Creative Convergence Hubs Cultivating Community Health in the GTA
ArtHouse is an aspirational model of city sanctioned, Community-led accessible and appropriate spaces in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) dedicated to creative convergence for community health. ArtHouse exemplifies the interdependence of health, well-being and the arts while legitimizing artists and their requirements by providing live work studio apartments mixed with affordable housing, community health orgs, community garden & community kitchen, multi-media arts production & programming space under one roof.
Sketching possible futures
During the time of global shutdown due to COVID 19, we found the need to process this new situation through our art practice, as artists do! We also found that during the pandemic, people have been turning to the arts to help process, to relax, to escape, as a balm, as therapy. Art is medicine.
Yet, there is a disconnect.
The arts are usually the first thing to be cut from a budget. When Ford came into office as Premier of Ontario, he cut $8 million from the Ontario Music Fund, $5 million from Ontario Arts Council base fundng and essentially eliminated the Indigenous Culture Fund, not to mention cuts to new safe injection sites, healthcare, legal aid, libraries, 50 Million Tree Program.... And that's just this government.
Quantifying the value of the arts is necessary, and thanks to the Toronto Arts Foundation's Toronto Art's Stats 2019, the proof is there. We know how impactful art is in our lives, yet, as a society, there is still a lot of work to be done to authentically and effectually support the artists themselves, to facilitate the space that's needed for artists to thrive in an urban environment.
After experiencing two renovictions from live/artist studios (to be replaced by condos which no former tenant could afford or would want to live in anyway!) We found solace in visioning the most positive, equitable, just, accessible places where all citizens can find safety and healthcare delivered through an arts lens. Physically surrounded by creative dwellings, shops and studios, urban farming, health and wellness spaces and creative endeavours. A community allowed to flourish around arts-based facilities that support multiple professional, private and public initiatives. Housing artists and accommodating activities that encourage community engagement at all levels, through the arts. All on one site.
deputation to the ontario gov.
Tuesday June 30 2020
Bureau of Power And Light (BPL) presented an online deputation to the Standing Committee on Economic and Financial Affairs regarding a Covid Study on the State of the Arts and Culture Sector in Ontario.
During the 1 hour session, Members of the Provincial Parliament listened to our story respectfully. Two more organizations were given equal time to tell their stories followed by 40 mins of MPP initiated question and answer period. We are so grateful to have shared the space with fellow art orgs who both are magnetic centres to arts and culture for entire regions and diverse peoples. Cheers to The Sudbury Art Gallery, and Alliance de Producteurs Francophone du Canada (APFC).
Go here to read the transcript now. Soon it will be available on the Ontario Legislature website.
We also acknowledge the gift of contributing our story to the Public Record. It felt validating to use the formal governmental platform to introduce ArtHouse as an aspirational response to COVID-intensified pre-existing cultural crises. Arthouse is the gathering of existing innovative genius and creative success brought together in a new way that must also address widespread trauma and the disproportionate trauma experienced across marginalized communities revealed by the pandemic.
Thank you to everyone who answered our last minute calls for advice and messages of solidarity in undertaking the deputation ! We felt embraced by our trusted advisors and touchstones when we needed it throughout the fast-paced process from being alerted to the call, to applying, to being invited, to delivering our presentation. Thank you friends and allies for rising to the occasion, and championing our collective values. Gilad Cohen, Jessica Singh, Carolyn Taylor, Isabel Fryszberg, Councillor Mike Layton & Team, Surkhab Peerzada, Troy Jackson and MPP Jill Andrew & Team; you helped by influencing us to question our own messaging and to best articulate our vision to date !
We imagine an ideal with accessible opportunities for marginalized, emerging and established artists, for people in need of emergency housing, transitional housing, geared-to-income and affordable housing to live and work in a mixed-use environment conducive to creative convergence with an emphasis on community health and wellbeing.
The Right people At The Table
With municipal and provincial funding, partnerships with First Nations communities, Black communities, racialized communities, LGBTQ+ communities, creative communities, homeless encampments and their support networks, healthcare professionals, harm reduction initiatives, local organizations focused on social equity, poverty, accessibility, urban growing initiatives, renewable & sustainable energy & technologies, from inception through to fruition and operations, will be instrumental in the authentic realization and ultimate success of this project. Together with strategic partnerships, we imagine an emergent model, following the guidelines of universal design, for new builds that are community-led-and-operated in the GTA. We envision each hub tailored to and led by the communities they are in, each with an emphasis on affordable housing, healthcare, arts & culture and sustainable food production and distribution.
We understand that given the current health and economic crisis, energies, dollars and resources will need to be invested accordingly to address COVID 19 for some time to come. And in this pause afforded to many, but not all - because this is definitely not a pause for many people who continue to put their lives at risk on the front lines in order to provide essential services - we can also imagine, conceptualize, illustrate and articulate ideas for a world that is better suited to cultivating a just, equitable, healthy world for all living beings to thrive towards their optimal potential.