Building the Arts at Central Neighbourhood House

I began volunteering with Central Neighbourhood House in January of 2014, with the Mandarin Women’s Group.  We ran weekly art sessions which, with attendance often up to 40 participants, involved some large-scale teaching techniques.  I loved every minute of working with these warm and wonderful women whilst practicing my Chinese.

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My first opportunity to work outside of this group came in April of that year, in preparation for One Billion Rising Toronto – the global women’s movement founded by Eve Ensler (pictured bottom right).  The Paper Doll Project was our answer to the artistic call made of us.  We encircled CNH with small dolls we created which linked up hand to hand, representing the solidarity of its women.  We also made portable versions – pins – to bring with us to the event at Yonge & Dundas Square.  These were handed out to a receptive crowd, who sported them proudly.

The Paper Doll Project at One Billion Rising, 2014

The Paper Doll Project at One Billion Rising, 2014

In June we participated in 100-in-1 Day, a city-wide event bringing together an eclectic mix of urban happenings.  Our project, Art in a Blender, married paint and chalk drawing with the inevitable act of barbecue that follows with the summer heat.  The project engaged many youth, from CNH and further afield, and turned the centre’s courtyard into an art explosion!

We enjoyed a slight pause in the autumn, but in January 2015 initiated the ambitious Youth Mural Project, which drew from CNH’s various youth groups both in consultation and in execution of an impressive depiction of community life, at home on the northern wall of the gym.

2015: CNH Youth Mural

2015: CNH Youth Mural

Soon after the mural’s conclusion, additional plans began to hatch to build on the momentum arts programming had achieved to date and this week, we learned that our application to the Toronto Arts Council’s Community Arts grant was successful, meaning the ability to realize those goals is now within our imminent grasp!  Our proposal consists of a series of interdisciplinary workshops to be offered by myself and other colleagues (to be announced), and each will boast mini- and final exhibitions for appreciation by the community at large.

I am thankful to all those who helped to facilitate the development of artistic life at CNH, notably including Amanda LaRonde, Edwin Huang, Safia Hirsi, Raymond Koyo, Chantel Guthrie, Pamela Gawn, and Philip Unrau to name but a few.  It has been my sincere pleasure to have worked with you all towards our common vision to improve the quality of living through the arts in the intersecting neighbourhoods of Moss Park, Regent Park, and St. James Town.

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