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OCAD University and City of Toronto propose plan for Canada Malting Silos

A photo of grain silos

Image: Photo by Bryan Bowen. Courtesy City of Toronto.

Proposed Centre to address climate resilience through art and design

OCAD University is partnering with the City of Toronto on a proposal to launch the Global Centre for Climate Resilience through Art and Design at the Canada Malting Silos building on the Toronto waterfront.

At next week’s Toronto City Council meeting, Councillor Joe Cressy will put forward a motion, which will be seconded by Mayor John Tory, to advance discussion with OCAD University about the plan to bring cultural and artistic activities to the property at the foot of Bathurst Street.

The proposed Global Centre plans to facilitate critical dialogues on climate resilience from the lens of art and design and will include activities such as public arts programming, program exhibitions, installations and symposiums, done in collaboration with Indigenous, local, national and international partners.

The proposed project was inspired by a manifesto released to the 2021 United Nations Climate Conference by the Climate Heritage Network to raise awareness about the need to activate those involved in arts, culture, and heritage to take climate action through communication and engagement.

“OCAD University believes that more lasting and consequential benefits will come from engaging the public in thinking about sustainability and climate resilience through the lens of art and design,” says OCAD U President and Vice-Chancellor Ana Serrano. “This proposed off-campus cultural and innovation hub will engage with Toronto’s major programmers and bring together artists and designers from around the world to present the university’s visions of sustainable living into a larger public domain.”

OCAD University is committed to advancing responsible environmental practices and promoting sustainability through its academic and administrative programs and practices, as identified in its Academic Plan 2017-2022: Transforming Student Experience.

"Thank you to OCAD University for bringing forward this plan that could help transform the Canada Malting Silos and this part of our waterfront," says Mayor John Tory. "I hope City Council will support this partnership and look forward to seeing the development of the Global Centre for Climate Resilience through Art and Design."

"The Bathurst Quay Neighbourhood Plan is transforming a neglected part of our shared waterfront into a dynamic and creative destination. The City of Toronto's work to rehabilitate and repair the heritage Canada Malting Silos has opened up an exciting opportunity to explore a partnership with OCAD University to animate the interior spaces and exterior faces of the north silo. I am thrilled to support this effort and look forward to welcoming the public inside this waterfront landmark one day soon," says Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York).

The Canada Malting Silos heritage building on the Toronto waterfront offers an ideal location for the Global Centre with its close proximity to Lake Ontario. The public art programming will intersect with waterfront, creative city and urban planning initiatives, Great Lakes’ ecological and biodiversity matters, bird migration, wind and tidal power, transportation routes (boats, airport, transit and cycling) and a growing neighbourhood population.

OCAD U prioritizes nurturing relationships with Indigenous communities, elders, students and faculty, and is committed to collaborative actions on local, regional and global sustainability imperatives that develop more reciprocal relationships with people and land.

The proposed Global Centre intends to program exhibitions, installations and symposiums, together with local, national and international partners. Currently in discussion with Trans Europe Halle—an international, social incubator based in Sweden preserving abandoned buildings around the globe—OCAD U aims to leverage this new collaboration along with its existing partnerships and connections to facilitate curatorial programming and public engagement.

On the building's exterior, OCAD U envisions a year-round climate resiliency, audio-visual projection festival with potential Toronto film festivals and media arts partners that have shared programming visions.

The proposal includes exhibitions accessible to the public year-round. During the winter season, when fewer people spend time outdoors, the University may use this time to support research-creation or artist residencies and incubation.

The proximity to Lake Ontario and the Great Lakes could facilitate additional international collaborations with arts institutions and organizations in American Great Lake cities such as Buffalo, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Toronto City Council approved the Bathurst Quay Neighbourhood Plan in 2017 with a vision to improve the unused city-owned property with new public spaces, and to repair and revitalize the heritage-designated Canada Malting Silos located on the property into a cultural and community services-focused hub.