If the Mayor Rob Ford worried about getting booed at the Toronto Arts Awards lunch on Thursday, he sure didn't get what he expected. Celebrants greeted him warmly when he entered the Arcadian Court for the presentation of awards sponsored by the Toronto Arts Foundation.
Lydia Adams, winner of the Roy Thomson Award of Recognition, made a point of thanking the mayor for attending. Later award presenter OCAD president Sara Diamond - whose resumé actually has some radical cred - also breathlessly thanked His Worship for being present.
Really? It's called the Mayor's Arts Awards, so why shouldn't he show? Maybe it's because he blew off the event last year so he could attend to some personal matters - the football team he coaches. Maybe it's because he's shown an antipathy towards handling other aspects of his job, like attending the Pride parade.
True, he did go to the flag-raising ceremony on the International Day Against Homophobia last month. But there also, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam - who, okay, is trying to build bridges and worked hard to draw the mayor to the event - went a little too far in lavishing praise on the mayor for doing what every person who occupies City Hall's front office is expected to do.
This year's award winners were Adams, Chris Curreri, who took the RBC Emerging Artist Award, Jini Stolk, who won the William Kilbourn prize awarded to someone who's made a special contribution to Toronto's cultural life, the Daniels Corporation, winner of the Toronto Arts and Business Award and Arts for Youth Award winner Supporting Our Youth.
But there was no question that the mayor's presence was a major factor.
To his credit, though he did look slightly uncomfortable, Ford said all the right things about the importance of the arts in a speech that was mercifully brief - an almost refreshing change from former arts-boosting mayor David Miller's lengthy presentations at the event, obviously designed to build his own political capital.
But really, let's stop fawning all over Ford when he does what he was elected to do.