Happy New Year! Welcome to the Winter term. I hope you had a wonderful and restful holiday season. Hart House is already buzzing as the term has begun.

For me, the holiday season is an important time to spend with friends and family, and to enjoy the outdoors with my partner and two daughters. We love going for hikes and finding trails around the city to take in nature – and this always pairs nicely with a post-hike hot chocolate. I love to host and put on a large spread for us to indulge in – my favourite is always with desserts, so what better excuse to indulge in my sweet tooth!

As always, Hart House kept its door open over the University closure period. And this year, I am so happy to share that the House hosted a Winter Solstice Dinner for students in residence across our three campuses. It was a wonderful opportunity to invite students to Hart House to celebrate the Winter Solstice and to kick off the winter break period. We served Middle Eastern fare in The Arbor Room where we also had games, music, movies and other fun elements.

While the Winter term activities and events are so exciting to share, Fall term 2023 at Hart House had bountiful offerings, events and services.

Indigenous Regalia & Fashion Show

Hart House is honoured to continue to collaborate with Indigenous communities. There were a number of Indigenous events last fall: Hart House Farm’s inaugural Artist in Residence, acclaimed Indigenous artist Don Russell, joined with Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and members of the U of T community, elders and knowledge keepers to consider, share, learn and produce. Past-Present-Future was an interactive participatory project that called on people to come together to create land-based artwork. Maamawi: Tattoo Gathering 2023 was a partnered event that built community. Indigenous tattooing is a traditional art form that conveys identity, history and culture for many Indigenous populations around the world.

As a conclusion to last year’s Indigenous Education Week, in collaboration with First Nations House, Hart House opened its doors to the Indigenous Regalia & Fashion Show. Many will know that First Nations House celebrated its 30th anniversary. The Show was part of that celebration and Hart House also played venue host to a wonderful evening of their 30th anniversary celebration.

Our Hart House Theatre and Performance Art team, with many partners, delivered the 2023 Hart House U of T Festival of Music, the 2023 Hart House U of T Drama Festival Monologue Competition and the 2023 Hart House U of T Festival of Dance, providing many opportunities for students to lead, participate and learn about these arts.  

Thanks to many loyal patrons, the Gallery Grill’s Winter Cheer was sold out and The Arbor Room is now such a popular café for students that we hit a record-high sales in November. It’s so popular, in fact, that it is best to use the U of T mobile app to order first, which I do a lot. 

Hart-House-in-Boston social event with alumni.

In November, together with our Associate Director, Advancement, Peter Wambera, we attended the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Conference in Boston. CASE is the global nonprofit association dedicated to educational advancement professionals—in alumni relations, communications, development, marketing and advancement services—who share the goal of championing education to transform lives and society.

At the conference, we learned about how Deans and academic leaders drive their advancement programs. We also invited U of T alumni to meet us for a Hart-House-in-Boston-type event. Here, Peter and I were thrilled to meet with eight U of T alumni and to strengthen the ties of the Hart House community.

Former Warden John Monahan with the newly unveiled portrait by renowned Ontario artist, Travis Shilling.

Also in November, we gathered to celebrate and honour former Hart House Warden John Monahan, with the unveiling of his portrait. It is a tradition that a portrait of each of the Wardens is showcased in the Great Hall. Renowned Ontario artist, Travis Shilling, was commissioned to do the portrait. It is stunning and truly embodies John’s personality and his experiences at Hart House. I encourage everyone to visit the Great Hall and see the new portrait. 

Looking ahead in this Winter term, the Black Futures program series is starting again, including the Wealth Building Series, which is very helpful to students in times of financial insecurity. The Hart House U of T Playwriting Competition is running once again – the application deadline is February 1.

If you haven’t visited the House recently, I urge you to see the main floor Talking Walls exhibition, “Chinatown, the Best!” Aligning with the 2022 Lunar New Year, the show is on until February 15.

Some of you likely know that I am an avid Hart House Fitness Centre user since my days as a student. You could also consider adding the Fitness Centre as a New Year’s resolution for 2024. I am always impressed with the team’s programming offerings. (See the below Hart House Quarterly article about the new Director, Fitness, Wellness and Recreation, Vanessa Treasure – also inspirational!)

In closing, I hope you enjoy this edition of the Hart House Quarterly stories:

Looking forward to seeing some of you in the buzzing hallways here at Hart House.

Best wishes,