Breaking Bread

Spotlight

A little while ago, I started compiling a list of Toronto-based food-related projects and people for a friend going to North America on a professional research visit. Some of them are based, like me at the time, at the Centre for Social Innovation – such as Aruna Handa’s Alimentary Initiatives, who mixes art, food and social interaction in her Future Food Salons to “examine and taste what we may be eating in the future”; others are well-known and liked institutions, at the forefront of education, social justice and community engagement, like 30-year-old foodbank The Stop; others still had just sprung up during my time living in the city: surplus urban fruit harvesters Not Far From the Tree (presented in the video below by founder Laura Reinsborough) or ethical catering company (and B CorporationPaintbox Bistro, which employs and trains residents from Regent’s Park, one of Toronto’ so-called “priority neighbourhoods”.

I recently came across a few new food-sharing initiatives in France and the UK that make a great start for a closer-to-home list – so here they are.

 

Alimentary Upcycling: The Real Junk Food Project

The Real Junk Food Project is a “global, organic network of pay as you feel cafés (that) divert food destined for waste and use it to create delicious and healthy meals”. The first one opened in Leeds in December 2013 – and there are now about 50 affiliated community-led outlets in the UK, Europe and as far as Australia.

As founder Adam Smith (delivering his TEDx Talk above) puts it, “it’s wasted food, not waste food”.

Here’s a look inside the latest Real Junk Food Café in Manchester, entirely furnished and equipped with donated gods:

 

 

Digitally-enabled Local Sharing: OLIO

Like FreeCycle for food! “OLIO is a free app which connects neighbours with each other and with local businesses to exchange their edible surplus food. Think food nearing its sell-by date in local stores, spare vegetables from the allotment, cupcakes from an amateur baker, or the groceries in your fridge when you go away.”

First launched in London’s Crouch End neighbourhood in July 2015, OLIO has already expanded to 6 boroughs in London and is planning to expand its offer to Bristol and other UK cities.

App users can upload items they want to donate or sell (at no more than 50% of the original retail price).

OLIO screen grab

Other users can then contact them to arrange a pick up – either at their home, or at a registered Drop Box location.

The app developers have made sure to include a few guidelines to ensure that all exchanges are respectful and responsible – starting by “Only add items that you would be willing to eat yourself”.

 

Targeted Fundraising: Ernest

It’s not just happening in the UK – in France too, food-related charities – foodbanks, social groceries… – have seen the demand for help increase and public funds decrease in recent years.

Ernest was set up in 2015 to run fundraising campaigns with partner restaurants that contribute to specific needs of identified local charities. For each meal consumed in a partner restaurant during the campaign, a few centimes are added to the bill and redistributed to a selected local charity, generally towards a capacity-building project (the current campaign in Toulouse is raising funds towards buying fridges or renovating the kitchen for three foodbanks).

They aim to create “local solidarity networks” by linking restaurants, their customers, charities and their clients around the notion of sharing.

This week: start of the ERNEST campaign +0.20 € added to your bill on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays

This week: start of the ERNEST campaign +0.20 € added to your bill on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
Image © Lucky Miam (www.luckymiam.com/ernest/)

 

 

Grow Your Own City

Programming

Gardening is my graffiti: I grow my art.

– Ron Finley

Ron Finley urban famer

Ron Finley, graffiti-gardener

Urban farming has its new hero: Ron Finley, artist-gardener, on a mission to make kale sexy in South Central Los Angeles, one of America’s food deserts. Since he planted a vegetable garden on a city-owned strip of land outside his house in 2010, then got fined for it and successfully led a campaign to make curbside gardening legal, he’s received a lot of media attention, including a TED Talk in 2013 (from which the quotes above and below are taken).

“Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”

“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.”

“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. If they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes.”

“We gotta flip the script on what a gangsta is — if you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t gangsta.”

The video below, featuring Ron pre-TED fame, encapsulates the multiple benefits of urban gardening: healthy eating, communal activity, cultural heritage, sensory stimulation…

From producing fresh food in a brownfield and at the same time beautifying an area to providing a physical activity to local people while creating community links, urban farming is a multi-layered activity that keeps on giving. I’ve looked below at 3 other initiatives with deep roots – transforming a school’s rooftop, re-inventing the city as a public orchard and blowing the seeds of change from a West Yorkshire village to the rest of the world.

