Administrator’s Report (fall 2013)
by David O’Hara, Site Administrator
On the heels of our successful, albeit soggy, On Common Ground: Festival of Culture and Community, we moved into our fall event season. As part of Nuit Blanche we had an independent installation at Fort York with “The Other Side of the Gardiner.” Set beneath the Gardiner Expressway, this immersive installation was created with light, snow, and sound by Abraham Galway and Lauren Poon (http://cargocollective.com/theothersideofthegardiner). October also included Fort York after Dark tours as part of Halloween programming.
In partnership with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, we held another successful Citizenship Ceremony on November 8. Although the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, was unable to attend at the last minute, we were pleased to have Senator Don Meredith in attendance. Also on hand to greet our newest citizens were Councillor Mike Layton, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, and human rights activist Sally Armstrong. A special thank you and congratulations to the Fort York Building Citizenship Committee for all their ongoing work.
The site was busy with many other activities throughout the fall. Filming on-site included YTV’s Cache Craze and episodes of Showcase’s Beauty and the Beast. At the end of September, the SickKids Foundation once again held the Great Camp Adventure at Fort York, bringing over 1400 campers, sponsors, partners, volunteers, and Camp Crew to the site, and raising more than $1.3 million for SickKids.
Our annual Remembrance Day ceremony was well attended once again. Undertaken in partnership with the Toronto Municipal Chapter IODE (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire), this ceremony has taken place in the Strachan Avenue Military Burial Ground for over fifty years. Other core programming included pastry and mince pie workshops and our 2nd annual Frost Fair on December 7 and 8. Capital work across the site is ongoing, with many projects continuing throughout the winter months. The Fort York Visitor Centre is moving along and completion of the building shell makes it much easier now to get a sense of the building from both the Garrison Common and Fort York Boulevard perspectives. The 2013 phase of site work for the Visitor Centre is now complete, including paving of the parking lot and construction of the main entry walks to the building. Window frames have been installed and the general contractor is now heating the building using portable heaters in order to advance all interior components. The first parts of our master plan for signage were installed this fall: two signs at the Strachan Avenue pedestrian entrance and one at the corner of Fort York Blvd and Bathurst Street.
Completion of the Visitor Centre and implementation of several of the major landscape improvements will certainly result in a very complicated site throughout 2014. Programs planned for the first quarter and over the busy summer season will exacerbate the situation. With many events scheduled for the Garrison Common, it’s likely that major work not completed in the spring will be held over until fall in order to minimize the impact on events and site access. By the end of the year, a first phase of landscaping will be complete and we will be working towards the installation of new exhibits in the Visitor Centre. Planning for 2014 events, including celebration of the Visitor Centre opening, is underway; details will be provided soon. One focus in the year ahead will be programs, exhibits, and events related to the centennial of the Great War.
David Spittal, senior project coordinator for the Visitor Centre, reports that over 80% of the Visitor Centre’s concrete shell, including the building façade and roof, is complete. Mechanical equipment has been delivered, and electrical and other site-servicing work continues. For those visiting the site, our General Contractor, Harbridge + Cross, has installed the first weathered steel panel at the far west end of the building. This first panel was installed early as a test. The building itself is expected to be substantially complete by the end of May 2014, with exhibit installation and landscaping scheduled over the summer months. An official opening date has yet to be finalized.
Administrator’s Report (summer 2013)
by David O’Hara, Site Administrator
Following our roster of early summer events, which included Arts and Crafts ‘Field Trip’ and our own War of 1812 Festival Weekend. Fort York’s event schedule was busy through the remainder of the summer. Major events hosted on-site throughout July and August included The Toronto Urban Roots Festival, Mad Decent, The Grove Festival, and Riot Fest. Our own core events included Canada Day and our annual Simcoe Day and Emancipation Day event on August 5. A special thank you goes to Sandra Shaul, Museum Administrator, and Rosemary Sadlier, President of the Ontario Black History Society, for assisting in pulling together such a wonderful event with The Honourable David C. Onley, 28th lieutenant-governor of Ontario, and over 2000 people in attendance.
