York community shows enthusiasm for Accolade

“I’ve always believed that it is important to support an area that you are giving four years of your life to,” says Johnathan Spink, a member of the Theatre Production Class of 2005 in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. “Even though our theatre production class won’t be able to use the new facilities, we wanted to leave our mark through the purchase of a named seat in the new proscenium theatre,” says Spink.


Like Spink and his classmates, many other York faculty, staff and students are showing their enthusiasm for the Accolade Project, a 330,000-square-foot expansion currently under construction on York’s Keele campus. Slated to open in 2005-2006, Accolade will extend and enhance existing fine arts facilities, providing a new home for the Art Gallery of York University and for the departments of Music and Dance. Beyond that, Accolade will mean a great deal more for all of York: it will provide over 4,000 new student spaces across campus, which will be of benefit to the entire York community.

To ensure the success of the Accolade Project, the University launched the Take Your Seat campaign as a means for members of the York community to leave a lasting legacy at York. For every $500 donation, donors will have a seat named in their honour in either the proscenium theatre or the recital hall, while directly helping to foster tomorrow’s leading creative talent. (For the full story, see the Nov. 29, 2004 issue of YFile.)

“I’m really pleased that the Take Your Seat campaign has sparked the interest of so many members of the York community,” said Phillip Silver, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. “When I went to pick the location for my named seats in the Recital Hall and Theatre, the seating plan was blank. Now it’s beginning to fill up quite nicely. It’s a great joy to see so many students, staff and faculty – both current and retired – choosing to honour family and friends, or to commemorate their own connection to York, by ‘taking a seat’ in the Accolade Project.”

To date there has been a great response from York’s internal community and the contributions are still coming in. Especially gratifying to faculty members and staff is the initiative taken on the part of students to ensure the future of fine arts at York.

Right: An artist’s rendition of the Accolade Project recital hall.

“I am thrilled to see our production students participating in the Take Your Seat campaign,” says Shawn Kerwin, Chair of the Department of Theatre. “They are wonderful role models for us in showing their commitment and enthusiasm for our new theatre.”

Many of the staff and faculty members who have already contributed to the Take Your Seat campaign have spent many years at York. They appreciate the opportunity to give back to the University while ensuring their names live on.

Left: The proscenium theatre

“One of the reasons I decided to contribute,” says Dawn Burns, student affairs assistant with the Centre for Student & Community Leadership Development, “was because I had been sitting in one seat or the other at York for almost 15 years and I thought having one with my name on it permanently would be a great idea!” She adds, “I have always been involved in the York community and I saw this project as another way to give back to the students, many of whom I have developed great friendships with over the years.”

“This project is important for York’s future and a beacon for the surrounding community,” says Lia Novario, administrative secretary to the associate vice-president research and a 1997 graduate of York’s theatre program. Novario has a strong connection to Accolade and a passion for the fine arts, which she hopes to pass on to her son and daughter.

“Every member of the York family should support Accolade to ensure that we remain a fine arts leader in Canada,” Novario says.

Pledges can be made through payroll deduction (only $21 a month over two years). If you are interested in “taking your seat”, contact Mary Koutsoubos at the York University Foundation at 416-650-8020 (ext. 58020) or e-mail koutsom@yorkfoundation.yorku.ca. Or click here to make a donation to the Take Your Seat campaign.

This article was submitted to YFile by Arlene Willis, communications intern, York University Foundation.