The Teachers: School Grown

If there is one constant with urban farming, it’s that it can happen anywhere and everywhere: on the side of the road in LA, 33 metres below the busy streets of Clapham, or at the back of a truck, anywhere. By comparison, a rooftop farm is perhaps quite banal, but the one transformed by Food Share in Toronto – that can be seen from scratch to end in the timelapse video above – is rather special, because it doubles up as a “food literacy education centre, large market garden and vibrant event space all wrapped into one”.

The 16,000 square foot rooftop currently includes over 450 garden planters, 100 shiitake mushroom logs, a dwarf fruiting orchard, seating for over 200 people, a covered area and an indoor classroom – and has plans to add a rooftop teaching kitchen, a small greenhouse, a composting area and an open air cafe.

Students sell their ‘school grown’ produce at three local farmers’ markets and also supply several Toronto restaurants.

foodshare.net/schoolgrown

@FoodShareTO

The Gleaners: Not Far From The Tree

Founder and director Laura Reinsborough got the idea for Not Far From The Tree when she was working as a Community Arts Facilitator for the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) and was asked to pick apples from an urban orchard and put them to good use.

From this first experience was born Not Far From the Tree, an initiative that picks unwanted or surplus fruit from residential properties, sharing the harvest 3 ways: ⅓ to the fruit owner, ⅓ to the the volunteers and ⅓ to social agencies. In 2008, their first full season, 150 volunteers picked a total of 3,003 pounds of fruit, and the concept has now grown into a fully-fledged, city-wide, award-winning charitably constituted organisation with permanent staff.

In 5 years, they have:

  • harvested over 70,000 pounds of fruit;
  • donated more than 22,000 pounds to social service agencies;
  • registered over 1,500 trees to be picked in our operating area;
  • registered more than 1,600 volunteer pickers.

They have also produced a pretty 5-year annual report available to view online, listing these achievements and more, and also regularly commission artists – such as the one below – for their event and campaign visuals.

Apple-by-Zeesy-Powers-Oct-2012-e1393605838297

Apple by Zeesy Powers (2012)

notfarfromthetree.org

@NFFTT

The Planters: Incredible Edible

This is the extraordinary journey of a small market town in the North of England, now a hotspot of the local food revolution. With just a handful of people and seeds to start with, Todmorden has transformed itself into a place where fruit and vegetables are grown everywhere – outside the police station, in the cemetery, along the canal – and for everyone. Pam Warhurst, one of the instigators, calls it “propaganda gardening”: a way of ensuring resilience by creating deep links between community, learning and business. It’s even created a brand new genre of tourism, with “vegetable tourists” coming to the 15,000-strong town to visit the Incredible Edible Green Route.

The Todmorden experiment has inspired over 200 local groups in several countries that form the Incredible Edible Network and are typically involved in “setting up community growing plots, reaching out to schools and children, and backing local food suppliers”.

c554_incredible_edible_todmorden_police_station_food_to_share_incroyables_comestibles_w680

Incredible Edibles, outside Todmorden Police Station

c558_incredible_edible_todmorden_green_route_food_to_share_incroyables_comestibles_w1600

Food to Share – Incredible Edibles Todmorden

incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk

incredibleediblenetwork.org.uk

@incredibledible

 

No There There?

Spotlight

There is no there there.
— 
Gertrude Stein

This non-there is Oakland, California, where author and art collector Gertrude Stein grew up at the end of the 19th century – and there now is a there where there once was no there: since 2005, an eight-foot high powder-coated steel plate twin sculpture spelling out “HERE” and “THERE”, by artists Steve Gillman and Katherine Keefer, marks the border between Berkeley and Oakland.

HERE-THERE_2-900 Steve Gillman 2011

HERETHERE by Steve Gillman (Berkeley/Oakland, CA )

According to the commissioning agency, the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission, “the sculptured letters form a poetic message of hello and goodbye and provide a sense of place”.

Maybe not enough for some residents: the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2010 that “renegade knitters … sewed a multi-colored tea cozy onto the letter T”.  The knitters were asked by Berkeley’s civic arts coordinator “to remove their handiwork because modifying public art is against state and federal law”, but instead “resisted and … held a knit-in at the sculpture”.

There yarn

Knit-in at the HERETHERE sculpture – Photo: Brant Ward, The Chronicle

One of the artists expressed his support for the knitters, applauding them for “start(ing) a dialogue where possibly only a monologue had existed before”. Unfortunately his views were not echoed by the civic arts coordinator, who pointed out that “he has a right to his opinion (…). But he doesn’t own (the artwork) anymore.”

