Artscape released the results of their feasibility study last month, and they have good news. Artscape thinks Weston would be a good place for a community arts hub.
Tim Jones, the President and CEO of Artscape, spoke to Matt Galloway at the CBC. He said that Weston–Mt. Dennis has very few creative workers now, and this dissuades creative workers from coming: “The area doesn’t have the critical mass of creative people. Nor does it have the services and amenities that would attract creative people naturally.” This is a problem, he says, because creative people “breathe life into a community”.
The problem, then, is how to attract the first few, so rest of the flock will come along.
The solution, according to Artscape, is a “cultural and creative hub”. According to Jones, a hub “will bring together a smaller mass of people in one facility.” A combination of retail and affordable live/work space will “create the anchor and the critical mass of creative people that will help energize the neighbourhood.”
The presentation on January 26 explained some of the things that make Weston attractive to an artistic venture like this: we’re receptive, engaged, and have good local political leadership. We also have a number of suitable sites:
- Weston Park Baptist Church Land
- The new GO Station,
- Kodak lands
- The former Price Chopper
- Weston Federal Building
- Green P on John Street.
(The presentation slides mention neither the farmer’s market at the Green P, nor GO’s plans around the church and the Price Chopper.)
Artscape does identify some problems, however:
- Lower than average employment in the Creative and Cultural Sector
- Very few Creative Businesses located in the neighbourhood
- Lack of a single clear vision
- Fragmented neighbourhood
- No clear project leader
- Representation of & perception within the neighbourhood that the area is unsafe
- Significant economic challenges
Artscape has had considerable experience revitalizing communities. They played a significant role in turning around the Distillery District, and have built facilities similar to what they propose for Weston–Mt Dennis in Queen West, Parkdale, and other places around Toronto. Recently, Artscape transformed the Wychwood Barns into a community and art centre.