One of the brightest spots in this bleakest of years has been the proliferation of public art in Toronto, from vast murals on walls, streets and rooftops across the city to temporary projection artwork to head-turning new sculptural commissions. Even road furniture, like concrete bike lane barriers and grey metal traffic signal boxes, have been transformed by teams of artists hired by the city.
But that was just a warm-up act.
Next year, 2021, is Toronto’s official Year of Public Art, a four-season celebration intended to beautify the city, engage all 25 wards with artistic activations, and kick off a decade-long transformation that will give public art and artists the recognition they deserve for their role in making the place we call home more livable, enticing and vibrant.
Imagine: mural-covered bridges. Poetry on the walls of local libraries. Messages of hope broadcast from rooftops. Shopping malls from Scarborough to Etobicoke reimagined as beacons of culture for the community, with art on the walls, films in the parking lots, live performances, talks and free events throughout the year.
It’s all happening in 2021. Not even a pandemic will stand in its way.
“We’re going to make it happen no matter what,” says Joe Sellors, the city’s project lead for ArtworxTO, the official title for the yearlong event.
“Being locked down … has definitely thrown a bit of a wrench in planning,” he adds with a hint of irritation. “We can’t even get the mayor in front of a podium to do a press conference.”
There’s urgency in Sellors’ voice because some of the work is time-sensitive — for instance, a Toronto Archives spotlight on Black female artists in time for Black History Month in February. Also, importantly, “the culture sector really needs it. And I think to delay would hurt it even more.”
So the kickoff date is now delayed until sometime in late January. A number of showpieces are being held over until spring. And the team is planning for virtual versions of every event and artwork, so those who are unable to attend in person can enjoy it safely from home.
But the show is determined to go on. A reboot of the fall’s BigArtTO program of monumental video projections is still planned for January. Soon you may start seeing oversized QR codes that you scan with your phone in ornate picture frames, for an initiative called “Project Reframed.”
Even now, you might spot words of poetry popping up in public places, a project called “Poems for Your Path.”
Originally, says Kate Nankervis, a dancer and co-curator of the Poems program, “I proposed a kind of pop-up dance situation that would happen in a parking lot, along a path.
“But then due to (COVID-19) restrictions, none of that could take place. And so the team invited me to think about my proposal a little bit differently.”
Since public dancing in January was out of the question, Nankervis invited several of her collaborators to imagine “the poem that would come out of their dancing.”
The result is a series of photographs of dancers in midperformance alongside the poem that each one produced.
“It’s really like a message of hope and resilience,” Nankervis says.
When the Year of Public Art goes live in January, so too will its website, ArtworxTO.ca, a robust home for all public art installations and events, including established ones like the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair. It will have an interactive map encompassing thousands of works from the city’s various initiatives, including the StreetARToronto program, the Public Art & Monuments Collection, the Percent for Public Art program and the BIA Streetscape Improvement Program. Currently these all compete for attention on multiple websites and sub-pages.
“It’s also time based. So when the Toronto Biennial of Art pops up for the last part of the year, then that will also be populated on the map,” says Sellors.
“So no matter where you are, when you’re visiting the website and the map, you’ll know what’s going on a particular day or week.”
While art programs are planned across the city, many of the ArtworxTO activities and installations will be focused at four regional hubs: Cloverdale Mall in the west, Downsview Park to the north, Scarborough Town Centre in the east and Union Station downtown. There will also be three pop-up hubs, at Collision Gallery in Commerce Court and two other malls: Bayview Village and Yorkdale.
“It really feels like we’re opening seven galleries in one year,” says Nankervis, who is working with the city as a liaison for the curators at these hubs.
If you love art, expect to spend a lot of time at the mall in 2021.
The intention, in part, is to bring art to the people, in places that are already community hubs. Outside the downtown core, too many parts of the city are “art deserts,” Sellors says, and ArtworxTO aims to address that — in addition to giving gallery space (or mall space) to emerging artists, with a BIPOC focus.
