Explore Toronto: Eco-Art-Fest @Todmorden Mills


AU_no9_EcoArtFest_8036Last week, with intentions to squeeze every last bit of summer fun out of what remained of the summer days, Carol, Nathalie and I took our boys to explore no. 9’s Eco-Art Fest.

Just off Pottery Road in the Don Valley, is a tucked-away enclave sheltered by a canopy of trees where art and green collide. Andrew Davies, Executive Director, is a man with a vision. Having spent years in New York City working for the Museum of Modern Art in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Davies became enamoured with the emerging art scene that seemed to couple art and social consciousness so seamlessly. Upon his return to Toronto, he learned about the Evergreen Brick Works, at that time in its planning stages, and envisioned a place where art and the environment could not only flourish but also serve to inspire people to live more sustainable lives.

Drawing on his extensive art and architecture background Davies went on to found no. 9. It is an arts organization that uses art and design to bring awareness to environmental concerns through school and community based programs. Earlier this summer when I explored the Brick Works with my boys we were able to view My Sustainable City, a collaboration between no.9 and the Toronto District School Board that is on exhibit at Brick Works until September 23.

IMG_4848While My Sustainable City is an example of a school program, Eco-Art-Fest is an outdoor summer-long art festival held at Todmorden Mills until September 21 for the entire community to enjoy.

Davies and his staff of artisans offer daily programs for children. Our boys got their hands dirty throwing clay and enjoyed a water colour painting workshop where they learned about endangered animals and just how interrelated the creatures in our environment really is. We ended our morning activities with a guided tour of the various outdoor art installations by celebrated artists Dean Baldwin, Nicole Dextras, John Dickson, Sean Martindale, Ferruccio Sardella, Penelope Stewart, John Loerchner and Laura Mendes.

1200x630xNo9-Eco-Art-Fest-IMG_1785.JPG-by-Yvonne-Bambrick-June21_14-1200x630.jpg.pagespeed.ic.ahUVUUZWfA

It was an enriching opportunity to learn how art is not just paint, paper and brush strokes. Art can be just as much about aesthetic and expression as a social message. In particular my boys enjoyed Sean Martindale’s installation of the word HISTORIES created from the earth, and depending on perspective history could be rising up from the ground or buried.

Saturday nights offer live music after 5 pm, delicious artisanal charcuterie boards that are works of art in themselves, and organic beer and wine all under the lights of Helliwell’s.

1200x630xNo9-Eco-Art-Fest-IMG_2048-1200x630.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Hqffqj7LGM

Nearly four hours passed before I looked at my watch.   The green space combined with the art, and the easy-going, light-hearted atmosphere was enough to make me forget that I was in the city, less than a few minutes drive to the centre and its hustle and bustle. It was four hours of appreciating art in many forms, learning about our environment and most importantly connecting with each other.

Time is running out to experience the wonder of Eco-Art-Fest this summer. The festival ends on September 21 but will return next year. To learn more or to register for the activities and tours please visit Eco-Art-Fest.

Advertisement

Explore: Evergreen Brick Works

IMG_4844Years ago my weekends were peppered with city-dweller activities: markets, neighbour explorations, festivals and art appreciation but then a string of pregnancies and little babies kept me nestled (chained) in my neighbourhood bubble venturing only outside to visit the zoo.  My youngest is now almost 4 (I still can’t believe it!) and for the past year, we’ve really been able to enjoy the city and all that it has to offer without the stress of strollers, naps and diapers.

It’s a whole new world!

Recently we explored an urban oasis: Evergreen Brick Works.

The Brick Works, as locals affectionately call it, was the Don Valley Brick Works from 1889 to 1984 and many of Canada’s preeminent buildings are constructed of bricks made from this site.  From 1984 until the early 2000s, the Brick Works deteriorated.  Piles of rubble and crumbling buildings are what most people saw when they drove past along Bayview Avenue, with the exception of a group of creative innovators who saw the potential to transform the site into a not-for-profit destination celebrating nature, culture and community.

IMG_4845

The old buildings mesmerized the boys.  They imagined themselves heating clay in the giant kilns to make bricks.  They saw the old tracks used to transport the tons of coal from the various buildings.  We talked about the working conditions: how loud it must have been and oppressively hot from the steam, the kilns (and the humid Toronto summers) and how it probably wasn’t that safe in the early years.

Exploring the kiln building was a favourite but not only because of its historical significance.  The walls are lined with an evocative gallery displaying artistic photography and, perhaps the highlight for me; it is where The Sustainable City installation is currently on display. City school teams have imagined and created a future Toronto that encompasses the core values of Evergreen: nature, community and culture.  Not only are the projects incredible but also they are inspiring!  To think that our city is home to such innovators . . . lucky for us!

IMG_4846

There is a lot to see and do at the Brick Works.  Every day people explore the extensive trails where local wildlife abounds!

The weekdays are quieter but the weekends are chock-full of activities including an impressive farmer’s market, pottery demonstrations, bike rentals, a flea market and the children’s garden.  The Brick Works hosts seminars on the weekends that appeal to bikers, gardeners, wild life enthusiasts and artists.

Wednesday evenings (from July 2- August 6) enjoy pizza from Pizzeria Libretto from the outdoor wood-fired oven (to.die.for.) and a small seasonal salad for $3.

It’s summer and there is no shortage of activities in Toronto.  There is a reason it’s called The Living City, so get out there and live!

March Break Madness

March Break is coming. Are you ready?

I know what you’re thinking. We just got through the holidays. How can it possibly be time to start thinking of March Break? But if you’re a working parent whose daycare closes for the week, or if you’re looking for a fun or interesting activity for your children, the clock’s ticking. Some popular programs (such as the University of Toronto Junior Blues gymnastics camp for boys) are already full. While I admit I still don’t know what my kids are doing that week (Day care? Family vacation? Week at home?) here are some programs that have caught our eye:

— Evergreen Brick Works offers the Green City Adventure Camp for kids between the ages of 6 and 10. Dubbed an adventure into the heart of the green city, campers will roam the ravines around the Brick Works, learn about the local flora and fauna, cook and explore a side of the city that few kids get to see. Camp runs from March 14th to 18th, and registration forms and more information are available here.

Harbourfront Centre is known for its high-quality, exciting and diverse programing for adults and children alike. This year, Harbourfront Centre offers March Break camps for kids from ages 3 through 15 – and there’s something for every one: dancing, cooking, creative arts, comic book camp, circus camp, digital photo camp, junior authors camp, theatreKIDS…the list goes on.

Garrison Creek Art Education Centre, located near Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto’s west end, is offering a program called “Travel the World – Create, and Dream” for children between ages four and ten. Each day, children participate in a different themed activity: Monday is Harry Potter Puppet Days; on Thursday, children will explore Africa with drumming and stories with guest Njacko Backo. Camps run March 14 to 18 and March 21 to 24, and you can find more information by visiting their website.

For lower cost options, or if you’re just looking for something to do as a family, be sure to check out both the Toronto Parks and Recreation and Toronto Public Library‘s offerings, too.