More artistic outlets needed at Jane/Finch, residents say

Fannie Sunshine - June 6yh, 2012Space and access to professional art and music facilities, along with after-hours accessibility to potential cultural spaces, are greatly needed in the Jane Street and Finch Avenue community, a public consultation meeting looking into affordable and sustainable cultural spaces for not-for-profit and community groups was told Monday, June 4.The goal of the consultations is to give councillors a ward-specific priority list for cultural infrastructure as defined by their constituents and community cultural stakeholders.Funded by a grant from the Province of Ontario, these consultations will address one of the recommendations of the Creative Capital Gains Report, endorsed by Toronto City Council in 2011.This year, consultation sessions will be held in 20 of the city's 44 wards. Consultation will be undertaken in the remaining 24 wards beginning in 2013.Monday's meeting at York Woods Public Library, on Finch Avenue just east of Jane Street, focused on the needs of Ward 8, the eastern portion of the York West riding.Chris Lorway, a consultant with Lord Cultural Resources, noted the downtown core is well established when it comes to the arts, and it's time to focus on other areas of the city."We are having conversations across the wards," he said. "What's currently happening, what people would like to see."Cultural space has been defined as libraries, schools, community centres, parks, heritage buildings, coffee shops, bars, restaurants and purpose-built cultural facilities, Lorway said.Compiling a list of what's currently available space-wise in the ward and what residents would like to see will help local councillors focus on where priorities are when it comes to Section 37 benefits, he said,According to the City of Toronto, Section 37 of the Planning Act permits the city to authorize increases in permitted height and/or density through the zoning bylaw in return for community benefits, provided there are related Official Plan policies in place.Many meeting attendees noted the lack of community space for after-hours usage by non-profits, including York Woods Library Theatre.And while York University is situated within Ward 8 and has several arts-based locations on site, a number of residents in attendance said there is a real disconnect between that area of the ward and the post-secondary campus.The dozen or so who came out to the meeting all noted they don't consider York University an option."It's good in a practical sense, but we are not welcome and we don't want to go there," one man said. "We don't want to go to a place where we feel uncomfortable."Ward 8 Councillor Anthony Perruzza, who attended the meeting, said the university is part of the community, just not in a traditional sense."We need to stop thinking of York as a foreign property," he said, noting groups from the neighbourhood use York's facilities. "It's a functional little town. Many residents of Jane and Finch attend York."Joanne Rider, chief spokesperson and director of media relations for York University, said the university and the Jane and Finch community have a strong history of working together."York University values the strong relationships we have built with members of the Jane-Finch community that have resulted in many partnerships and joint projects to create a strong neighbourhood by working together," she said.Others said space is needed for artists to work on their own creations and should include professional art and music studios.Andrea Boucaud, managing director of West-Side Arts Hub, said there are many spaces that offer dance, but virtually nothing for visual art such as pottery or painting."I hope to see more arts coming to Jane and Finch," she said. "We have to go downtown to get the space we need and access to space we need."The next meeting in North York will be held Wednesday, June 13 for Ward 10, York Centre, at Centennial Public Library, 578 Finch Ave., from 6 to 8 p.m.A similar meeting for Ward 33, Don Valley East, will be held Thursday, June 14 at Fairview Public Library, 35 Fairview Mall Dr., from 4 to 6 p.m.Those who aren't able to attend the meetings can comment by visiting

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