Making Room Artist Spotlight: Mario Pietrantoni

There are many brilliant artists at PARC, across disciplines and with varying levels of prolificity and publicity. Walking through the halls of PARC, you see paintings, drawings, sculptures and other installations by members, some of which have been facilitated by Making Room and others of which haven’t been. We’d like to start showing some of these artists’ work on our website as a part of an ongoing series of artist spotlights, and this is the first!

Mario Pietrantoni, as seen in the video above, is a celebrated writer and speaker living with bipolar disorder. Mario spent much of his young life not knowing how to read and write until choosing to enter into the East End Literacy Program in order to hold onto his career in security. Having excelled in the course, Mario began workshopping his poetry there and in 1990 published From the Heart, to great acclaim.

These days, Mario frequently speaks to groups struggling with mental health, disability, and other barriers. He is a staple at the PARC writing group and a friend to all at Making Room. Here are three poems of his spectacular catalogue to give you a sense of his work.

 

Collective souls

These hands were dealt
To look at the future
And in bracing those shared
The past your strength
Posses the inner voice you
Commands
To sail a new course of
uncharted
Watered no one know were to
Lead this passage to
Paradise as the message
Of the silence to share the
Magic transforming a new
Vision all these seeking
Happiness
The wisdom you have that is the joy
To carry the torch of enlighthment
All you see the vanishing point to a
Moment
Light a new angel shares a
World that you never seen
Before


Solarium

Sitting in this room full
Of strangers
Frozen ghost and we looking
To find a Way in this
Chemical fortress
Unknown minds to wonder
Between these walls system as
A role of salvation play the savoir
Shares the truth
These walls are walking dead
Falling in the cracks
Authorities are there to
Look for solution
The spirits is the holy
Book in one hand and the
Demon to redeem
Salvation
Taken by the Spirits
We’re In the unknown Looking
For freedom to rule the world of
Make believe plays to
Share Resurrection is a
Long way from home

(Solarium was written from the solarium of St. Mike’s psychiatric ward in 1977)

Happiness

Is a station that
That you work for
We ignore to grow up
When we are lost to change
You got to recognize where
The symptoms is insight
Are the wealth of the inner
Soul there so much to life
For we look at ways to
Learn how we can be
better people my history
is to get to better so I can
share my insight and hope
to share life and it
is time for me to share
Years of work is therapy
It took a life to get where I
Am it took years of work
And now I am giving back
A new life as evolved is
A surreal in a healthy life
I hope if you see my insight
To this light is to grow and
Life gives happiness

We are very grateful to Mario for sharing his work and insights with us, and for being a constant source of inspiration at PARC and in our workshops.

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Feast of Flags — Being our biggest selves, together

With a few weeks of summer ahead of us, we’re gearing up to get back into our ongoing workshops at PARC. But before we get back to our regularly scheduled programming, we’d like to share a few dispatches from our summer activities, starting with our incredibly successful and beautiful Feast of Flags on June 21.

Michelle sews up a patch for our bag lanterns

Michelle sews up a patch for our bag lanterns

Anne stitches the binding of "John Blank's Bags"

Anne stitches the binding of “John Blank’s Bags”

A bound book!

A bound book!

In the days preceding the Feast of Flags, the Making Room team worked long, hard, and normally happily. As we handbound books, decorated flags and drums, stitched together patches and bags and practiced singing, we were prepared for the big weekend ahead of us.

As the PARC drop-in opened at 11am on the 21st, the building was already abuzz with the chatter and excitement that always precedes an event at PARC, be it a party or a parade. We were coming off of Friday’s solstice happenings (the seasonal solstices have been PARC’s biggest and grandest occasion for many years), which filled the drop-in with massive collage-making, bobbing for apples and story sharing, so PARC members, staff, and guests alike were in an excellent mood. Thus we prepared our flags, drums, fabulous hats and intricate bag lanterns for the great promenade down to Budapest Park for our celebration.

Shelley La Hay and John Davy Young getting ready to lead our parade

Shelley La Hay and John Davy Young getting ready to lead our parade

Marlene and Margaret getting ready to set off.

Marlene and Margaret getting ready to set off.

At about 2pm, we began to arrange ourselves on the street in front of PARC, excitedly banging our drums, waving our flags and preparing to parade the biggest and most braggadocious iterations of ourselves.At the head of our parade were two members, both of whom have installed themselves at Making Room in amazingly generative ways over the course of the 2013-2014 season: John Davy Young and Shelley La Hay.

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Complete with our PARC dragon and an incredible lantern created by members from Edmond Place (and one carpenter extraordinaire whom we call J-Cal), we set off down Cowan street to the beat of PARC’s own Zephie and his drumming group, singing “One Love” as we snaked triumphantly down to the waterfront.

