Managers Report (Summer 2017)
by David O’Hara, Site Manager
After kicking off the first half of 2017 with an extremely busy calendar of events and programs, including Vimy 100 Toronto, the Indigenous Arts Festival, and much more, we moved into our lively summer season. Throughout the summer we hosted many third-party events, including the Rose Picnic, All Day I Dream of Sunshine Divine music festival, CitySTRONG, Vegan Fest, the closing gala for the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education and more.
Our own events included a celebration of Caribbean steel pan music featuring GTA youth steel bands and the award winning ensembles Pan Fantasy and Afropan performing outdoors on Garrison Common. Held on August 6 as a lead-up to Simcoe Day, this was presented in partnership with the Pan Arts Network and The Bentway, with funding from Canadian Heritage as part of our Canada 150 TO Canada with Love program. On Simcoe Day itself, the Guards from Fort George National Historic Site and Old Fort Erie joined the Fort York Guard in our annual event.
Although Fort York was to host the Change of Command for Canadian Army's 32 Brigade in July, the event unfortunately had to be moved indoors to the Fort York Armoury due to bad weather. Another event of note was a reception hosted earlier in the summer (June 24) at the Fort York Visitor Centre by Mayor Tory for the Toronto Consular Corps Association of Toronto. Guests enjoyed visiting Fort York and the opportunity to hear remarks from both Mayor Tory and Chief Laforme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.
In addition to our own Canada Day programming, we were also very pleased to be able to partner with our neighbours at City Place, Concord Adex, on an event and a ten-day pop-up exhibit at their Canada Place presentation centre from June 30 to July 10. This was part of an ongoing partnership which began in 2015, when Concord Adex arranged for a buried 19th-century schooner to be lifted from lakefill and moved to Fort York. The exhibit enabled Museums and Heritage Services to display small archaeological finds related to the vessel, along with a scale model commissioned by Concord Adex and subsequently donated to Fort York. As part of the Canada Place development, Concord Adex has commissioned Canadian author and artist Douglas Coupland to complete a public art installation for the site. http://dailyhive.com/toronto/toronto-concord-canada-house-150-contest
The Fort York Guard performed their last day of music and black powder demonstrations on August 28. The recreated Grenadier Company of the Canadian Regiment of Fencible Infantry and the Corps of Drums had both a busy and successful summer. The three major heritage presentations (Simcoe Day at Fort York NHS, The Siege of Fort Erie at Old Fort Erie, and The Soldiers' Field Day and Drums Muster Weekend at Fort George) were all great successes. The Fort York Guard also co-operated to a greater degree this season with the military animation staffs from Fort George, Fort Malden, and Fort Erie. A huge thank you to all who participated in the 'Guard Committee'—advising and working with the Guard throughout the year.
Moving into September, the OneWalk to Conquer Cancer saw over 3000 move through Fort York as part of a fundraising event for Princess Margaret Hospital. Sofar Sounds Toronto popped up at the Visitor Centre with a surprise performance by artists Torero, Luyos MC, and T. Dot Bangerz Brass. Sofar Sounds operates in 371 cities worldwide bringing small, intimate concerts to unique and unusual locales. This event was presented jointly by Fort York and The Bentway.
The highlight of our September calendar, which was also part of the City's TO Canada with Love program, was our On Common Ground Festival. Working with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, 39 new citizens were sworn in on the afternoon of September 15 to launch a weekend full of programming. A huge thank you to the ICC's Fort York Volunteer Committee, and Nancy Fung in particular, for all of their efforts in bringing these wonderful ceremonies to Fort York.
On Common Ground also featured the world premiere of Miigis by Red Sky Performance. Melding contemporary Indigenous dance and live music, Miigis explores the catalysts, trade routes, and stories of a journey from the Atlantic Coast to the Great Lakes, and the seven prophecies marked by Miigis. The production was made possible by the federal government's Canada 150 funding and was developed on site at Fort York over the summer. It was an honour and a pleasure for us at Fort York to be able to assist in bringing this wonderful production to life—congratulations to Sandra Laronde and everyone at Red Sky Performance. http://www.redskyperformance.com/index.php/miigis/
On Common Ground also included two citizenship reaffirmation ceremonies that were presided over by Satish Kanwar, vice president of product at Shopify, and Don Cranston, chair of The Friends of Fort York and Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. Other programming included live music performances by NEFE, Pan Fantasy, The Monkey Bunch, Tich Meredza & Ruben Esguerra, Baque de Bama, Amadou Kienou, Ritmo Flamenco, and T. DotBangerz Brass.
