The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto
|St. George's Hall (Arts and Letters Club)|
|National Historic Site of Canada|
The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto
|Original use||Private club|
|Current use||Private club|
|Administrative body||The Arts and Letters Club|
|Designated as a NHSC||2007|
|Other designations||Designated under the Ontario Heritage Act by By-law 513-75|
|Architect||Edwards & Webster (1891), Sproatt & Rolph (1920 alterations)|
The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto (usually just called The Arts and Letters Club) is a private club in Toronto, Ontario which brings together writers, architects, musicians, painters, graphic artists, actors, and others working in or with a love of the arts.
History and background
The club was founded in 1908 by journalist Augustus Bridle, "Member # 1"! In 1920 it moved to its present quarters at St. George's Hall, which has a lounge, meeting rooms, a library, and a two-story Great Hall where meals are served and performances and lunch time and evening talks take place.
The club has been an important part of Canadian cultural life since its founding. The Group of Seven were all members and regularly met for lunch at the Club, as did composers Healey Willan and Sir Ernest MacMillan. The annual Boar's Head Dinner is believed to be the oldest event of its kind in North America, and the Club's constitution is unique in that every year it is sung at the annual general meeting to music specially composed by Willan.
The club's artistic life revolves around its "LAMPS disciplines": Literature, Architecture, Music, Painting, and Theatre|Stage. These are very broadly defined and include sculpture, photography, film/radio and TV arts, screenwriting, urban planning and other related fields. The Club welcomes both Professional Members, whose careers have been associated with one of more of these; however, it also has many non-professional members, who appreciate and support the arts.
Membership in the Arts & Letters Club encompasses not only a wide range of art practices, but also includes men and women in all age groups from early 20's, through every decade including a handful of lively and engaged members now in their 90's. The events offered by the Club include lunch time talks and concerts, dinners with speakers on subjects of current interest, film nights, stage performances, studio painting sessions three days a week, art exhibitions for members which rotate monthly, and in-Club groups interested in photography, writing and poetry. Attracting the younger crowd, are the lively Ad Lib nights each Friday, which host everything from performance art, to improv, jam sessions and games.
The Club's fine art collection and wealth of archival material relates to its rich history. Throughout its century plus life-span, it has had well-established relationships with many equally influential fine arts and literary associations, and it has hosted many important art exhibitions.
Aside from the Group of Seven, Willan, and MacMillan, some other well-known members of the club were John Joy, Hector Charlesworth, Robertson Davies, M. O. Hammond, George Locke, Charles William Jefferys, and Mavor Moore.
Since its founding, two club members have become Nobel laureates (Frederick Banting and John Macleod), six have been knighted (including Banting and MacMillan) and, since 1967, more than 150 have been named to the Order of Canada.
The club's archives contains a wide variety of original material documenting membership and activities since its founding. The archives are open to scholars, historians, and other researchers.
A history of the club was published in 2008. The book, entitled "The Great Adventure: 100 years of the Arts and Letters Club" was written by Margaret McBurney who is a past president of the Club.
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