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Majid flying his flag as we arrive at the park

Majid flying his flag as we arrive at the park

Shelley and John led us through hot sun and surprisingly supportive traffic until we arrived gloriously to Budapest Park, where 50 feet of detailed, decorated banners unfurled to guide the crowd into position. Once we settled in, the paraders enjoyed a spirited performance by the Making Room Community Choir, including the debut of their original song, “Wherever I Go.”

The Making Room Choir performs

The Making Room Choir performs

After a few thank yous to our community, our friends, and our funders came the big moment, the moment we had all been waiting for— the launching ceremony for the third book in our Creation Stories series, John Blank’s bags. In a most daring and dramatic debut, one of our newest Making Room artists, Cressida Frey, swam elegantly to the far break wall of the beach to set off our book in  a bottle. Despite a few doubts and anxious moments from those of us on the beach, Cressida’s crowning bow assured us that, thanks to her, our little book had set off into the world in a truly magical fashion.

Cressida launches the book into Lake Ontario

Cressida launches the book into Lake Ontario

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Michael, Caroline and Robbie begin to distribute the books that had been hidden under the Edmond Place lantern

Michael, Caroline and Robbie begin to distribute the books that had been hidden under the Edmond Place lantern

Returning to the beach for some well deserved water, impromptu drumming, story sharing, and excited reading of our beautiful new books kept our group cheerfully busy until the much-anticipated arrival of dinner arrived. A bag-themed menu (in honour of the hero of our book, John Blank, and his iconic bags) including pierogies, cabbage rolls, vietnamese fresh rolls and chicken lettuce wraps assured that everyone rested happily full of yummy things as the park began to cool off. The food was prepared by Making Room’s resident food guy, Jonathan Valelly, and his team of PARC member and volunteer Paul Sullivan and Jumblies intern Molly McGregor, with help from Making Room artists Jess Shane and Cressida Frey.

Serious eats!

Serious eats!

Alice reads "John Blank's Bags" with a new pal!

Alice reads “John Blank’s Bags” with a new pal!

Enjoying the fire pit.

Enjoying the fire pit.

As the sun got lower, the fire pit on the beach naturally attracted a wide circle of the paraders who remained. With the fire roaring high, those early summer rituals of story swapping and singing seemed to ebb and flow organically. With a surprise snack of curry corn and banana boats cooked in the fire, our crew stayed merrily through coming of night, at which point we marveled at the half dozen bag lanterns lighting up the beach. We took turns looking intimately at the hundreds of patches, full of words, images and objects, that adorned these collectively created bags as well as stepping back and seeing them as a group, as a whole.

The bag lanterns at sunset

The bag lanterns at sunset

In those quiet moments of appreciation, it felt as though we were experiencing a microcosm of the story of Making Room Community Arts. We were all taking in the intricacies of each patch of each of our stories and personalities. These are sometimes simple, sometimes knotted up, sometimes partially obscured, and often overlapping. And yet we also couldn’t deny the immense beauty of our collective story, our joint effort, the light of our community shining out into the quiet waves of this Parkdale shore.

The few of us that remained packed up our goods and grabbed the lanterns to walk back to PARC, and an unexpected magic happened. As we slowly retreated up Cowan Avenue with our lanterns, we realized that we were having another parade— smaller, quieter, but just as resilient and just as important. Parkdale is a changing neighbourhood fraught with the tensions of poverty, hunger, safety, health in the face of gentrification and the attendant antagonism from the city and private developers. We laughed, sung, and hugged, our lanterns bobbing high above us in procession, implicitly reminding each other that this landscape, this street, these stories belong to us. And that, my friends, is a reason to celebrate.

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A little film!

We have been talking a lot about rituals lately at Making Room, and the role that community arts can have in creating new rituals that make sense in the communities where they have been created.

So we were happy to have ritual studies scholar Ron Grimes join us on our Feast of Flags. We were even more happy that he made this little movie about our adventure: http://vimeo.com/ronaldlgrimes/feastofflags
If you want to learn more about the exciting things Ron is up to, visit his website at: http://ronaldlgrimes.twohornedbull.ca/

 

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Join Us! Feast of Flags, June 21

postcard03flatMaking Room Community Arts presents

Feast of Flags

A parade, party and book launch Saturday, June 21

Come to PARC (1499 Queen St W) early to make instruments, costumes and more. The drop-in opens at 11:00am.

The parade leaves PARC at 2:30pm and heads to the water at Budapest Park for our big celebration. Expect hats, flags, drums, singing!

Once we arrive at the waterfront, we will be enjoying music from the Making Room Choir, a performance by the PARC drumming group, the launch of our book, “John Blank’s Bags,” and delicious food.

