The weather forecast for Saturday has improved considerably and Scott Woodland, for one, couldn’t be happier about it. A director of the Scarborough Historical Society, Woodland will leading the Thomson Pioneer Settlement walk May 1 beginning at 1:30 pm: it’s the first Heritage Toronto Walk of the season, one of dozens of free, real-time explorations of the city’s present and past.
A public school teacher and committed history buff, Woodland, above centre, is an expert on the early days of Scarborough and its founding family, the Thomsons. “David and Mary Thomson were the first European settlers to be given a land grant in the area [around 1798] although there had been native villages on the site going back about 800 years,” says Woodland.
The highly specialized, and yes, esoteric world of Jacquard art weaving is in the spotlight in Toronto this week courtesy of a pair of exhibitions, one at the Textile Museum of Canada and the other at Berkeley Castle Gallery featuring the work of Toronto’s Joe Lewis.
Lewis has been missing in action in recent years; he showed annually at the Cameron House throughout the 1990s but this is his first show in the city since 2000.
“I’m really looking forward to exposing this work to a new audience and to my old audience,” Lewis told me earlier this week during a break in the exhibit installation. As his practice matured, Lewis shifted from painting and collage to quilting to weaving. The work on display right now features one of the artist’s favourite motifs, the classic 1950s body builder silhouette.
A sizeable crowd converged on Fort York National Historic Site yesterday afternoon for the official launch of the Toronto Museum Project, a virtual home for 100 artifacts and stories (so far) told by a range of Torontonians from every corner of the city. Politicians, city museums staff and TMP storytellers were on hand to introduce the project and help create some buzz about this impressive new site, which was built with support from Canadian Heritage’s Canadian Culture Online Strategy.
Mayor Miller told those assembled, “We’re just scratching the surface of the knowledge that we share collectively . . . the Museum Project gives us a chance to share the true richness of our city with each other. And what better way to start than online? I think this project is terrific. I look forward to even more stories being told and I look forward, a few years from now, to seeing the Toronto Museum established in Old City Hall so that all of us can share those stories in person.”
Joining the officials were four of the people whose stories are captured on the site. Shakil A. (above from left) talked about a prayer rug he brought with him from Pakistan and spoke of feeling welcome to practice his religion in Toronto’s mosques; Evelyn S. told a story about working as a junior bank teller in one of Toronto’s Chinatown’s and how a 1923 bank loan document for a Chinese Canadian resonated with her own family history; former Toronto Mayor David Crombie spoke about William Jarvis’s Queen’s Rangers Uniform Jacket from 1791 making a connection between Toronto’s past and its present: “Toronto’s history is always at work whether we’re paying attention or not,” he said; and Anna B. spoke to a 1960 photograph of the corner of Jane Street and Finch Avenue West, expounding on this community where she grew up, was educated and found her strength and voice. “This street corner has talent, aspirations and skills, this street corner shaped who I am today.”
The Gardiner Museum’s first major exhibition of 2010 was unveiled to the media this morning in advance of its official launch tomorrow: From the Melting Pot into the Fire, Contemporary Ceramics in Israel is a complex show, much more conceptual art than pretty pots and vessels.
Ceramic artist Yael Novak, left, whose installation Between the Pots is featured, joined the museum’s Chief Curator Charles Mason in leading the tour. “The show is about identity and sense of place in a multicultural, immigrant society,” said Novak, whose work takes advantage of the negative space “between the pots” to depict the multifarious building forms prevalent throughout the nation. “You have the iconic architectural shapes of Israel,” says the artist, “the influence of the kibbutz but also the domed and minaret shapes of the Arabic villages. The installation combines my two loves, architecture and pottery but I created my landscape out of air; architecture is about volume, my architecture is air, it’s an illusion.’
Black History Month begins today and one of Toronto’s most inspiring true stories – that of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first woman in North America to publish a newspaper — is being told at Mackenzie House Museum (82 Bond Street), former home of Toronto’s first mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie.
The “rebel mayor” responsible for starting the Upper Canada Rebellion in 1837, was also a newspaper publisher and he used his broadsheets to condemn slavery and to encourage the equal treatment of Upper Canada’s Black population. In 1837, he wrote: “as a public journalist we have never failed to espouse, and delight in advocating the heaven-born principle of abolition of slavery, of every race of which it may be the curse.”
Mac House, as we affectionately call the museum, boasts a recreated 1800s printshop, the perfect place to explore Shadd Cary’s role as publisher of the Provincial Freeman, founded in 1853.