No festival works without great venues, which help to shape events and set the tone. Spur Toronto is no exception. Since the Literary Review of Canada and Diaspora Dialogues offices already make their home in the vibrant and historic Yorkville neighbourhood, we have decided to make this iconic community Spur Toronto’s home as well. (It’s familiar to me personally too, having been introduced to the world in this neighbourhood, back in that turbulent decade still know as “The Sixties.”)
This part of town contains many of Toronto’s world-renowned cultural institutions and we are using quite a few of them. Not least among these is our presenting partner for several Spur Toronto events, the Gardiner Museum, Canada’s great home for the study and display of work in clay and ceramics. Originally founded in 1984 to house the extensive personal ceramics collection of Toronto philanthropists George and Helen Gardiner, the museum was originally operated by the Royal Ontario Museum (located directly across the street on Queen’s Park Crescent). Thanks to the continued generosity of the Gardiners, the museum became fully independent in 1996.
Staring in 2003 this unique cultural institution underwent an extensive renovation and expansion to house its growing collection. The project, lasting three years and one of many in the last decade that saw extensive rehabilitation of Toronto’s cultural facilities, was overseen by the prestigious architectural firm of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg. (You can join architect Bruce Kuwabara at Spur Winnipeg on April 27th for an intimate walking tour of KPMB’s acclaimed Manitoba Hydro Place building.) The result was a stunning addition to Toronto’s cultural landscape that, in addition to new galleries, includes the Gardiner Museum Terrace Room, which will host several events at Spur Toronto.
The Terrace Room is also the venue for the Literary Review of Canada’s popular The LRC Presents . . . speakers’ series and the LRC’s Literate Lunches with in-house caterer and celebrity chef Jamie Kennedy. If you’ve been there, or if you join us there for the first time, you’ll know why the Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume names the Gardiner “among the city’s great spaces”: with its floor-to-ceiling windows that allow compelling views of Queen’s Park and the Royal Ontario Museum and surrounded by the classic Toronto late 19th-century red brick and stone edifices of the Victoria University at the University of Toronto, it is an ideal location for our festival.
I have to agree with Mr. Hume on his assessment. The warmth of the natural light flooding the space from the south and west during the day, the outdoor terrace and the fine beverages and victuals on offer combine with the clean lines, natural wood and stone to supplement whatever event is unfolding —be it a compelling discussion of political advertising at the Spur Festival, or my own wedding! (I was married there in 2009.)
In between Spur Toronto events, I plan to take a moment to enjoy the impressive collection. Ceramics not your thing? They will be once you have toured the gallery. My particular favourite is the explanation of how European manufactures blatantly (and sloppily in many cases) copied patterns and designs from the far more advanced artists of China and Japan. The Gardiner has several examples of the originals and their European copies. (Hmm. . . this sounds like a good contribution to our “Who Should Own an Idea?” panel discussion on April 13 at 7 p.m. . . . but of course that’s at the Bluma Appel Salon in the Toronto Reference Library—more about that venue in a future post).
Now you have even more reasons to join us at the Gardiner this April for the Spur festival events I have listed below—just remember, if you break it you bought it! (Seriously, please don’t break anything.)