What brings us together? Hint: it’s not just the holidays.

People need places—and reasons—to gather, whether for connection/companionship, ambition or excitement/fulfillment. It’s such spaces and opportunities that give a community relevance, a reason for being. Without them, people set their sights on other places, and tell their stories without belonging.

Our campus magazine, UTSC Commons, recently featured a conversation on this subject, and the challenge citizens, policy-makers and planners have to make sure people can congregate, feel welcome and participate in civic life. In Scarborough and the eastern GTA, a place which has always been marginalized in the mainstream media as a ‘suburb,’ this is an uphill battle.

But it’s an essential one, because our future depends on our connections with others, and our understanding and engagement of the others in our community.  

The arts have a long history of bringing people together, allowing us to create, maintain and share our stories, and inspiring conversations that lead to insight and a shared sense of community. This is especially true in Scarborough, where there is a vibrant array of opportunities in every discipline imaginable. Just check out the Scarborough Arts Council for a listing.

Who doesn’t love sitting in the park along with other fans, listening to a favourite band or orchestra? Or joining other film buffs on the Scarborough Bluffs on a summer evening to watch a movie under the stars?

UTSC is an important anchor to the Scarborough arts scene, through the Doris McCarthy Gallery, the concerts and productions of the Department of Arts, Media and Culture, and the research and community outreach of faculty, students and staff. One exciting new gallery, Y+ Contemporary, grew out of these efforts.

I once overheard a conversation between two people in an elevator in City Hall—they were joking that maybe in 50 years they would be coming to Scarborough for a night on the town. They could do that today. Toronto Life put Scarborough on a list of the five hottest neighbourhoods in town. We already know about the parks, green spaces and extraordinary restaurants, but the arts are part of that, too.

It makes sense that, as a community’s arts programs grow stronger, more visitors come to check it out—locals and tourists alike. The arts build reputation, that attract visitors, who in turn attract more businesses, more investment, more stability. But at the core, the arts enhance the focus of the people who live and work here, and contribute to our identity of place.

Scarborough arts tell a remarkable story.

 

Photo from the Doris McCarthy Gallery's mushroom-gathering foray in the Highland Creek Ravine behind U of T Scarborough, in conjunction with the "Outdoor School" exhibit and the Mycological Society of Toronto. Photo depicts "Outdoor School" Curator Amish Morrell (in blue), his partner Diane Borsato and their son at the event.

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