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2005 12 24
Eight Projects Reshaping Toronto
imageThere's an extraordinary act of city-building occurring in Toronto and it's happening on the once fragile shoulders of culture.

Eight world-recognized Ontario cultural institutions — the Art Gallery of Ontario, Canadian Opera Company, Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, National Ballet School, Ontario Science Centre, Royal Conservatory of Music, Royal Ontario Museum and Toronto International Film Festival — are currently undertaking major capital expansion projects in Toronto. Collectively, these institutions represent a major driving force for the cultural strength of the province and the nation, and their social and economic impacts will be palpable.

If we do it right, and we will, our new galleries and museums, concert halls and classrooms will be thebasis for compelling programs that unite cultures and encourage dialogue through the catalyst of creativity. Each of the projects now underway is giving to Toronto a lens through which its distinctive personality and identity can be understood and expressed. It is a rare and wonderful moment of cultural critical mass and momentum — and accessibility is at its core.

When the projects are completed, more than 2 million people in at least 600 centres across Ontario will have the opportunity each year to experience — in their own communities and often at low or no cost — exhibitions, performances, events and educational activities created by these institutions.

Collectively, the cultural centres will provide hundreds of thousands of people each year with free admission days, free community performances, open houses and discounted visits — more than ever before.
Physical access will be improved at all of the institutions, with facilities that are fully wheelchair accessible and exceeding current building code requirements. All of the institutions have been designed to be open and welcoming to all visitors, with improved lighting and way-finding.

Many of the projects will dramatically increase the number of outreach partnerships in Toronto, including social services organizations such as Regent Park Community Housing, DAREarts Foundation and Covenant House. Community organizations across the province, including Thunder Bay, Brantford, Sudbury, Manitoulin Island and Windsor, will be involved in new programming.

Several of the expanded cultural centres will harness new technologies to engage with aboriginal communities, working with organizations from northern and southern Ontario such as De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre Group, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto and the Tungasuvvingat Inuit Youth Drop-In Centre in Ottawa.

Through expanded programming, these cultural centres will educate the next generation of Canadian artists and leaders by fostering creativity in people of all ages and abilities. Each year, close to 1 million students will visit the institutions through school group programs offering first-hand experiences with works of art, science, artifacts and performances by some of Canada's leading and emerging innovators. Enhanced technology will dramatically increase accessibility to teachers and students through e-learning, web-casts and podcasts. More than 3,000 Ontario teachers will benefit from professional development and training programs that will incorporate museum collections and repertoires into their in-class programming.

Toronto's unprecedented cultural rebirth is far more than these eight building projects, of course. The city's visionary Culture Plan targets unprecedented growth of the arts. Toronto's 18-month-long celebration of the arts, Live with Culture, is already engaging government, community, arts and business organizations across the city. Others are joining them in collaboration to launch the Toronto International Arts Festival next year.
Why? Because culture also plays a critical role in the value proposition of our cities. Visitors to Toronto spend more than $4 billion annually. The statistics show they're likely to be at a performance,an art gallery or museum. When completed, Toronto's eight cultural expansion projects alone will attract well over 4 million people each year, fuelling an engine that's already producing more jobs for more people. Culture creates 600,000 jobs for Canadians and more than $39 billion in annual revenues. Over the last decade, Ontario witnessed an 18 per cent increase in cultural sector jobs. Toronto's cultural engine alone generates more than $8 billion annually and accounts for half of Ontario's cultural revenues.
Individually, the eight cultural expansion projects are as bold as they are inspiring. They will attract millions from around the world and around the corner. They will engage, astound and challenge. But together, they send a clear and reverberating message to cities large and small that culture can drive the economic and social growth of our communities. Toronto's experience proves that culture can galvanize a community, inspire philanthropy and generate a new civic vocabulary around creativity and imagination.

Well before their grand reopenings, Toronto's eight cultural projects have already become milestones that mark an unprecedented passage — from our good city to a great city — built on the powerful shoulders of culture.

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By Matthew Teitelbaum. The Michael and Sonja Koerner Director, and CEO of the Art Gallery of Ontario. 

Also published in the Toronto Star - Dec. 21, 2005
[email this story] Posted by Matthew Teitelbaum / AGO on 12/24 at 01:18 PM

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