The Bentway: Restoring Indigenous Connection to the Land
This sample was written for CMN 413 Corporate Communications at Ryerson University.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 10, 2018
The Bentway transforms 1.75 kilometers of neglected lands beneath the Gardiner from a barrier into a space that connects residents to its Indigenous history through public art and events. Following the original shoreline of Lake Ontario, The Bentway site is both a traditional hunting ground and gathering place for Indigenous peoples. The development is located on the Treaty lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and is also traditional territory of the Haundenosaunee, the Huron-Wendat, the Metis and other Indigenous nations. But while Toronto’s public art collection now includes more than 700 pieces, very few Indigenous artists are represented within it.
The Bentway, previously a public art desert, intends to commission its own site-specific works of both visual and performing art. Director of programming, Ilana Altman, will partner with community and cultural groups to ensure that The Bentway’s programming and art installations reflect the local community and the Indigenous history of the site.
Janice Qimirpik and Moe Kelly’s Future Snowmachines in Kinngait, unveiled in January, is one of the inaugural pieces that further this objective. The artwork that equally serves Toronto and Kinngait, the Nunavut community where it originated, by energizing The Bentway with an unexpected sculpture and giving back to the community of Kinngait. All funds received for this commission will be used for a locally-run Youth Land-trip Program in Kinngait.
But honouring Indigenous land and moving toward Reconciliation is not simply about visual reminders of the past, but also about returning to the notion of The Bentway lands as a gathering place for people. In its reimagining of a structure that has defined Toronto’s urban landscape for more than 60 years, The Bentway reconnects the city to Lake Ontario and knits together seven local neighbourhoods which are home to over 70,000 residents in themselves. Ken Greenberg, one of the development’s designers describes The Bentway as part of a larger trend towards the “inevitable reverse engineering of the city away from total dependence on the automobile and going towards other forms of mobility”. When pedestrians and cyclists have safe paths to navigate and residents have access to outdoor gathering places, the city truly becomes a community.
“This is allowing us to socialize more as a neighbourhood than we have in the past,” agrees neighbourhood resident, Amy Myhall.
The Bentway is located under the Gardiner Expressway.