b currentperforming arts, a theatre company producing work by and about the Black and Brown diaspora, based at Artscape Wychwood Barns, welcomed Catherine Hernandez in 2017 as its new Artistic Director. We chatted with Catherine about her experience taking the reins and the company’s current season, Rebirth…
What’s it like becoming the new Artistic Director of an established company like b current?
It has been a fantastic experience. I’m focusing on us doing fewer things, but doing them really well. There are always challenges with a small company—not enough staff, not enough room in the budget—but we’re working with what we have to grow the company and turn the page to a new chapter of b current’s development.
You recently announced your emerging artist performing ensemble. What’s in store for this group of emerging artists?
This is a really exciting initiative. Everyone accepted to the ensemble is from the black and brown diaspora, and has had the experience of being racialized in a larger theatre or other educational institution. Everything about our program will ensure they are honoured for the way they are telling stories, using their bodies and in general sharing cultural experience as they advance their work. There are two streams to our bcHUB program: Emerging Artists, and the youth ensemble at St. Margaret Public School in Scarborough, which we connected with originally through the East Scarborough Storefront. This is a fantastic school in need of an arts curriculum; we’re looking at working with Grades 6 and 7 on storytelling. The program will take whatever shape the participants give it—we’re there to listen to what the community wants. Based on the community’s priorities, the program will have an inter-generational focus, with participants interviewing and interacting with elders in the community, doing theatre and improv work to tell stories, incorporating objects, recordings, mask work and anything else that is interesting to them.
Tell us about your Long Table Series — a dinner party to support b current?
Long Table is about raising funds for b current while creating outreach to the community. We kicked off Long Table for Black History Month 2018, inviting B. Denham Jolly to discuss his memoir My Life in the Black in which he writes about his career as a publisher, broadcaster and civil rights activist. I made a huge gourmet dinner for 30 people, seated at one long table. We talked about what it means to be an activist in the black community and how to find the fire to keep going. It was an amazing night and helped us to raise funds for our St. Margaret PS program. We plan to have two or three of these events per year.
Why is your current season called Rebirth?
B current has a 26-year history, which really is a beautiful dream come true for the company’s founder, ahdri zhina mandiela.
With Rebirth, I wanted to distill our season to one to two productions, a residency program and a youth training program. We have moved away from the company’s past rock.paper.sistahz festival format and we’re embracing a new rock.paper.sistahz artist residency model under the mentorship of Banff Playwright’s Lab’s Brian Quirt, to ensure that artists have a prolonged amount of time to develop their work. So far, the feedback has been great—our last residency artist, Makambe K Simamba, was from Calgary and felt truly supported. Since her play deals with police brutality against Black youth, we were thrilled to support this emerging Black theatre artist by paying for her time to develop her work alongside the award-winning Audrey Dwyer.
Catherine Hernandez, Artistic Director of b current, is a theatre practitioner and the author behind M is for Mustache: A Pride ABC Book and the award-winning, Scarborough. To learn more about b current and its upcoming productions, visit bcurrent.ca.
The Artscape office will be closed December 23 and will reopen on January 2.
The building will remain open from 9am-5pm everyday except for December 25 and January 1.
Take a look at our Upcoming Events page to see what is happening at the Barns over the holidays and into the New Year!
Wishing everyone a safe and happy holidays!
History at the Barns
The Artscape Wychwood Barns or “The Barns” as they are known, was originally built in 1913 as a streetcar repair facility for the Toronto Civic Railway (TCR). At the site’s busiest point there were five barns which could house 50 streetcars with spaces for an additional 110 cars in the five acres surrounding the facility. The structure was built with utilitarianism in mind and is considered to be a prime example of the classic revival industrial style.
During the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, the Wychwood Barns was one of the most important transit facilities in the city. When the Toronto Transit Commission took over the space in 1954 however, its future was in doubt: the TTC was considering phasing out the use of streetcars. In 1978, the Wychwood Barns were decommissioned. Although used briefly as a testing and development facility, the barns ultimately began to fall into disrepair.
Thanks to the hard work of Councillor Joe Mihevc and a group of dedicated individuals, they saved the Barns and helped turn it into what it is today – a community cultural hub and multi-faceted complex where a dynamic mix of arts, culture, food security, urban agriculture, environmental and other community activities and initiatives coexist.
Read the entire case study on the Artscape DIY page here.
Welcome to Our New Website!
I’m thrilled to welcome you to our new website. Like the place and people that inspire it, the site showcases our vibrant and beloved community cultural hub.
The Artscape Wychwood Barns opened in 2008 and now is home to:
26 artists and their families who reside in live/work studios
14 artist work-studios
12 not-for-profit arts and environmental organization
We value this unique relationship with the WBCA. We both share an investment in engaging the wider community to make “The Barns” our shared space. Please consider volunteering with the WBCA to support its events, projects and community revitalization efforts.
Here are a few highlights of our new website to orient you as you explore:
What’s Happening – A dedicated calendar of upcoming events that you can submit to and at which you can publicize your event
Who’s Here – Check out some of the wonderful organizations and tenants who work here
Event Rentals – Spark ideas for renting the space, and get a sample of last year’s event clients here
Info for Visitors – A great place to visit if you’ve never been here before; you can take a virtual tour
So whether it’s your home or destination, a studio or a possible event venue, the Artscape Wychwood Barns is your community cultural hub. And whether you’re finding us online or in person, let us know things you’d like to read and see. Welcome!
