Summer, Here Again

By Yanling Shi, Communications Intern, Toronto Arts Council

June 9, 2023

On this humid Friday afternoon in June, Amos Waites Park feels a little different. On top of the usual background noise of laughter and play from the outdoor splash pad, it is bustling with a sense of something happening. There are umbrellas being set up, trolleys rolling in with ice cream and iced tea, and the occasional sound of drumming and music. More magic is being added on top of the Open Air Dancefloor Mural adorning Mimico Square and the park comes to life. An exciting summer is about to begin. 

The unusual commotion in the park attracts those passing by, and people trickle in to gather in the shade, waiting for performances to begin. But enter nursery children into the scene with the promise of unlimited ice cream and the energy increases tenfold. Such is the charm of public art. 

Performances began with Japanese taiko drumming by Nagata Shachu (@nagatashachu). The team brings the ancient art form to a new stage with fresh audiences, with hearts beating along with the rhythm, it animates the name of one of the pieces, “New Heartbeat”. Nagata Shachu sets the tone and signals the start of an afternoon of fun arts events and activities at Amos Waites Park. 

Multi-disciplinary artist Que Rock (@que_rock_), a member of Nipissing First Nation, shares hip hop culture and the Anishinaabe teachings that shapes his artistry. Using rap as a medium, he shares wisdom with the community: Love, Respect, Bravery, Truth, Honesty, Humility and Wisdom, the 7 Grandfather Teachings that Que Rock carries with him in his craft. 

The park then transforms into the enchanted forest with Hercinia Arts (@herciniarts). Fantastical spirits pop up in the crowd, teasing and playing with the humans around them and we become a part of the enthralling fairytale that Hercinia Arts weaves. This performance was only a small taste of the full show, and you can see the full performance of “The Enchanted Forest” for free at Flagstaff Park from August 23rd to 27th

A circus performer dances in front of a crowd
A member of Hercinia Arts performs at the Arts in the Parks kick off event. Photo by Kat Rizza (2023).

With an intense sugar rush fuelled by bottomless ice cream and lasting excitement, workshops after the performances helped out with the children’s excess energy, putting this enthusiasm into action to create music and dance. Participants had the opportunity to experience the art and magic that they saw with their own bodies, with the option to experience taiko drumming with Nagata Shachu, breakdancing with Que Rock, or flying with Hercinia Arts. I saw a young girl’s first encounter with dance as she followed along with Que Rock’s moves in the sun, the hyper energy making her unafraid of the heat. 

Parents and teachers would no doubt have had a hard time dealing with this lot otherwise. 

By the waterside, the occasional cooling breeze creates a space to gather outdoors and celebrate community, art, and life. The nursery children who gathered here for an afternoon of free activities went home with faces and spirits coloured to match the vibrant mural on Mimico Square. With their faces painted in patterns, fingers dyed with markers, and tongues stained with ice lollies, we wrap up the afternoon with an easy tune from Pan Fantasy (@panfantasy). But this is only the start of the summer with the promise of more magic to be shared. 

Magical Arts in the Parks events are supported and funded by Toronto Arts Cpuncil's Animating Toronto Parks Strategic Program. Every year, recipients receive full package support, including marketing, mentorship,  community engagement, and volunteer coordination: a well-supported system creating smooth-running events that makes up Arts in the Parks. 

If you are an artist or arts organization dreaming to bring your own programming to life, find more information on the TAC website. If you would like to share your summer with us as an audience member, find an event that you’re interested in in the events calendar and we will see you there!