Last Friday the sixth annual Grange Park cleanup proved to be a huge success. This year the AGO partnered with the Ontario College of Art and Design and University Settlement, and the cleanup included Butterfield Park, underneath the OCAD tabletop.
3 – organizations that partnered to get the job done
60– number of small garbage bags turned in between 2 and 3 pm
120 – number of people who showed up to help, plus 3 dogs
4 – large bags of garbage filled
7 – dozen cookies eaten
1 – TV Station (City TV) who came out to interview participants
Most interesting garbage finds: one Barbie shoe, and one umbrella stand!
Grange Park cleanup is held each year in conjunction with Mayor Miller’s Community Cleanup day. This initiative is a great opportunity to connect with our neighbours and show community pride for Toronto’s key downtown park.
All neighbours are invited to join the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Ontario College of Art and Design and University Settlement in our annual spring clean-up of Grange Park on Friday, April 24, 2:00pm. This year, we will include Butterfield Park…. because we need a bigger challenge!
We will gather by the University Settlement (at the south end of the park) to distribute plastic gloves and garbage bags and get a quick briefing on what / what not to pick up. After our 20-minute cleanup, we’ll have some light refreshments.
The spring clean-up of Grange Park and Butterfield Park is part of Mayor Miller’s 20-minute Toronto Makeover initiated by the Mayor’s Clean and Beautiful City campaign.
Today is Toronto’s 175th birthday (imagine fitting all of those candles on a cake?!), also known as a demisemiseptcentennial (trying saying that 5 times fast). As you may have heard today on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, one of Toronto’s oldest buildings is the Grange, found at the south end of the AGO.
Built in 1817 by D’Arcy Boulton, the Grange is the oldest remaining brick house in Toronto. It was the first home of the Art Museum of Toronto, which would become today’s Art Gallery of Ontario. The Grange was given to the museum in 1911, and designated a national historic site in 1970.
Next time you visit the AGO, don’t forget to stop by the Grange. There are daily tours, centered on a fantastic discovery of strange objects unearthed during our recent transformation. Also, if you’re a member, you can relax in the members’ lounge with a beverage and snack. We can’t imagine a better way to celebrate our city’s birthday than with a visit to the Grange (Ended perhaps with an espresso and one of our pastry chef’s madeleines? It is a birthday after all).
In Toronto the presence of the AGO along Dundas has been as familiar as a family member. Always there, reliable, maybe even taken for granted. When the big fence went up around it for the Transformation project a couple years ago — and when it ultimately closed earlier this year for the final months of the renovation — the absence was suddenly the only thing we could notice when in the area. I say we because just about everytime I’ve passed by the AGO from one direction or another, there are at least a few sidewalk foremen or women watching the construction take place. Chatter about the building elsewhere — at parties, overheard in the workplace — is more and more frequent. Perhaps the upshot of being closed for a while is that anticipation builds in a way it otherwise couldn’t.
I love the view above of the new AGO from Grange Park. With the blend of new and old, there is something quintessentially Toronto in this angle. This, I believe, is the elusive “Toronto look” that we often fumble around looking for as we try to define, without success, what Toronto looks like in our mind’s eye. This city is often able to effortlessly accommodate Victorian and Edwardian structures — in this rare case even older, as The Grange house dates to 1817 and the Georgian period — next door to contemporary skyscrapers and modern buildings. Architectural and heritage purists may disagree, but a good heritage building can keep up with and match wits with a contemporary building anytime, and The Grange does this just fine.
This mix of old and new also prevents the building from becoming simply a museum piece, preserved in architectural formaldehyde as if time has not passed a minute since it was built. Inside, The Grange does all the things it should, showing us how folks lived back when the Family Compact ruled Upper Canada, but to get inside we now have to pass through one of the new contemporary art spaces that Frank Gehry’s firm has created, always reminding us that it belongs as much to us today as it did the Boulton family of the nineteenth century. Kind of like how Toronto itself works, always evolving, where the very old is mixed in with the very new — along with everything in between.
