UrbanArts holds Culture Shock festival

UrbanArts held its 6th annual Culture Shock festival today. Poets, visual artists, musicians, and dancers entertained audiences all through the afternoon and into the evening.

Artists performed in several places around the high school. Highlights included a fashion show, the York Lions Steel Drum band, and performances by local dance groups.

UrbanArts is a youth arts organization on John St in Weston. It is one of four ‘local arts services organzations’ in Toronto; LASOs work in priority neighbourhoods to make “the arts, in all its diverse forms, broadly accessible and affordable.” As well as preparing for the Culture Shock festival, this summer UrbanArts has been hosting camps and running a graffiti prevention project.

GO Transit opens a community outreach centre

GO Transit has opened a community office in Weston. It held a grand opening tonight at the converted house at the intersection of Denison and Weston Road.

GO and Metrolinx have had a terrible relationship with the residents of Weston. Steve Munro, a transit blogger, says that early “proposals to slice through Weston … infuriated local residents.” According to Munro, “GO runs popular services, and as a provincial agency it is used to getting more or less what it wants. Public participation and accommodation have not been GO’s strong suits.”

Kathryn Hanford, the Team Lead, says, “GO realized that we were kind of shy of resources. We’ve got more resources now.”

Manuel Pedrosa, the manager of community relations, also said that things are changing. “We’re mindful that there’s a large infrastructure project in the community. We want to make sure we’re available to the community to answer questions and concerns.”

According to Pedrosa, the community office will be in Weston until the project is completed in 2014. Pedrosa says that they want “to ensure that the community is informed, to give them an opportunity to engage in the project.”

While the staff seemed sincere, Metrolinx has remained somewhat tone deaf to community needs. Not one staff member is from Weston, though Hanford did grow up nearby. Pedrosa said “we do have an initiative to ensure that some of the jobs come from the community”, and Hanford said they had been receiving résumés; nonetheless, none of the dozen-or-so employees at the open house was from Weston. In the last census, Weston had an unemployment rate 120% of Toronto’s, and 25% of residents live below the poverty line.

Neither Harford nor Pedrosa had any information about how Metrolinx’s recent takeover of the Air Rail Link project would affect Weston residents.

The Hub will open in September

Weston’s new ‘hub’ will open in September, according to Matt Brubacher, the Community Engagement Coordinator.

The hub will be a place where the community can find help with employment, women’s and youth issues, parenting, and health care. It will be in the old Food Basics on Jane St, and has been planned since at least 2008. York Community Services, the agency behind it, had said that the centre would open in June of this year.

Brubacher says that the hub is opening in Weston because it is one of 13 ‘priority neighbourhoods’ identified by the United Way. The United Way has plans to open eight hubs in total; the first one opened in January in Scarborough. When it is completed, Weston’s hub will be only the second or third.

Brubacher said that the priority areas generally have “higher levels of poverty, lower levels of service, and safety issues as well. Hubs are one thing that they’re doing to support the neighbourhoods”. The United Way says that these priority neighbourhood are in the inner suburbs, and are characterized  growing levels of poverty, few services, growing numbers of youth, and an increasing need for newcomer services.

Brubacher said that  they’ll be having events and “holding monthly gatherings to start talking about what [the community] would like to see happening at the Hub and once we’ve been open for a little bit, we’ll have a big opening celebration as well.”

“More than the labels that get put on it”: Weston Public exhibition

Weston Public, showing this week at 1030 Weston Rd, is well worth a visit. It was created by Sarah Sharkey Pearce and Mariangela Piccione.

The show is both a documentary and an architecture exhibit, and it is housed in a small, minimalist, ground-floor bachelor apartment-cum-gallery. Piccione was there to graciously describe the exhibit.

Three small, white, pristine building models are set up around the room, and a tiny video is projected on each.  My favourite was a layered representation of Little Park. On the top layer, Piccione had crafted models of the archway, cenotaph, and bandshell. Layers below show a map of Weston, the stone fences around the park, and the topography of Humber River. The floating layers and the white models make the geography and features of the landscape seem light and abstract. The video is interview explanation of the changes in Weston over the past decades.

Piccione said she and Sarah Sharkey-Pearce made short documentaries and models of “small microsites from the neighbourhood. It’s a portrait”.  They are “trying to see the places through the eyes of the people who use them.” Rather than create a long-form documentary, they created episodes, because they felt that “the narrative arc demands closure. These are different ways of seeing the neighbourhood, in the same room, together.”

Both Sharkey Pearce and Piccione grew up in the region. Piccione said,

“I grew up just outside the neighbourhood, and Sarah grew up in Weston. And we always come back.

I found out that it was this ‘priority neighbourhood’. [But] it is important to understand the neighbourhood through the people who live here; it’s more than the labels that get put on it”

Weston Public runs until Saturday from 1 till 6 on weekdays, and from 12 until 7 on the weekend.

Shooting on Weston Road, police seeking help

A man was shot on Monday outside 2255 Weston Rd, near the corner of Coulter and Weston.

Two men were involved in an altercation in the parking lot beside a silver or grey Audi, according to police. The driver of the Audi shot the other man in the arm and fled in the car. The Audi crashed into a purple or maroon Dodge Caravan before heading north on Weston Road.

Police closed Weston Rd for several hours on Monday night while they investigated the scene. They are now trying to find both cars. The Audi has damage to the front right corner and the Dodge has damage to the rear right corner. Police are asking for the public’s help.

2255 Weston Rd

With thanks to M. Lennon for reporting.

Artificial turf field being built in Lions Park

Weston is getting an artificial-turf soccer field in Lions Park. The money is coming from the three levels of government as part of the Recreational Infrastructure stimulus plan.

The project will cost $2 million, split equally between the province, the city, and the feds. It is, by far, the largest stimulus project in Weston. The field is also among the top ten most-expensive recreational projects in the city.

According to Jennifer Cicchelli, executive assistant to Frances Nunziata, “they are converting the soccer field to artificial turf… They will also be improving the lighting on the sports field.”

Cicchelli says that the project will be completed by October.