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Animating Open Streets
Michelle Senayah 

Public space is about getting from A to B, but also about connecting with other people. When we turn Bloor and Yonge streets into a temporary paved park for Open Streets, we make sure to create spaces along the route where people can do just that - whether they’re painting a mural, playing some touch rugby, or learning to dance samba.

 

The activity hubs spaced along the Open Streets route are nodes of free programming where local organizations and businesses lead interactive activities for event-goers. With nine main hubs, a dozen independent storefront activations, and over 50 activity leaders, this takes some serious coordination!

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To manage this, we keep things as simple as possible. First, we organize ourselves in layers: nine hub leaders to coordinate the activities in each hub, three programming supervisors to keep tabs on hubs and independent activations along a third of the route each, and a programming director to oversee it all and tie the programming in with the rest of the Open Streets effort - route planning, permitting and promotion.

 

Then, we reach out far and wide in the city to civic organizations, community centres, businesses, arts groups, schools, neighbourhood associations and more to invite them to submit proposals for the activities that they’d like to lead in a hub. We provide the space free of charge, and keep our rules clear and concise: activities must be free, interactive and family-friendly, and activity leaders must bring their own setup requirements. Our hub leaders and programming supervisors are there to share preparation details and answer questions from activity leaders in the lead-up to each event - but not to micro-manage the activities. As long as they respect our parameters, all types of activation are welcome!

Finally, we bring it all together on event day. Activity leaders, hub leaders, programming supervisors and the programming director arrive early to get set up ready for the event to start, and then work together over the next four hours to bring each hub to life and make sure that everything runs smoothly. It’s always great to experience the huge variety of programming that activity leaders bring out, and especially to see how much people enjoy being out and active together in their streets.

 

Looking forward to a great fifth Open Streets year!

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