The view to the south from the AGO has always been special, with a clear view down John Street to the hump of the erstwhile Skydome. Standing here you get a sense of the power of the early aristocratic families who could lay out streets so the view from their front porch was magnificent. In our Toronto we can now climb to the upper galleries and look south to the lake, a brand new view that includes a rare vista down the middle of a street, all made possible by a planning decision made nearly 200 years ago. Conversely, looking north, the new AGO can be seen like few other buildings in Toronto can: unimpeded and from a distance. Walking north from King or Queen — especially in the winter when the leaves are off the trees — the AGO will rise in front of us, framing the Grange below with a blue titanium sky. It’s likely this will become as iconic a Toronto view as the one of Old City Hall seen when walking up Bay Street.
This week I saw two cranes working on the “Barnacle Staircase” on the back of the building. Gehry’s structures don’t look like the buildings we’re use to (though his prolific work in the last decade or two have started to change that) and the far-out alien contortions of the metal look like something from of a 1970s sci-fi film with the cranes acting as some kind of robotic machine picking at the mysterious creature. When I encounter buildings like this, I always wish I could have been a fly on the wall when the construction workers were first shown the plans. “You want us to do what with what,” I imagine they say. Or maybe not. Maybe the prospect of working on something like this is as exciting as standing outside it and looking up, waiting for it to open, anticipating when we’ll get to wander around inside ourselves.
Since The Grange closed in 2005 – when the entire house was encased in wood to protect it during construction – staff, volunteers, members and the public have been looking forward to revisiting the historic house. This fall, when the transformed AGO opens to the public, The Grange will enjoy more visibility than before the expansion, and in fact will become even more integral to the AGO.
The Gallery’s Ridley Members’ Lounge will now reside in The Grange on its ground floor. The new location will create a distinctive setting for members to relax, while ensuring that the house is an integrated part of an AGO visit. Public access to the Goldwin Smith library and historic kitchen complex will continue.
"All plans have taken into consideration a house that is valued as the AGO’s first home, and that will continue to be celebrated for its heritage," said Jenny Rieger, historic site coordinator, The Grange.
The AGO has devoted considerable resources to protect and conserve art associated with The Grange. The nineteenth-century portrait of William Henry Boulton by George Berthon was recently restored through a generous donation from Gretchen and Donald Ross. Extensive care was also taken to protect the large painted glass window above the main foyer throughout construction, and the heating and humidity monitoring system has been upgraded. Volunteers will continue to be a critical part of The Grange and the new AGO, helping to welcome members and visitors.
They aren’t Art Gallery of Ontario employees, nor do they work with any of the talented teams of tradespeople constructing our new building. However, they may have the best perspective on the spectacular transformation taking place at 317 Dundas Street West.
Each day, hundreds of Toronto’s most eclectic residents gather in Grange Park behind the AGO to practice Tai Chi, walk their dogs, toss around a Frisbee or eat lunch on a picnic table.
These Grange Park regulars, who have witnessed the Gallery’s ongoing transformation first-hand over the past few years, shared their thoughts on the impact they believe Transformation AGO will have on the local community.
“I think it’s cool,” says Jordan Greenstein, an animator who has been working at a local studio for four years. “At first I thought the building was kind of monolithic, but with its transparency and the finishes going on now, I think it complements the scale of its surroundings. I think the neighbourhood is lucky to have buildings like the OCAD and the AGO.”
Martin Erondo also works near Grange Park and has been eating lunch there for the past two years. Martin says the new building “looks quite elegant,” and he especially likes the large windows that offer views into the new centre for contemporary art. “Transformation AGO is very good for the community. When it’s completed, I think people will be drawn to this neighbourhood much more than before.”
Jane Todd works in public affairs at a local attraction. She is impressed that the height of the building doesn’t overwhelm its surroundings. “I think it’s going to look really good when it’s completed, and it’s great that all of this new space is being created to display art.”
When asked about the overall transformation, Jane says she’s very optimistic. “There’s a good balance in the design between boldness and simplicity, and I particularly like the way the Dundas Street facade is coming together.”
James Clarke and Tim Barber have been walking their dogs in Grange Park for years, and look forward to visiting a new Art Gallery of Ontario in 2008. “I think it’s just what the AGO needs,” James replied when asked about the project. “It will be bigger and better, but not too big. It’s great for the community, and apart from some additional traffic, it’s been a relatively painless process for us living in the neighbourhood.”