“I hope to support artists from a wide range of backgrounds, who haven’t had access to these platforms and who can really benefit from this kind of support and visibility,” affirms Claudia Arana, curator of the Cloverdale hub.
At the other end of the city, “the Scarborough hub will be an opportunity to reflect the rich diversity and history of Scarborough, while at the same time highlighting the fact that this part of Toronto, which is so often overlooked and negatively reported on, has actually significantly contributed to Toronto arts and culture,” says Paulina O’Kieffe, curating the Scarborough hub along with her partners in the SpokenSoulTO Collective, Dwayne Morgan and Randell Adjei.
The hub’s signature event is “Let Your Backbone Slide,” a multimedia installation celebrating the career of Maestro Fresh Wes and his seminal hit single, which kick-started Canadian hip hop in the 1980s.
“Scarborough is the backbone of Canadian hip hop as the single was the bestselling hip-hop single for 20 years, until it was dethroned by another Scarborough artist, Kardinal Offishall,” O’Kieffe points out.
The needle drops on that event in October, timed to Nuit Blanche. By then, one hopes, public gatherings will be a thing again.
Must-See Exhibits in 2021
The Star asked the curators of the four cultural hubs of ArtworxTO, Toronto’s Year of Public Art, to name one or two exhibits or events in 2021 that you won’t want to miss. Here are their answers.
North hub: Downsview Park
“One of the featured projects you will have to check out is a vibrant large-scale mural production (over 300 feet long) that will bring together incredible BIPOC artists.” — Danilo Deluxo McCallum
South hub: Union Station
“Part of my project during the summer will be about the connection between land and history. It’ll include several gardens throughout downtown made by different artists. These gardens will be a great opportunity for community collaboration and communal learning.” — Maya Wilson-Sanchez
West hub: Cloverdale Common
“‘Bloody Boats 2.0,” an interactive and community-engaged experiential installation by Akshata Naik (India), ‘Variations on Broken Lines,’ a multimedia project by Nava Waxman, and ‘Souls on Hold,’ an immersive new media installation by Mirna Chacin.” — Claudia Arana
East hub: Scarborough Town Centre
“Our signature event is ‘Let Your Backbone Slide,’ a multimedia arts installation that celebrates the career of Scarborough artist Maestro Fresh Wes. Other key exhibits will be the SpokenSoul East Festival, which will be a showcase of soul music and spoken word poetry taking place outside in Albert Campbell Square, and the Carnival Arts exhibit, which will highlight the massive role that Scarborough plays in getting everything ready for Toronto’s Carnival parade downtown.” — Paulina O’Kieffe, Dwayne Morgan, Randell Adjei
During these pandemic 'daze,' art an essential service – The Sudbury Star
Article content continued
Online, the producers promise I can learn about thousands of new products, boats, accessories, and services, and receive exclusives Boat Show deals and learn plans for the summer boating season ahead.
From NYC, I signed up to connect directly. I phoned my dear colleague, former Commodore Roy Eaton, residing in Little Current. He has been the collegial, renowned Host of Hosts of the Little Current Cruiser’s Net for the past 17 years. Over the years, Roy Eaton has been written in Sail Magazine, Cruising World and in 2010, he was awarded The Canadian Safe Boating Council Volunteer of the Year, devoted to safe boating.
A seasoned sailor, Roy’s so personable, during summer boating season he’s known as the Voice of the North Channel. The Net broadcasts every morning from July 1 to Aug. 31 at 9 a.m. on VHF Channel 71.
“Roy, will you present at the Boat Show about sailing the North Shore this summer?”
“Bonnie dear,” he laughed, “I’m on as guest speaker in thirty minutes.”
I tuned in, listening to Roy speak about, Summer in Paradise — Northern Georgian Bay and the Fabled North Channel. He showed charts to boaters, sharing knowledge and tips about anchorages. I knew many of them. As a former Caribbean sailor, I learned how to navigate, became proficient, and then took on The North Channel. with help, of course.
Staying afloat is definitely artful.
