Making Room celebrates Home in a project in conjunction with Toronto Public Health


Between February and April of this year, we had the opportunity to carry out a project with Toronto Public Health, we ended up calling “It’s Home”. In October 2016, TPH released their report “Housing and Health: Unlocking Opportunity” and we were awarded a contract to further develop these themes to a wider audience.

Around this time, American President Donald Trump was on the radio with one of his many blunders: “You wouldn’t believe it” he said “but healthcare is incredibly complicated”. The same can be said about housing. Comprehensive housing solutions span government jurisdictions and despite countless reports, Canada still does not have a National Housing Strategy. And housing solutions are difficult in another way. Shortly after helping open a Supportive housing building, one worker told me “there is a real intimacy in housing people”.

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But when I go to the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre (PARC) and talk to people most vulnerable to the housing crisis, the connection between housing and health could not be more clear. As many people told me during the project “if you don’t have a safe place to live, you don’t have anything”.

Between the glaring simplicity of the problem and the complexity of the solutions, there seemed to be an impassable chasm. As we spent weeks using various art projects to explore this question, one concept seemed to be able to bridge this divide. The concept was “home” or what we began to call “the hearth and the hard realities of home”.

The epigraph for Toronto Public Health’s recent report comes from a seminal text on slum housing by Toronto Medical Officer of Health Charles Hastings a century ago: “It is homes we must give our people, not merely shelter.” (1918) We followed in Hastings’ line of thought to think through some of the key themes of home and health that we must address today.

The Toronto Public Health report on Housing and Health described six characteristics of home: the social; the physical, design (doormats and stickers), and the surrounding area. The Its Home installation included an element for each of these characteristics.

The structure of the tent became an inspiration for our project. Tents at once offer comfort and separation from the rest of the world, but also gesture to the tenuous, perpetual precarity of shelter and indeed, making a home one’s own. In and aroundour central tent, we find different projects by PARC members and neighbours which reflect — and further elaborate — some of the key themes of Housing and Health.

Inspired by the old houses of the neighbourhood, The Fabulous Doors of Parkdale open to our inner landscapes — what we see in ourselves when no one else is looking. The Parkdale windows connect us to the world and neighbours outside, and reflect the ups and downs of living, socializing and coexisting in close proximity.

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The Well Come Mats use the the geometric concept of tessellations, where every piece fits together just right, as a riff on the design elements of home making. Lead artist Sophie Schneider designed the mats to reflect how we bring visual and spatial design into our spaces, intentionally and unintentionally.

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The Books of Not-Quite-Relief were a project by lead artists Joel W. Vaughan and Jonathan Valelly in collaboration with residents and friends of Edmond Place, the supportive housing apartment building owned and operated by PARC. The books are made of plastic prdownload-4.jpgintmaking plates showing images and words which gesture, however obliquely, to the physical and psychological struggles of precarious housing and the possibility of a home in the making.

The Parkdale Clothesline reflects on the neighbourhood itself and the need for a variety of different housing options, and the level of access we must maintain and defend if our neighbourhood is to remain a welcoming and inclusive place for people to call home.


The findings and directions contained within the Housing and Health report are crucial, and been a powerful and generative material with which to work. Please feel encouraged to explore, open, and reflect back on the work displayed here as a part of It’s Home.

photo credits: Liam Coo



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Making Room, making our way to new projects…


We’re back! Well, a little bit.

After some truly incredible travels, experiments, side projects and well deserved rest, the Making Room team is back at PARC on Fridays from 2pm-4pm in the Drop-In, asking questions about what makes a home. Please join us!

With eyes towards the summer, there will be more workshops coming this spring as projects take shape and we connect with other groups and neighbours in some interesting new ways.

Any questions can be directed to Michael Burtt at

See you soon!

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A short update, and greetings from Nepal!


As you may have gathered, Making Room’s artistic team is currently on a short break from producing workshops and celebrations in Parkdale, while we take some time to focus on artistic and organizational development.

As part of this exciting time, our Artistic Director Michael Burt is in Nepal for two months alongside Leah Houston from our sister company MABELLEarts. They are crating a community arts project that includes a camp for kids and hosting trainings for local artists. Their journey has included collaborations with NexUS Café, Lasanaa, Heartbeats and continues until the end of January.


You can expect to hear lots about this upon Michael and Leah’s return, but in the meantime, keep an eye on Making Room’s Facebook page for updates from Michael.

