Countdown to Culture Days: Steelpan

Steelpan with Suzette at Sanderson Library from 1:30pm – 2:30pm and 3:30pm – 4:30pm on Saturday, September 29, 2012

Steelpan Demo

The Steelpan, the only pitched percussive instrument invented in the 20th century, was created in the twin republic islands of Trinidad and Tobago. It has journeyed throughout the decades to evolve into an accepted and celebrated instrument.

Join Suzette Vidale as she speaks about the instrument’s origins, evolution and current innovations. Have fun while learning the proper technique of holding the sticks, stance and playing a steelpan. Expect to learn a simple song, no musical knowledge required.

In collaboration with Culture Days and the Neighbourhood Arts Network, Toronto Public Library hosts Toronto-based artists and arts organizations in a celebration of arts and culture at library branches throughout the city of Toronto. Culture Days @ The Library takes place September 28-20, 2012. Check out this year’s lineup and make a personalized schedule at http://culturedays.ca/en/2012-activities

Countdown to Culture Days: Eagle Thunder

Thunderbird Native Theatre presents Eagle Thunder: Song of Hope on Saturday, September 29, 2012 from 2:00pm – 3:30pm at Kennedy/Eglinton Library

Shannon Thunderbird

Image courtesy of Thunderbird Native Theatre

Thunderbird Native Theatre (TNT) presents a very interactive First Nations experience entitled, Eagle Thunder: Song of Hope that introduces audiences to the life and vibrancy of Native cultures.

Led by well-known Coast Tsimshian First Nations, Artist Educator, Shannon Thunderbird and Artist Musician, Sandy Horne (Band: Spoons), along with TNT drummers Christine Pohlkamp and Kate Dickson, the audience will sing, drum on big drums, enjoy stories and a little improvisational theatre, all designed to immerse participants in the rich world of Aboriginal people. The Artists expect the audience to participate and sing and drum like everyone is listening! CDs of the music are available for sale.

In collaboration with Culture Days and the Neighbourhood Arts Network, Toronto Public Library hosts Toronto-based artists and arts organizations in a celebration of arts and culture at library branches throughout the city of Toronto. Culture Days @ The Library takes place September 28-20, 2012. Check out this year’s lineup and make a personalized schedule at http://culturedays.ca/en/2012-activities

Countdown to Culture Days: Tapestry for Beginners

Check out Tapestry for Beginners at Leaside Public Library on Friday, September 28, 2012 from 2:00 pm – 5:00pm

Image courtesy of Christian Badanjak

Tapestry for Beginners with Juana Sleizer

In this activity, participants will learn the basics of tapestry weaving in a playful environment. Results will be surprising. You will experiment with unusual materials to create colourful textures and shapes while listening to music to help inspiration. Loom and materials will be provided and you will keep the loom for yourself. Program includes:
Getting acquainted with the materials (e.g. yarns, fabrics, etc.); notions of tapestry; looms; warp and weft; a little bit of history; how to begin and how to lock a weaving.

In collaboration with Culture Days and the Neighbourhood Arts Network, Toronto Public Library hosts Toronto-based artists and arts organizations in a celebration of arts and culture at library branches throughout the city of Toronto. Culture Days @ The Library takes place September 28-20, 2012. Check out this year’s lineup and make a personalized schedule at http://culturedays.ca/en/2012-activities

Spotlight on Weston and Mount Dennis

Weston and Mount Dennis is one of the areas of focus for the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Arts Impact Study. This community-based research project aims to better understand how Toronto residents interact and engage with the arts at a local level. As research continues we are highlighting the activities of artists and arts organizations working in Weston and Mount Dennis.  

Extending along the eastern bank of the Humber River, Weston and Mount Dennis are communities animated by historic roots and contemporary artistic activity. By the mid-twentieth century Weston and Mount Dennis were manufacturing centres that produced industrial goods for consumers across Canada. Today factories are being replaced by malls as Weston and Mount Dennis make the transition to a post-industrial economy. The connection between Weston and Mount Dennis is a legacy of census tracts as well as proximity. Although they both border the Humber River, Weston and Mount Dennis have distinct histories and face different physical realities. Individuals reflect the complex relationship between these areas; while some people identify as residents of either Weston or Mount Dennis others make no distinction between the two neighbourhoods. Amid these transformations, the arts empower residents to engage with their communities and create positive change. Several arts-based organizations have made a commitment to capacity building and creative expression in Weston and Mount Dennis.

Urban Arts is a non-profit charitable youth organization that offers arts based-programs in the former City of York with a specific focus on Weston and Mount Dennis. Professional artists work with youth to engage in community development through the arts.

The HopeWorks Connection, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering youth through the performing arts and relieving poverty. Since its establishment in 2001, HopeWorks has partnered with schools, agencies, governments and churches to offer a variety of performing arts experiences and workshops to youth of all ages. HopeWorks signature program, TC3 – The Toronto Children’s Concert Choir and Performing Arts Company, the signature program of the HopeWorks Connection is geared to youth ages 7 to 18 years

West Won Fest is a community festival celebrating success in Mount Dennis that is now in its second year. The festival was born out of the desire of residents to recognize the success that they witnessed in their neighbourhood on a daily basis but which was not necessarily known throughout the city nor covered in the mainstream media.

