Take Me Outside Day - Arts in Outdoor Spaces

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(Margo Charlton (Toronto Arts Council)) #1

Take Me Outside Day – Arts in Outdoor Spaces

According to Coleman Canada’s 2017 Outdoor Report, nearly two-thirds of Canadians (64 per cent) are enjoying the open-air for less than two hours per week, despite nearly all respondents acknowledging that being outdoors has many health benefits including enhancing overall well-being (98 per cent) and reducing stress (95 per cent). Not only are they missing out on these benefits they are also missing out on the numerous community activities that are offered outside.

Since 2016, Toronto Arts Foundation’s strategic initiative Arts in the Parks has been animating Toronto’s public parks with arts events and activities. With a focus on parks outside the downtown core, Arts in the Parks increases access to the arts and encourages local residents to explore parks in their neighbourhood. For the past three years, the Foundation has conducted a 360-degree evaluation of the initiative to capture feedback from audiences, artists, volunteers and community organizers. Here are some of the insights from our 2018 evaluation report:

  • Arts in the Parks help to bring the community together and connect through the arts. The events encourage attendees to see their local park in a new light, while also motivating others to visits parts of the city they’ve never been to before. 74% of attendees live in the same neighbourhood or region of the city where they attended an Arts in the Parks activity, with 34% walking to events, and 27% using public transportation.
  • Artists participating in Arts in the Parks appreciate the opportunity to work outdoors and create work that responds to the geography of the park including streams, hills, and stands of trees. Offering arts experiences in the outdoors enables artists to present their work in open spaces, and for audience members to interact with the arts.
  • Community organizers play an integral role in connecting artists with local residents. They have expressed how initiatives like Arts in the Parks help to strengthen the sense of community, and address isolation issues by inviting residents to come outside and socialize with their neighbours.

If the idea of using outdoor spaces for cultural place-making interests you, you’ll be happy to know that in early 2019 Toronto Arts Foundation and Ontario Trillium Foundation will release Arts in the Outdoors ; a toolkit packed with ideas and tips on presenting arts in outdoor settings from parks to back lanes and parking lots to conservation areas. We think the arts and the outdoors work very well together.

How is your community using the arts to get people outdoors?

Margo Charlton and Sally Nicholson

Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation Research and Evaluation Team