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Community Group Has Vision of Beauty - August 16

The Bloor Street Gallery Project

It all started with a couple of eyesores. Earlier this year, City of Toronto planning and development officials approached a west Toronto community with two Bloor Street underpasses in hand and an invitation for community members to beautify the underpass concrete walls. The two underpasses below rail crossings between Dundas and Lansdowne both straddle Bloor Street West. What has emerged from this initiative is The Bloor Street Gallery Project.

The project, driven by its vision Elevating Life Through Art, has expanded beyond the two original underpasses to encompass a greater west end target area with a long term vision set to go citywide. The outdoor gallery concept will use Bloor Street as its central corridor, and branch off into multiple neighborhoods and communities.

The current project group consists of a small collective of local artists, writers, community workers, business people, educators and activists, joined by a common desire to raise the environmental aesthetic in a city starved for world class art and architecture. The group believes that expressions of quality artistic craft that are readily accessible to the public have the power to improve and enrich the quality of life. The ideal is to create a Toronto wide outdoor gallery of both permanent and temporary art that tells our collective stories, and gives art a place in daily life.

"This project has incredible potential," says Sandra Muscat, coordinator for the group. "There's a real opportunity here to do something worthwhile something that can unify our communities and create lasting positive change. This project has the power not only to change the visual landscape in Toronto, but to transform our relationship and understanding of art, and its role in our lives."

Vice Chair, Paul Thompson, with the project since its inception, has been instrumental in driving it forward. He says there is a good deal of interest and support within the community. A writer and strong advocate for the arts, Thompson has received the nod of approval from many Bloor West area businesses including Nexxt Development Corporation, whose current interests include a thirty storey condominium development at the former Canadian Tire site on the North East corner of Keele and Bloor Streets.

The group is now involved in further developing the project to comprise a mentoring program for youth, and an opportunity for artist collectives from various cultural groups to take on active roles. "Ultimately, we see ourselves as an umbrella organization that will develop a model and roll it out to various community neighbourhoods and cultural groups" says Toronto artist Antonia Lancaster. The role of the group will be to lay the foundation, work out the bugs and the details, generate some funding support and curate the development of a Toronto wide outdoor gallery.

In addition to its goal to enrich and beautify the city, the Bloor Street Gallery Project's mission includes teaching the value of artistic craft and expression, nurturing and mentoring youth, recording history and expressing our collective stories. The group continues with its work to identify initial target pilot sites and says there will be a citywide call to artists for submissions within the next two months. "In the meantime, we are in dire need of support and are actively searching for people who are interested in taking an active role in steering this project" says Muscat.

For more information on the Bloor Street Gallery Project, or to join the organization, please contact: Sandra Muscat



Copyright 2002 Chander Chaddah. All rights reserved.