106 & York is a youth urban arts festival. As a branch of Manifesto Festival of Community and Culture, 106 & York invites North West Toronto communities to unite in celebration of artistic talents of the local youth. This year, 106 & York partnered with Urban Arts to present CultureShock, a celebration of talent in the Weston community.

The community-engaged arts organizations of Weston and Mount Dennis build on the skills and insights of local residents. The people of Weston and Mount Dennis are full of ideas about the arts in their neighbourhood. One child living in Weston wrote this suggestion at a community meeting:

“Make a sidewalk called “CSOC” meaning Colourful Sidewalk of Communities. Where people can put their name on it. And all of these names together will be an art and represent our big Weston Family.”

Read on to learn about individual artists living and working in Weston and Mount Dennis.

Adeena Greaves is an R&B singer who is also known by her artist name, Cookie. She believes that community centres play a large role in the arts in Weston and Mount Dennis. Adeena met her producer and mentor, Keith Sweeney (DeepThought) after performing at a local community centre. Music is now her primary activity. She says: “Before I just used to work, and now I don’t do anything else but music.” Adeena’s involvement with music has made her more aware of the arts in her neighbourhood. “Once I started becoming more involved with music, that’s when it became an eye opener to all these workshops and people who are willing to help artists.” She has performed at community-based events such as Grenada Day and an annual show organized by the local police division. These opportunities inform her music. She explains: “When I’m doing shows like the police division shows and Grenada Day shows, you want to be able to write inspirational tracks for youth out there…so when I do have those events for community stuff, I’m singing the right song for the right venue.” In general, Adeena is satisfied with the range of art forms that are practiced in Weston and Mount Dennis and believes that community centres are well suited to connecting people to these different forms of creative expression. “I like how it is in our community. And that they have community centres that will allow you to sing, do graffiti, to produce, engineer and do photography. Different forms of art that people love to do. There’s so many different places you can go to express yourself.”

Robin Breon is a theatre critic and playwright who has lived in Weston for more than twenty years. For Robin, inclusivity and diversity are key features of the Weston community. “I couldn’t imagine living in a neighbourhood that was not multi-cultural and multi-racial, so I like the fact that Weston has a lot of different cultural influences and is a very multi-racial community, I am comfortable in places like that.” Despite the positive impact of diversity, Robin believes that arts activities in Weston are limited by a lack of facilities. “We don’t have the kind of centre that would be helpful for artists in a cross-disciplinary way. That is a barrier and a challenge for people who want to work locally, express themselves and organize in the community; for the artist that is a huge challenge.” However, he believes that Urban Arts is changing access to the arts in the neighbourhood.  “Urban Arts has a leadership role in the artistic component of this community.” Specifically, Robin says, “I think some of the activities I have seen Urban Arts involved in, the local community theatre work that I have seen go on, all helps to uplift and enrich the community.”Overall, Robin recognizes the diversity and creativity of Weston but believes that the area needs more support to develop these assets. Discussing his dreams for the arts in his neighbourhood he says: “I would like to see a community centre, a performing arts centre. It would be great for the youth. It could really revitalize the whole community and that could be started with the arts, the arts could generate that.”

Devon Brown is a visual artist living in Mount Dennis. His creativity has inspired his daughter to pursue the arts and he also volunteers teaching art to children at the Learning Enrichment Foundation. Devon believes that the arts contribute to the quality of life of the people who live in Mount Dennis. He says that the arts show “the vibrancy of the place and the differences that the arts give to the community. It makes the community more alive. It puts life in the community and makes it more beautiful.” Devon is convinced that art is a force of positive change in the neighbourhood. He says “There are a lot of things that could happen for this community if it is connected in the right way. Because lots of these kids and people around here have lots of talents in the arts, but they don’t have no one to boost them or pave the way or give then that first start, to make the first step.” In terms of his own artistic development, Devon is self-taught and highly motivated. His art is both personal and deeply connected to his community. He explains “you have to just keep on that track and don’t let no one take you off that track and mislead you somewhere else. Because it’s really good and it’s helpful. It can really help everyone in the community.” As his approach to the arts indicates, Devon is an example of an artist who is committed to expanding his practice while also engaging with the community.

For NAN member Melissa Calder, the arts empower her to “create a balance between work and things I enjoy.” While Melissa explores printmaking and painting and her husband is a musician and she believes that their “social circles have expanded by people involved in the arts.” Despite her interest in the arts, Melissa feels isolated in her neighbourhood. She explains, “I am currently not a leader, but I want to contribute and I want to help out. I feel pretty solitary.”Melissa made connections with other artists and community leaders as a volunteer for the Arts Impact Study. She attended team meetings and assisted at events. In addition to her activities as a volunteer, Weston shapes Melissa’s art in other ways. First, her art is inspired by her physical surroundings. She says “I often go [to the Humber River] to draw or sketch and take photographs as preliminary work. So I think that [the beauty] definitely influences all facets of my art.” Melissa’s art also reflects the people of the community. “In terms of the neighbourhood and population, I think that influences my political bent in my posters and prints about issues.” As an artist and a community activist through her involvement in the Arts Impact Study, Melissa is well positioned to create connections in Weston.

