Accolade opens to great applause

Monday was a day to celebrate. York and the Faculty of Fine Arts officially opened The Accolade Project, an occasion full of fanfare – a trumpet fanfare, to be precise – dancing, live music and lights, cameras, action. Toronto TV and newspaper reporters recorded speeches and captured the moment as 19 people who had helped design, build and fund the new fine arts education centre cut a 25-foot red ribbon. The ceremony not only marked the opening of the $107-million facility, it launched a week-long fine arts festival.

Right: A student and member of the Sashar Zarif Dance Ensemble performs “Street Dance” set to traditional Azerbaijani music

“This is the most exciting day, a day we’ve waiting for for years and years,” said York President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden (below), addressing a crowd of University and government officials in the CIBC Lobby of the Accolade East building. “This world-class complex is a bold reflection of York’s commitment to excellence and innovation,” she said. “This visionary initiative reflects York’s stature as a rising cultural powerhouse and partner in the City of Toronto’s cultural renaissance.”

The Accolade Project features state-of-the-art teaching, exhibition and performance facilities in two new buildings – Accolade East and Accolade West – framing the existing fine arts complex at the heart of York’s Keele campus. Designed by Bregman + Hamann Architects-Zeidler Partnership, it features a proscenium theatre with orchestra pit, a recital hall with integrated recording studio, a cinema-lecture hall, dance and music studios, and “smart” classrooms, labs and seminar rooms as well as a new home for the Art Gallery of York University. Built in two and a half years with initial funding of $23.4 million from Ontario’s SuperBuild, it brings together York’s fine arts disciplines for the first time in 40 years.

David Caplan, provincial minister of public infrastructure renewal, predicted that Accolade would be “in the forefront of cultural expression in this country for many decades.” He said “generations of performers and artists and educators will be studying and training here and those students will go on to profoundly change the way Canada sees itself and the way that vision is expressed.”

Faculty of Fine Arts Dean Phillip Silver was singled out for special praise. To whoops and cheers, Caplan said, “Phillip, you’ve done a fabulous job.” Master of ceremonies Gary Brewer, vice-president finance & administration, called Silver “the true project champion.”

“Forty years after York launched the first Faculty of Fine Arts in Canada, we’re embarking on an exciting new phase in our development,” said Silver. “Accolade sets the stage for tremendous synergy between all of the different artistic disciplines: music, film, theatre, dance, visual arts, and cultural studies. By bringing together all our Fine Arts programs in one accessible, dynamic cluster integrated within the larger academic community, The Accolade Project will enrich the experience of all students, staff and faculty. I expect remarkable results.”

Right: David Caplan (left), Ontario minister of public infrastructure renewal, congratulates Faculty of Fine Arts Dean Phillip Silver

Marsden, Silver and Brewer thanked government funders, private donors and all those involved in building the project. “This superb facility was built because leading patrons of the arts believed in York’s special contribution to fine arts education in Canada,” said Marsden. “Martin Goldfarb, Chair of the Accolade Project Campaign Committee, inspired us all with his dedication to this dream, and the philanthropy of the donors who have given so much to this project is truly admirable.”

Those donors include: Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan, whose gift of $1 million made the 325-seat proscenium theatre possible; CIBC, whose donation of $1 million supports The Accolade Project as well as student scholarships and research; Tribute Communities, Robert and Julia Foster, H. Barry and Joy Gales, Elaine and Jimmy Kay, the Lambert family in honour of the late Allen T. Lambert, Walter Carsen, Lorna R. Marsden, The John McKellar Charitable Foundation, The McLean Foundation, the Mirkopoulos family and Cinespace Film Studios, Lata Pada and Hari Venkatacharya, Manulife Fnancial, TELUS and James Wu. The Accolade Project has also been chosen as the beneficiary of the 40th annual Brazilian Carnival Ball, to be held on May 13.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony preceded a gala concert that launched a week-long Fine Arts Festival showcasing the creative talents of York’s faculty, students and alumni.

Right: The ribbon cutting ceremony

The gala concert was emceed by Andrew Craig, York alumus and CBC Radio In Performance host, and featured the world premiere of Eclipse, a piano concerto by David Mott performed by Christina Petrowska-Quilico, both York faculty members. It will be broadcast April 2 at 10pm on CBC Radio 2’s “Two New Hours”.

Other events this week include a staging of Timothy Findley’s Not Wanted on the Voyage, adapted by alumnus Richard Rose, new dance works by alumni Holly Small, Yvonne Ng and others, and an evening of award-winning films by students, past and present.

Who cut the ribbon

Joining Marsden, Silver, Brewer and Caplan to cut the ribbon were Chancellor Peter Cory; Robert Tiffin, vice-president students; Paul Marcus, president and CEO, York University Foundation; Rod Webb, associate vice-president academic; Jan J. Hesseling, consul general of Netherland; Mike Graham, assistant vice-president facilities services; architects Tarek El -Khatib and Bill Nankivell; Ivan Fecan, president & CEO, Bell Globemedia & CTV Inc., and Sandra Faire, president & CEO SFA Productions; Martin and Joan Goldfarb, Chair of the Accolade Campaign Committee; Julia Foster, Chair of the Faculty of Fine Arts advisory council; Joan Peters, director of corporate donations, CIBC; and Chris Gower, district manager, PCL Constructors Canada Inc.



Above: Among the Accolade platform party getting ready to cut the
ribbon are, from left, Julia Foster, Jan J. Hesseling, Gary Brewer,
Lorna R. Marsden and David Caplan