Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The post is inspired by frequent and long conversations between myself and my friend Venetia Boehmer-Plotz. Credit where credit is due.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Recently I returned from Ottawa. Being in that city reinforced something for me that I had always believed in at some level. Cities should endeavour to make themselves engaging visual landscapes. I have long thought that we should return to the practice of erecting statues to honour important individuals and events in our communities.
In Ottawa I saw a number of public parks while I explored the city. Virtually every public space had a piece of art at its heart. My favourite example was Confederation Park. In the middle of the park is a memorial to Native soldiers and their contribution to Canada. It’s a beautiful monument. Surrounding it is verdant greenery and comfortable sitting.
Major’s Hill Park is simple, but I feel underlines the point. The park oversees the Rideau Canal as it spills into the Ottawa River, and Parliament Hill. Despite its wonderful view the park itself is quite simple. It has manicured lawns and narrow paths. Low bushes make each section a private and quiet. The focal point is a statue of Lieutenant-Colonel John By, who used to live on the grounds of the park and was critical in the founding of the city.
What really got me thinking about the importance of public art is when I walked from ByWard Market to the National Galley. Obviously I had art on the mind, but what struck me was the juxtaposition of the Gallery to the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. The Cathedral stands across from a gigantic sculpture in the shape of a spider. But what I realized was that the Cathedral itself was a piece of art. The ornate and glittering building was as much of a draw as any exhibition on the grounds of the Gallery.
I think we as Canadians need to take a greater interest and have more passion for our communities. Part of the way to get to that point is to be proud of where we come from. Part of building a sense of pride is finding beauty in your home. People who feel a connection tend to like where they leave, or even love it reflect it in the maintenance and improvement of their own homes, even when they are rentals.
Whenever discussions of public or community art are raised people object to the use of public moneys on these efforts. “This money could better be used for alleviating poverty,” or “public funds should not support the arts.” This might be right, maybe it is a middle-class conceit that I want to see our public spaces decorated with monuments celebrating our culture and history; a civic luxury.
Still – these pieces of art draw us to our public spaces and enrich our lives. I’m tired of parks with a jungle gym in the centre and big empty lawns sprinkled with trees. These parks dedicated in the name of a John Smith, with no indication of who he (or she) was and what he (or she) looked like. What if we give our local artists opportunities to have their sculptures placed in our open spaces, we could have the public consulted and competitions held. I would like to see the province or federal government create an endowment for the support of the capital costs for these projects.
I don’t know terribly too much about art, but I know how people react to it. We are drawn to it, and it engages our minds in reflection. It also creates a sense of community, and landmarks. It is something I think we should consider more seriously.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
The topic of this week’s entry will come as no surprise to anyone. I wish to briefly share some thoughts on the passing of Leader of the Opposition Jack Layton. I think when we saw Mr. Layton (NDP - Toronto-Danforth) announce he was stepping down we all feared this may happen, but it did not make the news of Monday morning any easier to accept. I felt great shock when I first saw the news coming over Twitter. I did something then I don’t normally do. I stayed away from the television and continued to work at my computer.
Listening to the feed from journalists and politicians, the emotional response was clear. Frankly, I wasn’t ready for that at the time. I did eventually partake in the coverage, but that was only after I read Jack’s Good-Bye Letter. I found the letter deeply stirring and it connected me to the tragedy like nothing else. In fact the second I read the “Friends” at the top of the page I was reminded of the apparent absence of the NDP Leader. I strongly encourage you to read it for yourself if you have not already.
Yesterday we lost one of the giants, one of the great ones. Unlike the American system our system requires an institutional opposition, Canada is weakened and incomplete now with Mr. Layton’s loss. We are hurt as a democracy when Mr. Layton lost his battle to cancer. One of the early news reports wrote that Jack now has supplanted Robert Stanfield as the greatest Prime Minister we never had, and I’m inclined to agree with that.
I saw Jack Layton in person only once, he came to Brock University in 2006 to give a speech. It was a small, and informal event. I regret now not walking up to him and shaking his hand. On July 26, my posting after Mr. Layton announced his second cancer was called “Our Happy Warrior”, well now we have lost our Happy Warrior.
Canada will continue without Jack Layton’s leadership, but in the short-term our country will be a poorer place without his voice. Jack Layton inspired me in my passion and interest in politics, but not only that, as a teacher I saw his campaign this past Spring inspire children and bring them into the process. That’s why it is even more important now than ever before to dedicate ourselves to Canadian democracy, that would be the greatest legacy of all.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Edit: A reader pointed out some problems in my initial posting, so I edited it to correct these errors.
In the 1970s a proposal was made of the future of the Greater Toronto Area. In this proposal a strategy was developed to help deal with the lacking success of the eastern sections of the GTA, Scarborough, and Durham Region. One of the key proposals was the introduction of an airport in Pickering, Ontario to stimulate growth.
If you look at a map of the GTA you will quickly notice that the towns to the left (or west) of Toronto are doing better than those on the right (or east). Development in Mississauga, Brampton, and Etobicoke has been spurred on by the business drawn in by quick and easy access to Pearson International Airport. Richer suburbs further along the Golden Horseshoe such as Burlington and Oakville have grown because of the success of the Peel cities and the area west of Toronto.
Mississauga is now a major city of its own rights with a service-centred economy. Meanwhile the cities east of Toronto – Ajax, Whitby, and Oshawa – are industrial towns. It is unfair, and illogical to say that because there’s an airport in the west and not in the east that that has resulted in the differences. The west is also closer to the American border, a major economic driver. Economic policies by both the provincial and federal government have hurt the cities in the Durham Region. Pickering has benefited from being on the edge of Toronto, as have other cities in Durham.
However, the Pickering Airport is no longer a vanity stimulus exercise. Pearson Airport is rated for a capacity of 50 million travellers. Presently we are at 35 million, projections say that by the 2020s the airport will reach capacity. Pearson is maxed out, without levelling parts of Mississauga, or some creative engineering I don’t know about. Therefore something needs to be done if the business capacity of the Toronto region is going to grow.
There are downsides. The Pickering Airport was vocally opposed by community groups in the 1970s. Many of the same people are still around from the fight in the 70s, and they are prepared to do battle again. There seems to be a certain inescapable logic of the Pickering Airport though. The region needs to be able to handle a greater number of flights, an airport needs to be close to centre – downtown Toronto, and it needs the space to be properly developed, which is available in Durham.
I, for one, would support such a proposal. Ultimately, the people of Pickering and Durham must decide if they want an international airport in their backyards. Likewise, they must consider if they want Durham to become like Peel, which would be a likely consequence, airports attract development and more local employment. While Pickering cannot be characterized as a struggling industrial community, cities like Oshawa, dependent on the automotive industry can be. A local major airport would likely stimulate supportive industries to help ease away from an automotive-centered economy.
On a closing note, a bit of personal news, tomorrow I’m heading to Ottawa. It’s the first time I’ll be visiting our nation’s capital. I’m there to do the tourist thing, which I plan to embrace wholeheartedly, possibly at the irritation of locals. It’s a trip I’ve wanted to make a long time and I’m very excited to see the Parliament in person.