Welcome to the Fall 2017 edition of the Hart House Quarterly Newsletter. As I write this, the summer warmth that had taken so long to arrive this year is stubbornly refusing to leave even though Thanksgiving is already a fading memory. But while the balmy weather may be up-ending our seasonal expectations, at Hart House there is absolutely no doubt that autumn—arguably the busiest time of the school year—is fully upon us.
This year, now my third as Warden, I have been particularly struck by the tremendous impact that Hart House—both the building and its multitude of activities and opportunities in the arts & culture, public discussion, recreation & wellness, and community engagement—can have on those experiencing it for the first time. This was particularly evident to me during the first few weeks of the fall.
As it does each year, Hart House took part in more than 40 orientation events across all three campuses of the university, represented at many of them by our dynamic Hart House Student Ambassadors. One highlight was the University of Toronto Student Union’s annual Clubs’ Fair on September 6th, where a large number of folks from Hart House—staff, student leaders, senior members, friends—occupied the entire northeast quadrant of King’s College Circle. Together we promoted everything from our ever-popular registered classes, to our many musical ensembles, to the Hart House Theatre, to each of the ten (10) Hart House Standing Committees, and more. With almost everyone decked out in bright, blue Hart House t-shirts and our many tables all positioned together to form a massive triangle—appropriate, since it is the strongest shape known to geometry—we made quite the impression on both new and returning students. Sign-up sheets were filled to overflowing for many of our activities and programs.
The next week, we hosted Explore Hart House for the 3rd straight year. This “hands on” open house has become one of the most exciting annual traditions in the House. Coordinated by our extremely talented Meetings & Events department, Explore Hart House involves transforming virtually every programmable space of the building into activity centres where students are invited to try their hand at a range of Hart House activities in real time. Whether taking part in a scavenger hunt organized by the Art Committee, scuba diving in front of a green screen with our Underwater Club, or exploring the meaning of “Get Crafty!” with magazines, markers and a button-making machine in the Reading Room, some 1,000 students moved from room-to-room and activity-to-activity with delight and abandon. And that delight only increased when they arrived in the Quadrangle for the delicious, open air BBQ overseen by Executive Chef Marco. We even had curious lunch patrons leaving the Gallery Grill to join in the organized mayhem.
Just a few days after that, Hart House played host to a senior delegation of educators and administrators from Aarhus University, the largest and one of the most respected universities in Denmark. That institution is embarking on a series of major capital enhancements, and among the projects being considered is a facility akin to Hart House. Together with our CAO Sherry Kulman and our Membership Co-Ordinator Lynsay Henderson, it was a pleasure for me to lead this distinguished group of individuals on a whirlwind tour of every major element of the House, and a real treat to note how taken they were not only with the history, the architecture and the sheer magnitude of the building, but also with the remarkable range of ways that students and others can engage with their world and each other at and through Hart House. Delegation members said they were deeply grateful for their visit.
As Warden, it never ceases to be a true privilege for me to see and experience the House anew through the eyes of a student or visitor who learns about or experiences Hart House for the first time. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to visit Hart House in a long time, I hope that you will take the time to do so again in the near future. And, when you do, I hope that you, too, see Hart House again for the first time.
See you soon,
12th Warden of Hart House