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The Biggest Table: Hosting, from here

mr-biggest-table-40-of-59by Jonathan Valelly
photos by Liam Coo

Dunn Parkette was already buzzing shortly after 5pm that day, though our appointed meeting time was 6. The Making Room Choir rehearsed attentively in the shade of Greenest City garden in the little park’s corner, and voices both familiar and new joined in the song under the direction of Making Room’s Shifra Cooper. In the meantime, guests drank lemonade and asked — what’s about to happen? And where’s that table we heard about?


That day, September 24th, 2016, those questions were answered as we celebrated food, art, guests, and hosts through a neighbourhood procession and dinner, the result of a summer-long collaboration with our partners and friends Greenest City.  Continue reading

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Join us for the Biggest Table


The Biggest Table: A Harvest Celebration
presented by Making Room Community Arts and Greenest City

Sept 24th, 2016
Meet at 6pm at Dunn Ave Parkette

Making Room and Greenest City are excited to invite you to The Biggest Table, a community celebration of friends and neighbours, friends and neighbours, and of course, fantastic food and art!

Throughout the summer, we have been sharing stories and traditions through art-making, asking, what does it mean to be a guest? What does it mean to be a host? And what can that tell us about the way we share space, food, and art in Parkdale?

Like Making Room Community Arts on Facebook and follow us on twitter (@MakingRoomTO) so you can keep up with our workshops, get more details about the event, and find out how to get involved! Join us every Wednesday in Masaryk Park from 3pm-6pm for art and story sharing for all ages.

Feel free to contact Michael ( or Jonathan ( if you’d like to get involved, or if you have any questions or ideas!

A huge thanks to the Toronto Arts Council, City of Toronto and Ontario Arts Council for their generous support!

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A summer update!

Moving forward from our Connecting Currents celebration in the Spring, we made the decision to shift gears, start fresh, and begin developing some exciting new projects with both old friends and new partners.

Every Wednesday afternoon, concurrent with Greenest City’s “Good Foods Market”, we’ve had the pleasure of working with Parkdale’s residents at a little booth beneath the trees in Masaryk Park, making art and enjoying fresh veggies with the splash pad-goers, PARC members, and happenstance passer-byes. In preparation for our upcoming celebration (detailed below), our workshops have produced a stunning selection of feast-themed cutlery, invitations, embroidered bunting, napkins and napkin rings, and a braided constellation web.


Following this line of thought, Greenest City has been kind enough to have invited Making Room to help out with their monthly pot-luck in Hope Garden. While enjoying some delicious recipes next to the patch of land where it was actually grown, we were honoured to run an embroidery workshop at this get-together in July, and both a food-making workshop and an interactive choir performance in August. Thanks for having us, Greenest City!!


A short walk away, the Making Room Team has been working with the Co-op Cred program in the Dunn Garden Parkette. Participants, here, have been bending forks into quirky—sometimes unnerving—stainless steel contraptions, setting them aside to be hung on a scarecrow-esque structure. It’s hoped that the wind clanging through the cutlery will be enough to keep unwanted birds out of the vegetable garden, and that our creation will thus be as useful as it is beautiful! Continue reading

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Connecting Currents, Celebrating 45 Years of PCLS


In the spring of this year, we were asked to do something we never had done before. After getting to know some of the folks at Parkdale Community Legal Services through projects like the Parkdale Community Economic Development project, PCLS invited us to use our expertise and passion for celebrations to imagine a special, community-led ceremony honouring their 45th anniversary. It was a big challenge for us to show up at a place with so many stories and connections in our neighbourhood, but it’s fair to say it was one of the most exhilarating projects yet.

From mid-April and through June, we worked with participants from 11 different community groups, with varying relationships to Making Room and Parkdale Legal, to make art that would honour each of these groups’ special place in Parkdale and draw out the living connection they have with the important work of the legal clinic. Artistic Director Michael Burtt led a project with the ESL Learners at the Parkdale Public Library, many of whom are Tibetan senior women. With the help of textile artist Marianne Alas and designer Sonja Rainey, the Michael and the class created bigger and more complex looms and weaving techniques, bringing in some of the traditional methods held by people in the class.


Making Room artists also led workshops with the Parkdale Youth Advisory, the Jeremiah Community, Greenest City, Edmond Place, the Parkdale Legal Seniors Group, WEST Neighbourhood House Newcomer Youth, Parkdale Women’s Justice Tellers, PCED and more as we asked questions and shared stories about legacy, memory, changing relationships and the landscapes of Parkdale past and the neighbourhood to come.

On June 25th, all of these groups came together to present different pieces during a procession and ceremony at the Dufferin ampitheatre, bringing together more than 250 people on a hot summer afternoon.

The PCLS Seniors brought forward tin cans capturing the essence of Parkdale…


Greenest City brought forth paper lanterns in the shape of clouds….


