This is an exciting time of the year to be at Hart House. Even though fewer students are on campus, June is when graduating students are convocating and alumni are reuniting with long-lost classmates. Many of them find their way to Hart House for lunches in the Gallery Grill, departmental receptions, faculty parties, and various and sundry other celebrations with friends and family.
It is also the season of Pride, and even as I write this Word from the Warden I am peering out my office window as hundreds of members of the university’s LGBTQ2S+ communities, their families and other allies gather on the Quad for the annual Pride Pub. (Ed.: Yes, of course I abandoned my draft to join the party! Wouldn’t you?) When you add in the dozens and dozens of weddings that are being held at Hart House in Summer 2022, there is truly a spirit of celebration in the air at Hart House every single day.
Of course, those celebrations are all the sweeter this year because there was so little opportunity for people to gather safely together for the past two years. Hart House has certainly taken full advantage of whatever opportunity we have had to be open and available to students and community members throughout the pandemic, and as soon as restrictions began to loosen earlier in 2022, we saw the level of activity in the House begin to rise quickly. Here is just a small sample of what has been happening at Hart House this Spring:
- Our food-related businesses really began to pick up in the first few months of 2022. In fact, for the fiscal year that ended on April 30, 2022, our food revenue increased by more than 18,000 per cent over the previous year. In March and April alone, Hart House hosted 234 in-person events.
- Music and public performance returned to Hart House in April when the Hart House Singers and Chorus and the Hart House Symphonic Band delivered in-person concerts to rapt audiences. Meanwhile, the Hart House Music Committee hosted a popular Open Mic Night and a Listening Party.
- The Hart House Fitness Centre is fully back and better than ever. We have sold hundreds of new memberships since January, and in the month of March alone we saw the number of in-person visits to the Hart House Fitness Centre jump to almost 8000 from fewer than 500 just two months earlier! And it is little wonder why: the Hart House Fitness Centre is offering an amazing slate of in-person and virtual fitness classes, multiple hours of recreational sports programming, and dozens of personal training options. Oh – and did I mention that the historic Hart House Pool re-opened on February 14 for the first-time since early 2020? Members are lapping it up. 😉
- At the Hart House Farm in Caledon, we have constructed 11 new “bunkies” so that we can welcome more overnight visitors, and they are already in high demand. And speaking of the Farm, in late March, the Hart House Student Farm Committee hosted a hugely popular plant sale at Hart House, and a few weeks later, youth from our Hart House Youth Access programs spent a day at the Hart House Farm as part of a special Outdoor Expedition program.
- Word of mouth has continued to spread about the registered programs offered by the Hart House Creative LifeSchool. Digital Photography, Improv Levels 1 and 2, filmmaking and drawing classes have been among the biggest draws this Spring. All LifeSchool classes are offered free-of-charge to UofT students. Non-students are welcome to register for a fee.
- In early May, we celebrated the student leaders who bring so much of themselves to their roles at Hart House. Our Community Committee BBQ & Student Recognition event – co-hosted by my office and the Hart House Community Members’ Committee – was a huge success. Less than a week later, I was honoured to open the first-annual (we hope!) Hart House Youth Advisory Council Celebration with an amazing group of high-school students, parents and special guests, who were meeting each other in person for the first time. The evening also marked the public debut of the Talking Walls Exhibition about sustainability and the climate crisis that the Council had run as part of their City Project this past year. Kudos to all of them.
- At the end of May, we held multiple events during the University’s Alumni Reunion weekend. I had the honour of hosting a “Changemakers” discussion in the Hart House Theatre with Weyni Mengesha, the award-winning Artistic Director of Soulpepper Theatre Company. That same evening, hundreds of UofT alumni gathered at Hart House for an all-family pub in the Quad and the Great Hall.
That is just a sampling of what has been going on. Hart House programs for students and community members continue all summer long. I am particularly chuffed that as part of our Youth Access work, community-based partner organizations like the Kiki Ballroom Alliance, Oakwood Collegiate Institute, the 519 Community Centre, and Native Child and Family Services are continuing to facilitate visits to Hart House for high school-aged youth throughout June, July and August. We offer these young people recreational activities, workshops, fitness classes, games, and a return trip to the Hart House Farm in mid-July. In return, they energize our spaces and remind us why we do the work we do.
But don’t just take my word for it: if you have not yet been back to Hart House since the start of the pandemic, I encourage you to do so this summer. Despite ongoing construction on the outside of the building (and some inside, as well!), Hart House is fully accessible from either Tower Road or from Queen’s Park Crescent. Come to remind yourself of the beauty of the rooms, visit our newly renovated Arbor Room, explore an exhibition at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, or simply enjoy the quiet of the Hart House Library. The Gallery Grill, our signature gourmet restaurant, is open and doing a thriving business throughout the month of June, but make your lunch reservations soon before it closes again for July and August.
Whatever you do once you get here, we hope you make some beautiful new memories of your time at Hart House.
And with that, I hope you enjoy this Summer 22 issue of the Hart House Quarterly. Please stay in touch, and we look forward to seeing you in the Fall if not before.
John MonahanWarden of Hart House