January 23, 2019
By Arianne Robinson
This week, the city’s public theatre agency launched a partnership with Meridian Credit Union in a deal that goes beyond the naming rights of two out of three of the city’s venues – to the provision of space for the company to provide financial literacy to the public.
In addition to the naming rights for the Sony Centre and the Toronto Centre for the Arts (which will become Meridian Hall and Meridian Centre for the Arts in September), the partnership will allow representatives from Meridian to be entrenched in spaces in the city’s public theatres, such as the lobbies.
Clyde Wagner, CEO and president of TO Live (the agency’s new brand), insists it will be a service that goes beyond marketing.
“When we talk about providing community space and providing [yoga and dance] classes to community … financial literacy classes can also be offered, and they are just as equally valuable and there’s no reason why these things can’t go hand in hand,” Wagner said by phone.
Asked if patrons should expect to have Meridian’s representatives sell them products when they go to see a show, Wagner says “It won’t be like that… It would be a very elegant presence of being in the space and if people chose to come over and participate or had questions, they could activate in that way.”
To what extent the experience of going to the theatre could change for audience members is yet to be known. However, Wagner does note the precedent that was already set when Sony had a store in part of the building for a number of years (though it was not in the lobby).
“[Meridian is] not like a big nameless cold bank that’s hard selling financial products,” Wagner said. “You will see how they operate and you will be so impressed. You’re not going to get this ‘Oh my god, they’re trying to sell me an RRSP deduction in the lobby of the theatre.’ It’s not the way they operate.”
The details of how the partnership will actually play out will be seen over time. The city’s public theatre agency will soon launch their five-year strategic plan, and Meridian Credit Union plans to launch a national digital bank called motusbank (not part of the agreement with the city’s public theatre agency).
As for the potential confusion between Meridian Hall and Meridian Centre for the Arts, Wagner thinks the fact that there are actually four theatres in the Toronto Centre for the Arts will help.
“When you go to what will be Meridian Hall, which is the Sony Centre, you’re going to buy a ticket [that says] Amy Schumer at Meridian Hall. But if you go to a show, like the Toronto-Korean Canadian Choir, up at the George Weston Recital Hall, you’re going to go to the Toronto-Korean Choir, at the George Weston, in the Meridian Arts Centre.“
Local city councillor John Filion is pleased about the deal. “It’s a very significant amount of money that we can do great things with. I don’t know Meridian well but they seem to be a terrifically good match.” (Filion is the local councillor for the Toronto Centre for the Arts which has seen major renovations over the last decade, and is also a member of the city’s theatre agency.)
Filion hopes to see some of the $30.75 million go towards more “diverse community programming,” such as jazz trumpet player Etienne Charles who he calls an example of the type of the programming that is part of the city’s new recent amalgamated theatre structure.
For Wagner it’s all about their programming mandate, “a move towards making sure the entire city can see themselves on stage.”