Zeesy Powers is a multidisciplinary artist whose video and web work ties into live theatrical performance. The arts are central to her personal growth and have contributed to her professional opportunities. “Having a space to learn about and create art allows you to just learn so much about the world and lose your fear about exploring and learning.” Zeesy’s experiences as an artist gave her the tools to pursue a career at a bio-tech company. “A lot of the skills that I’ve learned through the practice of making art have led me to attain the skills I now have today.” She identifies flexibility as one of the most important aspects of being an artist: “being an artist doesn’t mean that it’s the only thing that you’re going to do.” Despite the impact of arts in her life, Zeesy feels disconnected from the arts in Weston. She attributes this in part to the physical environment of the neighbourhood. First, she explains that “this area is considered one geographic area as a whole, but even one end to the other, it’s difficult to get around.” In addition Zeesy thinks that local infrastructure does not incorporate the arts. As an example she mentions “the kind of development of these strip malls, without any real artistic elements or thought of long-term sustainability.” Zeesy also has difficulty learning about local events and suggests, “There should be a designated postering spot so people can promote what they need to promote.” Zeesy believes that change involves both resources and attitudes.  She advocates new ways of thinking about community arts. “When it comes to the arts, there’s an old Toronto mindset of what a community space is; schools, malls, a community centre. But we have to think beyond that. There needs to be a space for adults that isn’t just a park or something.” Overall, Zeesy would like to see a greater artistic presence in the community because she knows from personal experience that the arts contribute to quality of life. “I’d like to see more opportunity for the artists to contribute their talents to the development of the neighbourhood.” However, Zeesy knows that the arts are already having an impact in Weston; she reflects, “Who knows what this place is going to look like in 5 years? Things move really fast.”

Emily Macrae is the Neighbhourhood Arts Network 2012 Summer Intern

Countdown to Culture Days: Red Slam

Check out Red Slam at the Annette Street Library on September 29, 2012 from 1:00pm-4:30pm

Red Slam

Photo by Christian Badanjak

RED SLAM is a collective of aboriginal artists who express their creativity through contemporary spoken word/music performance, in the spirit of indigenous oral traditions. Their goal is to uplift self, identify and promote unity through spoken lyricism which arranges meaning (SLAM). Get uplifted and let your spirit soar as RED SLAM shows you the indigenous foundations to art in an urban setting. RED SLAM provides urban arts workshops in slam poetry, music, collective rap, dance and more.

In collaboration with Culture Days and the Neighbourhood Arts Network, Toronto Public Library hosts Toronto-based artists and arts organizations in a celebration of arts and culture at library branches throughout the city of Toronto. Culture Days @ The Library takes place September 28-20, 2012. Check out this year’s lineup and make a personalized schedule at http://culturedays.ca/en/2012-activities

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

NAN Interns: Where are they now?

We caught up with former interns and volunteers to find out what they have been up to since their time at the Neighbourhood Arts Network.

Alex Pollard

Alex Pollard (September 2011-May 2012)

Since finishing her internship at NAN in May, Alex graduated from Community Work at George Brown College. In September she will start a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology with a major in Community Development. Alex hopes to implement her arts background throughout her new course of study as well as in her hometown of Oshawa.

Amy Goudge

Amy Goudge (Summer 2011)

After interning at NAN in Summer 2011, Amy went on to academic research at Ryerson’s Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre. She then started working with the Sustainable Thinking and Expression on Public Space (STEPS) Initiative, where she coordinated a youth-led art program in Thorncliffe Park. She also programmed a community arts festival with b current and the reConnexion Collective. Amy will be starting a Master’s program at NYU in Visual Art Administration in the fall.

Anna-Liza Badaloo

Anna-Liza Badaloo (February-April 2010)

After volunteering with NAN, Anna-Liza has worked with NAN partner ArtStarts and the Bain Housing Co-operative. She is currently the Adult Education Coordinator at the Toronto Botanical Garden. In every position she has held since working with NAN, Anna-Liza’s NAN experience has helped her to incorporate community-based art practices into her work. Anna-Liza currently runs and curates the Toronto Botanical Garden Art Gallery in the Weston Family Library, featuring some of the best botanical artists in Canada.

Robyn Shyllit (February-April 2010)

Since interning with NAN Robyn has received her Masters in Urban Planning and Certificate in Community Development from the University of Toronto. She also interned and worked for Artscape and travelled to Spain. Currently, Robin works as the Communications Coordinator for FoodShare.

Emily Macrae is the Neighbourhood Arts Network 2012 Summer Intern