While this is almost as gripping as the Tilted Arc controversy, and raises many questions of context, appropriation, ownership and authorship, it also provides an opportunity to revisit the Gertrude Stein statement. Here’s a longer quote to give context to this famous ‘no there there’ (punctuation is sic):

She took us to see her granddaughter who was teaching in the Dominican convent in San Raphael, we went across the bay on a ferry, that had not changed but Goat Island might just as well not have been there, anyway what was the use of my having come from Oakland it was not natural to have come from there yes write about it if I like or anything if I like but not there, there is no there there.

…but not there, there is no there there. … Ah Thirteenth Avenue was the same it was shabby and overgrown. … Not of course the house, the house the big house and the big garden and the eucalyptus trees and the rose hedge naturally were not there any longer existing, what was the use …

It is a funny thing about addresses where you live. When you live there you know it so well that it is like an identity a thing that is so much a thing that it could not ever be any other thing and then you live somewhere else and years later, the address that was so much an address that it was like your name and you said it as if it was not an address but something that was living and then years after you do not know what the address was and when you say it it is not a name anymore but something you cannot remember. That is what makes your identity not a thing that exists but something you do or do not remember.

And that is what makes (good) (public) art important: it (can) create strong, lasting, shared memories. Created for permanence, it’s a link to a place and an anchor in time; a landmark, a there that’s always here. If temporary and diffuse, it’s an experience that becomes a reference, a living memory which meaning expands – or fades – with time. Whether or not the first life of the THERE sculpture did provide that sense of place, of ‘there’, the art hackers gesture – tangible sign of a collective spirit – has contributed to creating a futher memory-to-be.

But what if there is really no there there? In an article for Public Art Review entitled Strategies for Defining the Non-Place with Public Art and Urban Design, Ronald Lee Fleming writes:

Stein’s remark has come to be associated with suburban and fringe development since World War II, which has disfigured, with a banal sameness, the edge of almost every city and town in the country. How can public art and enlightened urban policy transform the non-places that one moves through on the way to the airport?

This claim – which takes Stein’s quote out of its eminently personal context and conveniently distorts its meaning to forsake anything outside the centre – is supported by some rather strange statements throughout the article (“Banal places are often full of very average people”, “People in modest neighborhoods are often fascinated by craft”). The underlying assumption is that the North American sprawling suburbs are nothing more that a ‘non-place’ (defined by ethnologist Marc Augé as places of transience that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as “places”, generally the by-product of ‘supermodernity’ and acceleration, places where people don’t meet and where they can’t build collective references) – and that public art can inject meaning in these semiotic deserts – in Fleming’s words, “artists can help redefine the meaning of a site no matter how boring it may appear”.

Here again, ‘non-place’ is taken a little too literally: Augé emphasises, throughout his essay, the many ways people ‘invent’ the everyday and create trails of memories and stories in the most unlikely and clinical places, from airports to budget hotel chains and supermarkets.

Fleming continues with further invoking the need for enlightenment for average people in these boring places:

What is needed is an enlightened artist constituency who can move beyond signature works of ego to serve a restive public that wants more meaning embedded in the infrastructure of the banal sites where they live. People want to experience well-crafted elements that often require a team of artisans as well as the conceptualizing artist. This is not the coterie of city sophisticates who value abstraction and the shock of the new.

So average people deserve average public art, something simple, “well-crafted”, that helps them to feel just that little bit less bored. One wonders if they deserve art at all, given the challenge that their abject banality presents for artists:

Working with these contours of meaning can be a challenge for an artist with a big ego—and let’s face it, a big ego is often necessary just to prevail as an artist and to justify the amount of energy that it takes to do public work.

At a time when placemaking is hailed as a remedy to urban ills – be them new and shiny developments or old and crumbly neighbourhoods, places with not enough or too much ‘identity’  -, is there a consensus about the practice at large, its methods and especially its ethos? The term is now widely used by public commissioners, artists and arts organisations, community interest companies, property developers and commercial agencies alike, and as a result seem to range from condescending opinions such as Fleming’s to thinly disguised PR campaigns for property developers (via a whole host of interesting long-term, artist- and community-led projects).

Quality frameworks are currently being developed for participatory arts – such as this paper by Toby Lowe from Helix Arts – and art & health – such as this contribution by Creative Health CIC to the West Midlands commissioning practice. What would a framework for placemaking look like? Has a consensus been reached yet on the term itself? Can a variety of approaches be evaluated against the same standards? Here are three examples in three different countries that exemplify this range of methods and angles, but also a common aspiration for ethical guidelines and for sharing their process and experience.

