If you’ve been following us at all here on our blog or our facebook page, you know that 2015 has seen our busiest summer yet, with many projects on the go and many new friends. Chief among them has been our new partnership with the amazing Greenest City, We’ve been working all summer in Masaryk Park with gardeners, artists, and community members in Masaryk Park in preparation for our Harvest Celebration on September 19 — and what a celebration it was!
In the week leading up to the event, Making Room artists were busy at work every day in the park. Lead artist Jess Shane, with the crucial support of Dylan Tate-Howarth and Trevor Hardy, the Making Room artistic team and dozens of community volunteers and participants, looked towards the space of the park itself for a final burst of inspiration. Indeed, the three large trees — a maple, a pear, and a chestnut tree to be precise — forming a triangle offered a special possibility to raise high the work we’d made throughout the summer.
We dyed amazing long strips of fabric, embroidered, cut stencils, braided, and most of all, experimented with making a structure that would rise high and do justice to the new home we had found that summer in the park.
Indeed, the incredible life of the park was the focus of our celebration, which we named, at least internally, “Sure As The Park” — for, although you never knew what or who you might find in Masaryk park, you knew you’ find something. It’s a dependably alive place — that much you could count on.
Despite dour weather predictions indicating rains just under monsoon level, we pressed forward, and on the morning of the celebration, the skies were a mix of blue speckles and speedy clouds. As folks gathered under the tarp in the park, with some snacking on salsa, others spontaneously joining the Making Room Choir, and all enjoying each other’s company and the excitement of what was soon to happen.
Under the direction of Shifra Cooper, and with accompaniment from accordionist Cathy Nosati, drummer Shelley La Hay and traditional Tibetan musician Tseten Lhundup, the Making Room Choir activated the space with the short song, “Going Home,” followed by “The River Song” and the song which inspired our event title, “The Farmer Round” (which Shifra picked up from Cathy Stubbington along the Jumblies Theatre Train of Thought this year).
Until then, our structure sat on the ground as a beautiful conical installation in its own right. It combined the embroidery and wax paper cut-outs we’d done with the fabric strips we’d dyed and written on earlier in the summer and gathered text stencilled out of a fine bookbinding paper.
But as we moved towards that structure, everybody was enlisted to help raise it from each corner, and with chants of “Hey oh!” from all, the cone shot up, revealing the long colourful tendrils underneath. Suddenly, everyone — everyone! — became an actor in tethering those strips of fabric to the rope that hung at eye level between trees. For 10 minutes of glorious kinetic motion, confusion, and collaboration, hands scrambled to open up the canopy so it could fit everybody.
This moment, where everybody ceased to think of themselves as an audience or a spectator and necessarily became a part of the buzz of bodies working together for a common ceremony, felt in so many ways to represent what we had hoped our summer project at Greenest City might be. However different we all are, and however many different ways we chose to participate, we were all invested enough in making something beautiful happen that those distinctions ceased to matter so much.
As the final bits of the canopy were tethered, Jonathan read aloud a poem he’d composed using text produced with park visitors over the summer as the newly invigorated Making Room art cart wheeled its way into the centre to serve a light snack of — what else? — baked pears with chestnuts.
After eating, we made an informal procession over to the unveiling of Parkdale Food Stories mural created by Jim Bravo, and Caitlin Taguibao with six youth artists from the neighbourhood. You can check it out on Queen St, just west of Cowan Ave.
As we finished congratulating the artist, the skies opened up and all of us went running, finding ourselves taking shelter in the Jeremiah Community building, where we enjoyed Tibetan momos prepared by friends and gardeners of Greenest City and a puppet show by visiting Chilean puppeteer Roberto Sainz De La Peña Montenegro.
Despite the rain, our harvest celebration was an amazing coming together of so many of the people who have made art with us all summer and the overlapping communities that use Masaryk Park. A huge thank you to everyone who participated, our photographer Liam Coo, Greenest City and all of our funders for this amazing day! Here’s to more art in the park!