In Celebration

Our friends at Soundstreams are kicking of their 30th anniversary season and offering NAN members an exclusive 2 for 1  concert deal!

Come celebrate at Koerner Hall on October 11 at 8:00 pm. This spectacular concert features works by contemporary masters R. Murray Schafer, Steve Reich, and Arvo Pärt, performances by Gryphon Trio, soprano Shannon Mercer, and percussion ensemble NEXUS, and a new interactive electro-acoustic work for you to experience in the lobby.

Call 416-408-0208 and quote the code “SS30” or buy online.

Advertisements

DYPP: Take A Sick Day On August 18

Take a Sick Day! is an August 18, 2012 event organized by the Disabled Young People’s Project. Read on to learn more about DYPP’s objectives, motivations and inspirations.

What is DYPP all about?

We’re all about Youth + Art + Community

Take a Sick Day! Video Trailer

Video trailer courtesy of Disabled Young People’s Project; all rights reserved. Click video to watch.

Disabled Young People’s Project centers the experiences of young people of colour with disabilities through arts based initiatives and community events. The objective of DYPP is to connect young people with disabilities. We are a diverse group of racialized people who identity with or find disability concretely relevant to our everyday lives.

It’s hard to say where the project began, it’s as if it’s always been happening but it started out with the recognition that there is an urgent need for a space that addresses the impact of disability, the ways in which it is framed and understood in our society, in our homes and within our communities as well as and the impact that this framing has had on our lives as people concretely affected by disability. DYPP is a part of recognizing that our communities have always been talking about disability but that the way the growing disability discourse as we know it is largely shaped by whiteness and the west, and white supremacy in activist spaces, in academic institutions and in global policy and actions that seek to address and measure “disability” so that it is as if we are “new” to the scene.

The project stems out of an urgent need to address the fact that disability is contested and has always been – historically, within our city limits and transnationally – and that we must began to do something about it. It’s about recognizing the past, the work that has been done by those that have come before us in our communities and moving forward. We recognize that it is an old tool of colonization and domination: divide and conquer to keep our communities as well as communities of resistance siloed and separated from one another. To that end, we seek to take action in anyway we can to end discrimination and oppression against people with disabilities. For us, this project is very much about saying that race is not a separate issue from disability; neither is queerness, neither is gender, neither is labour and work, neither is education and poverty and access to education.

Take a Sick Day! Flyer

One important thing to mention is that we recognize that we are operating in a nonprofit industrial complex within a neoliberal socio-economic system and so we are trying to think of ways to do the work that we recognize ought to be done with the resources that we have available to us. We are a very new project. We do not know how long we will be here for but while we are here we hope to create safer spaces for our communities to gather in dialogue to  and to discuss what it means to be told that we are ill, sick, or unwell and what it means to have different bodies from those around us who have claimed normal for themselves.

One of the things that we feel we can do right now is to create room for nonjudgmental dialogue and learning and education among members of our community. Many of us have faced extreme isolation in our everyday lives as we’ve tried to deal. It has been very painful, it has been very costly. We know that that this is not ok, and so Take a Sick Day! was born.

Why ‘Take a Sick Day’?

The event is called Take a Sick Day! as a way of calling attention to and honoring the ways in which many racialized, poor and working people with disabilities too often are forgotten or erased from conversations about disability, especially in western contexts. We wanted to draw attention to all the ramifications of the associations of health and disability.

We recognize that an insistence on the careful disassociation of disability from health by many disability scholars and activists is actually a very dominant theme in Euro-American white disability scholarship and activism. Overwhelming emphasis is put on separating disability from health and illness – mainly by social model advocates….We think that the initial insistence was due to saving disability from the domination and authority of medical expertise and discourse, but unfortunately it was done at the expense of many disabled people, by erasing/ignoring one of the main reasons of disablement, namely timely access to adequate health care on a global level.

