The Clark Centre for the Arts will open in 2020 with art studios and creative programs for Toronto residents and visitors to explore and enjoy the arts. 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.

As part of revitalization efforts, the City of Toronto is developing a multipurpose facility (pictured above) that will house art studios and arts programming. Through extensive community consultation, City of Toronto staff and the architectural team of Taylor Hazell Architects have collected feedback to help inform and shape the schematic design of the future arts facility at Guild Park and Gardens (please see Project Plans below).

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 project to build a community arts & cultural facility is part of the City of Toronto’s commitment to restore cultural life back to Guild Park and Gardens. This park is a regionally treasured, destination park with rich cultural heritage resources and public art framed by a cultural heritage landscape structure set within extensive, high quality natural heritage systems.

The project objectives established for the arts and cultural facility are to:

  • Rehabilitate an existing heritage resource that has been underutilized for several decades and conserve and enhance it for adaptive re-use
  • Reintroduce a significant arts and culture component to the former Guild of All Arts site supporting the community’s interest in the site’s cultural heritage value
  • Provide purpose-built venue to meet identified need for arts and culture programming for East Scarborough catchment area with opportunities for varied and evolving use of space
  • Integrate the building with the surrounding natural environment and respect and enhance the natural heritage qualities
  • Demonstrate the City of Toronto’s commitment to high quality design and sustainability
  • Design to be appropriate for a community use facility and meet limitations of budget and approvals

Community Consultation

The City of Toronto conducted community consultation from December 16, 2015 to October 31, 2016, collecting a wealth of information from a variety of stakeholders to inform and guide future planning for the arts and cultural facility at Guild Park and Gardens.

In the consultation process, 312 individual and group stakeholders were consulted through:

  • Community meetings
  • Community surveys
  • Youth focus groups
  • Community stakeholder group interviews and written feedback
  • Artists & arts groups surveys and interviews

The key themes and priorities that emerged for the arts and cultural facility at Guild Park and Gardens included:

  • Scarborough hub for artistic expression and development
  • Collaborative, accessible and inclusive
  • Builds on the site’s cultural and environmental legacy

The information collected pointed to a multipurpose space with a combination of flexible and specialized spaces and programming featuring:

  • Professional studio facilities for artists
  • Digital, visual arts and craft studio space priorities
  • Facilities for arts programs and residencies, exhibitions, talks, meetings, rentals and small performances
  • Services for a range of ages, interests and abilities

Project Design

Taylor Hazell Architects have been engaged for architectural services for the rehabilitation and addition of Building 191 into a community arts and cultural facility. The firm was founded in 1991 to address architecture, conservation and strategic planning for existing sites and structures. The firm’s award winning work in planning, contemporary design, heritage conservation and adaptive reuse is extensive.

Toronto Arts & Culture Services invited the public to vote on a name for the new arts facility. Names were submitted through public consultations and surveys, and a shortlist was selected by a committee of community members.

147 people voted in the survey. 90% of voters are from the City of Toronto – 80% of which are residents of Scarborough. 90% of voters use the park from an occasional to frequent basis and 95% of voters plan to use the new arts facility on an occasional to frequent basis.

Result Name Votes (%)*
1 The Clark Centre for the Arts 62.6%
2 Guildwood Arts and Cultural Centre 33.3%
3 The Clark Arts Centre 4.1%

*Only “1st choice” votes represented

Scarborough Community Council selected the top choice, The Clark Centre for the Arts.