– – –

The public space activists: PPS (USA)

Project for Public Spaces have been developing a conceptual and practical framework for placemaking since 1975, such as the 11 Principles of Placemaking (starting with “The community is the expert”) and the Power of 10 (“the idea that any great place itself needs to offer at least 10 things to do or 10 reasons to be there”). They are firmly positioned as a civic militant organisation, quoting Jane Jacobs and William “Holly” Whyte as inspiration and mentors, and are currently sharing their approach with over 600 international practitioners through the newly-formed Placemaking Leadership Council, which, amongst other goals, aims to “clearly frame the value and “language” of Placemaking” and “develop a common set of standards and indicators”.

pps.org
@PPS_Placemaking

 

The cultural pioneers: Artscape (Canada)

Toronto-based Artscape have also developed a Creative Placemaking Toolbox, based on their experience of opening and running arts centres and artist studios. It’s a very practical resource, with video seminars (such as this conversation with PPS), tip sheets on how to conduct community consultations and work with an architect, an exhaustive series of guides – from funding sources to feasibility studies, planning charrettes and the role of the project manager – templates and examples. There’s also a glossary of urban planning, legal and property management terms, a series of case studies as well as the Artscape Archive documenting 25 years of creative placemaking.

torontoartscape.org
artscapediy.org
@Artscape

 

The community champions: Mend (UK)

Mend is a social enterprise specialising in responsible procurement, planning and placemaking. With an ethos of “Community as Client”, they are not just delivering consultation and strategic services, but also acting as a convenor of ideas by running networking events for different groups. As part of the “Lab”, they look after three networks, each with a different focus, that feed back into their own practice: Urbanistas, “a network for women who love cities, crowdsourcing support for their project or idea” – Planning in the Pub (“the agenda is simple, let’s talk about planning and cities, whilst in the pub”) – and the soon-to-be-launched Source RP, “Responsible Procurement network for the built environment, with a focus on building social value”.

Roman-Road-Mend

Roman Road Vacant Units Project

mendlondon.org.uk
@lianemendsacity
@urbanistasuk
@planninginpubs
@source_rp

Arts Volunteers in Canada: Museums & Galleries

Spotlight

Volunteering is a topic that ruffled a few feathers in the UK museum sector when it was introduced as one of the key concepts of David Cameron’s Big Society – especially in Liverpool, one of the four original ‘vanguard areas’, where the project was publicly launched in July 2010 and championed by the chair of National Museums Liverpool. Museum staff felt threatened by the prospect of being replaced by unpaid workers in times of budgetary cuts; union chiefs expressed concerns over a return to “Victorian times”; and some volunteers themselves deemed the scheme “hypocritical”, as their organisation, the Friends of National Museums Liverpool, a 1,700-strong membership group that had been providing volunteer time and financial support since the 1970s, had been deemed “unsupportive” of the organisation’s goals and disbanded by management in 2008.

Big Society def

(Liverpool officially withdrew from the Big Society pilot a few months later, in February 2011, as the £141m funding cuts imposed on the city council’s budget had a direct negative impact on the level of support it could offer to the community and voluntary sector.)

A 2010 poll run by the Museum Association in the context of the Big Society launch, asking whether volunteers are a threat to paid staff, attracted some rather unsavoury comments – but a more recent set of articles and case studies on the same website is showing a brighter picture, looking at emerging practices such as corporate volunteering, crowdsourcing and community engagement.

– – –

Context is everything: I didn’t feel the same tension between volunteering and paid work in Canada, where volunteering is considered a civic duty, philanthropy levels are higher than in Europe, and unemployment rates lower.

For Gillian Smith, Executive Director & CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship:

Volunteerism is how every Canadian can live up to the challenge of being an active citizen. (…) Citizenship is the uniting common denominator and volunteerism is a means to connect Canadians and build a stronger Canada.

For this last post in the Arts Volunteers in Canada series, I looked at the history and features of volunteer programmes in 3 museums and galleries in Toronto. As the other volunteer schemes I listed in previous posts on Performing Arts and Festivals, they are intended as examples of well-established, fully integrated volunteer-led structures that contribute to much more than the frontline operations of arts organisations.

 

Royal Ontario Museum

The ROM is celebrating its 100 anniversary in 2014 and has developed an extensive volunteering programme, now 57 years old. In the last fiscal year, 1,219 volunteers contributed 198 637 hours, valued at $2.5 million.