Congratulations to our acting supervisor of special events, Kristine Williamson, and the entire team involved in making On Common Ground such a success. As quoted in the media release by Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, "Activities like the On Common Ground festival, organized as part of Canada 150 and TO Canada with Love, provide exciting activities for the whole family to engage with the rich cultural diversity that is at the heart of who we are as Canadians.”
September came to a close with the Invictus Games; details can be found in the lead article by Bruce Kidd in this same issue. We're also hoping everyone comes down to see the "Vimy Foundation's First World War in Colour" (www.vimyfoundation.ca), a unique and innovative project colourizing 150 images from the First World War. The exhibit will be on display in the Visitor Centre until the end of October.
On the construction front, an update on The Bentway is located on page 10, and information on Garrison Crossing is available at http://fortyorkbridge.mmm.ca/updates/August 2017 Garrison Crossing Update.html
The Bentway Update (Spring 2017)
by Julian Sleath
Over the last couple of months I have been delighted to get to know the project better and to build relationships with our good friends at Fort York and others in the neighbourhood. I have also been busy building The Bentway team and would like to welcome David Carey as director of development and Ilana Altman as director of programming. It is wonderful to see the progress that has been made—we are all excited to turn this wonderful vision into reality.
Construction work is well underway. More than 50% of the earth moving is complete and later this month we will begin construction of our two main building structures—Strachan Gate, our main performance space, adjacent to Strachan Bridge, and the Skating Shed, which will house the skate trail operations, adjacent to the Fort York Visitor Centre. The contract to build the skate trail has been awarded and we are working hard to make sure that construction is on track for our projected opening for the 2017-2018 winter season.
We are excited to share the news that we have been given access to the north section of the car park at 800 Fleet, which we will turn into a green amphitheatre. A number of city departments came together to make this happen and we are immensely grateful to them all. This is a fantastic addition to the range of facilities at The Bentway and a great opportunity for additional outdoor programming.
We are also delighted that “WATERTABLE”, the public artwork by Lisa Steele and Kim Tomczak, will be reinstalled in the fall of this year. The original installation—in 2009—provided a new way to look at the underside of the Gardiner Expressway and helped catalyse the thinking behind The Bentway. It inspires us to look at spaces that have traditionally been overlooked from a new perspective. This is our aim at The Bentway and we are very happy to see this work come to life again.
Julian Sleath was appointed CEO at The Bentway effective 27 March 2017.
Managers Report (Spring 2017)
by David O’Hara, Site Manager
The first half of 2017 has been busy at Fort York. As part of the city's Canada 150 TO Canada with Love program (and in partnership with the Ontario150 program) Fort York hosted Vimy 100 Toronto on April 8 - 9 with close to 5000 people visiting throughout the weekend to participate in a variety of free programs. The Sunday included a Service of
Remembrance with Canadian Armed Forces to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Attending were the Mayor, Lieutenant Governor, Premier, Chief Stacey LaForme, Consuls General of France, Germany, and Great Britain, and many more.
On April 19 Fort York hosted one of its two annual citizenship ceremonies in partnership with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. There were forty-two new citizens and approximately eighty overall participants in the round table discussions, ceremony, and lunch reception. MP Adam Vaughan was a guest speaker as well as Chief Stacey LaForme from Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.
Our Battle of York weekend, April 22 - 23, included themed tours, cooking demonstrations, and kids’ activities. The regimental colours of the 3rd Regiment of York Militia were back on display in the special collections 'Vault' within the Visitor Centre. This is one of the two colours (flags) of a local militia unit that defended the Town of York during the Battle of York that were generously donated to the City of Toronto by St. James' Cathedral for display at Fort York. Richard Haynes, our site coordinator, conducted two Battle of York walking tours focussing on the combatants as well as the course and outcome of the battle while visitors enjoyed the new War of 1812 exhibits, and in particular the Battle of York immersive experience. We hope more people come down to see these new features in the coming months.
