Manager’s Report (spring 2016)
by David O’Hara, Site Manager
Although access to Fort York remains severely constrained due to construction on the Gardiner Expressway, as we reach the midpoint of 2016 we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. With the actual expressway deck demolition and replacement complete, the finishing work (painting, drain installation) over the remainder of the year will have less of an impact on our programs and events. Our own landscaping work on Garrison Common, which included reconstructing Garrison Road, was largely done by the end of May. Our contractor, Ashland Construction Ltd., did a wonderful job and finished the work in time for our summer season. The final landscaping, including the removal of the upper gravel parking lot, will be in place in the fall once our major event season is finished and Gardiner construction is complete.
The construction of the Fort York Pedestrian Bridge will likely ramp up throughout the remainder of 2016 for an opening at some point to be confirmed in 2017. If all continues to go according to plan, construction will begin on Project: Under Gardiner, now known as The Bentway, in late 2016 and into 2017. Project: Under Gardiner is moving very fast and will have an important impact on Fort York as it occupies a significant portion of the National Historic Site. Visit www.undergardiner.com for more information and to follow along as it unfolds. Although $25 million has been generously donated towards the project, we still have several major unfunded projects at Fort York, including the completion of the Visitor Centre's weathered steel façade. Visit www.fortyorkfoundation.ca for more information.
Within the Visitor Centre itself, the exhibit installation is well underway and is scheduled for completion in late July or early August. This will include the installation of exhibits within the gallery, Vault, Time Tunnel, and lobby, and the launch of our new orientation film in the theatre.
With many of these major pieces finally falling into place, we are pleased to announce that the Fort York Visitor Centre is being considered as a finalist for a significant architectural award. The Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize, awarded biennially, was established by The College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology to recognize the most distinguished architectural works built on the North and South American continents. The recipients of the prize will be named by a jury of professional architects, curators, writers, editors, and other individuals whose work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of design. http://www.arch.iit.edu/life/mchap-201415-finalists-announced Our summer season is well underway and has already been a busy one. In addition to Doors Open, we had two additional events on site in late May. The second annual 200 Years of Firepower showcased artillery over two hundred years, from 1816 to 2016. Guns in the battery ranged from the fort's light 6 pdr. field gun crewed by the Fort York Guard to the ultra-modern M-777 (155 mm) Howitzer crewed by the 2nd Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery from Garrison Petawawa. The 7th Toronto Regiment (Royal Canadian Artillery) crewed the 105 mm Howitzer and their support group, the Limber Gunner's Association, fired the Second World War 25 pdr.
We also hosted the 125th Anniversary Tattoo of the 48th Highlanders of Canada and showcased the famous Toronto regiment's service to Canada with a spectacular parade by the unit and its Pipes and Drums. Thanks to everyone for participating in such a wonderful series of events during Doors Open.
Arts and Crafts Field Trip brought thousands to the fort during the first weekend in June for the annual music and arts festival while the fourth annual Indigenous Arts Festival took place from June 16 to 19. The Indigenous Arts Festival celebrates traditional and contemporary music, dance, theatre, literature, storytelling, visual arts, crafts, and food created by indigenous artists from across Canada. It included the Na-Me-Res Pow- Wow on the Saturday.
The impressive program for the Indigenous Arts Festival was the result of a collaborative effort with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, with financial support from TD Bank and the Department of Canadian Heritage (visit http://bit.ly/1TFA4mz for more information). We've been extremely fortunate to have had Robert Kerr, our Supervisor of Special Events at Fort York, working on all aspects of this event and many others. We wish Robert well as he moves on to take a 12 month position with the City Cultural Events Team as the programming lead for the upcoming Canada 150 Event Celebrations. Robert's experience leading arts organizations, programming and producing extraordinary festivals and events emphasizing partnership, collaboration, and community engagement has been invaluable in everything we've been working on at Fort York. We wish him the best and look forward to his return.
Also on the staff front, we'd like to wish program officer René Malagon all the very best upon his recent retirement. Although René's 28 years have been predominantly at Fort York, he has also worked at Mackenzie House and Colborne Lodge. Congratulations and all the very best René.