Video: ROM ReCollects, calling for volunteer contributions on 100 years of the ROM history

Volunteers can help out in 10 different areas of the ROM, either interacting directly with visitors in the museum and hands-on galleries, assisting with school visits and children’s activities, supporting special events (such as Friday Night Live, a seasonal weekly series of themed events with food, drinks, music and live performances) or working behind the scenes with the Marketing and the Research & Collection teams. The main volunteering group, the Department of Museum Volunteers, is open to ROM Members only and requires a 2-year commitment. They provide visitor services inside the museum, providing guided tours, interpretation of artifacts and specimens, and assisting visitors to plan their visits; they are also active outside, offering “guided walks tours through Toronto neighbourhoods of architectural and historical interest”.

Friday Night Live @ ROM by ElectriCITY Events

Friday Night Live @ ROM by ElectriCITY Events

The museum also offers an online volunteering opportunity to update ROM-related content on Wikipedia. This programme is part of GLAM-Wiki, an initiative to help galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM) “share their resources with the world through collaborative projects with experienced Wikipedia editors”. GLAM/ROM was launched in 2013 with 15 volunteer editors invited to an Edit-a-Thon event, to “Learn how to contribute to Wikipedia and collaborate with others to write articles about artifacts/important people relevant the Chinese Galleries”.

For National Volunteer Week 2014, the Department of Museum Volunteers is profiling volunteers on the ROM blog, such as David Grafstein, currently member of the DMV Executive Committee, gallery docent, ROMWalks tour guide, Gallery Interpreter and member of the Outreach Committee, presenting ROM’s artifacts in seniors’ residences and Sick Children’s hospital.

 

Textile Museum of Canada

Quilt, Canada, early 20th century – Permanent Collection of the Textile Museum of Canada

Volunteers at the Textile Museum of Canada(about 130 in 2014) have their own website, Strand News. The Volunteer Handbook retraces the history of the Volunteer Association, states the volunteers’ rights and responsibilities and provide policies and procedures, for example on conflict resolution.

Positions available in the Museum include: Conservation & Collections Management, working under Museum staff supervision to conduct collection inventory and process new acquisitions and loans; Docents, who receive intensive training on new exhibitions; Educators, who animate the Fiberspace education gallery and deliver school programs and tours under the supervision of the Education Program Co-ordinator, interacting with visitors and using their own skills in weaving, spinning, embroidery, knitting and crochet. Volunteers also man the Reception desk and the Shop, provide assistance in the Library and during Special Events (opening receptions, lectures, seminars, workshop and fundraising events) and help out with Mailings.

Volunteers are instrumental in fundraising: they run several sales events a year, pricing and organising items donated by hobbyists, collectors and businesses, such as beads, equipment, fabric, notions, quilting or yarn. More Than Just a Yardage Sale has been running for over 20 years, and volunteers also sell the products of their own group projects such a quilts.

 

Art Gallery of Ontario

First founded in 1900, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) undertook a major transformation in 2004, both physically, with a $276m redevelopment plan by Toronto-born Frank Gehry, and artistically, benefitting from a major donation of Canadian and European art by Kenneth Thompson. The AGO runs an extensive education programme and has recently launched a monthly after-hours themed event, First Thursdays, with full access to galleries, food, drinks and performance and live music ranging from First Nations DJ collective A Tribe Called Red to Patti Smith.

Video: First ‘First Thursdays’ event at the AGO, 2012

The AGO currently counts 800 active volunteers, acting as docents and tour guides to welcome over 800,000 annual gallery visitors and supporting an extensive education programme of workshops for all ages. The Volunteers of the Art Gallery of Ontario also sponsor one major exhibition per year ($38K in 2013 towards Joseph Sudek, $32 in 2012 towards General Idea) through a Volunteer Endowment Fund.

Youth aged 14 to 24 can get involved in the AGO Youth Council, a one-year elected board that “works collectively to initiate programming by youth for youth, including exhibitions, public art projects, large-scale events, field trips and much more”.

– – –

As National Volunteer Week is closing in Canada (6-12 April 2014) and opening soon in the UK (1-7 June 2014) – just like Mother’s Day, it seems that it can’t be on the same dates in all countries – I hope that this series of posts on arts volunteers in another country can contribute to a reflection on the future of volunteering.

