One of the main purposes of the Grand OnStage program presented by the City of Kingston is to provide Kingston audiences with opportunities to see artists from across Canada and around the world.  We love having the chance to share these artists with our audiences and we also try to create opportunities for people to meet and learn from these artists as well.  Often those opportunities includes pre- and post-performance talks and sometimes they include master classes or school visits.

Peggy Baker residency

Sometimes we’re able to go even further and organize what are called “creative residencies”.  These opportunities are different because they involve bringing an artist to Kingston over an extended period of time to create new work or to connect with Kingston residents through workshops and performances.  These kinds of creative residencies first began in 2013 when RUBBERBANDance from Montreal came to Kingston to create a new work and continued in 2014 when Dreamwalker Dance Company helped to create a collaborative work called The Whole Shebang that was performed as part of the opening of the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning.

Contemporary dance has been an important focus of these creative residences and, this year, marks the end of a four-year residency with renowned Canadian dancer Peggy Baker whose company will be presenting a brand new work called who we are in the dark at the Grand Theatre on April 9.  This relationship first began in August 2015 when the Cultural Services Department brought Peggy Baker to Kingston to start of a three-year summer residency at the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning.

During that first year, Peggy Baker worked with a group of local dancers and dance enthusiasts to rehearse and perform a piece called move.  Over 150 people attended the final performance at the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning and the participants spoke about how the rehearsal process and the performance together demonstrated how powerful and important it was to be able to work with one of Canada’s best-known dancers to create something so meaningful they could share with a local audience.

Peggy Baker returned in 2016 to work with the community to present two pieces called FLUX and FLUXDelux at the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning and in Springer Market Square. Using a simple set of instructions to guide movement, Peggy Baker created a fun and fascinating adventure in action and interaction for community members of all ages. Once set in motion, participants created an ever-evolving piece of group choreography. Her 2016 residency also included a free public performance of the piece five poems for body and breath at the Grand Theatre.

In the final year of her residency, in 2017, Peggy Baker expanded her working process to include vocal and musical elements in addition to dance.  In partnership with musician and singer Fides Krucker, Peggy Baker shared movement and music workshops with local seniors’ residences. Together, Peggy and Fides also mentored a cast of local youth and adult performers to present chorus, a work that integrated dance, music and vocal scores. You can read more about this experience here

Now, in 2019, Peggy Baker returns to Kingston with her company Peggy Baker Dance Projects to present a new work she has been created in collaboration with musicians Sarah Neufeld and Jeremy Gara from Arcade Fire. This piece, which recently premiered in Toronto, is supercharged with live music and explores shifting identities, betrayals, secrets, and intimacies that play out in the dark in a truly striking fashion.  As a regular subscriber to dance performances at the Grand Theatre it is exciting to have seen how our city’s relationship with Peggy Baker has evolved over the past four years and it is especially exciting to be able to share her latest work, which is one of her most ambitious in terms of scale and scope.

The City of Kingston acknowledges the Ontario Arts Council and their support for bringing Peggy Baker to Kingston. 

Kingston has long been known as a city that is culturally vibrant.  In fact, when I first started working with the City of Kingston almost 10 years ago, there was already so much going on in terms of music, theatre, art, literature, film, craft and more.  The level of activity that already existed was remarkable but it had also become clear there was more the City could do to highlight these activities, to get more people interested and involved and to demonstrate how the arts could benefit the community more broadly.

Culture is about art and creativity but it’s also about so much more.  It’s a force that unites people and creates a sense of pride and shared identity.  It’s about values, beliefs, customs, languages and traditions and it’s also has economic benefits in terms of employment, innovation, economic development and tourism because people seek out places to live and visit that are known to be culturally vibrant.  This requires work and that is why the City of Kingston adopted its first-ever culture plan in 2010.

The purpose of the Kingston Culture Plan was to create a sustainable, authentic, long-term vision for cultural vitality in Kingston.  The Plan was built around three focus areas that included Stories, Places and Capacity and outlined strategic directions, initiatives and recommendations for action and an implementation timeline.  It also identified opportunities for collaboration among City departments in support of municipal objectives as well as possibilities for connections between cultural organizations and local stakeholders to achieve outcomes that are mutually beneficial.

Cover image of Kingston Culture Plan

That work has been underway for almost a decade now and much has been accomplished at the City and within the community that has helped to propel Kingston forward as a community that punches above its weight in terms of culture and cultural vitality.  Some of this work is more obvious like the growth of the Grand OnStage program, the renovation of the J.K. Tett Centre, increased arts and heritage funding and the creation of a public art master plan.  However, a lot of this work is less obvious like the fact that culture in all its many different forms is now the driving force behind Kingston’s tourism brand “fresh made daily”.

