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Season Kickoff Celebrates Art & Community

Friday, June 2nd, marked the day of Arts In The Parks’ “2023 Season Kickoff” event at Amos Waites Park. This beautiful celebration of arts and creativity brought together the community with performances, workshops, crafts, and ice cream! Throughout the day, passersby were encouraged to participate in the event through crafting tents like button-making, tote-making, face painting, and workshops led by outstanding performers.

Children gather around a table to create their own tote bags. Photo by Kat Rizza

To open the kickoff event, we had a gorgeous performance by Nagata Shachu – a group that performs traditional Japanese drumming. This drumming performance captivated the community to come together to enjoy the music and learn about the culture of this sacred folk drumming. “Their playing is a combination of unbound spirit and passion with the highest levels of musicianship and discipline” (Nagata Shachu).

Nagata Shachu performs, photo by Kat Rizza

After a few speeches from Kelly Langgard (Director & CEO of Toronto Arts Foundation), Councillor Morley, and Theodore Walker Robinson (Executive Director of Lakeshore Arts), we had a captivating speech from Que Rock. Que Rock is an Indigenous graffiti artist, breakdancer, and rapper. He brought the event together to talk about his life story of educating himself on his heritage and how hip-hop is a significant factor in his life growing up – hip-hop was how he learned English. He finished his discussion with a moving rap performance of an original piece he made about the Creation Story he knew from his youth.

Que Rock performs on stage, photo by Kat Rizza

Up next was a gorgeous performance from Hercinia Arts Collective which was an excerpt of their performances coming up in August. Hercinia Arts Collective is a contemporary circus group that explores stories and themes through the human spectacle. Their whimsical performance portrayed the lives of birds discovering a newfound object, and the performers used aerial arts and physical theatre to tell the story of these beautiful birds’ discovery. Though this is only an excerpt from their show “The Enchanted Forest,” the audience could not take their eyes off this captivating show for a second.

After this performance, the audience participated in workshops with Que Rock, Nagata Shachu, and Hercinia. The community is brought together through learning various art forms – making a connection with their artistic sides and with each other.

A group of children gather around drums set up on the grass to take a workshop with Nagata Shachu. Photo by Kat Rizza.

As the big finale to the event, Kelly introduces Pan Fantasy Steel Band. With a solid message to bring the community together, Pan Fantasy created a wonderful finale to the event – encouraging folks to dance, sing along to the songs they’re playing, and enjoy the beautiful sounds of the Pan. You can see the crowd’s engagement and happiness as Pan Fantasy radiates a positive light of celebrating community and culture into one bright-sounding, magical performance. Pan Fantasy closed off this event in the most upbeat and encouraging way, leaving the end of the Arts In The Parks’ 2023 “Season Kickoff” event a huge success.

Pan Fantasy performs steel drums on the stage while audience members watch from benches. Photo by Kat Rizza.
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