Harbourfront Centre is a year-round facility, featuring concerts, dance performances, readings, films and kids’ shows. It operates every weekend and many week nights throughout the year. The centre puts a large emphasis on culturally diverse events. The corporate community’s involvement enables an incredible draw of international talent.
Harbourfront Centre, on Toronto’s waterfront, is an innovative non-profit cultural organization which creates events and activities of excellence that enliven, educate and entertain a diverse public. From its beginnings as “Harbourfront Corporation,” a federal Crown Corporation established in 1972, Harbourfront Centre was formed on January 1, 1991 as a non-profit charitable organization with a mandate to organize and present public events and operate a 10-acre site encompassing York Quay and John Quay. The abandoned warehouses and crumbling factories have given way to a stunning urban playground that now stretches over the old piers. Harbourfront is one of the most popular destinations in the Toronto area for locals and visitors alike.
Harbourfront Centre, located in Canada’s largest city, is a thriving cultural institution whose mandate is to present contemporary arts in all disciplines. The 10-acre site attracts over 12 million visitors each year.
The federal government supported the project in a bid to help improve Toronto’s industrial harbour, and counter mounting criticism of the amount of money being spent in Montreal on both Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympic Games. The government decided it would create Harbourfront Centre and the provincial government would build near-by Ontario Place as ways to improve the lakefront in order to increase tourism to the city. As part of the initiative, the federal government committed to buying 40 hectares of land.
Since its inception, Harbourfront Centre has been introducing Toronto audiences to artists and art forms that would not normally be seen in commercial venues, exploring new and bold frontiers in the arts and creative expression. Harbourfront Centre creates and presents over 4,000 events annually. Many of these events occur in affiliation with its over 450 community and cultural group partners.
Harbourfront Centre is governed by a 26-person community-based volunteer board of directors. The facility is assisted by approximately 2,000 volunteers. Two Marinas and five parking lots are also included in the centre’s operating jurisdiction. Harbourfront Centre has 12 major venues for music, dance and cultural events, in and around two major multi-use buildings. The Queens Quay Terminal houses a wide variety of shops and services. The York Quay Centre houses an art gallery, installations, the Lakeside Terrace, a patio and an information booth. There is also a large pond that doubles as a seasonal, outdoor skating rink.
Major venues include:
• The York Quay Centre (Lakeside Terrace): York Quay Centre opened to the public in the late 1970s, with renovations completed in 1982 and 1997. The building was formerly the Direct Winters truck warehouse. It is the home of 10 performance, dance and exhibition spaces including the Brigantine Room, the Studio Theatre, the Lakeside Terrace and others.
• Premiere Dance Theatre (Queens Quay Terminal): Occupying the third floor of this building, the Premiere Dance Theatre was officially opened in 1983 and continues to play host to an internationally acclaimed contemporary dance season. Seating capacity: 446 raked, fixed Stage Size: 40 feet deep x 54 feet wide, standard proscenium.
• Harbourfront Centre Theatre: This building, constructed in 1926, was originally used as an ice-house for the adjacent terminal warehouse. Its transformation into the Harbourfront Centre Theatre began in 1986 when it was redesigned by Peter Smith of Lett/Smith Architects. Today it is a preferred venue for many groups in the performing arts community, as well as for corporate rentals. Seating capacity: 423 full round, 355 proscenium stage size: flexible, standard proscenium stage is 22 feet deep x 27 feet wide.
• Power Plant Gallery
• Harbourfront Centre Concert Stage (outdoor venue)
• York Quay Gallery Shops situated within the Harbourfront Centre include the Bounty Contemporary Canadian Craft Shop, Lakeside Eats, International Marketplace, and World Café.
Harbourfront Centre is supported primarily by government grants and contributions which constitute about one third of their annual operating budget. The Centre is also driven by a strong entrepreneurial spirit and generates revenues to support two thirds of their annual operating budget.
Written by Lindsay Sinclair (Artspace North Society, 2005)
Photos: Harbourfront Centre
For more information, please visit: www.harbourfrontcentre.com