Weston POPS!

A new and unique event has been announced for our community – ‘Weston Youth POPS!’ on Saturday, Aug 14th, 11 am to 4 pm (FREE).

What is a ‘POPS’?  

It’s a privately owned public space configured for the community to create, celebrate, and play. And Weston now has two of them, located just south of Lawrence Ave at The Pink Alley (1804 Weston Rd) and the old Frontlines location (1844 Weston Rd). Weston Youth POPS is an event that introduces these locations to the community and celebrates what Weston is all about.  

There are over a dozen food, artists, stage, and interactive activities within the two locations. Including games and programming for kids 6-12 yrs, a DJ for teens, a ‘Cook-Off’ and inspiring art installations.

This event is brought to us by Frontlines in partnership with a host of community organizations and Castlepoint Numa (the developer partner of the Weston Park Baptist project planned for Weston and Lawrence).

Highlights of the day include Frontlines’ new social enterprise catering facility, Culinary Creations, serving up FREE Caribbean/Jerk-inspired chicken skewers, beef patties, chicken tacos and samosas.  They’ll host a ‘Cook-Off’ among Frontburners Youth Kitchen students to be judged by award-winning writer and Food Editor from the Toronto Sun, Rita DeMontis, Toronto Police Services Interim Chief of Police James Ramer, and Celebrity Chef and Frontlines Ambassador Roger Mooking.

The event entrance is at 1804 Weston (Pink Alley), which continues its transformation with a mural by acclaimed Jamaican-born and Weston resident artist Krystal Ball. Krystal will also be on hand as she works on the alley’s participatory mural called ‘Weston Now’ (working title). Ultimately, it will be a giant photo mural consisting of portraits of Westonians. Have your photo taken; it will be sorted/selected and screened onto canvas and configured into a huge photo mural on site later in the month. Partners in realizing Krystal’s vision are UrbanArts and Community Place Hub.

Krystal Ball (used with permission)

The other POPS location is at 1844 Weston and will feature Shakespeare in Action performers on stage with bite-size spotlight performances all afternoon. UrbanArts will also be at 1844 with an interactive painting workshop with another Weston artist, Star Nahwegahbo, a multi-media artist and a skilled art facilitator. You can paint and take your creation home. The walls of the former Frontlines building will be an outdoor gallery of Weston area murals and art panels, including the first time revealing art created for West Park Health Center. 

See you at the POPS!

Pink Alley opens

It was a colourful and lively celebration at The Pink Alley on Wednesday, when Frontlines opened their new outdoor space at 1804 Weston Rd.

I was excited to see this new public space come alive. There were activities for kids out back, and I had a chance to meet some of the impressive youth outreach staff and tour the new restaurant space and the teen lounge. I also enjoyed the free tropical ice cream.

Well done Noami Frederick, Harley Valentine of Castlepoint Numa, and your teams! 

Pink Alley coming to Weston

An overlooked and forgotten alley at 1804 Weston Rd is getting a makeover this month. It will transform into an inclusive, innovative, and fun space called PINK ALLEY.

All of Weston is invited to the kick-off event, the Weston Ice Cream Party, on Wednesday, June 30th, 4-6 pm. There will be free tropical ice creams and samples of baked goods for everyone! The latter will be served by ‘Culinary Creations’—the new social enterprise catering facility operated by Frontlines (donations are welcome). Be sure to tour the new Frontlines Centre that day; it’s immediately next door.

“The launch will coincide with Frontlines’ Youth Summer Camp starting in July. They’ll make great use of the space,” says Harley Valentine of Castlepoint Numa Developments, funding the PINK ALLEY initiative. Harley added that Urban Arts and Weston’s Community Place Hub are supporters and will continue the transformation of the PINK ALLEY in the days to come. Visual artist Krystal Ball is working with the team to add eye-catching graphic design. The finishing touch will be the energy and laughter of the young people of Weston.

Mid-Humber Gap meeting

There’s been a lot of exciting news in Weston lately, and here’s one project I’m particularly thrilled about: The Mid-Humber Gap multi-use recreational trail project.

As a cyclist, in a community with rich cycling history (Weston was the home of CCM Bicycles), and with growing cycling enthusiasm among neighbours, this project can’t come soon enough. And this project isn’t just for cyclists… it’s for everyone who walks, jogs, wheels their way along the banks of the Humber River.

The first public consultation event will be held virtually on June 10th from 6:30-8:30pm, registration required. Participants should visit the project web page or this link to register.

Fixing the gap ought to create a seamless journey from the current north end staircase of the trail (near Weston & St Phillips) to Jane Crawford Memorial Park (about 1 block west of the Real Canadian Superstore). And it could be a lasting legacy to this community and everyone who lives near the Humber River trails. It will make our green spaces more accessible and provide affordable transportation options for generations.

Alley 1804?

Can this forgotten alley be transformed into a vital and thriving space for Weston?

That’s the goal of Harley Valentine, a renowned sculpture artist familiar with re-imagining public spaces.