The day after, the seminar coordinator told Roy; “You broke the bank yesterday. There were 532 boaters in attendance at your seminar. Since our seminars are all recorded and saved, they’ll be on the website starting Jan. 25.”
Happily listening to Roy provide knowledgeable information for boaters who hope to ply the North Shore this summer, about the anchorages, towns, places to dine, and places to hike, was absolute Northern Ontario artistry.
Our Bonnie’s been in the Window Seat for 29 years, always learning about us in Northern Ontario. Please find her at BonnieKogos@gmail.com. She loves hearing from you.
Filipina front-line workers are turning their pandemic struggles into art – CTV News
Throughout her career, registered psychotherapist Elda Almario has spent a great deal putting the mental health of children she works with ahead of her own. But during the pandemic, she says, it’s become even less likely for her to “take a break and reflect.”
Over the past few months, Filipina front-line workers like Almario have found an outlet to relieve bottled-up anxiety, loneliness and fear: Writing their stories down and sharing them.
“Allowing space for my experience to come to the surface became a form of self-care for me,” Almario told CTVNews.ca in an email. “It was great to have a voice and be heard especially during a time when I have been so focused on my work due to increased demands and complex needs.”
The “Stories of Care” writing initiative, run through North York Community House in Toronto, virtually brings together front-line workers such as nurses, retail workers, at-home caretakers, dental hygienists, and cleaners, to share burdens they’ve mostly carried alone.
“It gives me strength, I feel encouraged because I know that no matter what we are facing, we face it with courage, resilience, and positivity and we continue to love what we do,” Olivia Dela Cruz, a paid caretaker of a household of six children, told CTVNews.ca in an email. “My respect [is for] all frontline workers because they all put others before themselves.”
Jennifer Chan, the lead organizer of the initiative, told CTVNews.ca in a video interview that the writers “feel seen and heard in a completely different way.” She said one participant told her, “it was so meaningful to get to write my story and just spend time thinking about me.”
Filipinx people play a crucial role on Canada’s front lines, making up one in 20 health-care workers, according to one study. A third of internationally trained nurses in the country are from the Philippines, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information; with Filipinos making up 90 per cent of migrant caregivers providing in-home care under Canada’s Caregiver Program.
EXPERIENCES CAPTURED IN ART
Chan was inspired to start the program through her work with North York Community House, where she regularly consults with caregivers from the Philippines, who need help filling out government documents.
She and her colleagues were noticing “a lot of stuff coming to the surface” and they wanted to give them an outlet.
“Stories of Care” began last summer as a six-week writing course for a few Filipina front-line workers, and has since grown in attendance and centred on less-time-intensive sessions.
As of last Friday, some of the stories are now featured in a digital exhibition in the DesignTO Festival, based on three Filipinx artists who “read the stories [and] took inspiration from them,” Chan said.
One video called “Balikbayan” – a term for Filipinx people living outside of the Philippines — shows a fruit falling to the ground, turning into a box, crossing the sea, hitting the shore and growing into a tree. This signifies people starting a new life in Canada. The title also refers to the care packages or “Balikbayan boxes” that are sent back to the Philippines.
Another video features an animated circle of faces encircling alternating excerpts about workers’ fears, including getting COVID-19 on the job.
Another piece features a silhouette of a person holding a sign reading, “we love to deliver,” contrasted with alternating English and Tagalog phrases such as: “I need to sacrifice my comfort for my family,” “I didn’t want to move to Canada” and “Migration is no guarantee for a better future.”
“Having artists make renditions of our stories gives us the validation that our stories are valuable,” Gretchen Mangahas, a communications specialist and newcomer to Canada, told CTVNews.ca in an email.
“I felt the power of stories in the shared lived experiences of my Filipina sisters,” she said. “I knew that I was not alone, and that the connection opens opportunities to learn how to navigate in a new country I would call home. It has also created friendships and new avenues for sharing with others.”
FILIPINX FRONT-LINE WORKERS FEEL ‘OVERSIZED TOLL’
Last fall, the Migrant Workers Alliance For Change released a damning report alleging that throughout the pandemic, migrant care workers were subjected to entrapment, long hours, and thousands of dollars in stolen wages by exploitative employers.