In my experience of working with volunteers, what comes back time and time again as their main motivation is a desire to give back, be closer to the arts, and socialise with new, different people. Direct entry to employment is, and should be, low on the scale of reasons to volunteer: as Gillian Smith points out, volunteering is about caring for the collective.

Volunteers are not (or shouldn’t be) frustrated professionals trying to score experience points: instead, they should be (very well) treated as the organisation’s inner circle audience

Replacing paid jobs with volunteers won’t get anyone very far, whereas providing structured and enriching opportunities to live one’s life more fully, including having a stake in the future of a cherished organisation, through a regular consultation process, a suggestion box system or any other mean to get the conversation going, is mutually beneficial for the individuals and the institution. Big Society can only work if it allows for Big People.

Arts Volunteers in Canada: Performing Arts

Spotlight

A 2013 Canadian Arts Presenting Association (CAPACOA) study showed that “for each paid staff member, there are 17 volunteers giving their time to performing arts presenting organizations”. Whilst ushering is a typical role on performance night, especially in smaller companies, volunteers can also play a strategic role in fundraising and outreach.

I have picked three examples below of major Toronto institutions that have developed long-running relationships with their volunteers and engage them fully in the life of the company.

This is part 2 of a series of 4 posts on arts volunteers in Canada.

National Ballet of Canada

In 1951, a group of Toronto ballet enthusiasts raised funds to bring British-born ballerina Celia Franca to Canada and support the first performance of her newly formed company, the National Ballet. The National Ballet’s Volunteer Committee was formally established in 1972 to continue this fundraising work; it has contributed $6 million to date to create new productions through the Build-A-Ballet™ Fund, started in 1977 with a $150,000 gift for La Fille Mal Gardée.

To feed this fund, the Volunteer Committee operates Paper Things, a stationery and gift store in the fashionable Yorkville area ($2 million contribution since 1963), as well as the Ballet Boutique during National Ballet performances ($600,000 over the past 6 years). In previous years, the Volunteer Committee held an annual Gala event and quarterly art shows.

The National Ballet is “the only Canadian ballet company to present a full range of traditional full-length classics”. It also presents and creates new contemporary ballets, especially by Canadian choreographers. A Virtual Museum retraces the history of the company since 1975.

Video: Extract from Pur ti Miro, the 46th ballet sponsored through the Volunteer Committee’s Build-a-Ballet Fund™.

Canadian Opera Company

The Canadian Opera Company was established in 1950; it pioneered the use of surtitles, provides training to emergent artists and commissions new opera through a Composer-in-Residence programme. About 150 volunteers a year support the COC’s office operations and outreach and education efforts.

Volunteers provide assistance in the office and in the archives, act as Front of House for the Free Concert Series, welcome members at the Friends’ Lounge, operate the Opera Shop, work with the Education Programs team and offer guided tours of the performance venue and of the Opera Centre, including the music library, COC archives, wigs, costume and props departments and rehearsal spaces.

The COC also operates a Volunteer Speakers Bureau, whose members “act as ambassadors for the COC and the art form by writing and giving talks on opera at various public speaking engagements throughout the season”. After School Opera Program volunteers help the Education and Outreach team to “introduc(e) 300 children (a year) ages 7 to 12 to opera as a collective celebration of vocal music, drama and visual arts”. This opportunity is open to people looking for community arts experience and high school students who need to fulfill their community service requirements.

Video: ‘Inside Opera’ – Rehearsal of Hercules directed by Peter Sellars, COC Season 2013/2014

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Started in 1923 and merging fundraising and outreach support, the Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee “is an organization committed to the financial support of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and to expanding awareness of its musical and education programs.” Fundraising activities range from a Annual Bridge Fundraiser – a full morning of cards followed by a silent auction and lunch reception – to a Team TSO at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon / Semi-Marathon and a Fine Wine Auction. Over the years, the TSVC has contributed to funding several Chairs (Concertmaster, Principal Flute, Principal Trumpet), bought several Steinways and a harp and commissioned more than 15 compositions. It also supported the TSO’s general operations, the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra and the TSO’s Education Programmes.

Volunteers also contribute to the orchestra’s youth & education programming: they support financially the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, enrich the experience of teachers and students attending open rehearsals and provide assistance during the Young People’s Concerts, a series of afternoon performances for children aged 5 to 12.

On concert nights, volunteers also help ticket logistics and other event duties to run the TSOundcheck scheme – discounted tickets for under 35.

Video: TSO’s Young People’s Concert – audience reaction