PCED brought forth banners…


Parkdale Library ESL learners brought forth looms, weaving and wool…

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Women of Parkdale brought forth embroidered flags and Parkdale  Newcomer Youth brought forth their prints, and PARC and the PCLS seniors and community members brought forth landscapes of lost Parkdale…

But most magically, our honoured group, Parkdale Community Legal Services, brought forth the copper chandelier honouring 45 years in the community…. crowning the beacon of Parkdale!

As part of the ceremony we honoured two people who acted as guides bringing us into the amazing and wide ranging web of relationships and groups at PCLS. Executive Director Nancy Henderson  invited us to do this project in the first place, and we are so pleased that she trusted us and brought us into her community. And Amarna Moscote became an incredibly important force for us, introducing us to so many people and inspiring our art and our way of working through her passion and enthusiasm.


Throughout the ceremony, Leah Houston and Shelley La Hay acted as MCs and musicians Liza Bozikvic, Tseten Lhundup and Cathy Nosaty accompanied the action under the direction of Making Room Music Director Shifra Cooper. After the offerings, the choir sang two pieces: the folk classic “How Can I Keep From Singing”  by Robert Lowry arr. Curtis Hanson, and “Here’s to Life” by Mark Cohen. As the choir sang, delicious Tibetan momos (a kind of dumpling), prepared by Sonam, and samosas, prepared by Rahma, were distributed by PCLS volunteers. As we all snacked, Georgie and her troupe of Roma dancers entertained the crowd, eventually inviting everyone to join them dancing in the centre of the ampitheatre.

Moving forward from a celebration acknowledging the many different ways people in Parkdale experience memory and community, we look forward to deepening our relationships while also cherishing the memories and relationships that led us to this very special day.

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Celebrating the launch of Tyde Cambridge’s website

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Please join us to honour our dear friend Tyde who is launching her website – showcasing her talents as a performer and artist.

We’ve been working for months to make a site that would honour Tyde’s diverse and prolific career including her support for Making Room.

The event will take place on Monday, April 25th from 5:30pm-7pm at The Gladstone Hotel Melody Bar.

Check out this Artist Spotlight on Tyde, which we featured on our blog, highlighting her connection with Making Room and giving you a taste of what her website will offer.

We thank and acknowledge the support of the New Horizons for Seniors initiative.

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Join us for the Making Room AGM!


Join Making Room and our Board of Directors for our Annual General Meeting this April 3, 2016 at 3:30pm at the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre (1499 Queen St W) in the Healing Room upstairs.

Like many AGMs, we will be going over general board business, but this is also an opportunity for all Making Room members, friends, artists, participants, neighbours, fans, relatives and supporters to come together and join in conversation and art.

Please email with any questions or suggestions. See you there!

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Thanks, Jess!


Many people are a part of Making Room Community Arts.

Whether you’ve visited us at a workshop, joined us for a parade or celebration, contributed to a project or simply seen us around, we count you as a part of Making Room’s community.

There are also some people who take a pivotal role in shaping what Making Room is or can be. Whether they’re mentors, community members, or lead artists, these individuals become part of the heartbeat of Making Room.

One of these people is Jess Shane. Jess Shane began working with Making Room in the Fall of 2013 assisting Choir Director Shifra Cooper part-time, helping to get our wildly successful choir off the ground. While completing her degree in Visual Studies at the University of Toronto, Jess also pursued a practicum with Jumblies Theatre in 2014. In summer and break times, Jess became a staple in our workshops, developing concepts and designs, documenting moments of art and celebration, and building deep creative and personal relationships. Jess’ experience with both puppetry and projections made her a perfect lead for the creation of the “A Day in Parkdale” video as a part of One Small Gesture. 


In May of 2015, Jess came on to Making Room’s artistic team fresh off of her graduation, diving right in to lead projects at Camp Naivelt and Sparrow Lake and taking on giant design challenges in preparation for our Sure as the Park celebration with Greenest City — yeah, the giant bird puppet? The dyed fabric canopy? The promiscuous furniture shadow show? Those all had Jess Shane all over them!

Most recently, Jess helped produce the periscopes and accompanying books that crowned the most recent project at Edmond Place while simultaneously designing a massive, moving lightbox show for PARC’s solstice. And her commitment to sound design and documentation have laid the foundation for the Making Room podcast currently being put together.

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A huge part of Making Room’s mandate is to provide mentorship and platforms for emerging community artists to grow and develop their skills. As Jess leaves her lead artist position at Making room to pursue new and exciting endeavours in her own personal art practice and career, we can only hope that we’ve given Jess as much as she’s given us.

We love you, Jess!

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