Making Room began in the winter of 2008 as an exploration into the relationship between intentional silence and collaborative art-making.
Our experience is that both art and silence comes out the dynamic tension between strong artistic leadership that is framed around the stories, experiences, personalities of the core group that includes PARC members, lead artists and friends who have decided to join us.
We believe that there is a contemplative centre in every person and this centre can powerfully be accessed through a process of collaborative art-making. We define contemplation as the ability to be aware of the artistic process and product simultaneously as a part of a single whole. It is all part of the art.
Out of this shared centre of trust and friendship, we continue to reach out to the larger PARC membership and partners in Parkdale through four workshops a week working in a diversity of media to ask big questions together.
Currently we are in the final phase of our Creation Stories project, which will carry us through to 2016.
Below you will find a more detailed history of each of our projects.
The Waters that Become Us – June 2008
This early project explored places and times of quiet amidst the rush and hurry of Parkdale and established the importance of the lake in this process. We also began to look at Parkdale as a metaphorical river where people move up and down daily as well as a place where people and things are washed up on its shores
The Book of Lost Things – June 2009
The Book of Lost Things was launched at the Books and Bread Festival and explored the theme of personal and collective loss in a manner both whimsical and emotional. This event also included the ceremonial weaving of “The Parkdale Bread Book” a collaborative project between three Parkdale organizations: Greenest City, Parkdale Project Read, and Parkdale Neighbourhood Church.
In the fall of 2009, we began an important partnership with Painting our Stories Community Mural Project. This collaboration led to the creation of the “Searching for the Sky” mural near the corner of Queen and Cowan, with Joshua Barndt as lead artist.
Recipes for a Good Life – June 2010
Throughout this project, we asked the question of what is healthy for us, and other deeper questions related to sustenance despite the losses we have experienced.
In 2011 we brought together the themes of loss and sustenance by looking at scarcity and abundance from a number of angles including the perspective of “the Two Parkdales”. We explored these themes through our two main projects. In Portraits of Silence, we mounted images of PARC members and friends with their eyes closed, in silence, on Parkdale landmarks such as Sun Fa Restaurant and the Parkdale Breakfast, bringing a bit of quiet to the noisy river of Queen St.
In Sparks that Fly, mounted a number of light boxes in the basement of PARC, leading to the Sorauren Food Bank. These light boxes, designed by community designers Public Displays of Affection, reflect the passion hiding beneath the surface of many food stories.
2012 was the year of our most ambitious project yet, the raft. The project began with the secret meetings of the Danger Seekers Club, who sought adventure around Parkdale and Toronto. Soon others were invited to join in the adventure as we prepared for a symbolic procession down to Lake Ontario, reclaiming the lakeshore as a rightful part of Parkdale by putting our handmade raft and canoe to the water.
Over many months of preparation, members helped build these seacrafts as well as a gallery dedicated to the late PARC artist and member Jerry Naumyk.
There are several videos of the raft project, which can be viewed at our video gallery page.
Convergence – September 2012
In September of 2012, Artistic Director Michael Burtt led the first in a series of retreats at Camp Naivelt in Brampton. Convergence was a research lab and creation retreat meant to ask if there is a place of quiet at the centre of community art-making, and how artists can integrate that into their practice as individuals and in collective settings. This ended with a public presentation at PARC with Jumblies Theatre.
In May 2013, Making Room completely transformed the PARC drop-in, reimagining its everyday life as a buzzing, exotic night market with endless delights: knitting and knit goods, fortune telling, acetate drawings of members past, memory jars, Pillars-of-Wisdom cigarettes, galleries for PARC artists Robert and Elias, cordel books, jewelery by PARC member Evelyn, a wisdom tree tablecloth, a stall containing archival photographs, gramophone listening stations, and more.
The Living Machine – July 2013
A short summer project, The Living Machine was meant to be an interactive machine that would work with texts, creating and consuming them. Its final rendition included kaleidescopes, an elaborate metal cart, a pop up book and backdrop, and a Puppet Show including the Wise Fools Chorus line, led by Rebecca Bruton. The show included experiments in gibberish and puppet language as well as interactive art-making elements for the audience. The machine appeared in more than eight sites during the Parkdale Lab Cab festival and lives on in our workshops today!