Interim Managing Director
Artscape Wychwood Barns
We are the Wychwood Barns Community Association
Greetings from the Wychwood Barns Community Association!
The WBCA was formed in 2008 to engage and inspire in the St. Clair West community; creating a community that is a more connected, more vibrant place to live, work and play.
We are very excited to be contributing to this amazing new website and encourage you to check back often for updates and news about what’s happening at The Barns and in the surrounding area.
As your conduit to The Barns, we would also love to HEAR FROM YOU. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any ideas, questions, concerns or simply to join our amazing team of volunteers.
We will also be sending out a new and improved monthly newsletter and you can subscribe to it by clicking the following link: http://eepurl.com/bTlUpb
Remember that this is OUR community, so I encourage you to jump in and get involved. I look forward to meeting you soon 🙂
Peter Moscone, President
WBCA Board of Directors
Heritage Toronto Awards – Barns-related Nominees
The Heritage Toronto Awards recognize individuals, community organizations, industry professionals and associations for exceptional contributions towards the understanding of Toronto’s history and heritage. In September 2015, Heritage Toronto announced the nominees for the 2015 awards. Among them were two Barns-related contenders: a blog named Back to the Park, and a short publication from the York Pioneer and Historical Society, “Before the Barns: The Edwards Family and their Leather Factory,” by Stephanie Lever.
Back to the Park documents Teresa Casas’ weekly “market square” pop-up exhibits at The Stop’s farmers’ market. The stories explore the history of the St. Clair West neighbourhood as well as other issues of interest to market patrons. As Casas explains on the site, “Through these [posts] I explore with market visitors the stories, places, issues and values that define life in the St.Clair West area.”
In her nominated article, Stephanie Lever explores the history of the leather tannery that occupied part of the site that eventually became the Artscape Wychwood Barns before the TTC used the site as a streetcar maintenance facility, with a focus on the Edwards family and their history in the area in the late 19th and early 20th century.
2015 – An “Eventful” Year
Events at the Artscape Wychwood Barns attract thousands of visitors year-round. The Stop Community Food Centre’s weekly Farmers’ Market alone brings in 2,000 people a week!
Community events animate the neighbourhood with art, performances, food and beverages full of Toronto talent. They contribute to Artscape’s wider mission to facilitate tenant- and community-led programs on art, the environment and community.
In 2015, the Artscape Wychwood Barns hosted 151 events with 128,350 people, such as:
Upcycle (April 26): In celebration of Environment Day and as a complement to the Ward 21 Environment Day, organized by Counselor Mihevc, Artscape hosted a “garage sale” to promote repurposing and repair of household items and clothing.
Barns Art Market (BAM) (May-September): Artscape organized and ran five BAMs in 2015, which featured 25+ exhibitors for each event selling jewelry, prints, paintings, photography, ceramics and more.
Circus 2015 (August 26): Circus returned with an evening of high-flying acrobatics, fire dancing, stilt walking, carnival games, carnival themed food and more for over 800 attendees.
Boo! At the Barns (October 24): The sixth annual event delivered once more frightful fun for the whole family, attracting over 1200 people and offering food, drinks and activities for all ages with the haunted house, tarot card readings, stilt walkers and face painting.
Several events by other organizations and companies drew in the community:
Toronto Life: Where to Eat 2015 (April 9): Toronto Life brought the pages of its annual Where to Eat issue to life with the inaugural Best Restaurants event, welcoming 450 guests and chefs from 16 of the best restaurants in the city.
Halo-Halo Festival (August 7): The Halo-Halo Organization presented its second annual and fun-filled festival of the communally-enjoyed Filipino dessert, which consists of shaved ice, evaporated milk, boiled sweet beans, caramelized plantain, dried and fresh fruits, jello and tapioca topped with ice cream, sweetened yam and/or flan.
Toronto Garlic Festival (September 18): This popular annual celebration of Ontario’s garlic harvest returned, featuring fascinating presentations on garlic’s history, health benefits and cultural secrets.
Soupalicious (September 27): Soupalicious hosted its annual soup-tasting harvest celebration, joining local gardeners, farmers, restaurants and chefs using local produce to create signature soups. The event supported Plant a Row – Grow a Row, a locally-based people-helping-people program established in communities across Canada to assist in feeding the hungry.
Supper with Syria (November 29): We are especially proud to have been the venue for the first Supper with Syria event, a community fundraiser to support Syrian refugees. Syrian and Canadian chefs prepared traditional Syrian dishes and exchanged personal stories of culinary customs with over 300 guests, raising over $118,000 to help sponsor two Syrian refugee families in Toronto.
Like our other hubs, the Artscape Wychwood Barns uses an innovative sliding scale rental pricing model. This allows us to offer reduced rental rates to community groups, festivals and smaller arts and not-for-profit organizations. See a cross-section of all our 2015 event clients on our Event Rentals page.
We hope to see you at “The Barns” soon and invite you to dream up a community event that you’d like to host!