Toronto will mark the third anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with a commemorative gathering and a 24-hour interactive public art installation called The Burn at Nathan Phillip Square this weekend.
The event will get underway at sunset on Saturday and will include an Indigenous welcome, an ancestral acknowledgement, a moment of silence to acknowledge friends and loved ones lost, and a special appearance by Juno award-winning singer-songwriter Jully Black. It will also feature a water-themed “Integration Zone” in the City Hall Rotunda featuring 24 hours of wellness programming like sound baths, meditation, and movement.
On Saturday, people will be invited to place intentions, which are written on cedar spheres, in three fire pits dedicated to letting go, transformation and new beginnings. Cedar spheres will be distributed during the event.
Accredited mental health and grief counselling professionals along with community specialists will be on hand to provide support.
Saturday’s commemorative gathering is the culmination of The Burn Vessels Tour, which also made stops at downtown Toronto’s Mackenzie House and Elmbank Community Centre in Etobicoke.
“The Burn has already been a deeply impactful public art experience as it has travelled across the city. The Commemorative gathering will be a wonderful culmination of this work, and I encourage residents to take part in this unique opportunity to collectively reflect and heal from the impacts of the pandemic,” Don Valley North Coun. Shelley Carroll, the chair of the city’s Economic and Community Development Committee, said in a release.
Led by award-winning artist Roger Mooking in collaboration with artist/designer Javid JAH and multi-disciplinary artist and Wyandot Elder Catherine Tammaro, the project is part of the City of Toronto’s free and accessible Stronger TOgether program.
Funded in part by the federal government, Stronger TOgether aims to provide people across the city with opportunities to reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic recognizing disproportionately affected communities and those who continue to live with the effects of it.
“The Burn at Nathan Phillips Square is an opportunity for the people of this city to heal individually and collectively. As a community, we come together to share in these moments and lean on one another to find a way forward. Love Only Beyond This Point,” Mooking said in a release.
More than three years ago, on Jan. 25, 2020, the first presumptive case of what is now known as COVID-19 was reported in Toronto after a man in his 50s travelled to Wuhan, China. He recovered from the illness after receiving treatment at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Since then, Toronto has seen more than 4,500 COVID-19 deaths.