Artscape 20th Anniversary

"blogTO is in the house! Everyone, blogTO is here!"

Artscape's 20th Anniversary celebration began last night with an 'Oscar like' introduction for all the people coming in from the -20 degree weather. With a turn from everyone in the room I awkwardly smiled, realizing I was being made to feel special. A feeling Artscape has been trying to do for the arts community for the last 20 years.

The party was calm, cool and ... well... warm. People were all thawing off, having hors d'oeuvres and getting to know one another. "It's a special place. It has done so much for the city. I'm lucky to be here today", says Robert, one of the company's long time employees.

He's right. Artscape has much to celebrate. Yesterday it received $3 million from the provincial government to go to its newest revitalization project, The Green Arts Barn.

In a city like Toronto, where so much of our hottest artistic spots are being bought up and stomped on by condos, Artscape is the one decent intervener.

Artscape was formed in 1986 as a not- for- profit branch of the Toronto Arts Council. As the real estate industry was booming, city inspectors were closing down 'illegal' artist living/ work spaces in warehouse districts that were the backbone of artistic organizations.

Artscape's first step towards assisting the cultural community was to make the city aware of the danger of cutting off the artists from their spaces with its publication of 'No Vacancy'. The review opened the forum to discussion about the concerns the city needed to take seriously in regards to space related issues for the arts.

Since then Artscape has been a driving force in creating environments where artists can create their work. Artscape is responsible for the revitalization of such artistically prominent areas as the Distillery district, Liberty Village, Parkdale Arts and Cultural Centre, and the newly announced Green Arts Barn at St. Clair and Bathurst.

Artscape's press release reads, "Artscape unlocks the creative potential of people and places by building creative places, developing creative districts and clusters and cultivating cities." In the Distillery District alone there are many successful theatre companies that now thrive due to the area's resurgence thanks to Artscape. Some of those companies include Soulpepper, Nightwood and Expect Theatre.

The most ironic point is that the artists tend to move into areas where condos would never be built, however once these areas become posh due to the thriving arts community, up go the condos. Soon after, the artists are thrown out as these condos crush them down so that they can build on the new cultural 'hot spot'. Artscape is one of few corporate entities here in Toronto that is dedicated to building safe zones and for that it truly is something to celebrate as, like their party, they are here to make sure no one gets left out in the cold. "Artscape is here, Artscape is in the house". That's a warming thought to all.

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