Toronto City Culture

July 19, 2012 - Toronto Arts Council Wishes To Honour Rita Davies for her extraordinary achievements as Executive Director of Culture for the City of Toronto.

A true champion for culture, Rita will be sorely missed. Rita’s remarkable capacity for providing strong leadership, strategic vision and tireless advocacy on behalf of the arts in Toronto, has resulted in groundbreaking achievements during her tenure; She was instrumental in designing the cultural plan for the City of Toronto with the Culture Plan for the Creative City (2003) and the Creative Capital GainsReport (2011) documents; increasing City investment in the arts; introducing programs including Nuit Blanche and Live With Culture; offering accessible arts programs in under-served neighbourhoods, and numerous other projects.

Rita’s enormous contribution to the development of Toronto’s cultural sector began long before the inauguration of her role at the head of Cultural Services in 1999. As the inaugural Executive Director of Toronto Arts Council during the 1980's when high housing prices were forcing artists out of the downtown core, Rita was instrumental in the creation of the No Vacancy report (1988, by Thomas Hendry). This led to zoning changes calling for the creation of a new organization to develop affordable live/work space for artists. Under Rita’s direction, TAC founded Artscape, an enormously successful model which continues to develop sustainable living and working spaces for artists.

In 1992, Rita launched the community outreach and research that recommended positive anti-racist strategies for eliminating barriers to arts funding. Cultural Equity (1992, by E.A. Julian) resulted in the transformation of Toronto Arts Council into what was at that time he most accessible and proactive arts funding body in Canada and was used a model across the country.

Rita was awarded the City Soul Award in 2011 by the Canadian Urban Institute in recognition of her significant contribution to improving the quality of life in Canada's cities and urban regions. Her contribution as founding Executive Director of TAC is recognized through the Rita Davies and Margo Bindhardt Cultural Leadership Award, administered by Toronto Arts Foundation and awarded biennially at the Mayor’s Arts Awards Lunch.

We will most certainly miss Rita’s dedication, her vision and her advocacy for a more liveable, beautiful city for everyone to enjoy. We are grateful for all she has done to support and sustain the arts in Toronto and wish her well in her new adventures.