The summer season concluded with our On Common Ground: Festival of Culture and Community. On Common Ground was a family-friendly festival that marked the transition from summer to fall, and the global quest for peace, with a creative exchange of arts and culture. The weekend included performances by Jane Bunnett & Carnivalissimo, The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Escola de Samba, Gordon Monahan’s sound installation Erratum Addendum, four of Dusk Dances’ most popular works, Clay & Paper Theatre, and a farmers’ market. This event was planned and implemented by Robert Kerr, Kristine Williamson, and all of the staff and volunteers at Fort York.
Our 2013 season further emphasized the increasingly important role all of our volunteers play in making our programs and events successful. With assistance from our partners at Evergreen, original seed-funding for the program from RBC, and our on-site Volunteer Coordinator Cathy Martin, our volunteer program continues to grow. A special thanks to everyone involved with the success of this program. All components of our overall site master planning exercise continue to move forward. This includes ongoing work on the future removal of the Garrison Road bridge, planning for the future Fort York Pedestrian/Bicycle bridge, work on the yet to be named park at the east end of the fort by the new Fort York Library (http://www.urbantoronto.ca/news/2013/09/proposed-design-released-mouth-creek-park) and a 2014 phase of landscape improvements to the Garrison Common. All of these components have been integrated into our overall site master plan (DTAH consulting), which was presented to, and enthusiastically received by, the City of Toronto’s Economic Development Committee on September 17.
At the September 17 meeting, the Economic Development Committee also acknowledged two generous donations made by TD Bank Group. TD is donating $100,000 to the Fort York Foundation to assist with the revitalization of the Garrison Common. This donation focuses on the west end of the Common and enhances the $1-million gift from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation to the Fort York Foundation for the Garrison Common.
TD Bank Group also donated $50,000 towards supporting War of 1812 Bicentennial educational programs at the City’s historic sites. Participating museums include Fort York, Mackenzie House, Colborne Lodge, Montgomery’s Inn, and Gibson House. The donation makes it possible for students of the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board to attend the educational programs at no cost. Almost 2000 students have already participated in the program, which will continue through June 2014.
David Spittal, senior project coordinator for the Visitor Centre, reports that over 80% of the Visitor Centre’s concrete shell, including the building façade and roof, is complete. Mechanical equipment has been delivered, and electrical and other site-servicing work continues. For those visiting the site, our General Contractor, Harbridge + Cross, has installed the first weathered steel panel at the far west end of the building. This first panel was installed early as a test panel. The building itself is expected to be substantially complete by the end of May 2014, with exhibit installation and landscaping scheduled over the summer months. An official opening date has yet to be finalized.
Administrator’s Report (spring 2013)
by David O’Hara, Site Administrator
http://www.toronto.ca/1812/events.htm for more information.On April 27th some 7000 people descended upon Fort York National Historic Site to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of York. With the weather cooperating fully, the day began at 6:15 am with a Sunrise Ceremony led by the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. Approximately 800 people then joined ‘Walking in Their Footsteps,’ a walking tour from the point of the American landing near the Palais Royal to Fort York. Meanwhile, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was at Queen’s Park presenting a new Regimental Colour to the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment. This ceremony was followed by a military parade of more than 1500 sailors and soldiers of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Army from Queen’s Park to Fort York. Following an afternoon Service of Remembrance at Fort York, a new plaque honouring the First Nations warriors who died in the Battle of York was unveiled. Visit
Our annual Doors Open Toronto program brought approximately 2500 to the fort on May 25-26 and well over 10,000 attended ‘Field Trip’ on June 8. Field Trip, a music and arts festival, was tremendously successful–a family-oriented, free for children event in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Toronto-based music label Arts & Crafts.
On the heels of Field Trip, we moved into the War of 1812 Festival weekend on June 15-16. Fort York staff worked closely with narrator and director Peter Twist and our core supporters from the Re- Enactment Regiments of the Crown Forces and U.S. Forces of North America to dramatize the events of 27 April 1813. This was the first time a re-enactment of that scale has taken place at Fort York in over a decade. Other components of this festival included a Sutlers’ Row marketplace, music from the Drums of the Crown Forces and Gin Lane, and performances by the York Regency Dancers and Anishinaube performers Morningstar River. Special thanks go to Peter Twist and to Kevin Hebib, Richard Haynes, and all staff and volunteers for pulling together such a unique event as we wind down our bicentennial events at Fort York.
