The Art Bar Poetry Series, Canada’s longest-running weekly reading series focused specifically on poetry, will end this summer, drawing the curtain on a quarter century of providing poets, authors and spoken-word performers a stage.
Audience numbers for the Toronto-based series, which has had many homes over the past 25 years, recently has been inconsistent, says Cynthia Gould, the Art Bar’s interim director, with high-profile authors often reading to a near-empty room, and relative newcomers facing a full house. “As big and wonderful as Art Bar is, we don’t want it to fizzle out,” she says. “We don’t want to be at the point where our audience says, ‘Oh it used to be great, but know it’s kinda meh.’”
The recent departure of several members of the Art Bar’s volunteer board initiated a discussion on the series’ future, resulting in the conclusion that it was time to say goodbye.
Poet Robert Priest says the end of one series shouldn’t necessarily be seen as dire to the industry. “This may mark a dip in the reading scene but I’m confident poetry isn’t on the verge of fading away anytime soon.”
Stephen Humphrey, a former director of the Art Bar’s board, agrees with priest. He says the decision to end the series actually stemmed from the growth of Toronto’s live poetry scene. “The Art Bar isn’t as necessary as it used to be,” he says.
The Art Bar Poetry Series was founded in 1991 by Allen Sutterfield, and originally met at the Gladstone Hotel. Over the past 25 years, more than 3,000 authors have read on the Art Bar stage, including George Elliott Clarke, Shane Koyczan, and Christian Bök. The series will end its run with a grand finale evening on June 28 at its current home, the Black Swan Tavern.