Sunday, September 26, 2010

Our City Needs You to Vote | OneToronto Emergency Community Meeting, Tomorrow!

Obviously, we at the About Face Collective have taken a keen interest in the upcoming Toronto Mayoral and Municipal elections, and we hope you have (or will) too. Like you, perhaps, we've felt that the issues closest to our hearts are not being discussed widely or with clarity in the media as of yet. There has been a lot of time in the spotlight for Tax Slashing and Jerry Springer episodes at City Hall, let's give some stage time to the real issues; things like diversity, the environment, the arts, and community services, all the things that make a city like Toronto great! 

While this great city hasn't been immune to the effects of tough economic times and lower taxes might seem like a priority to us right now, we can't forget about what those taxes go toward. And though the results of the polls might make it seem like our fate is sealed, things are changing every day. If we all get out and vote, if YOU get out and vote, there is a darn good chance we can prove the true numbers to be quite different. 

Tomorrow, OneToronto is holding an Emergency Community Meeting to share their vision for the City, "a city that builds on its successes, cares for its neighbours, and does its part to protect the environment and values community". OneToronto is a coalition of arts, environmental, labour and social justice groups trying to re-frame the current debate around the municipal elections, engage voters and help them realize what's at stake.

Please come out!

Moday, September 27th, 7:30pm

Church of the Holy Trinity -- (located behind the Eaton Centre)
10 Trinity Square, Toronto, ON

For Facebook event click here

Please spread widely! Grab the images below, link to and post to blogs, facebook, send to your mom, whatever.

And most importantly, on October 25th, VOTE! (And tell your mom to, too.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You Support the Arts, Does Your Next Mayor?

In the wake of national funding cuts, good things have happened this year for the arts in Toronto; organizations like and Manifesto have demonstrated the value of arts and culture to City Council and passed a recommendation to increase arts investment. Heading into this municipal election, knowing that "directed investment in arts and culture dramatically improves economic competitiveness, impacting innovation, creativity and producing a more vibrant city" [] we need to keep this conversation going.

Enter Artsvote Toronto, a network of volunteers who are working to make the arts an important part of the debate around next month's municipal elections. In addition to providing simple info on how to accomplish the daunting task of registering to vote, they have issued a "Councillor Report Card" rating Council candidates on their art-friendliness (high five to Joe Mihevc for earning top in class). So how about the grades of those in the run for the top spot? Come out to hear them duke it out at next week's Artsvote-hosted Mayoral Arts Debate at the AGO and judge for yourself. 

And in the meantime, soak in some of the TO culture we're pushing for at any of the numerous Manifesto events happening this week. The fest is on!

- L

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Little House in Bloordale | Local Fashion and Food in the Hot 'Hood

With a name like HAUS, I half expected to walk into some uberkool minimalist boutique at 1256 Bloor W. Maybe it had been transplanted from Berlin, missed its Yorkville destination and landed, confused but perfectly coiffed, on the wrong end of Bloor, smack in between Value Village and the Salvation Army? Visions of cigarettes dangling from hands at the end of crossed arms left bare by drapey black tank tops worn by waify blond boys... No?

Well, no. HAUS could easily have been called plain old, English “House” – not because it’s plain (it’s not) or old (well, partly vintage) or… um, English, but because it sort of feels like home. It has a comfortable air, a warm, cozy vibe; vintage suitcases piled around as displays for vintage shoes, local art in antique frames and writing on the walls (yeah, so, this sounds exactly like my house). And there’s a lovely smiling lady behind the counter waiting to greet you (I need to get one of these). It’s the kind of place that makes you feel like you could just pull up a chair and stay a while. And, well, you can. And, so, I did.

