Connecting Currents, Celebrating 45 Years of PCLS

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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.

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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…

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

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PCED brought forth banners…

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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.

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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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