Tim agrees. “I’ve worked in construction and I’m impressed by just how quiet the site is and how quickly it’s going up. I enjoy chatting with tradespeople about the project and they’re always willing to take a minute to talk about the work they’re doing. I think they’re as impressed by Transformation AGO as everyone else.”
Beverley Carret, AGO’s manager of government and community relations, works to ensure the Gallery remains sensitive to the concerns of the local community. “Our neighbours have been great during the construction period. We are in a residential area so we do our utmost to minimize the impact on those living around us. It’s a big project though, and there’s bound to be some dust and noise. For the most part, our neighbours have been very understanding and I’m very happy to learn that our efforts are paying off.”
A woman who practices Tai Chi in the park every morning, but asked to remain anonymous, had this to say about the project: “We have always enjoyed doing exercises here because the Grange House is a source of very positive energy. We hope that this positivity will remain when the construction is complete.”
Judging by the responses of the people who are most closely connected to the Gallery and the local community, it appears as if the positive energy will be flowing in Grange Park for a long time to come.
Image: A community participant from the Hydro Block on Henry Street poses next to his picture with the flag he created
Hello Everyone! This is artist Day Milman with my first post for the ArtsAccess Blog, updating you on what the team has been up to over the past couple of months. Mostly, I’m really pleased to report that the Transformation City hoarding project has just been installed in Grange Park.
Since April, I’ve been working hard with my fellow community artist/facilitators—Cath Campbell and Camille Turner as well as Jef McLarnon, Jake Pyne and Loree Erickson—together with groups from the Grange Neighborhood to produce the projects that now appear on the hoarding.
Jef worked with Orde Street Public School to make an amazing, huge dragon puppet ingeniously driven by a shopping cart. Loree and Jake worked with Beverly Junior Public School to produce a series of self-portraits by participants who have disabilities, giving the participants the opportunity to show how they see themselves. They also used flowers to paint with, and a few participants even used the tracks of their wheelchairs to produce a beautiful border along their piece.
Cath led a story-telling workshop with St. George the Martyr Anglican Church in which participants shared stories about the Church and the neighbourhood. Excerpts from the stories, along with pictures of the Church’s gorgeous stained glass windows, now appear on the hoarding. Camille led a Grade 2 class at Ogden Junior Public School in making secret wish pouches from fabric and glass beads. I worked with the Cops ‘n’ Kids from Hydro Block on Henry Street to produce flags that represent the kids’ ideas about themselves and their community.
Art in the Park on July 1 was when the hoarding project was officially launched. Cath’s band, the Jeremiahs, led the Hydro Block Kids and the Shopping Cart Dragon in a parade through the park. It was so great to finish the project off with a celebratory parade!
Image: The completed ‘Transformation City 2006’ hoarding project gets installed.
Image: Visitors to ‘Art in the Park’ help to finish the hoarding project by adding a flower to the Community Wish Garden.
At Art in the Park there were lots of exciting art projects for kids and families to participate in. The ArtsAccess crew was in charge of the Community Wish Garden. People made flowers out of brightly coloured vinyl and stuck them to the hoarding. Each flower represents a wish.
So, please take a trip down to Grange Park, check out the hoarding project and enjoy tossing the Frisbee, wading in the pool, or just relaxing under a shady tree.
On April 21, the AGO organized a cleanup of Grange Park as part of the “20-Minute Toronto Makeover.” This was the third year in a row that we did this, and about 50 people turned up – our biggest turnout ever. We had AGO staff and volunteers sharing garbage bags with neighbours who live in the residential sections around the Gallery, colleagues from University Settlement Recreation Centre and OCAD, local schools, etc. A few passers-by asked what we were doing and then joined in the party.
At the end of the 20 minutes, I felt really good. The park looked great – but beyond that, I felt I had struck a personal bond with my fellow cleaner-uppers. It reminded me of some community initiatives from my childhood – neighbours working together to make their community cleaner, safer, more beautiful, more kid-friendly. We knew our neighbours by name. We knew, as kids, which homes we could go to for help if our own parents were out. We had a sense of ownership and pride for our area. No one would dare litter, because if they did, someone was bound to see and yell at them to pick it up and put it in the bin. But then again, that was the 1960s – the generation of peace, love and naivete.
Can we recapture that sense of “neighbourhood” – or create a new version for the 21st century?