The smiling lady is Rachel Beauparlant and I’m still pretty convinced she didn’t mind my lingering - what a gem. Rachel is one of the team of three that runs HAUS. They’ve been stationed quite perfectly in the quirky little neighbourhood of Bloordale since March, though Rachel says people constantly ask them why they’re not on Queen West. They had the opportunity to move into the QWW/ Parkdale hood, but she, William and Maurizio (the other two owners) felt their hearts were in Bloordale.
She started to describe the draw to the eclectic area; the feeling, the texture, the mix of neighbours. I got it, “the grittiness?” I offered. We know the feeling of that draw to those character-infused pockets of Toronto, the potential locations for the About Face space. HAUS wants to support local and up-and-coming designers, artists and makers of all kinds and felt like moving in to their chosen spot was, in a way, also helping to support an up-and-coming neighbourhood.
And up-and-coming it sure is. Rachel says they’ve seen a lot of new love for the ‘hood even in the short time they’ve been there. It helps that Bloordale is a designated BIA (Business Improvement Area). Rachel gave me a copy of Bloor Magazine, an amazing little publication offering insight into the culture, politics, businesses and other intriguing stories (in a well-designed format, I might add) of the Bloor Street BIAs. Pick this up (download pdf free from their site) then head up, over or down to Bloor, or grab one from HAUS or other local businesses.

If you work up an appetite shopping, I HIGHLY recommend heading toward the Junction and treating yourself to brunch or dinner (now serving!) just West on Bloor at Zocalo. The adorable little cafĂ© –clad with reclaimed furniture and hand-picked flowers– is tended to by its equally adorable owners Paul Hardy and Heather Braaten. The dishes on the menu are every bit as creative as the clothing down the street and they’ve also chosen to source from our local offerings. Local and organic ingredients go into their daily vegan (but still so creamy) soups, served with corn bread (made with organic whole wheat and fresh corn) and current preserve. YUM. And the egg mash, (oh, the egg mash) which I “sampled” (slash, licked off the plate) from my fellow diner, complimented with fennel, mustard seeds, Quebec Brie and homemade tomato relish… I’ll just say that the content of the last set of brackets was not exclusively for effect.

Now the fresh breaths, Zocalo and HAUS are set to be mainstays as this strip of Bloor inevitably flourishes. For the moment, HAUS is happy to hang between the thrift shops -I should also take a second to shout out Bloordale pioneers Freedom Clothing and the 69 Vintage Collective- offering a selected option for the vintage hunter alongside local labels like Jool by Julie Phelps, our friends the Muttonhead Collective and affordable staples like Cheap Monday. And they just seem quite excited to finally have a space to do with whatever they like; art shows, photo shoots, parties. Rachel, for one, is just thrilled to finally be allowed to write on the walls.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Chronology of City Repair: Everything you thought was not possible in the city

Imagine what your community could look like if people truly knew and cared for their neighbours.

Imagine what your community could look like if art, beauty and celebration were intrinsic values fostered by local home owners, business owners and local government officials alike.

Imagine what your community could look like if people ACTUALLY knew about and used their democratic rights and systems and went above and beyond them.

You might envision something very similar to what is happening and has been happening for years in Portland, Oregon. The neighbourhoods and citizens of Portland have been working year after year for about 15 years to create healthier, sustainable living spaces for themselves, and the results have been astronomical.

They've artistically taken over busy, car-filled intersections and converted them into public meeting spaces, spaces that are severely lacking (*on purpose*) in most North American cities.

They've begun to build cob structures everywhere, from houses to local Newspaper stands (full of community stories and HAPPY news) to community saunas where they host "Get Naked With Your Neighbour" events on a regular basis.

What started out as essentially "illegal" acts of street vandalism and public gathering has turned into public policy. Putting up more bike parking and less car parking was scoffed at by City Hall, until these communities implemented in themselves and were so successful that now their local government is mandating such acts across the city.

Democracy can look this beautiful. Cities CAN be transformed. People have to want it bad enough. Bad enough to go door to door to engage with those around them. Bad enough to call their city councillor when they hear about something exciting that can be done, or something awful that absolutely should not be done.

Beauty and Love are as contageous as greed and power. People want to be a part of something meaningful and beautiful. Please watch this video by Mark Lakeman about the Chronology of City Repair and be inspired. If you feel so inclined, please contact us to see how you can be a part of our visioning processes here at the About Face Collective and/or transformative community groups that we are associated with in the Dupont and Spadina area.