by David O’Hara, Site Manager

As expected, the summer season at Fort York was busy with many activities, large and small. On the music front our calendar included a combination of larger events such as Toronto Urban Roots Festival and TIME Festival, and smaller more intimate programs such as the series produced in partnership with the Guelph Jazz Festival. On July 13 we launched the inaugural New Generation Steelband Festival in partnership with the Pan Arts Network, featuring ten steel pan groups with strong youth participation.

Working with the David Suzuki Foundation’s Homegrown National Park Project an outdoor screening of “Project Wild Thing” attracted an audience of almost one thousand and on a beautiful evening in early August twenty families spent the night camping at Fort York as part of the first Homegrown Jamboree. In partnership with Fresh Air Cinema, and sponsored by Scotiabank, additional free outdoor movie screenings continued on Tuesday evenings throughout August.

Following stops in cities such as Dublin, London, Helsinki, and Milan, and before moving on to Rome, Moscow, and Stockholm, Taste of Toronto landed at Fort York as the first North American stop for the international restaurant festival. The event brought thousands down to Fort York to sample food from some of the city’s best chefs, restaurants, and exhibitors. The fort was open for visitors to enjoy throughout the festival and the Fort York Guard figured prominently.

After beginning our season with Canada Day and hosting the Afghanistan Memorial Vigil, our core programming continued throughout the summer. On Simcoe Day we again partnered with the Ontario Black History Society to mark Emancipation Day and the role of our first Lieutenant-Governor in gaining freedom for Black people in Ontario.

Showing no signs of letting up, our events and programs will continue throughout the remainder of 2014. Next up is the On Common Ground Festival on September 20-21 and our Great War Food Symposium on September 28. We hope everyone marks October 4 in their calendars for Nuit Blanche when Fort York will play a key role as one of the curated zones for contemporary art installations. The entire site, including the new Visitor Centre, will be brought to life throughout the night.

The construction of our Visitor Centre is nearing completion with the grand opening celebration coming up September 20-21, noon to 7 pm daily, alongside our On Common Ground Festival. The official ribbon cutting will take place at 2 pm on Friday, September 19, and the building and exhibits will be open and free throughout the rest of the weekend. Inaugural exhibits are focussed on the Great War and will draw from the City of Toronto’s collection of artifacts, archives, and fine art. Other components will include Charles Pachter’s 1812: The Art of War Series and An Act of Timing, an art installation by Nestor Kruger that transforms Woodrow Wilson’s 1918 Fourteen Points speech to Congress into a large, non-repeating, geometric wall pattern.

The opening of the new Visitor Centre marks a major shift in how visitors will arrive and begin their Fort York experience. While the new building will officially open in September, a significant amount of work in and around the site will be completed over the fall and spring. This includes important landscaping, including demolition of the Garrison Road bridge and reworking our parking lots, and the development of permanent exhibits within the Visitor Centre and elsewhere on-site. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we welcome change in the months ahead.