The Bentway and Toronto artist, Shellie Zhang, invite newcomer communities to reflect on and share your First Winter memories.
Every newcomer remembers their first Toronto winter – watching streetcars make their way through snow-lined streets, finding their local neighborhood skating rink, or discovering local winter pastimes that help us embrace this cold season.
As Toronto continues to welcome many newcomers to the city every year, we’re asking our communities to reflect on the moments of connection that helped shape their first season. What spaces or activities brought you joy, or warmth? During these long and dark months, where did you find light? How does this First Winter experience differ for each of us, and how can public space be a site for coming together and celebrating these experiences across multiple communities?
Your First Winter memories will create a collective visual display and public presentation at The Bentway Skate Trail at 250 Fort York Blvd, Toronto, ON, and online below.
First Winter Memories
The Canadian winter shocked me in 2009. My hometown snows, but rarely this much. My feelings toward snow turn from “YAY! It’s snowing!”, to “DxxNIT! IT’S SNOWING AGAIN!”. I got my first and hopefully last frostbite, by not wearing boots in January; that taught me how to dress like a Canadian. But, I’m still in love with this country in white: Poutine warms my frozen stomach; Hot chocolate tastes great in -50 degrees; Canada Goose is the best coat I’ve ever had… Canada is not silenced in winter, it becomes a winter wonderland.
– Yechen Zhang
Since I’m coming from a country with all 4 seasons, winter wasn’t a new thing for me. What was different was the way people really try and do enjoy it here. I noticed people being outdoors way more than back home (our winter can be cold too, but for a short period of time, when people mostly hide indoors and don’t do much outside, besides shoveling the snow). My first big winter memory is definitely skiing for the first time. I was in an ESL school, that organized one day trip to the Horseshoe Valley for their students. It was an amazing experience. I felt so good about it, it gave me a sense of belonging to the community, which as a newcomer was very important to me.
Before experiencing winters here, I never thought an entire Country’s happiness could depend on a season. Everyone just seems sad and stays indoors. I am sure that people with families are happy to do that, but when you are living alone in a new city, it’s very difficult to do that. I did try to embrace the winters by going out for runs quite often and trying new things. Having access to ice skating at The Bentway site has helped for sure. But the general inability to go out whenever you want, and the lack of sun was difficult. Also, the winters are a bit too long for my liking.