We no longer find this useful and don’t understand the point of separating “health” from disability, in that they function along the same lines to oppress different bodies and impose very costly – to those labeled as such – ramifications, such as institutionalization and criminalization.

The name Take a Sick Day! is also about the false constructions of merit and labour, the idea that sick days are extravagant, a luxury and cost in a society that has a way of devaluing the constructions of the “disabled body”.

Take a Sick Day! is one event, and we recognize that much more is needed. For some of us, this is just the beginning. Some of us are going because we’ve felt removed from the disability community or didn’t feel like we were a part of one. Others, because it would be nice to be around other youth of colour with disabilities, to learn from each other as a refreshing change. There are lots of giveaways, swag bags and art. The food, the TTC Tokens… come because you want to!

What do you hope will grow out of this event?

Community and a space for youth of colour to discuss disability amongst ourselves. We are not sure what that will look like yet.

Who are the local artists who inspire you?

There are many local artists, groups, scholars, writers who have inspired us as a collective. Aside from the inspiration we draw from ourselves we have to shout out some special people to us.

Artreach Toronto for their unrelenting patience and support for this Project, for maintaining accessible and youth friendly funding structure and for cheering us on all the way! Annu Saini at Frequency Feminisms for her extraordinary art and facilitation skills and amazing show at Radio Regent;Esther Ignani and Critical Disability Studies at Ryerson;Rachel Gorman, Assistant Professor at Critical Disability Studies for quietly and confidently believing in DYPP and creating the most accessible classroom ever for many of us; Robertha Timothy for her outstanding scholarly contribution to race and disability studies; Andrew LaRose for his amazing music from his upcoming album ‘Playground’; Leroy Moore and Sins invalid,Pauline Hwang at paulinehwang.ca,Golshan Abdmoulaie, Tess Vo at the reachOUT Program, Griffin Centre,Isabel Mackenzie Lay, Darcel Bullen at METRAC (Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence against Women and Children), Jayson Gallop Photography,Cory Silverberg, Yaya Yao, Bessie Head; all the members of our advisory board and the numerous other folks who have been our friends and allies and made this day happen!

DYPP logo

Check out the Disabled Young People’s Project’s ‘Take a Sick Day’ at the AGO on August 18, 2012.

For more info, please visit http://takesickday.wordpress.com

How and Why It Is: Arts-Based Research in Community Engaged Public Visual Art

CTCHC Community Mosaic Project is a partnership between Red Dress Productions and Central Toronto Community Health Centres.

Image: Four Directions Turtle

In community-engaged art contexts, we’re often asked: How do community consultations connect with the design? What is the relationship between you (the artists), contributors, and communities?

The answer – or, more accurately, the answers – are layered and nuanced. This narrative attempts to retrace and distill the collaborative process that we call “arts-based research”, or alternately, community consultation (of which arts-based research is the major component, and the foundation of our work in and with communities).

The backstory: In February 2011, Red Dress Productions was approached by CTCHC to partner on the CTCHC Community Mosaic Project. We spent the next year fundraising, imagining, and planning the project. In January 2012, we began.

Image: Research Workshop

Contribution stations with images and project information, along with flipcharts and markers and a suggestion box were installed in the centre’s lobby and the primary care area on 2nd floor to welcome ideas. Extensive promotion and outreach was done both within the health centre itself, and beyond through grassroots networks and with community partners[1].

We met with more than 150[2]  project contributors to: inquire and listen; brainstorm ideas, themes, and motif; and experiment with visual expressions using accessible approaches to art making. We facilitated a total of 12 community consultations with program participants, community members, staff and board members at Central Toronto Community Health Centres – home of Queen West Community Health Centre and Shout Clinic.

Pastel City

At each consultation, we assume little or no prior knowledge of the project, who we are, or our approach to community art. We begin at the beginning: introductions and welcomes, a review of the project’s path and development process, where we are in the project at the time of the consultation, what we’ve heard from contributors at previous consultations, and where we were going.

