Over in east Scarborough, good community arts things are happening. I get to give these a wee shout-out in the latest edition of Spacing magazine, which themed on urban wilderness (yay white squirrels and bald raccoons!) is having its launch tonight at the Toronto Reference Library (run now and you might just make it!)
My article, "Art of being a neighbour," lightly touches upon the beginning of a three-year project that Jumblies Theatre is doing in partnership with the Cedar Ridge Creative Centre--a neighbourhood arts centre that was getting lots of use from upper middle class folks from the area and beyond, but not much involvement from the lower-income people in the directly surrounding area.
Jumblies spent a lot of time in particular working with youth who were being temporarily housed in the Kingston Road motel strip--an overflow site for city housing, at least until the condo developers get a hold of it.
Looking over what some of these kids made when I visited in the summer was pretty heartrending. In one project, kids were asked to make figurines of people at different emotional and physical distances--people who were close physically but faraway emotionally, like a stranger in the neighbourhood, and people who were close emotionally but far away physically, like a relative or pet in a faraway homeland.
During this project, youth from the motel strip also built a massive nest out of branches from the Cedar Ridge site, which is actually an old mansion with garden--really deluxe. The nest was then decorated with more motel-like elements like a side table, a TV and bar soap.
Then what Jumblies did once they finished this geographical project with the youth was they had a public exhibit where regular visitors to the centre could go through the same exercise with the figurines. Really, the results seemed quite wonderful. (You can peruse some lovely pics here.)
Community arts--arts as healing--is a far cry from the critically-oriented professional-art debates that have been addressed on this blog of late, but it's still a key facet of art and artmaking. I really look forward to seeing what Jumblies, Cedar Ridge and their participants do with this in the future.
I will end, however, on a slightly less heartening fact--Cedar Ridge has a staffer who helps make city arts programs more economically and socially accessible. Great idea, right? Well, guess how many of these positions/people there are in the whole city's community centre staff. Three--including the one at Cedar Ridge. This in a city of nearly 3 million. So that access support is something to improve upon, even if the programs being delivered are qualitatively pretty great.
Image of Jumblies project "Nesting" figurines from Jumblies Theatre