Jaclyn Rodrigues and Jacky Chan, Toronto Arts Foundation (Arts in the Parks)
Thank you for taking the time to hear from me, and from so many committed Torontonians, this evening.
My name is Jaclyn Rodrigues. I am the Community Engagement Manager of Toronto Arts Foundation which, as many of you know, is a charitable arts organization dedicated to spotlighting artistic excellence, sparking creative connections, and supporting a tremendous amount of arts research across our City.
I would like to begin by commending City Council for your support of the arts in Toronto. We have come a very long way in the last four years and Council deserves credit for implementing a strong arts agenda.
A major result of the City’s increased investment in the arts is a significant increase in arts programming outside the downtown core. One terrific new initiative is Arts in the Parks. With support from Parks, Forestry, and Recreation, the Mayor, City Council, and Toronto Arts Council, Toronto Arts Foundation launched Arts in the Parks in 2016. In its first two years, the program has brought about 600 free arts activities and events to 190,00 Torontonians across the city, and given over 400 enthusiastic local community residents the opportunity to build their skills through our unique volunteer program. People living in Scarborough now have many more opportunities to take part in arts events than ever before.
One such young gentleman that I have had the pleasure to get to know over two years here has come to tell you about his experience with Arts in the Parks:
My name is Jacky Sea-Chung Chan. I live here, in Scarborough with my family. I have attended the Arts in the Parks program since the beginning. I first discovered Arts in the Parks in the summer of 2016 in my local park, Alexmuir Park. When I met artists from Shadowland Theatre, and saw what they were doing, I knew that I had to be a part of it. 2016’s theme was the “Spirit of the Park”. I helped build costumes, parts of a puppet, and help with some of the other smaller kids that came to the park to create. At the end of the week, I participated in the parade as a musician with an instrument. When I heard that Shadowland Theatre was coming back in 2017, I just knew that I had to go. I went and found that the event was even better. This year’s theme was the “Heart of our Park”. They extended the hours this year, which made me glad because that is when kids and families would come out to the park and enjoy the season. Helping Shadowland was great: I earned some volunteer hours, but most importantly, I had fun. Lots of things have changed since having this Arts in the Parks event in our park: I met lots of new people, everyone appreciates our Alexmuir Park more, and I see lots more people using our parks now. It meant a lot to me that Shadowland came to my park because it’s close to my house and I can go the park at any time. I think that we need these art programs in our city. It brings our families together to our clean and safe parks. There is always something to do and learn. Students who help can also earn their volunteer hours as well. We shouldn’t only have arts programs in 100 of our parks, we should have it in all our parks!
Thank you Jacky.
Arts in the Parks brings together neighbours to participate in shared experiences, ultimately building stronger, safer communities. Our 2016 Arts Stats, a public survey conducted in partnership with Leger, revealed that almost 90% of Torontonians see a benefit of the arts to their neighbourhood. Our program evaluation this year’s Arts in the Parks includes overwhelming support of the initiative, and in the community residents’ words I quote:
- Helps address isolation by inviting residents to come the park
- Brings arts programming to an underserved area
- Is a valuable volunteer opportunity for local residents
- And introduces diverse artistic talent to the neighbourhood
In addition to Jacky’s story, this past year our program offered opportunities for seniors to gather and build a permanent mosaic in their local park, hundreds of Syrian refugees to connect over arts activities and food-sharing, youth across Toronto to learn how to play authentic Japanese taiko drums, and more.
The City’s support of both our Arts in the Parks initiative, and Toronto Arts Council and their granting programs, allows Toronto artists and organizations to receive vital support to deliver crucial arts programs to the whole City.
I encourage you to meet City Council’s commitment to reach $25 per capita in 2018.