Located inside the Guild Park and Gardens, the Clark Centre for the Arts is undergoing a revitalization that is set to open in the fall of 2020. The multipurpose facility will house art studios and be home to creative programs for Toronto residents and visitors to explore and enjoy. Guild Park and Gardens is a unique 88 acre site on the Scarborough Bluffs that includes forests, shoreline and a collection of architectural fragments, sculptures and buildings.

The Clark Centre for the Arts site has a long tradition of creativity and fine arts. Initially in the 18th century, the land surrounding the Clark Centre for the Arts site had been divided into tracts that were granted to loyalists who had served in the American Revolutionary War. After changing hands a number of times, General Harold Child Bickford purchased the property in 1914, named it the Ranelagh Park Country Estate and built the well-known Bickford House. Today, the Bickford House is a Designated Heritage Property, and considered an excellent example of early 20th Century Period Revival style with Arts and Crafts detailing.

In 1932, Rosa and Spencer Clark founded the Guild of All Arts after Rosa purchased 450 acres of land. The Guild of All Arts contained shops, a tea room, and studios in fine art and craft, including painting, sculpture, hand-loom weaving, tooled leather, ceramics, metal work, wood carving and batik. After the war the Clarks expanded the hotel and restaurant operation and created formal gardens. The area became known as the Guild Inn or the Guild. During Toronto’s building boom that began in the 1960s, many historic 19th and 20th century downtown buildings were demolished. As an advocate for architectural preservation, Spencer Clark recovered many of these buildings’ facades and architectural features to display on the grounds of the Guild.

The City of Toronto conducted community consultations from December 16, 2015 to October 31, 2016, collecting a wealth of information from a variety of stakeholders to inform and guide the planning for the arts and cultural facility at Guild Park and Gardens – The Clark Centre for the Arts (formerly Building 191).

Architectural services are being provided by Taylor Hazell Architects. Construction for the addition and rehabilitation of Building 191 (courtesy of Taylor Hazell Architects) is being provided by Atlas Construction Ltd.

The interior demolition of Building 191 began in May 2019. Substantial completion of the new Clark Centre for the Arts is scheduled for the end of summer 2020. The below grade work in the ground floor is complete. The metal roof decking has arrived on site and is being moved into place. Adjustments to the structural steel joists and framing have been completed. Next up after the roof deck is installed will be the structural studs that frame the exterior wall at the third floor.

The park will remain open during construction.

Construction site of the arts and cultural facility at Guild Park and Gardens – The Clark Centre for the Arts

Interior view of the ground floor level showing the plumbing pipes coming out of the ground

Clark Centre for the Arts (CCA) will offer a public gallery, five specialized art studios and two on-site cabins, providing over 6,000 square feet of new, dedicated studio, exhibition and event space.

City of Toronto, Arts Services will operate the facility with four program streams:

  • Affordable pre-registered programs with multiple weeks of instruction during day, evening, weekend and summer hours, including textile and digital arts, drawing, painting, sculpture, eco-arts, children’s summer art camps and literary arts for all age groups.
  • On-site artist residencies for professional and emerging artists
  • Community outreach workshops supported through community partnerships
  • Short-term facility rentals

Programs are aimed to start in late fall 2020. In 2021 at full capacity, up to 70-90 unique arts and cultural programs will be offered on-site annually.

Sculptor’s Cabin
The Sculptor’s Cabin is a small historic building located near the front entrance of Guild Park and Gardens. The Cabin underwent a full renovation in spring 2019, and is now open to serve the community as a meeting place, and welcome and information centre. Under a community partnership agreement with the Guild Park Stakeholder Group (members include: Friends of Guild Park and Gardens, Guild Festival Theatre, Guildwood Community Village Association and Guild Renaissance Group), the Cabin acts as a vibrant community resource to promote civic and cultural engagement.

Lob Cabin
Located south of the CCA, the Log Cabin will operate in the future, as a program resource to support the CCA’s artist in residency and pre-registered programs.