The lineup of Aboriginal programming for the June 20-22 Indigenous Arts Festival included the Métis Fiddler Quartet, the launch of Donald B. Smith’s book Mississauga Portraits (University of Toronto Press), Ogitchada (Warrior) songs from Morningstar River, and the premiere of two stunning works: ‘The Road’ by Toronto’s Centre for Indigenous Theatre and ‘The Honouring’ by Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. On June 21 Fort York marked National Aboriginal Day with traditional stories, songs, dances, and a Sunset Ceremony and on June 22, out in New Credit near Hagersville, a new Community Centre was opened with an exhibit titled ‘Outcome of the War of 1812: First Nations Betrayed.’ This exhibit, along with much of our National Aboriginal Day programming is the result of the ongoing partnership between the City of Toronto’s Museum Services and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.
Although a few weeks delayed due to weather, construction of the Visitor Centre is moving along with the foundation work largely complete. Actual building completion is still scheduled for May/June of 2014 with exhibit installation to follow. Parallel projects, including the rehabilitation of the Garrison Common and planning for the Fort York Pedestrian bridge, continue to move ahead. One of the next major components of the overall landscape master plan now being investigated is the future removal of the obsolete Garrison Road bridge. The plan is to demolish the bridge structure and to create a level route at the lower Garrison Common elevation. This will have a huge and positive impact on the overall site, providing a much stronger connection between the Armoury and Fleet Street portion of the national historic site and the actual Common, and allowing for improved access through the site in the area of the Visitor Centre.
With restoration work completed on the Brick Magazine, the exhibit ‘Finding the Fallen: The Battle of York Remembered’ has now been installed in the building. Those visiting the site recently might have noticed the new windows in the North Soldiers’ Barracks. These windows have been meticulously hand-crafted by Chris Laverton, Cultural Assets staff, from wood salvaged from the Queen’s Wharf after archaeological investigation at Bathurst and Fleet streets. The landscape design at the east end of the national historic site is also moving along. The last public meeting was held on May 15 and the response to the final conceptual design and approach was very positive. I encourage everyone to view the presentation material from the first public meeting http://ward20.ca/files/2013-03-05_CreekParkPresentation.pdf.
Indigenous Arts Festival at Fort York
The First Nations and Métis experience during the War of 1812 was artistically honoured and explored with dance, music, theatre and literary works at the free Indigenous Arts Festival at Fort York National Historic site June 20-22.
"This festival successfully showcased the diverse history and talent that exists within Toronto's and Canada's Aboriginal communities," said Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina), Co-chair of the City of Toronto's Aboriginal Affairs Committee.
The performances evoked the personal and collective indigenous experience in a space and place where some of that history occurred.
The festival presented three world premieres:
- The Honouring, an evocative multi-disciplinary work from award-winning choreographer Santee Smith's Kaha:wi Dance Theatre
- The Road, an original play from the Centre for Indigenous Theatre
- Corps de Voyageur - Soldiers in Capote, a play from an original script from Métis historian and filmmaker Virginia Barter with original music composed and performed by the Métis Fiddler Quartet.
Additional events included the Toronto launch of a new book "Mississauga Portraits, Ojibwe Voices' from Nineteenth-century Canada" by Donald B. Smith and multiple performances by renowned Toronto Anishinabe group, Morningstar River.
Fort York marked National Aboriginal Day on June 21 with expanded aboriginal programming that encompassed traditional stories, songs, dances and a stirring sunset ceremony by the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.
All of the Indigenous Arts Festival @ Fort York events were part of the City's War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration program. Fort York is located at 250 Fort York Blvd. and is one of 10 historic museums operated by the City of Toronto.
This festival was presented by the City of Toronto with support from the Government of Canada, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Province of Ontario and Tim Hortons.
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