Caretakers of Toronto’s heritage

Nothing says “heritage” more than energy-leaking stained glass, out of date HVAC systems, and drafty brick walls.

Yet many of Toronto’s cultural organizations including Tafelmusik, Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, Factory Theatre, Toronto Dance Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille and the new Theatre Centre, among many others, work in repurposed heritage buildings – former churches, industrial or municipal buildings that have been reborn for public use by arts companies.

These grand spaces began as gathering places for their communities, and continue to serve that purpose thanks to the ongoing attention of their new cultural caretakers.

Their continued state of good repair is clearly essential to the preservation of Toronto’s architectural history.  But unfortunately, this important relationship is rarely acknowledged in either heritage or cultural policy. And it’s nowhere acknowledged in the few capital funding programs that exist for either heritage (such as the Toronto Heritage Grant Program) or culture.

Most of Toronto’s arts/heritage buildings were first renovated for arts use between 20 and 30 years ago. They have special needs for upkeep and very special constraints and obligations when undergoing renovation. The need to carefully repair or even restore important heritage features adds to the cost and specialist requirements of these projects.

You would think that the capital projects of the above organizations would have the enthusiastic support of not one but two communities of interest, committed to city building and aware of what we owe to previous centuries and of our duties to the next.

Well, we’re working on it…

Share your experiences or suggestions on heritage renovations by commenting on Facebook.

Jini Stolk

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