Moving into May we partnered with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival and hosted an installation by Governor General Award-winning photographer Shelley Niro (Mohawk, Turtle Clan). Titled Battlefield of My Ancestors, the series documents the historic battlefields that hold significance for Niro's people. Sixteen images were displayed at Fort York with additional examples at Ryerson for the mmonth of May, and as part of the Indigenous Arts Festival. We were pleased to see Shelley Niro presented with the 2017 Scotiabank Photography Award. Congratulations once again and thank you to our partners at CONTACT and at the Ryerson Image Centre. www.scotiabank.com/photoaward
Also in May, more than 3000 people moved through Fort York as part of the 16th annual Meagan’s Walk http://www.meaganswalk.com/meaganswalk.com/ and we were pleased to host a group of University of Toronto Museum Studies students who visited our historic kitchen as part of their work on an exhibit which will showcase culinary culture in Canada through the work of women. The exhibit will be coming to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library next summer.
On May 20-21, Toronto's Festival of Beer held one of its smaller Spring Sessions, with over 5000 attending and Mayor John Tory joining in for the opening. Victoria Day weekend was busy with cooking and dance demonstrations, and on Artillery Day and Doors Open (May 27 - 28) we partnered with the Department of National Defence, 7th Toronto Regiment Royal Canadian Artillery. On the Saturday of Doors Open re-enactors of the 22nd United States Infantry Regiment and students from Norwood District High School dressed in the uniforms of the 16th US Infantry animated the site and on Sunday members of the Incorporated Militia of Upper Canada and Glengarry Light Infantry re-enactment units performed similar demonstrations throughout the day.
Taste of Toronto landed on site from June 15 - 18 and we then moved into our five-day Indigenous Arts Festival which launched on National Aboriginal Day. The National Aboriginal Day programming was done in partnership with APTN and with the financial support of the Government of Canada, Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), Investors Group, and TD Bank Group.
The Indigenous Arts Festival showcased performances by more than thirty indigenous artists from across Canada. It featured traditional and contemporary music, dance, theatre, storytelling, visual arts, crafts, and food. There were performances by Crystal Shawanda, Wayne Lavallee, and Nick Sherman. The Na-Me-Res Powwow returned on the Saturday as part of the festival.
A huge thank you goes out to everyone involved in making this five-day festival such a success; among others, this includes our staff team led by Kristine Williamson, our partners at APTN, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, and Na-Me-Res, as well as TD Bank, the Government of Canada, and Tim Hortons for the financial support.
On the construction front, we're still very much surrounded. Work on The Bentway continues across the frontage of Fort York (http://www.thebentway.ca/about/) while construction of Garrison Crossing, the bicycle/pedestrian bridge, goes forward on the Common. We expect most of this work will be complete by year-end so we'll be much easier to find in 2018.
The Bentway Update
by Kasia Gladki
These are exciting times for The Bentway. First, on March 6, Waterfront Toronto’s construction manager Kiewit started their work on site. Trailers and fencing were put up as they readied themselves for initial construction–mainly removals and grading–in the coming weeks. Construction will continue through the winter and spring of 2018. Throughout this process access to the Fort York National Historic Site and the Fort York Visitor Centre, as well as events, will be maintained.
Second, The Bentway Conservancy announced that Julian Sleath has been appointed chief executive officer of The Bentway, effective 27 March 2017. A skilled event planner and producer of theatrical and cultural events in Canada and the UK, and an experienced steward of new performing arts venues, Sleath brings more than 35 years of leadership to The Bentway.
As the first full-time hire for this new not-for-profit organization, Sleath will focus on developing the public space, initiating its operations, securing new resources and partnerships, and bringing it to life with a dynamic year-round program of events that will embrace the unique aspiration and vision of The Bentway Conservancy. Sleath says, “Since hearing of the concept, The Bentway has captured my imagination as to what a modern and developing city like Toronto can offer to its communities. The project asks us all to reconsider how we view the Gardiner Expressway and our ongoing relationship with city infrastructure. As construction of the design by Ken Greenberg and PUBLIC WORK moves ahead, our task is to deliver an equally compelling program of events and activities. I wish to take this opportunity not only to thank Judy and Wilmot Matthews, the City of Toronto and Waterfront Toronto for their leadership in this project , but also the many Toronto organizations and individuals who have shown their initiative, vision and commitment to making this project happen.”
Sleath leaves his post in Alberta as executive director of performing arts at the Banff Centre, where he worked with an array of national and international artists in theatre, dance, opera, and all genres of music.
It’s thrilling to watch this project come to life. We look forward to seeing how construction progresses and what our new CEO has in store.
Kasia Gladki is project co-ordinator, Creative Placemaking Lab, at Artscape.