Food, drink, art materials, and project handbills were laid out, and a projection system was set up. Transit tokens were made available to increase access, and, at two consultations, we had the support of an Anishinabe Elder, and a Cantonese and Mandarin interpreter. We worked hard to thread the voices of contributors from previous consultations.  On a practical level, we did this by recording discussion points and ideas (without personal identifiers), and photographing contributor-generated artwork at each consultation, which we shared these ideas and images at subsequent consultations.

Most of the consultations took place in specific programs at the centre including Four Winds, TRIP, Sketch, the Perinatal Program, Primary Care, an all staff meeting, and a Harm Reduction Open House. We also held three public consultations, which were open to anyone interested in being a part of the project.  Each consultation was designed to meet the needs of contributors, with the time amount of time available (from one to three hours), depending upon the program. We brainstormed in large and small groups, and had many one-to-one conversations. We made art with a range of materials including oil pastel, foam plate “carving” and printing, and collage.

Collage

Essentially, we invited contributors to move from spoken language into visual language. Many contributors said, “I’m not an artist,” or “I can’t draw.” We offered materials and encouragement: Try experimenting with colour, with shapes. If you move your pastel across the sheet, something will show up. We returned to our anchor questions: If there was an artwork on the CTCHC building that welcomed you and the communities you’re a part of, what might it be? What creates healthy communities? What does this look like?

 We also talked about the wall that the artwork would ultimately live on (at the front entrance of the building on Bathurst Street), and discussed public space, and other site-specific environmental and architectural elements. At the end of each consultation, we reviewed our findings from this participatory arts-based research – notes, brainstorm maps, sketches, prints, and collages – and together, we identified key words or phrases, themes, and visual motif.

Survivor Drawing

The great volume of material produced through the consultation process – more than 200 small solo and multiple artworks, 20 pages of notes, and 15 flipchart brainstorm maps  – draws clear lines between the social determinants of health including access to safe and affordable housing, nutritious food, non-judgmental health care, and community engagement. Certain images and motif repeated; however, accompanying stories and perspectives carried distinct and often multiple meanings.

Let’s look at water, as one example. Water was drawn as lake, river, stream, and ocean. Water was also suggested by canoes, kayaks, and boats; sea and freshwater birds, beavers, fish, turtles, and Turtle Island itself. There were stories of selkies, merfolk, water spirits and sprites; deep water, still waters, and still waters running deep.

Magazine collage

Water was cited as the foundation of all life: 75% of our planet composition is water, as is true for most plant and animal life. Direct connections were drawn between water, nutrition and sustenance, and environmental health and justice. Many contributors associated water to birth, motherhood, and parenthood. Some spoke of rushing waters carrying the voices of ancestors. Concerns were voiced for rising waters, diminishing shorelines, and the impact on Indigenous peoples. Others spoke of migrations across oceans to Canada.

As lead visual artist, it’s my job to produce a design that reflects contributors and the communities that intersect at the centre, and that threads visual motif, themes, stories, and nuances therein. The design must also be technically and artistically achievable in an open and inclusive studio environment, and have an aesthetic relationship to the neighbourhood – in this case, the Queen West neighbourhood. So, how is this done?

First, I don’t consider myself to be external to a process; I’m not a third party observer who translates. We exchange ideas and goodwill; the learning and sharing is mutual. I reviewed and reflected on all the ideas and notes and images in their totality – all voices, whether a community member contributed to one or three consultations. I looked for related elements, echoes, and threads. I listened closely to the quietest voices, and attributed value to those voices. I recognized differences in perspectives and lived experience. This recognition speaks to our mission as community artists: To produce original artwork that strives for innovation, technical excellence, and that elicits dialogue and creative exchange across difference.

I looked for related elements, echoes, and threads. I listened closely to the quietest voices, and attributed value to those voices. I recognized differences in perspectives and lived experience. This recognition speaks to our mission as community artists: To produce original artwork that strives for innovation, technical excellence, and that elicits dialogue and creative exchange across difference.

