It is my tremendous pleasure to welcome students, staff, community members and visitors to the Fall 2021 term at Hart House. As it has for more than a century, Hart House is, once again, inviting all members of the university community to take sheer delight in the discovery of new things about themselves, one another and the world we all share.

On Tuesday, September 7, we opened our doors once again to visitors in numbers that haven’t been seen inside the building since early March of 2020. The entire team at Hart House is delighted to celebrate our safety-focused, modified return to in-person learning and experiences with all of you.

For all of us, and particularly for those of you who will be here on the St. George campus for the first time in a long time, I suspect Hart House will feel both pleasantly familiar and notably different from past years. Many – though not yet all – of our regular activities are open, but participants will be masked, socially distanced and strictly limited in number. 

Your safety is always of primary importance to us. At Hart House we are taking measures to help visitors stay safe. For up-to-date protocols on returning to the University of Toronto (U of T) campuses, please see the COVID fall planning update on the U of T website.

While the Virtual Hart House has engaged thousands upon thousands of students in unique learning opportunities throughout the pandemic, I encourage you to learn what additional physical spaces at Hart House are now open. Check out our Essential Resource Spaces, where both students and community members can book a time slot to enjoy a safe, distanced visit in one of three rooms: the Hart House Library, the Map Room or the Reading Room.

Both students and community members have also returned with great enthusiasm to the Hart House Fitness Centre. To book your visit using our timed-entry system, please click here.  And if you are hoping to hold an event this Fall – whether in-person, virtual, or a bit of both – I invite you to contact our Hart House Hospitality team.  They will be delighted to help you navigate the COVID-specific guidelines that have been developed with your and your guests’ safety in mind.

When you come to campus, you’ll notice that there are some exciting changes around Hart House.

First, you won’t be able to miss – and won’t want to miss – the TPZ ('Tree Protection Zone') public art project on the Hart House Commons. This project showcases the work of some of the most innovative Indigenous artists working in Canada and their common commitment to the preservation of life, water and kin, and how each is inextricably linked to the protection of trees. (Read about this project)

Upon entering the House, you’ll see that the Arbor Room – located on the lower level – has now reopened, thanks to the generous support of many donors. This is a renewed and redesigned space where accessibility and the restoration of stunning original features come together seamlessly. Beloved by many, the Arbor Room has served as a central meeting place and focal point within Hart House for several generations of students. It also serves as a vital bridge between campus and the broader community.

And now – drumroll, please – I am very pleased to welcome you to this Fall’s Hart House Quarterly. Inside this edition, you will find a number of interesting articles and features. They include:

  • The aforementioned profile of the ‘Tree Protection Zone’ public art project, through which a number of leading Indigenous artists have reimagined the Hart House Commons, with the financial and curatorial support of Hart House, The Art Museum at the University of Toronto and a number of other campus partners;
  • A feature interview with five Hart House Student Orientation Ambassadors and their Coordinator. Their passion about paying it forward really shines through as they chat about what Hart House means to them, their ‘here-for-you’ role in welcoming students back to campus this Fall, and why their role is such an important one;
  • A new feature entitled “In Conversation With…,” where in each edition I chat with a different staff member of Hart House. In this edition, I was delighted to interview Alicia Brown, an athletic superstar who is also a member of Hart House’s Wellness, Fitness and Recreation team, about her path to the recent Tokyo Olympics; and
  • An unforgettable story about the impact of donors. Read how donations to the Hart House Farm and the Hart House Finnish Exchange – two legacies of the late Warden Nicholas Ignatieff – expand students’ access to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, for which Hart House is renowned.

In closing, even as we continue to face a somewhat unclear future with the pandemic now in its fourth wave, please remember Hart House is always here for you. There may be some “bumps” throughout the Fall as we work to minimize risk to public safety and maximize engagement in the wonders and delights of Hart House. I am confident, however, that together we will get through this, and that we will emerge as an even stronger community in the end. 

I hope you enjoy this Fall 2021 edition of the Hart House Quarterly. I wish you all a safe and enjoyable autumn.

Kind regards,

John MonahanWarden of Hart House