Post written by Arjun Lombardi-Singh.
Arjun is a current ELN Executive Committee Member and Communications Manager at RBC. Working and living in the heart of Toronto, he is always on the lookout for the people, places and organizations that contribute to the vitality of urban life and showcase the diversity of our region. Alongside his professional career, Arjun an ardent supporter of arts and culture and spends much of his spare time in venues, theatres and galleries throughout the city.
Around 5:00 p.m. on February 21st, 2017, I finished up at work and made my way to the Gladstone Hotel for the ELN’s Art-Works event. I was eager and excited to take part in a conversation intended to unpack the role of the arts in community building and highlight new opportunities for collaboration.
As the moderator on the panel, I was grateful for the opportunity to sit down with such a dynamic group of leaders in the arts sector. I knew our featured panelists would have so much to share as artists and community builders. By 6:30 p.m., Franco Boni (Artistic Director, The Theatre Centre), Alexis Kane Speer (Founder at the STEPS Initiative / the PATCH Project), Letecia Rose (Community Connector & Youth Advocate) and Jordon Veira (Founder & Director, The Heard) and I kicked off the Art-Works panel.
And although we explored a variety of important issues and experiences, there were a few pieces of the conversation that stuck with me. So for anyone who was unable to attend, here are my three key takeaways:
Art thrives in every corner of the GTHA
It’s easy to paint the downtown core of Toronto as the epicenter of creative and artistic activity, but it’s important we widen our gaze. There is a groundswell of work and collaboration that is thriving in smaller neighbourhoods throughout our region. Chances are some of the most meaningful and inspired art is happening right in your backyard.
Don’t let the term “community art” fool you
In certain instances the term “community art” can be misleading. It often undervalues the work and impact of some of the most innovative and exciting projects produced in our region. Taking a moment to challenge our assumptions is important; especially when it comes to the defining and categorizing certain art forms.
Art is a pathway to inclusion
There is an abundance of diverse, artistic talent in our region. These artists are tackling issues, starting conversations, and creating safe spaces for some of our most marginalized communities. The more we can leverage their abilities and work collectively to promote their work, the better equipped we will be to build an inclusive region.
Within the ELN we often talk about new ways to connect our region and build inclusive cities. Art-Works provided an excellent platform to expand our ongoing dialogue and highlight the different ways the arts can be used to engage and empower local communities.
A special thanks to all the rising leaders who made this event a success. Especially our knowledgeable and insightful panelists: Franco Boni, Alexis Kane Speer, Jordan Veira and Letecia Rose.