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Regent Park Arts & Cultural Centre renamed Daniels Spectrum ahead of official opening

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The second floor lobby at the Daniels Spectrum

Artscape, the non-profit that has done so much for arts organizations in Toronto, unveiled a long list of naming sponsors for the $38 million Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre, including renaming the place the Daniels Spectrum.

The Daniels Corporation, the developer entrusted with the redevelopment of Regent Park from a 1940s public housing scheme to 21st century mixed-income community, came forward with a $4 million gift (a portion of which comes from the John and Myrna Daniels Charitable Foundation), buying it naming rights to the building, which is now called Daniels Spectrum.

It’s one of those bland, catch-all names (it’s also a brand of multivitamin, and was the name of a fabled rock and punk concert venue in Montreal) for a centre that already means many different things to one of the most diverse communities in Canada. Hopefully it will still resonate with all of Toronto.

The Slaight Family Foundation came forward with $1.4 million, allowing for the wonderful, flexible new 400-seat performance space to be named Ada Slaight Hall.

The list of contributors is extensive — a wonderful show of support for a noble project.

I noticed after finishing my lessons at the Regent Park School of Music last night that even the elevators now sport the names of prominent patrons (my ride was in the Garfield Weston lift).

Because I work at the school, which offers private and group music lessons to children who would otherwise not have access to them, I have an interest in what is going on in Regent Park.

Setting foot and working in the new building has given me a fresh appreciation for the generosity people and businesses have for the right cause in the right place at the right time.

Inside the school itself, having sound-insulated studios helps focus the kids’ attention. It’s less fatiguing on the teachers. There’s light, air, space — and rafts of new instruments.

The school’s original pianos — all fine baby grands in their day — were donated by people who no longer needed an instrument in their house. Now there are new pianos, fresh from Yamaha Canada, in every studio, including a 6-foot-5 professional grand piano for the common room, which is where ensembles, including the now-40-strong Regent Park Choir rehearse.

My students were smiling as their fingers played a piano that was actually capable of fine degrees of expression. I couldn’t help but smile along.

The school passed the bounty along by donating its best old baby grand to Artscape, to serve as an impromptu concert piano for the bold and glassy café/lobby area that greets everyone who comes into the building.

I was moved to tears when the Four Seasons Centre finally opened in 2006. I adore Koerner Hall and the other wonders of the Telus Centre. And now the cultural infrastructure bounty has finally reached those people who have thought — until now — that the performing arts housed in modern, practical spaces in which they can flourish were for someone else, not them.

I hope this is only the beginning for similar projects in other culturally underserved areas of Toronto.

You can read all about the Regent Park Arts & Cultral Centre/Daniels Spectrum, its mission, its genesis and its many arts riches — along with news of all the opening events coming up — here.

This is a promotional video for the centre released this morning:

John Terauds

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