Dress code: Your BIGGEST self!

Find the Facebook event here.

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Radio Spotlight on Making Room!

We are excited to announce that the Kingston Arts Council has selected Making Room as one of 7 community art organizations to be spotlighted in partnership with CFRC radio. Check out this interview with Michael Burtt about the current community arts projects at PARC!

mr

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On Documentation (Processing Process)

An impromptu pose from Caroline with her flagpole.

An impromptu pose from Caroline with her flagpole.

As you may gather from looking at our recent blog posts, we’ve started to take photography pretty seriously at Making Room these last few weeks. Documentation serves many purposes in our lives, but it takes on particular significance when it comes to art-making.

Of course, artwork itself can be documentation— one or many particular renditions of a moment or place. For instance, you could say that the stories we’ve been publishing are partially documentations of PARC, of the people who make up the PARC community, and of the author, Bob Rose’s memory of them.

But what we’ve been getting really interested in recently is the documentation of the process of art-making. How do we capture the broader, unlimited experience of the “art” that we do, in all of its iterations and perspectives? How can we honour our acts of coming together, or shared rituals, our hands at work, through imperfect media like photographs, texts, sound recordings and video? How do we represent our very attempts at artistic representation before, during and after their execution?

At a recent Sand in Water workshop, we talked about documentation, and the first reason Alice gave for why it is important is because “that is how we proceed to the next project”. Records of our group’s previous process can provide an important ground to remind us what we’re doing as we move forward towards something new— like our celebration on June 21st.

But Alice and Shelley also cite the practical purposes of having documentation, which is a way of explaining ourselves when words fail us. People at PARC and elsewhere often ask us where Making Room’s ideas come from and what they mean, and sometimes it’s just easier to show them.

In any case, expect to encounter new kinds of evidence for the experiences and experiments of Making Room.

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June 21st approaches… parade and book launch preparations!

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For the past few weeks, Making Room workshops have been bustling with activity; painting, drawing, storytelling, drumming, building, singing and more. We are working towards a parade and book launch to take place on June 21st! Here are some photos … Continue reading

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Like us on Facebook!

If you haven’t already, please like the Making Room Community Arts page on Facebook! If you have your own Facebook page, that is.

We’ll be updating it with photos, poems, songs, links to other media and more. Please invite any of your friends who might me interested to like the page as well.

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Making Room at Edmond Place!

Yesterday something inevitable happened— but the fact that it was inevitable doesn’t make it any more less exciting! After a little planning and some support from the staff over there, Edmond Place experienced it’s first Making Room workshop.

Edmond Place is an apartment building that adjoins PARC, and it was once one of the largest rooming houses in Parkdale. The folks at PARC, in conjunction with the Affordable Housing Program, Habitat Services, the City of Toronto and a host of other individuals and organizations, fought to renew and transform Edmond Place into affordable and supportive housing for people in the PARC community. It opened its refurbished doors in 2011, and was named in honor of Edmond Yu, who once lived there.. Read more about his legacy here.

Edmond Place also happens to be home to many talented artists of a variety of disciplines. Yesterday, about a half dozen of Edmond Place’s residents came out to make art, taking on a variety of tasks to construct and decorate the beginning panels of… well, you’ll have to wait to find out about the final product. Going forward, Making Room will be having an ongoing workshop there, and we’re beyond excited to see

Here are some pictures of the fun we had yesterday.

There was building…

Lawrence attaches fabric to his pyramid frame

Lawrence attaches fabric to his pyramid frame

Robbie and Lawrence build frames

Robbie and Lawrence build frames

 

and painting and embroidery!

Donna and Jess paint fabric panels

Donna and Jess paint fabric panels

Donna paints on a fabric panel

Donna paints on a fabric panel

You can look forward to more awesome dispatches from this new group henceforth.

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Intuitive Art Bookmaking Workshop with Tamar Swartz

On March 28th, Jumblies Platform A micro-grant recipient Tamar Swartz made a guest appearance at our weekly Friday drop-in session to lead a bookmaking workshop through a process she calls “intuitive art-making”. Intuitive art is a practise that Tamar has developed in her own personal art-making and in workshop settings with other community groups, and it was a treat to have her in to share her knowledge with us. Here are some shots of the group getting into the task at hand!

 

Tamar explaining what we're about to do

Tamar explaining what we’re about to do

Johnny and Michael cutting and pasting.

Johnny and Michael cutting and pasting.

 

Marlene told a beautiful story about a stranger's act of kindness in her book.

Marlene told a beautiful story about a stranger’s act of kindness in her book.

 

More bookmaking!

More bookmaking!

 

Thanks to Tamar for sharing her process with us and making our Friday at PARC extra special.

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