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No. 10: Vibrancy.
Searching for hope and optimism lately. Public art, the future of Ontario Place, and of course, some #TOMayor2023 updates.
Howdy! (someone unironically said this to me in Colorado a few weeks ago),
March flew by, which means this comes at the start of April. Still counts. I was recently in Denver (with a day trip to Boulder) to present at THE geography conference: The American Association of Geographers’ Annual Meeting. The theme this year was “Towards More Just Geographies”. It made me feel more confident that there are thousands of people across Turtle Island researching and working on environmental justice, dispossession, and more — even if there are still barriers towards translating this research to community benefit.
Outside of the conference, I wow’d at red rocks on a mountain trail. The elevation got me a little winded. But my gosh, the sun. It was as cold there as it is in Toronto, but I was rejuvenated when I returned. There have been days in late March that made me believe in the collective good of society and in myself. Walking around, I held on to that feeling in the air, when the sun shines on a spring weekend afternoon and people soak it in, craving the light like a new sprig of grass. I’m real grateful.
activism, politics, whatever else
Here’s a tiny #TOMayor2023 snippet. As of Thursday, April 6 (the first week of registration) at 5PM, 36 candidates have registered to run for Mayor. The last day to register to run for Mayor is May 12. Election Day is June 26. Long way to go, but it’ll probably whizz by in no time.
Notable candidates (+ grassroots opposition campaigns) include:
Former City Councillor Ana Bailão — grassroots opposition campaign
Current City Councillor Brad Bradford — grassroots opposition campaign
Current MPP Mitzie Hunter
Current City Councillor Josh Matlow
Former TPS Chief Mark Saunders — grassroots opposition campaign
Find out about some of these candidates’ political teams (campaign backrooms) here.
Free for the taking, here are some Mayoral platform ideas connected to housing and climate justice:
Commit the money collected from the vacant homes tax to 100% social and non-profit housing like the Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition MURA program (currently allocated for ambiguous “affordable housing initiatives”)
Commit more funding to improve and expand RentSafeTO (this came up several times in budget discussions earlier this year)
Implement a maximum temperature for indoor rental residential buildings (Province says it is municipal jurisdiction)
URBANISM (++ HOUSING & CLIMATE JUSTICE)
aka why can’t we have nice things
To switch it up for Issue 10, I did a call for ideas on Instagram for this e-newsletter. People requested topics that covered a broad theme of transformative ideas for a more vibrant, liveable city. Public art in the public realm. Access to green space, amid rapid urban development. Affordable housing in vacant buildings (e.g. office buildings). I cannot get to all of these unfortunately in this edition, but I will cover the first two.
When I think of public art and access to green space, I think it really speaks to what people need in a thriving, vibrant city. What do we crave, what do we love, what makes the places we want to live vibrant?
Vibrancy. The state of being full of energy and life.
"the vibrancy of the city center" (Oxford Dictionary, via Google).
I sense Toronto is getting more vibrant every day, on the cusp of warmer weather and blue skies. Sometimes it is hard to feel like that is true, as we are dealt bad hands from austerity-minded governments that are underfunding our public services. Whether this mayoral election is the spark we need or not, we need to demand more from the cities we live in. We will fail to work together to solve local injustices, if we can’t envision the world we want to build collectively.
“Art in the public realm”
was one of the first topics I got asked to look into.
“To ensure that public art serves its intended purpose, it becomes important for the community to question its civic ownership. The purpose of artwork in public spaces is to represent and benefit the people of the city, rather than capitalist or political forces.” (ArchDaily 2022, “How Public Art Shapes Cities”)
“Access to recreation area, like parks and trails, in the midst of all the condo developments going up/being approved” was another recommended topic to explore.
Lucky me, great timing with my annual excursion to Woodbine Beach’s Winter Stations exhibits. I went on the last day, so we experienced the decay of the structures and unfortunately, some of them were even taken down beforehand. I’ve always loved making my trek out east to see these art installations. This kind of public art enhances our enjoyment of the beach, outside of the summer months.
I think this is what I believe public art should speak to. How does it genuinely improve our neighbourhoods and surrounding environments? If it is a condo putting up one statue in front of their building, does that make our city better? It might, who knows. Who am I to critique art?
But I am willing to take the stance that it is important to be hyper-critical of “artwashing” (as I am of “greenwashing”) and what it can do to cause or further perpetuate forces of gentrification and displacement in a community. This article speaks to “artwashing” concept more and emphasizes that we cannot blame the artists involved.
Another topic in the realm of public space is the extremely contentious redevelopment of Ontario Place.
There can be a strong role of governments to protect public space, for public benefit. If the current proposal is adopted to build a private spa on the West Island, that will result in a reduction of publicly accessible space at this site. Mayoral candidates Bailao and Matlow both made pitches today to oppose this plan. The former wants to relocate the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place (Bailao); Matlow has no proposal for the site but would not allow “the sale of 16-acres of city-owned property on the Ontario Place grounds”.
In addition, City Councillor Ausma Malik, the representative for that area, formally refused to provide her consent to expedite a land exchange being demanded by the Ford government for Ontario Place.
I am keen to follow the progression of mayoral pitches and more importantly, community opinion on this important waterfront park.
In particular, I will encourage those who are interested in getting involved to check out the community consultations regarding the development application coming up. Ontario Place for All is doing incredible work.
And to tie it back to public art, Ontario Place’s Trillium Park is hosting an art exhibit “Lumiere”, on until May 7! Shout-out to my friends (Hillary and Lee) who made one of the neat pieces: Fiddlehex.
This is a bit of a passion project, but I hope this was enlightening or at least entertaining. If anything, I hope it is a nice read before the start of your long weekend.
PS — Mat and I went to trivia at The Smith House this week. Our team of two was dead last, but we wagered it all in the final jeopardy round at the end and won it all! An underdog story indeed, haha.
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