Back to the Park is a local history blog that is intertwined with the life of Artscape Wychwood Barns, a park and cultural hub in Toronto’s mid-town St. Clair district. It demonstrates how local history can support a community’s evolving sense of place during a period of new development and settlement.
Both newcomers and long time area residents are drawn every week to the century-old re-purposed streetcar storage barns and surrounding park for its farmers’ market run by the The Stop. This blog documents my “market square” pop-up exhibits there. Through these I explore with market visitors the stories, places, issues and values that define life in the St.Clair West area. As the market inspires re-thinking the relationship between food growing and eating, rural and the urban culture, public space and community life, these themes are the focus of Back to the Park.
Located close to the barns, the City of Toronto Archives holds the collection of pioneer press photographer William James (1866-1948) making his images widely available through its database. Back to the Park reconnects these photographs with the contemporary stories that they illustrated to reveal how these images carried desires and anxieties around urban living that persist today.
Beyond connecting the life of the market to the history of the area, this blog charts the evolution of the barns as an arts hub through interviews with its tenants. Highlighting this as a place of communication through art, market square occasionally switches form, going from contained display to the more “artistic” strategies of creative, participatory and symbolic intervention in the public space of the market.
See more photos of back to the park here.
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