by Andrew Stewart

There is no time for the dust to settle after the official opening of the architectural award-winning Fort York Visitor Centre and its inaugural Great War exhibit programme in fall 2014. Already this building is hosting The Art of Command – works by Canadian war artist Gertrude Kearns. And come fall 2015, the Visitor Centre’s state-of-the-art facility will allow it to host the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest from Durham Cathedral — foundational documents from the Middle Ages for today’s universal human rights. This 800th anniversary tour, spearheaded by Magna Carta Canada, will remind us of the principals that govern us and our governments.

Two of the principal architects of the Visitor Centre, Jonathan Kearns and John Patkau, in the orientation theatre, in front of Charles Pachter’s War of 1812 paintings on opening day. Photo by Stephanie E. Calvet
Two of the principal architects of the Visitor Centre, Jonathan Kearns and John Patkau, in the orientation theatre, in front of Charles Pachter’s War of 1812 paintings on opening day. Photo by Stephanie E. Calvet

The Visitor Centre is also attracting people and events relating to Fort York National Historic Site’s increasing profile as a vital urban green space. In April, for instance, Park People (Toronto Alliance for Better Parks) will use the Visitor Centre for a panel discussion and launch its report on how greenways and linear parks critically enhance the public realm. It will highlight how greenway opportunities are emerging at Fort York National Historic Site.

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Main gallery in the Visitor Centre with current Art and the Great War: a Toronto Perspective exhibit. (photo © 2014 Jean-Marc Robin, http://jeanmarcrobin.com)

From the top of the Visitor Centre, visitors will get a sense, towards the end of the year, of significant improvements to Garrison Common. Expanded green space, lighting, paths, and interpretation of the historic character of the Common are to come. Work begins this spring, and will resume following the high public programming season (June-Sept).

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Fort York Visitor Centre seen from Garrison Common (upper) level. (photo © 2014 Jean-Marc Robin, http://jeanmarcrobin.com)

This summer, as part of Toronto’s Pan Am/Para Pan Am Games, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation will host Sacred Fire and Cultural Village, as well as the Aboriginal Pavilion, on Garrison Common. Taste of Toronto is back this year in July, and is expected to draw 20,000 participants. And music festivals, beginning with Field Trip in June, will work closely with fort staff to take advantage of one of Toronto’s best outdoor cultural event locations.

Much of the fort’s core activity is now enhanced by the Visitor Centre, with increased capacity for school and public programmes. The Fort York Foundation continues to raise the funds necessary to complete the Visitor Centre. We’ve raised $3.5 million from the private sector so far but we must raise another $3 million. Please help us spread the word and give generously.