As you will read elsewhere in this edition of the Hart House Quarterly Newsletter, Hart House is gearing up for its 100thAnniversary in 2019-2020. The “soft launch” of our anniversary year will take place approximately one year from now, to coincide with the University’s 2019 Spring Reunion.
For some, it may be hard to believe that it has been almost a century since Vincent Massey gifted Hart House to the University of Toronto so that students could come together, across their differences and outside their classrooms, to be “(armed) with strength and suppleness of limb, with clarity of mind and depth of understanding, and with a spirit of true religion and high endeavour.” If you are one of those who had lost track of the time, I sincerely hope it is in part because you have been happily distracted by the cornucopia of transformative opportunities that Hart House has been offering to students, faculty, alumni, staff and community members over the years. As the old adage goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun.”
We have been speaking to many friends and supporters of Hart House about what you would like to see or experience during our anniversary festivities. Not surprisingly, there are almost as many great ideas and strong opinions as there are memories of Hart House. Happily, we believe there will be something for everyone in the program we are developing.
Leading that work as part of the Warden’s Office is Kelly Schnurr, our Senior Project Manager for the 100thAnniversary. Kelly has had an exciting and diverse career as a producer, event planner and festival organizer, working with such diverse organizations as the CBC, the Walrus, and the “In/Future” Immersive Art and Music Festival, to just to name a few. Immediately before joining Hart House several months ago, Kelly worked with the Office of the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, the Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, as Executive Producer of the Lieutenant-Governor’s Visionaries Prize. During her career she has also produced electoral debates, 24-hour multi-stage interactive exhibition spaces, panel discussions, product launches, wine tastings–you name it. We are delighted she has agreed to share her expertise with us to help make the Hart House 100tHAnniversary the special, once-in-a-lifetime experience that we know it will be.
The input of our Hart House stakeholders is an important element of our planning. One of the ways in which we are engaging with the ever-growing Hart House community regarding plans for the special anniversary year is through our Community Sounding Boards. Like a focus group but with more people and better food, these gatherings are intended to provide students, friends and supporters of Hart House with a detailed overview of our plans-to-date, give them the chance to ask any questions they might have, and provide them with feedback. We gathered lots of valuable suggestions through our first Community Sounding Board earlier this spring, and we look forward to hosting our next one in September.
One of my personal commitments as Warden with respect to the 100thAnniversary is to do everything I can to ensure that none of our special programming interferes with the ability of today’s students from all three campuses to engage with the House in meaningful and transformative ways. That would be defeating one of the intended purposes of the Anniversary: to attract ever more students to the Hart House experience. That is why, wherever possible, we have chosen to propose specially-branded 100thAnniversary “enhancements” to already-existing programs. Our annual concert series by our musical ensembles, for instance, will still take place during the 2019-2020 year, but several of the sessions will be specifically programmed to celebrate our centenary year. Similarly, our annual Hancock Lecture in spring 2020 will be an opportunity for our guest speaker—stay tuned!—to help us envision the Hart House of the future.
There is still much to do, but we are excited by the potential for the entire 100thAnniversary Year to be an unforgettable experience for everyone who has ever engaged with the magic that is Hart House as well as those who haven’t to take sheer delight in the joy of discovering new things about themselves, each other, and the world we all share.
We think Vincent Massey would be proud.