By Dominique Taylor
The launch of the Pan Am Path blended art, music and nature with plenty of fun and exercise at the Centre for Urban Ecology in the Humber Arboretum on Saturday May 13.
The kickoff began with a community Playing for Keeps bike ride led by three-time Olympian Curt Harnett, and took participants 10 km south along the Humber River to Pine Point Park.
The Pan Am Path Art Relay, opened with a prayer and song from Elder Garry Sault from the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and continued with speeches from Bal Gosal, Federal Minister of State for Sport, councillor Vincent Crisanti, Deputy Mayor West, Peter Milczyn MPP Etobicoke Lakeshore, and Brent Chamberlain, Chair of the Board of the Friends of the Pan Am Path.
The Pan Am Path Art Relay is a legacy project of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Parapan American Games and part of the Toronto’s Host City Showcase Program. It will continue every weekend until mid-August.
“The Art Relay is an important element of bringing pathway to life,” said James Gen Meers, Executive Director of Friends of the Pan Am Path “It spring-boards the idea of connecting our city through art, culture and nature, and celebrates all the various communities and identities and diversity that exists in our city.”
Meers said the Pan Am Path began as a community led initiative two years ago by a group of residents and city builders, then grew in collaboration with the support of the city of Toronto and various other funders as well as over 30 arts partners.
Toronto has one of the world’s largest urban ravine settings in the world and the Pan Am Path Art Relay was thought to be a way to blend nature with diversity as expressed through the arts, said Meers.
Bal Gosal, Federal Minister of State for Sport announced the Friends of the Pan Am Path would receive $100,000 from the Community Celebrations Fund to continue the Pan Am Path Art Relay until the grand finale on August 15.
“This launch is a wonderful event to celebrate sport and our country’s arts and culture in the great outdoors,” said Gosal. “This is an incredible way to inaugurate the Pan Am Path Arts Relay, which is encouraging everyone to be active.”
The live entertainment included “pedal powered” music from Rucksack Willies and Juno award winner Quique Escamilla from the Toronto Bicycle Music Festival, dance performances from Maracatu Mar Aberto and AFCY – Arts for Children and Youth, a program for under-resourced communities and schools.
Other eco-activities included tree planting, gardening workshops, arts and crafts for children, educational opportunities from the Royal Ontario Museum BioBlitz program, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Humber Arboretum.
A call for participants was put out in four different languages and there were over 250 responses, said Devon Ostrum, lead curator at Friends of the Path.
From there, they narrowed it down to 22 individuals and organizations based on criteria such as what work they did and the diversity of participants said Ostrum.
They tried to keep access costs as low as possible to make sure that everyone could participate, not just those with “disposable time.”
About 80 per cent of the artists are GTA-based said Ostrum, with strong representation from Latin American, Caribbean, Central American and First Nations communities.
“Part of the advantage of this relay sequence is that every community has an opportunity to be connected to be featured,” said Ostrum.
“We see it as a way of celebrating the best of the city around arts and culture, diversity of our city and our ecology in Toronto.”