Public Art Policy
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Fundraiser for Scarborough's
Oldest Public Art

Everyone has their own impression of public art -- what it is or what it should be. Some see art in the everyday -- beautiful formations in nature are the public artwork of a supreme being.

For now, and at the risk of over-simplification, let's venture this definition of public art -- "Any lawful effort to break the predictability of our typical surroundings".

To the early settlers in Scarborough, the surroundings were certainly predictable -- the forest, the soil, the occasional farmhouse and shed. How did they first break that monotony? What did they make to cause pause, reflection and some soul-searching?  The first expressions of public art in the new backwoods community in Canada were the primitive memorials to those who had toiled so hard to build that community.

A small plot of ground a short distance from the house was set aside for simple wooden markers -- constant reminders of the sacrifices made by others in the forest. Passing by the family burial ground, schoolchildren learned that the food in their bellies had come at a price. These first examples of public art had both religious and educational value.

Although the wooden markers are long gone, we can still learn a thing or two about nation-building from the next generation of public art -- sandstone memorials such as this one:

In memory of Robert Rae and his wife Agnes Hamilton natives of Lesmahagow Scotland who came to Scarboro in 1832. Three weeks after their arrival in his 29th year he was killed by a falling tree.

There is certainly something to learn about the values of those early pioneers from the symbolism chiseled into their gravestones -- drawn curtains, a weeping willow, the Scotch thistle and the masonic symbol.

Tragically, some of Scarborough's very first works of public art have recently been vandalized. Several stones well over a century old have been broken in the Churchyard of Washington United Church. Church members and descendants of the Annis and Washington families welcome the general public to join them on September 20 for a modest fundraiser to repair this priceless public art.

What: The Pioneers' Kingston Road Historic Walk. Following the old route blazed by the Annis brothers over 200 years ago and finishing up at Washington United Church, 3739 Kingston Rd. for a Corn Roast / BBQ (modest extra cost).

When: Sat. Sept. 20 2003, 2:00 pm (Rain date is the following day, 2 pm)

Where: For starting location and other details, call 416-447-4895 or send an email to

Tour Guides: Bruce and Bea McCowan of the "Scarboro Heights Record".

Why: Fundraiser to help restore damaged gravestones at Washington United Church. 2003 is the 200th Anniversary of Washington United Church. This Walk is a joint project of the Scarboro Heights Record and the Bi-Centennial Committee.

For More Information: Please visit and click on "Walking Tour".

The Scarboro Heights Record V11 #8


My congratulations to the successful candidates in the recent municipal elections. They have gained our trust through honest campaigns and we look forward to their initiatives that will propel the City toward the 21st century.

To those not returning who have worked hard over the past few years for Scarborough's taxpayers, we encourage you to stay in public life. A great many worthy local organizations could use your valuable insight and boundless energy.

Public Art Policy in Scarborough

Congratulations in particular to Mayor-Elect Frank Faubert. We can anticipate his enthusiastic support for a public arts policy for the City. When still a Ward 8 Councillor, Mr. Faubert had responded to my article "Do We Need a Public Art Policy for Scarborough" published in both the Fall/93 issue of "The Scarboro Heights Record" and in the March issue of "Surface and Symbol".

"I read with interest your letter to the editor in the March issue of "Surface and Symbol" regarding a proposed Public Art Policy. I would like to also see a copy of your article in your newsletter "The Scarboro Heights Record" regarding the matter of benefits which might flow from such a policy.

"The questions you put forward, primarily those dealing with what are commonly regarded as public works matters such as sidewalks and "man-made environments", fall within the jurisdiction of the City of Scarborough and its administration. This does not in any way reduce the importance of raising them as issues to the public bodies responsible for overseeing them, but may explain why it is sometimes difficult to co-ordinate a response which is "in the public interest".

"Dealing with public bureaucracies is not always a matter of what, but sometimes a matter of knowing with whom to negotiate. I have taken the liberty of forwarding a copy of your letter to Mr. Lorne Ross, Commissioner of Planning and Buildings for the City of Scarborough for discussion and information of the planning committee..."

My response to Mr. Faubert was, in part:

"... As you can see, a principal purpose of "The Scarboro Heights Record" is to promote a sense of "Community". A more prominent presence of art (such as I have described) in public places will undoubtedly cause most of us to focus on the goodness in the community around us. Hopefully, too, each of us will then be encouraged to make more positive contributions to the community..."

From The Scarboro Heights Record V2 #6

Do We Need a Public Art Policy for Scarborough?
  • Do we need sidewalks that are people-friendly?
  • Should daily routine be a learning experience?
  • Should the manmade environment harmonize with the natural? -- should the natural somehow predominate over the manmade?
  • Should our surroundings remind us of the sacrifices of our forgotten nation-builders?
  • Should we express our values in terms of the visual and the positive -- instead of the disparaging outburst and the fault-finding accusation?

How indeed, would you make Scarborough more people-friendly? Please call either me, at 416-321-3800 (email as above), or the Scarborough Arts Council at 416-698-7322.

From The Scarboro Heights Record V1 #4