Yesterday, our lawyer appeared in Ontario Superior Court to ask for an injunction to prevent the City of Toronto from blocking TMAC from taking temporary occupancy of our space at 36 Lisgar.
Last week, we made a pretty reasonable request of the City – that they not stand in the way of our using the space while we continue negotiations. We’ve been engaged in productive settlement discussions with staff and Urbancorp for over two years, and our members’ leases are up, so we expected they’d support our simple solution to a pressing issue. Hey, the space is empty! (Except the corner Urbancorp is using as an office…)
Not only did it outright reject our request, the City seized on this as an opportunity to seek summary judgment terminating our agreement of purchase and sale and to put an end to our lawsuit.
While the monitor was okay with our proposal and willing to lease the space to us, the City not only objected to it without explanation, but also moved to compel the monitor to lease the space to it instead! 🤔
We’re very curious what their plans might be for a purpose-built media arts centre…
We have a court date set for January 17, where a judge will hear our arguments.
The City recycles its old defence
In addition to the motion, we were provided a sworn affidavit by Sally Han, manager of cultural partnerships at the City of Toronto. It parrots many of the wildly inaccurate points included in the City’s original defence to our claim in 2015. It will be easy to respond to, since we already did… back in 2015.
We were surprised to find this in Sally’s statement:
the City had no confidence whatsoever (and still has no confidence whatsoever) that TMAC can successfully operate the Combined Arts and Culture Space for the benefit of the community.
This is a shocking contradiction to the City’s public position that we’ve been making progress working together on an agreement to secure the space.
Why have the limited resources of an arts charity and four nonprofit community groups been wasted on negotiations the City apparently had no intention of honouring? Why has the City kept the space empty – aside from permitting Urbancorp to use it as an office, an obvious contravention of the nonprofit-arts-use-only land-use agreement they fretted <i>we</i> would violate somehow – and blocked the community from enjoying the benefit of a vibrant space for media arts?
We have no answers.
Still pressing forward!
Despite the City’s apparent contempt for the cultural contributions of our organizations, our artist members and staff; its disregard for the needs and wishes of the local community; despite our being outrageously out-resourced as a charity up against a multi-billion dollar corporation and an insolvent commercial developer, we’ve hung in here.
Our goals remain the same:
- Purchase the space we designed, built, and raised $1 million for
- Operate it according to our charitable mandate, for the benefit of the West Queen West community, the media arts community, artists, and broader cultural community in Toronto
- Support media arts nonprofits and artists by offering a permanent, affordable home for them to do their critical work without the fear and stress of precarity
Our commitment to this project – against the odds – is rooted in a belief that the communities that produce the cultural work that the City of Toronto banks on to attract talent, develop its economy, create jobs and thriving hubs of creative enterprise should not be trampled by commercial interests and discarded once they’ve made our city worth living in.
We continue fighting for this space because every Toronto arts organization – however small – deserves permanence, security and recognition for the work they do to change lives, neighborhoods and our culture.
Our motion for interim occupancy is simply a request to the City to help us avoid a catastrophic interruption in our services and programming, which would have a harmful impact on the many thousands of artists, organizers, and community members who frequent our spaces and contribute to the economic and cultural fabric of West Queen West, Toronto and the broader arts community.
As we stare down the end of our leases and move our equipment and collections into storage and tell our members they have nowhere to work in January, we wonder: What is the City getting out of this?