The BIG on Bloor Festival of Arts and Culture is an exceptional community and city-building festival presenting hundreds of culturally significant events, activities, displays and exhibitions. Organized by BIG (the Bloor Improvement Group), the festival is a two-day summer event presented along a car-free stretch of Bloor Street West between Dufferin and Lansdowne Streets to celebrate local arts, culture and community. It has drawn up to 100,000 people.
The festival both encourages and sustains participation by creating a context for working on a positive common goal (year round) as a community. It nurtures everyone from emergent to senior artists, by creating a regular occasion to present: musical and theatrical performances and participatory art projects by making opportunities to contribute, to be constructive and to learn to exercise leadership.
Historically, the neighbourhood was bounded by rail lines, factories and areas that remained “dry” until the year 2000. In addition, there had been a racetrack where the Dufferin Mall is now located. The effect of all these things was drawing disruptive elements to this working-class neighbourhood. The situation was further exacerbated by the building of Dufferin Mall, which diverted pedestrian traffic away from Bloor Street.
The BIG: Bloor Improvement Group was formed as a coalition organization, which included an alliance of 26 different local organizations, three levels of government, social service agencies, residents groups, cultural producers/artists and small business owners. These organizations and individuals came together to coordinate a concerted effort and find ways to celebrate Bloordale’s rich diversity–rather than address its social ills–by bringing focus to the culture of this area, with the aim of strengthening the community and create better connections between the people (a contemporary mix of Portuguese, Caribbean Italian, Bangladeshi, Latin American, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Burmese, Chinese, and Vietnamese populations) and their neigbourhood, through a presentation of the local arts and culture.
Much has changed in the years since the events, which provided the impetus to form BIG and by extension, the BIG on Bloor Festival. Bloordale has emerged as a community of note. The festival has succeeded in bringing new business owners and residents to elect Bloordale as a neighbourhood to live/work in because its public community spirit now defines it.
The festival has raised the profile of Bloordale in a way that indicates who we are within the city: a vibrant and thriving, engaged community. It reaches well beyond Bloordale, to become a microcosm representing the magnificent diversity of the GTA.
The BIG COMMUNITY AWARDS ceremonies on the Main Stage at 1141 Bloor Street open the festival with awards presented by elected officials from all three levels of government and the Bloordale Improvement Group. The BIG Awards celebrate outstanding efforts made by individuals, organizations and institutions.
JOUEZ at BIG On Bloor Arts and Culture Festival, curated by Carla Garnet, presents a memorable and engaging program of expense-free projects, where people can spend quality time doing hands-on activities and take part in unique events that develop into shared artworks of experience. These curated projects reflect the diversity and energy of our downtown neighbourhood, by way of accessible multimedia, community platforms and engaging art installations. Together, the JOUEZ program serves as a site for cultural exchange and an accessible cultural incubator for artist teams and artist organizations with emerging and established participatory art practices. Each artist designs a unique stamp for festivalgoers to make an on-the-spot souvenir of their experience.
HOW WE LIVE IN CITIES is a civic studies organization that responds to urban situations with ecology, culture and art initiatives. It was launched as a new ecology hub at the 2016 iteration of the festival. Festivalgoers got a chance to engage in an environmental education via a series of participatory, a series of varied ecological spot projects presented by local, environmental and community active organizations. The projects explored ways to animate, enhance and improve the experience of living in cities.
CARD-YARD presents interactive project stations by artists, architects, poets, social activists and community organizations to create a participatory village, specifically for Bloordale’s BIG on Bloor Festival, presented by PULP and Senayah Design. Located on the corner of Brock Avenue, CARD-YARD brings together a wide range of GTA-based organizations and events housed in a number of colourful pavilions, constructed from recycled materials.
CELEBRATE HERE presents performers who live/work in Bloordale and the surrounding neighbourhoods on the Main Stage at 1141 Bloor Street, filling 14 hours of programming with music, singing, poetry, demonstrations and dance. More performances were dispersed in various locations throughout the festival in local stores, restaurants and bars, parades, busker stations, and as part of some table stations.
SAVOUR BLOOR encourages visitors to explore Bloordale, one of the most diverse culinary neighbourhoods in the City of Toronto and to savour the tastes of: Portuguese, South Asian, African, Vietnamese, Caribbean, Vegetarian, Contemporary Experimental, Classic Canadian, and Middle Eastern foods.
BLOORDALE MARKET offers more than 200 arts, crafts, vendors, demonstrations, and informative and educational community tents. Thus giving emergent businesses an interface with the festival’s diverse and growing community.
After Hours: Local Bloordale restaurants and bars!
More information and to sign-up to as a vendor, performer, volunteer or sponsor: BIGonBloorFestival.com