Heart of the City 2022 Recap
Back in Giovanni Caboto Park and loving it!
After two years of producing small events and online offerings, our team of volunteer board members were so excited to bring Heart of the City Festival back to Giovanni Caboto Park in 2022 on June 4th and 5th. The annual theme, aptly named Arts Awakened, found visual expression in the festival’s central theme artwork made by artist Elaine Cooper, which featured two foxes reaching out to one another and joining paws in a starburst of light. The image symbolized reconnecting with our friends, neighbours and, in turn, our own creativity. This is the magic that this festival brings to our community.
Many of our board members were new this year. They brought positive fresh energy to the festival. Those of us who have experience with producing the festival felt that with the help of all our new board members, our 19th year was one of the smoothest festivals we have ever produced.
This year the festival combined the youth stage and main stage, mingling established and emerging artists in the same line-up. The unified “clam shell” stage no doubt created many networking opportunities and a chance for youth to brush shoulders with a wide array of talent.
On the music stage, a notable moment occurred when Chubby Cree opened Sunday’s bill with the powerhouse voice of traditional singer 12-year-old Noah Green. He performs with his grandmother, Carol Powder, a female hand drummer. Their rendition of the healing song “Remember Me” touched many amongst the crowd. Chubby Cree were recently invited to open for The Halluci Nation, formerly A Tribe Called Red, and are currently hosting a Go Fund Me donation campaign page to raise money to travel to Toronto to bring their healing voices across Turtle Island.
Another stand-out memory was made when The Littlebirds Big Band closed the festival with some fantastic up-and-coming horn players taught by world-class jazz local musicians at the Yardbird’s youth music program. Head-turning improvised solos filled the air, stopping you in your tracks and causing you to question the years of experience that this incredibly talented group has under their belt.
At The Beat Spoken Word Stage we held two poetry showcases, three workshops, a comedy night, and a Story Slam. One of the poetry showcases featured youth reading their original works. We were impressed with the young people who showed up at our open stage, including a youngster called, “Arlo” who improvised a poem and even tried stand-up comedy for the first time to open our comedy night! KazMega, Leif Gregersen, and Fara Joy hosted workshops that were well attended. The winner of this year’s Story Slam was Ahmed Ahmed who told a story that made the judges laugh and cry.
We had an outstanding turnout of volunteers to help run the festival including long time security staff and organizers.Courtney Cronkhite, our first-time stage manager, deserves special mention for transforming into a pearl of an MC on stage.
Other metamorphoses happened at the Art Tent, where workshop facilitators provided many children with the opportunity to paint inspired creations together before trying their hand at the festival’s long-time staple activity: tie-dying T-shirts.
One board member voiced that time and again he had someone he hadn’t seen in two years approach him in the park and say, “Thank you! Our community really needs this!”
Next year will mark the Heart of the City Festival’s 20th anniversary. We would love to hear from you about what you would like to see us do to celebrate inner city arts and this milestone year.
Stay tuned for our next event coming this fall. We are planning to have our second Indigenous Fashion Show, community meal, and clothing drive.
_Corine Demas is the President of the Heart of the City Festival. Jen Dunford, HOTC’s Volunteer Coordinator, views art as a tool for change and believes in its integral role as a part of Canadian cultural identity. Her mission is to create cultural legacies through the practice of performance. _