It’s still in the early stages, but The Toronto Arts Council has begun consultations with the artistic community to create a new group that would seek to foster the arts in North York.
Although it’s not yet clear what form the group will take or what its specific mandate will be, the problem it will address is simple, according to one North York artist.
“We don’t know each other,” said Tamara Haberman, who also serves as director of development and administration at Art Starts, a group that seeks to build healthier communities using the arts. “There’s no cohesiveness or awareness of what others are doing, so there’s no support system.”
Although she’s active in the city’s arts scene, Haberman said she can’t recall ever having displayed her work north of Eglinton, despite living near Bathurst and Wilson herself.
“It’s funny because I’m pretty well connected, but more in downtown,” she said.
According to the Toronto Arts Council, the new group might change that.
“It’s a way of connecting local arts groups with their audiences and with the public,” said Susan Wright, director of operations at Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation.
Wright said the attempt to create a new local arts organization for North York is in part a matter of ironing out remaining wrinkles from amalgamation.
“The city provides support to arts organizations primarily through grants programs of the Toronto Arts Council, however it also has what they call local arts service organizations,” Wright said.
While the Toronto Arts Council expanded to distribute grants to the entire city after amalgamation, it isn’t mandated to provide soft support for artists, such as networking, publicity and professional advice — services some of the city’s local arts groups do provide. Groups such as the Scarborough Arts Council, Lakeshore Arts and Arts Etobicoke worked to connect and support local artists before amalgamation and continued to do so afterward. But their good work has highlighted artistic disparities with other parts of the cities, Wright said.
“There has been some concern in other areas of the city — North York and East York particularly — that they could benefit from something similar,” she said.
She added the attempt to create the local group builds on the momentum of The Neighbourhood Arts Network, a one year old joint initiative to connect artists around the city.
To gauge the North York artistic community’s interests and needs, the council has been holding ongoing public and individual consultations with artists, groups and other stakeholders since late January. Anyone with input about the future group’s direction is being invited to come forward and contribute by contacting The Toronto Arts Council.
Haberman, who was planning to attend the consultations, said she wasn’t sure what exactly would result in the end, but looked forward to meeting other area artists.
“Right now I’m just curious to see what’s out there,” she said. “I’m in favour of ideas coming to the surface based on the energy we all have together.”
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