Indigenous culture animates this vibrant University of Toronto construction zone

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The University of Toronto’s St. George campus is being transformed through a one-in-a-generation revitalization known as the Landmark Project that will make the campus both greener and more accessible.

In addition to simply improving the appearance and connectivity of the campus, the larger Landmark Project includes a component called the Indigenous Landscape Project, recognizing the Indigenous heritage that long predated the educational institution.

Focused on the outdoor spaces of the University of Toronto, the Landmark Project is already well under construction, but you don’t have to wait until the project’s completion in 2022 to experience some of its cultural elements.

Like any building area, these outdoor spaces are noisy and dusty for now, but a few colorful elements shine through the mix with playful shots of color and culture, signaling changes to come.

A familiar feature of construction sites in Toronto emerged as part of the revitalization, respecting the country’s Indigenous culture through protective zones put in place around trees to prevent damage from heavy construction equipment.

But these are not the typical areas of plywood and orange plastic tree protection that most are used to. Instead, the trees of Hart House Common are surrounded by protective areas adorned with murals by eight Indigenous artists.

“The presence of the Tree Protection Zone facility in the city and on the downtown campus of the University of Toronto is an important visual statement about the past, present and future of this land and the Indigenous peoples that have been managing it for generations. Hart House is proud to be a part of this inspiring initiative, ”said John Monahan, director of Hart House, who first devised the plan to reinvent tree protection areas.

Organized by Mik Migwans and Maria Hupfield, the temporary project was installed just in time for National Truth and Reconciliation Day, giving students the chance to engage in broader conversations on earth, while preparing for the land for the completion of the permanent indigenous landscape project. year.

“Cities are constantly changing at street level; palisades inform urban aesthetics and are part of our daily life. By drawing attention to the protected areas of trees found on construction sites, this Indigenous-led public art project signals the University of Toronto’s support for the work of artists who prioritize responsibility. critical of place, land and people as part of the vibrant energy of the city, ”said Maria Hupfield, co-curator of the Tree Protection Zone project.

There are specific reasons for highlighting Aboriginal people on this particular site. Generations before any of these well-maintained outdoor spaces or even the institution they served existed, a waterway known to Europeans as Taddle Creek crossed the current site of the St. George.

This small stream served as an important gathering place for Indigenous groups, including the Huron-Wendat, Seneca, and Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, centuries before university students began to congregate on this land.

In recognition of this past, the Indigenous Landscape Project will cover 4,500 square meters of Hart House Green, a plan created by the University of Toronto in response to the 2015 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.



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