Coffee & Company employees

It’s important to share all the great things that are going on here in Kingston and that’s the point of this blog.  To explore the work the City of Kingston is doing on its own and in collaboration with people across the community to leverage the arts, heritage and culture in ways that benefit as many people as possible.  It’s a fact that culture is important to Canadians with 86% of the population attending arts activities, 77% reading a book, 70% visiting a heritage site and 50% making art.  Culture also accounts for 3% of Canada’s GDP as well as well as 3.5% of all jobs in Canada. Its impact is significant nationally and that’s increasingly true at a local level here in Kingston and that’s what we look forward to exploring through this blog.

Cultural vitality as the experience of the arts, heritage and culture in all its diversity. Follow our posts and you're welcome to leave a comment below.

Recently, I received a thoughtful message from a community member about my Mar. 5 briefing to council  regarding the City’s proposed mid-rise and tall building design guidelines. This individual’s note referenced an excellent article I’d like to share on human-scale design in relation to mid-rise buildings, as well as a recent Whig article where I acknowledged that “the public has a lot of misconceptions about the tall buildings in the city.” Ironically, there have been some misconceptions about the statement itself and what it says about the City’s interpretation of the Official Plan. 

At almost 600 pages, the City’s Official Plan is designed as a comprehensive set of policies to implement the City’s land use planning goals. It’s a 20 year vision to manage change and to direct growth. It contains many different considerations, which at times can appear to be in conflict with one another, with cross-referencing policies throughout the document.

When I shared my opinion about the public having “misconceptions” about tall buildings and the official plan, I was referring to the sheer level of complexity in the official plan and about just how many different places across the City may consider tall and mid-rise buildings as a matter of current policy. Some Official Plan policies have prescriptive language like ‘shall’ – which designates a requirement - but some also use more passive language like ‘should consider’ – which is advisory - within similar sections of the Plan.  Interpreting the Official Plan can be a complicated undertaking – even for City Planners - and after 4 years in the role of Chief Planner I continue to identify additional challenges with the City’s Plan. Most importantly, at present the Official Plan has insufficient policy to set clear expectations about building form.

The Mid-rise and Tall Building policy work currently underway in collaboration with Brent Toderian is intended to address this gap in policy. The scope related to mid-rise and tall building policy project includes the preparation of draft policies which govern the overall building footprint, tower setbacks from the base – or podium – of the building, street-level design , articulation and arrangement of balconies on the tower. All of these elements build upon key principles of urbanism achieved by cities who do ‘density well’, while being appropriate and sensitive to the Kingston context. I’ve put together a quick video the mid-rise and tall building work currently underway and to introduce the new Project Manager, Andrea Gummo, who will be working on this project.


Please join us for the first public engagement sessions for this project for the last week of April. Some of these planning concepts are introducing new language and ideas for the community to discuss and are intended to be both educational and engaging. Stay tuned over the next few weeks for more information on how to sign up and participate in one of these sessions.

A vibrant, inclusive discussion of city building requires as many voices at the table as possible. That’s why the planning division wants to help get residents caught up to speed on all planning matters and the process of city building. If you’ve got a questions about the mid-rise and tall building policy project contact Andrea at  and she will get back to you as soon as possible! As always, members of the public can also send me an email or give me a call.

The City has made changes to the proposed Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendments that will allow second residential units to be created across the city.

Second residential units include basement apartments, in-law suites, coach-houses and other separate apartments that may be in or detached from a primary residence. These units create affordable housing in two ways:

  1. They offer homeowners a way to earn income that can help them pay off their mortgages.
  2. They increase supply in the rental market.

The revised amendments have been made in response to feedback that has been received and speak to how we may appropriately accommodate more of these units across the city. Interested in second residential units?  Please offer your feedback on the proposed changes at the City's Get Involved page until Monday, Feb. 4.

Kingston needs more affordable housing and encouraging the creation of more second residential units is one great way to encourage homeowners to help address this urgent need.

Want to see how Kingston is expected to grow? See the draft report of the Population, Housing and Employment Forecast Study and offer your comments by 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 19.

If you are planning a city, it helps to know who you are planning it for and where they might live and work.

This is why the City updates its Population, Housing and Employment Projections Study every five years. The current study, now underway, offers low, medium and high-range population projections for Kingston and the Kingston Census Metropolitan Area and specifically captures the anticipated change in the local student population. These projections are based on recent Census data and other local data sources.

The City will use the findings to help make transportation, land-use, program and financial plans and decisions. But these projections are also useful for anyone who is making big plans for the future in Kingston. You can use them to hone your business plans, to decide to buy property or create a new program. Having a solid set of projections can help validate your decisions and point you to opportunities.

Come see how Kingston’s future is shaping up at an open house to present the initial findings of the current study. It’s on Monday, Dec. 3 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Press Lounge at the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, 53 Yonge St. A formal presentation is set for 6 p.m. and will be followed by a question and answer period. 

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