Arts and culture are leading drivers of Doors Open Toronto this weekend (May 25 & 26) with tours and talks that invite the public behind the scenes and illuminate the creative process. Pictured above is Open Studio, one of Toronto’s finest printmaking facilities, a highlight of any tour of arts hub, 401 Richmond St. A wealth of other creative spaces are featured among the more than 150 buildings opening their doors to the public on Saturday and Sunday; see website for details as well as a schedule of talks and tours. This year’s theme is Creators, Makers & Innovators but the roster is by no means restricted to creative spaces, there are dozens of other buildings opening their doors above and beyond the theme.
Scarborough Arts had a great crowd out at the Access Point on Danforth Thursday for the launch of this year’s Big Art Book, a cross-generational, community arts project featuring an assortment of poetry and visual art from nearly 200 submissions. This year’s theme is digital literacy and you can view the work online.
Toronto City Councillor Gary Crawford, above left, joined Toronto Arts Council Director and CEO Claire Hopkinson for a City Hall press conference this morning to announce new funding priorities and partnerships for the TAC. Beginning this year, Toronto Arts Council will support a new range of youth-led arts initiatives in conjunction with ArtReach Toronto, a well-established arts collective focused on youth in under-served communities. The TAC is also kick-starting a matching incentive and sponsorship training program through Business for the Arts‘ artsVest initiative; Canadian Heritage is matching the initial TAC investment of $500,000 over two years. For more info on the TAC’s Priorities for New Funding, 2013 – 2016 and the City’s latest report on Creating Value with Increased Investment in the Arts click here.
Never in his wildest dreams did Ins Choi imagine that his play, Kim’s Convenience, would be the monster hit it has become. The play took years to finish, through draft after draft after draft but with persistence and the ceaseless encouragement of a supportive wife, Choi did finish his script, only to circulate it and have it rejected by every theatre in Toronto.
“I’m an actor so the rejection was nothing new,” Choi told a small but attentive audience last week at Palmerston Library, where he was speaking as part of Asian Heritage Month programming. “I knew that if I was ever going to see my play up on its feet, I was going to have to produce it myself.”
Choi went the Fringe route and entered Kim’s Convenience in the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival‘s new play contest “because if you won you got the $800 entrance fee waived,” explains Choi. “So I entered and it won. That was a HUGE moment of encouragement because I didn’t know any of those people, and yet they believed in my work. I was so happy.”
Kim’s Convenience sold-out its Fringe run and carried home the Patron’s Pick Award; a Best of the Fringe run in North York was also sold-out. Then Choi’s phone started ringing with calls and meeting requests from all the artistic directors who had previously turned down his play. In the end, Choi handed his baby to Soulpepper where he’s an associate artist. “It was a good fit,” he says.
UNITY Charity, a growing non-profit at the forefront of youth outreach and empowerment, took over the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre on Saturday afternoon for a rousing celebration of its supporters, both public and private. A full-house cheered on poets, breakers and beatboxers in-between speeches from sponsors and UNITY leaders like Founder and Executive Director Michael Prosserman (foreground above in green) and Lishai Peel (far right), UNIFFECT Program Coordinator.
“We’re teaching young people to tell their stories and to inspire their peers in their communities,” Prosserman told the audience. “Some youth don’t connect with sports but they connect with creativity. So we’re giving those young people a safe space in which to excel and to learn important life skills as well as these art forms. We’ve reached over 100,000 young people since 2008 (big cheer) with your support.”
Check out the UNITY YouTube channel; be inspired and find your sound!