Corp Comm Connects

'Otherwise this is not a real city': Vaughan injecting an artsy vibe into downtown core as music festival hits a high note

New community centre builds in recreation facility, library, YMCA branch
June 20, 2022
Yoyo Yan

With a first-of-its-kind music festival making a splash, the City of Vaughan kicked off its game plan to integrate arts and culture into its emerging downtown core -- at the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC).

The inaugural Vaughan International Music Festival ended on a high note with a stunning "Hallelujah" quartet performance by Canadian vocal group The Tenors and their guest, Italian singer Alberto Urso.

The free-admission multicultural festival showcased musical talents ranging from Asian to Caribbean. The party attracted more than 1,000 music lovers to the VMC transit square over the weekend June 11 and 12, according to city councillor Sandra Yeung Racco, the mastermind behind the music festival.

"In any city that you're building, you must bring arts and culture there," said Yeung Racco, a passionate musician herself. "Otherwise, this is not a real city."

The volunteer-based, corporate-sponsored music festival also featured Toronto's child prodigy Roberta Battaglia from "America's Got Talent" and Vaughan's own "American Idol" sensation Nicolina Bozzo.

"I'm so happy to be part of this community where everyone is so close," Bozzo told the Vaughan Citizen just after coming off stage. "It's definitely amazing to be performing back home where it all started."

Yeung Racco hopes the music festival will serve as a springboard to help jump-start the transformation of the city's new downtown.

"It is going to instigate more," the councillor said. "Arts and culture is a critical component to the economy of any city. And I think this is what we're doing.

"We want to use music to embrace diversity because we live in such a multicultural community. We want to support our young emerging artists."

After two years of a pandemic, she said it's even more vital to have such festivals for the public to congregate and celebrate.

The city is currently in the process of updating the VMC secondary plan and residents are invited to have a say on the priorities for the area. By 2031, according to the city, up to 63,350 residents in almost 32,000 residential units are expected to move into the trendy downtown core, in the vicinity of the VMC station.

In 2017, Vaughan made history when it became home to the first subway station in the GTA outside Toronto. In 2019, the VMC made headlines again when it became home to Niagara University's permanent location, the first-ever university to be established in Vaughan and York Region.

Last year, the downtown core was festooned by artists with 30,000-square-foot murals and vibrant graffiti, creating a breathtaking work of art.

More recently, a new state-of-the-art recreation facility and library is calling VMC home too.

The David Braley Vaughan Metropolitan Centre of Community, set to open June 20, includes the city's newest recreation venue, a public library branch and a YMCA centre.

Located in the heart of the VMC at 200 Apple Mill Rd., the community centre is just steps away from the VMC subway station, making it easily accessible to the entire community.

The Vaughan Studios & Event Space is a new 19,000-square-foot recreation venue with a rooftop terrace. That venue will offer premium recreation programming for the community, including a Dancing Chefs summer camp.

Only a few blocks away, the Cineplex Cinemas Vaughan is gearing up for the Vaughan International Film Festival, which is celebrating a special milestone of its 10th edition June 20 to 23.

To councillor Yeung Racco, the buzz the first music festival has created brings both confidence and challenge for the future ones.

"It is our hope that it's going to be an annual (event) and we're going to add maybe a dance component next year," she said. "We will try to continue to stay free, but we need the support of the community and the corporate, so everyone can become a friend of our festival."

With The Tenors setting the bar so high, however, the longtime councillor is unsure how to surpass that. "I will try my best to top that."