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David Anderson writes about Clay and Paper Theatre’s proposal for a new arts solution involving the field house.

the field house, 2018

For twenty-four years we have had exclusive access to the Dufferin Grove Field House (40’x30’), which contains a small workshop, greenroom, and storage for giant puppets, props and set, and generous awning area during our summer shows. This building allows us to store and then setup in the summer our outdoor open studio so that we can work within public view and directly with the community. In the summer and fall this is also a staging area for our performances and events. This building quickly became our pied a terre, and has given us a sense of continuity and deep connection to DGP that could not have happened otherwise. But the building is not large enough nor currently equipped for year-round usage as a studio or community space.

Our challenge is that with the crisis in the lack of affordable and sustainable creative spaces in Toronto, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a permanent year-round home where Clay and Paper Theatre can actually maintain a studio space while still working directly in the community, AND still have easy access to the public space of parks. We believe that the solution may be under our noses – the Field House of Dufferin Grove Park. Is there an alternative use possibility for this public space as a cultural hub and artist space? Can Clay and Paper Theatre spearhead a capital project to create a legacy for Dufferin Grove Park through the creation of a year-round studio space for community engagement?

With Clay and Paper Theatre celebrating its 25th anniversary season in 2019, we are poised for a new stage in our company’s development. In 2018, the City of Toronto Parks and Recreation Department approached Clay and Paper Theatre to formalize our relationship with the park through a partnership agreement with the Parks Department. (The city cannot duplicate our programming and feel that we compliment and supplement their own programming.) Also, we have had a fairly strong long-term relationship with our local councillor, Ana Bailão, deputy Mayor and now Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee, who too has been eager to help us find a permanent home for the company in ward 8.

In anticipation of this possibility, co-Artistic Director Tamara Romanchuk, has been accepted into Arts Build Ontario’s Creative Spaces Mentoring Network program. Through this process she will work with a senior cultural spaces artistic or executive director/advisor to gain the skills and information required to manage a capital funds project, with a special emphasis on the challenges of finding funding sources and supporting partnerships. As a not-for-profit arts organization, we also have access to capital project funds outside of the city system and are eager to pursue those routes to potentially develop an innovative use of public space for the benefit of cultural development in a community setting.

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