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Toronto artist creating pieces based on expired TTC Metropasses from past 2 decades

Nina Okens, a Toronto costume designer and artist, has been collecting metropasses for 20 years and is now using them to create art. .
Nina Okens, a Toronto costume designer and artist, has been collecting metropasses for 20 years and is now using them to create art. . Nina Okens / Facebook

It might be the end of an era for the Toronto Transit Commission Metropass, but for a local artist there’s still plenty of life left in the iconic fare passes.

As the TTC phase out metropasses by Dec. 31 and fully adopts PRESTO electronic fare cards, people have been comparing their collection of cards online with how many they have compiled over the years.

For Nina Okens, a costumer designer and artist who’s been saving old metropasses for the past two decades, she said she has about 200 cards in her collection.

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Originally it was saved for tax purposes, but now instead of throwing the passes away, she’s been asking people to donate their cards to her to create TTC-inspired art pieces.

“As an artist you’re used to looking at things in a certain way, so I knew I was going to make something out of them,” Okens said.

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She said she came up with the idea last spring to turn her expired Metropasses into art pieces influenced by the transit system. Okens said she liked the challenge of taking something rendered useless and making it into something usable so it doesn’t create more waste.

“[It] seemed appropriate to make TTC-themed art out of it because it’s relevant and people seem to gravitate towards it,” she said.

Okens said people love transit-based art and merchandise because there’s an emotional reaction when travelling or commuting comes to mind.

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Although she stopped using the passes regularly around two years ago, Okens said she enjoys how intricate and colourful the designs have been throughout the years as well as how much the quality of the card has changed.

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Since putting a call out for donations on social media, she said she has received around 400 cards from Toronto residents.

“I thought I was the only hoarder, but I got a box yesterday (that had cards) from 2007.”

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She said the oldest Metropass she currently has is from 2001, one that is found in her own collection. Okens said she hopes to see if someone has even older cards.

“It’s a way of honoring the memory [of Metropasses] and a way of reducing waste, making people aware that not everything is garbage and has to be thrown out,” she said.
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