Chan said some writers “were feeling stuck in their employer situation” and thought about quitting, but knew it would mean they couldn’t provide for family back home and might potentially lose permanent residency status.
Medical news publication Stat News also reported that COVID-19 has taken an “outsized toll” on mental and physical well-being for Filipino front-line workers in the U.S. Chan said the same could be seen in Canada.
“They need an outlet to reflect through their own stories… we’re not hearing enough from them,” she said. Chan said attendees had a lot of cultural habits to overcome initially, including so-called “toxic positivity” and the “ongoing feeling that these women feel that they have to feel grateful to be here.”
Many worried about their families back home in the Philippines, which was hit by multiple typhoons last year. Chan said others wrote about the strict lockdown measures in the country and about “not being able to go home. Not feeling safe here or there.”
Although most people today are only being able to connect with family over video or the phone, that’s what immigrants have done for decades, said magazine editor Justine Abigail Yu, who facilitates the writing workshop in both English and Tagalog.
“Loving from afar” was a big theme in their writing, she told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview. “Obviously the conditions are quite different on an extreme level, but we’ve always had to show our family who are living in entirely different countries how we care for them and how we love them.”
The organizers said front-line workers’ feelings of isolation and homesickness while living in Canada have only been amplified by the pandemic.
Yu, the founder of magazine Living Hyphen, created an environment where Filipina workers could open up to themselves and to others.
“So many of these caregivers and our immigrant families, we just want to survive. We move to Canada, work our asses off to get by and to make sure that we’re providing for our children and there’s no room to tell stories,” she said. Yu’s role involved “breaking down that barrier first and foremost.”
And the investment appears to have paid off.
“In more ways than one, we deeply resonated with each other’s experience,” Almario said. “I gained a sense of belongingness and community, the feeling of not being alone.”
Caregiver and single mother Dela Cruz agreed, saying being a part of this project “brings back so many memories that I thought completely forgotten. Stories about me that I never thought I will have the courage to share.”
‘Glorified littering’: Junk street art installations popping up around Montreal – Global News
From the Van Horne skate park in the Mile End to NDG’s Saint-Jacques Escarpment, bizarre art installations are popping up around the city.
Prowling panthers, massive abstract beasts — it’s all put together from the imagination of the artist under the pseudonym Junko.
It’s a fitting name, for all the art he creates is entirely made from miscellaneous “trash” that he finds on the street.
“Basically, they’re carefully arranged piles of garbage,” Junko said. “You can call it glorified littering.”
Using things found on the street like car tires, bike frames, even shoes, everything is a workable piece in Junko’s creations.
Car bumpers are a common staple in his creatures.
“They’re definitely a popular item for me,” he said with a laugh.
Over the past few months, he has put together some six different statues around the city and abroad, all varying in size from small to towering.
A timber frame made from recycled wood holds the installations together.
“I’ve been making art my whole life,” Junko said. “My art has always been around creating creatures and characters. This is a new chapter in that.”
He says finding the junk isn’t that hard in the city but finding the right piece can be.
“Sometimes it’s extremely easy. I’ll be walking and find something and carry it home,” he said.
While shying away from the spotlight, Junko says he isn’t trying to make a point with his art, which he says speaks for itself.
“There no deep hidden meaning, it’s just a way to expressing myself,” Junko said.
That so-called trash is getting a lot of likes and recognition on social media and on the street.
“There is a lot of art in the neighbourhood, so it’s good, I’m not against it,” resident Nick Barry-Shaw said.
Juno sees his form of expression as a legal grey zone.
“The people are into it but I’m not sure about the city, though,” Junko laughed.
He said that unlike graffiti, his street art is not vandalism but simply “an organized pile of trash.”
So far, all four art installations in the city have not been taken down, according to Junko.
The young artist says there is a lot more art to come and people should keep their eyes peeled.
“I’m just getting started so, yeah, you can expect more work,” he said.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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