Inspired by contributors, I also conducted more text-based research on subjects including native and drought tolerant flowers and shrubs; tree physiology; Mississauga First Nations unceded territories (upon which Greater Toronto is built); the Law of Conservation of Energy; sky lanterns (also known as Chinese lanterns); Atlantic and Pacific salmon; migratory birds in the City of Toronto; and archival footage of Queen Street West from Trinity-Bellwoods Park to Augusta.

Mosaic: Writer

CTCHC Community Mosaic, 2012, detail

Finally, I walked about the Queen West neighbourhood, and took many photographs. This field-research was inspired by a young self-identified homeless contributor who said: “Look up. Look down. A lot of people forget to look at their environment. A lot of people don’t want to see me.” I allowed this contributor’s voice to guide me:  to enable me to see more, and differently. I saw: cranes and condominium towers; grasses and Eastern Red Columbine growing out of concrete; shoes strung on hydro lines; discarded coffee cups, feathers, and cigarette butts; sewer grates and birds nests; weathered paint, vacant storefronts, and many new home décor boutiques; and a lot of graf art and tagging.

Closeup of Dog

CTCHC Community Mosaic, 2012, detail

Through the consultation process, contributors shepherd Red Dress Productions’ artistic leadership team, and I steward the progression of this arts-based research into a cohesive design – one that makes room for multiplicities, difference, and echoes.

We presented my first-draft design to 60+ contributors at our final public consultation on April 4, 2012. We invited feedback, which was offered and incorporated into the final design. Shortly thereafter, the studio was opened.

Fish

CTCHC Community Mosaic, 2012, detail

Consultation, of which arts-based research is the anchor element, is a collaborative dynamic process. It’s not a linear here to there event. It’s cumulative and circular. It loops, doubles back, and stretches forward to make room for more of us.

It is cultural democracy at work. It is how we make real our belief that all people should have opportunities, access, and tools for shaping their neighbourhoods and communities.

– Anna Camilleri

Lead Visual Artist for CTCHC Community Mosaic Project

Red Dress Productions, Artistic Co-Director

Postscript:

More than 350 community members contributed to the creation of the CTCHC Community Mosaic Project, which was unveiled on Wednesday June 20, 2012.

The CTCHC Community Mosaic Project has been made possible through the support of the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council, and the City of Toronto: Public Realm, Transportation Services, and the TD Bank Group.

CENTRAL TORONTO COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTRES’ (CTCHC)
(Queen West Community Health Centre and Shout Clinic) mission is to act as a resource to improve the health and quality of life of the people and communities we serve. CTCHC achieves this through health promotion, harm reduction, education, community outreach, engagement, development and advocacy, as well as through the provision of innovative primary health care, counselling, support and dental services.

To find out more about CTCHC (168 Bathurst, south of Queen St. West), visit http://ctchc.com or call 416-703-8482

RED DRESS PRODUCTIONS (RDP) is a Toronto-based, not-for-profit, professional arts company that creates and disseminates interdisciplinary art and performance projects and works with/in communities on community-engaged public artworks. Since 2005, RDP has: directly engaged 2000+ contributors in the conceptual development and building of 7 community engaged public artwork projects; produced 5 original interdisciplinary stage performances; toured to more than 8 urban and rural Canadian communities; and created 17 paid apprenticeship positions for youth under the age of 25.

To find out more about Red Dress Productions, visit us online at http://reddressproductions.blogspot.com

All images are courtesy of Red Dress Productions and project photographer Katie Yealland.

[1] Community partners include: Sketch, Meeting Place Drop-in (St Christopher House), Scadding Court Community Centre, YMCA House Residence, Youthlink, Supporting Our Youth (Sherbourne Health Centre), and Bleecker Street Co-operative Homes

[2] The 150 contributors cited here are specific to the consultation phase, which informs the conceptual development of the artwork.