After it was acquired by the City of Mississauga in 2017, the Small Arms Inspection Building—originally part of a large munitions plant—was renovated and opened as an arts centre in 2018. Built in 1940, Small Arms Limited manufactured hand-held weapons for the Canadian and Allied forces in WWII. At the height of its operations, and with a workforce dominated by women, it produced thousands of rifles daily as part of Canada’s industrialized war effort, which mobilized large magnitudes of funds, people, and natural resources.
Industry dominated Toronto’s waterfront in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With the advent of new technologies for resource extraction, Lake Ontario was good for business, providing a channel for access, material for production, and a convenient repository for industrial runoff. In 1990, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority conducted an environmental audit of the site, revealing the presence of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), volatile organic compounds, and combustible gases across nineteen acres. More than 70,000 tons of contaminated radioactive soil was removed to eventually transform the Arsenal Lands into a park.
These kinds of forward-thinking rehabilitation efforts are few and far between. Industry continues to ravage lands and waters across the country, devastating natural resources in places outside of common view. The artworks within Small Arms examine the narratives of geologists, prospectors, settlers, and agriculturalists, many of whom participate in destructive practices. Contrasting processes of extraction and repair, these works point to the intelligence of the natural world, which eludes, subverts, and bears witness to human ambition and its terrifying impacts.
This Biennial site description was generated by the curatorial team, in consultation with our creative partners, to offer lesser-known facts and histories, and explore sites in relation to the changing shoreline.
PARTISANS is the architectural team that helped design the exhibition at Small Arms Inspection Building.
This Biennial site was made possible through a partnership with the City of Mississauga.
Accessible entrance and washrooms
AODA compliant building
- Getting There
By Public Transportation:
GO Transit: From Union Station, take the Lakeshore West GO Train to Long Branch Station (runs every 15 minutes), then walk 12 minutes to SAIB.
TTC: The 501 streetcar travels west along Queen St to Lake Shore Blvd, ending at the Long Branch Loop – a 12 minute walk to SAIB.
By Car: Take the Gardner Expressway W, then use the middle lane to take exit 139 toward Brown’s Line. Keep left, follow signs to continue onto Brown’s Line. Continue straight, then make a slight right onto Lake Shore Blvd W. Turn left at Dixie Rd/Peel Regional Road 4 N.