rich potential for the creation of water-themed artworks amongst its blue-flag beaches (one of them being clothing optional) and natural surroundings of Lake Ontario, forests and gardens filled with flowers, fruit and vegetables. On the island, there are tiny quaint homes, a historic lighthouse, a hobby farm and antique carnival grounds. Cozy up in a furnished studio and bedroom, and enjoy amenities such as a fully equipped common kitchen, shared bathrooms, laundry facilities and wireless Internet. Enjoy beach sunrises and sunsets at the foot of your studio. AGP aims to have as minimal barriers as possible and promotes an inclusive environment. The Toronto city core is just a 15-minute ferry ride away.

Teresa Ascencao is a multimedia artist with special interest in body language, socially inscribed objects, spaces and costumes, and inner and outer corporeal experiences. She collaborated on Water Portals, an interactive work of digitally rendered water ripples triggered by dancers bodies. As an environmentalist, her most recent work has been to protect Toronto’s waterfront through the organization she founded, Citizens for a Healthy Toronto Waterfront. Ascencao graduated with distinction from the University of Toronto’s Honours Fine Art Studio program, and received her MFA from OCAD University specializing in Media Art. Her award-winning work has been exhibited in Canada and internationally. She lives and works in Toronto and teaches at OCADU and University of Toronto.



Once Upon Water art residency will host up to 18 professional artists. The cost is $932.25 for shared accommodation or $1,186.50 for private bedroom, plus HST. Fees include sleeping quarters, large shared studio, facilitation, programming and exhibition. Artists are responsible for their travel to and from Toronto Island ferry dock on arrival and departure dates, their own food and art supplies, projectors and speakers.

Artists are encouraged to apply for financial support through their federal, provincial and municipal arts councils, and other sources such as the ones listed here by international region. A letter of support for artists’ grant applications will be provided to artists accepted in the residency.

Arrivals are on May 9 at 1pm, and departures on May 24 before 11am. Artists are responsible for getting themself and their gear to Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and onto the ferry. Once on the Island, Artscape Staff will provide transportation to the centre.

We welcome people in all walks of life into a creative journey of critical thinking and self-discovery in relation to water on Toronto Island. Indigenous, people with disabilities, people of colour and diverse gender identifications are encouraged to apply. Not all residency locations are wheel chair accessible. Please inquire about accessibility. For more information contact Teresa Ascencao at



Submit your Application via email to Teresa Ascencao at as follows: write “Once Upon Water / First_&_Last_name” in the subject line; include a 200-word statement about your overall practice, a 200-word proposal describing the work you intend to explore during the residency, your bio; up to 5 images or video/sound clips that are most related to the work you propose during the residency, and a link to your website or portfolio; your CV, your sleeping accommodation preference (if you’re open to both shared and private please indicate), any accessibility needs you have, and finally any lived experiences related to class, race, gender, etc. that you’d like to be considered in your application 100 words max.

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