Harley is also a managing partner at Castlepoint Numa, the developer working with the Weston Park Baptist Church to re-imagine the corner at Weston and Lawrence Ave.

When I heard he was all excited about an alley at 1804 Weston Rd, next to the new Frontlines location, I had to find out why. Harley explained, “I want to deliver maximum community benefit from Weston’s unexpected and forgotten spaces.” He went on to say that he hopes to inspire others to see potential in the smallest opportunities.

So, what could happen at the Alley 1804? (That’s my name for it, let’s see if it sticks)

He’s working with community leaders, youth, and neighbourhood officers from Division 12 to create a space where Frontline’s youth programs could expand.

And, it could also be a performance space, an outdoor patio for local food outlets, or a gallery for Weston’s artists. Harley’s list of ideas is endless. Safety will be paramount; the location would be gated after-hours. But imagine a space filled with energy, creativity, engaging art, twinkle lights and laughter?

I’m looking forward to seeing Harley Valentine’s magic at work! His enthusiasm for Weston is enough to inspire any community. I’m happy to hear he’s fallen in love with Weston.

Weston Artists’ Good Food Market

From humble beginnings great things are possible.

That’s my take on the launch of the Weston Artists Good Food Market at the Weston Common.

This exciting weekly summer event is focused on making fresh produce accessible to our community, at cost. One neighbour was so surprised when her large bag of produce came to $3.75, that she handed over a $5 bill and asked if she could just donate her change to the cause.

Philip Sutherland, the organizer, said the fresh fruit is popular—fresh raspberries, blueberries, and mangoes went fast. (They’ll have more next week.) He added that the Artists’ booth was postponed due to windy conditions, but it’ll be back soon. And he hopes to hear from more local artists, bakers, butchers, chefs and cooks who want to be a part of the Wednesday market.

But there’s more to this event than affordable produce. It’s organized by a few of the artists living in our community. They have brought their friends from Collective Arts Brewing along, selling some of the most original craft beer, sparkling teas, cider, and bitters I’ve ever seen.

The labels are adorned with literal art from unknown and emerging artists. The two staffing the booth were thrilled to be discovering Weston, “all the neighbours are so friendly and happy to see us…and we’re busier here than we are at our other two markets.” They’ve applied to be a part of the Weston Farmers’ Market starting Saturday June 5th.

This event is organized by the West Toronto Photography Club and sponsors like Access Community Capital Fund (a non-profit that makes small loans for people with big ideas).

The Artists’ Market is every Wednesday from 3pm–6pm until September 1st.

“This is Weston’s Moment”

Do you remember a time when Weston had neighbourhood police ‘walking the beat’? These officers stayed in the community, and they were friendly and familiar. They got to know residents, shopkeepers, faith groups, the youth (by name), and those struggling or needing help. The best of these officers earned immense trust, got involved, supported local initiatives that helped keep everyone safe. 

Then again, maybe such a time never really existed?  Perhaps now?

Toronto Police’s Neighbourhood Community Officer (NCO) program is now in Weston, and its vision for policing is almost reminiscent of a bygone era.

Constable Alex Benyi is one of four dedicated Division 12 officers who recently made a four-year commitment to be Weston’s new Community Officers. And he’s thrilled to be in this role. He knows Weston, and he’s watched it grow during his last ten years in policing. “This is Weston’s moment,” he says excitedly, referencing the influx of transit, new small businesses, new families, new Canadians—the diversity of the neighbourhood and our community spirit.

Alex was born in Romania and came to Canada in 1992 as a landed immigrant. Soon he was a Tennis Canada High-Performance Coach and on the ski patrol. He started his family and had his own small business; he brings life experience to policing that helps him relate.

When asked about how he wants to get involved in the community, he says, “I’ve always been invested in Division 12 neighbourhoods and Weston in particular because of the large Hungarian/Roma community. I know the culture, and I speak the language.” He adds that he wants to be a part of a tennis program with the Weston York Tennis facility; he knows the local pro. He cycles too and hopes to enjoy the trails with others from Weston. 

His passion is easy to see: “I want to continue to learn about this community and improve. For me, every day I come to work is a day where I want to feel I made a difference for someone or someplace.” He adds: “We have so many resources to help the community; we want to work with community partners and leaders to bring the best of these to Weston.” Here he is referencing crime prevention programs, gang exit strategy, victim services, help in domestic disputes, youth engagement, etc. 

He adds: “We know it takes time, involvement, and goodwill to earn a community’s trust; it’s not automatic. We hope Weston will help us build this together.”

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His partner is 24-year police veteran Constable Cherry Atkins.  Look for them helping at the food bank or visiting the Farmers’ Market when it starts up soon.  Alex and Cherry work 7-day shifts, 11-hour days, for a whole week.  On Thursdays, they swap out with the other two officers in the program, who become our community officer ambassadors for the week – Constables Brian Davy and Colin Patrick (filling in for Constable M. Dosanjh for the first few months).