Robert Pajot, Project Leader, Regeneration, National Trust for Canada
The challenges facing historic places of faith are daunting, yet across the country congregations and communities are finding creative new uses and partnerships to revitalize these important landmarks.
On an unseasonably warm (22 degrees!) November evening, myself and my partners from ArtsBuild Ontario and Toronto Arts Council set out on a walk across Philadelphia to Christ Church Neighbourhood House. This was the first of two trips to explore the ways in which arts groups are thriving within faith buildings and often in collaboration with faith communities.
Today I’m continuing my exploration of Faith/Arts Cohabitation with a quick tour of two great spaces in Philadelphia. In October 2017, I was there working with ArtsBuild Ontario, Faith & the Common Good and the Toronto Arts Council (funded by the Metcalf Foundation) examining a variety of working models for mutual support between arts and faith groups.
Playwright Marcus Youssef upon accepting this year’s Siminovitch Prize for playwriting gave a speech that clarified my interest in the intersection of faith communities with the broader community. Youssef wrote about his interest in points of intersection and the space between people, spoken and unspoken.
When I tell people my job at the National Trust is all about promoting and supporting the regeneration of historic sites, I get some puzzled looks. For us heritage types who use the Standards and Guidelines, we can understand that regeneration includes all the activities under the conservation umbrella. But for most people, the light bulb only really goes off when I say that our objective is to revitalize historic sites in a sustainable way that makes them relevant to today’s society.