In the Fall of 2013, we began our ongoing Creation Stories book series, beginning with the creation of The Pathway of Life. The book’s main text, written by Bob Rose, tells the story of the author’s close and complicated relationship with a troubled and well-liked PARC member named Walter. We worked intimately with this text, and themes of housing, safety, objects, and the tensions between city and country life emerged. We created additional text and drawings and prints that appear throughout the book, as well as original prints which were bound physically into the book. This was our first bookmaking venture wherein we collaborated with Coach House Books designer Rick/Simon, and the book includes endpages and covers printed on their traditional letterpresses.
During this period, the Making Room Choir began to rehearse under the leadership of Shifra Cooper. In January, the choir made its premier at our book launch for Pathway of Life, which also included displays of the art we had made throughout the fall: healing hut lanterns, a paper comfort quilt, animations of acetate landscapes of Parkdale and Camp Kandolore, invisible ink revelations, and more.
In the second Creation Stories book, Bob tells the story of the twenty-five year anniversary of PARC, when the tradition of baking as many cakes as years have passed began. He relates how the inner artist of Wayne, a notoriously grumpy and alienated PARC member, unexpectedly emerged during a night of cake decoration. We made imagery for the book that worked with the idea of internal knots.
We also talked about PARC traditions and revived the PARC mascot of the Dragon, making dragon scales as well. On the 34th anniversary of PARC’s founding, the Dragon reappeared in the drop-in alongside thirty-four cakes, all with handmade cakestands, a giant Dragon’s egg piñata, a live band, fresh food and a whole lot of books.
The choir performed a new batch of songs, while the evening was hosted by the illustrious LaLa Lucretia, played by PARC member Shelley La Hay.
In the Spring of 2014, we reimagined what a procession down to the lake (like the one in Join The Adventure) could look like. Working with the text John Blank’s Bags by Bob Rose as our next book, we created all manner of illustrations and designs for this next edition. As we prepared for our sojourn down to the lake, one member suggested that we have flags to represent each of us as our own continent, together making up the world. As these flags came together, we also created extravagant hats, with the purpose of amplifying ourselves. It was also during this time that we began regular workshops at Edmond Place, the supportive housing unit operated by PARC. This group made a beautiful lantern float that joined in the parade with the Dragon.
But the centrepieces of this celebration were the vinyl bags and handmade patches that came together, thanks to the designs of lead artist Sonja Rainey, into six beautiful bag lanterns.
On June 21st, we wore our hats, waved our flags, banged our drums and took over the streets of Parkdale and Little Budapest Park on the lakeshore. We sang, feasted, waved our flags, and ceremonially launched a copy of our book into the lake, while distributing other copies amongst the attendees. Many of us stayed long after sundown, sitting around the fire and watching the bag lanterns lighting up the beach, before picking them up and processing back up to PARC.
For the fourth instalment of Creation Stories, we began interrogating how gestures — in the form of sounds, drawings, stories, moments — intersect and unravel in surprising ways. Together, these gestures can take what seems familiar or simple and allow us to reorient or refigure them. To this end, we made several handmade books. One, an embroidered songbook of sound gestures, assembled by Tyde. Others, collectively authored and illustrated stories based on these sound gestures. And even more, books made by the Edmond Place group that paired with the wire sculpture stalagtites they made.
But the big celebration this time did not take place as a one night book launch. Rather, we transformed the Healing Room at PARC for three days, asking the question, what happens if we imagine everyday life at PARC as special, transformative? What happens if individual and collective gestures from around the PARC community come together over the course of three days? Many workshops, ceremonies, and performances came together to form this three day happening, which you can read more about here.
During the wintery beginnings of 2015, PARC members and Making Room artists asked the question, “What is a legend?” The result was an amazing adventure that culminated in a ritual that took place during PARC’s 35th anniversary celebration, where we celebrated legends at PARC and in Parkdale by honoring the legendary flame sculpture we made in the drop-in in the months preceding. You can read a guest post by a student who visited us during this time right over here.
Thanks to a Platform A Micro-grant, Making Room artist Jonathan Valelly led a writing and bookmaking project taking up the theme of smoking — where it puts us, how it fits into our days, what it does. The project culminated in a book launch and reading for EP Verbal Cigarettes, a book that literally took the shape of a pack of cigarettes, with each pages rolled up into a single smoke. Read more about it here.
The Way Here – May 2015
Following the Summit of Legends at PARC’s anniversary, we began to make art about the ways we get places, the circuits we make, and the places that our stories intersect with those of others. We celebrated in the drop-in, suspending a rotary clothesline with different modes of movement on it, and sharing our giant fabric map and our ever-intricate signpost (pictured above). The event culminated with another performance by our Making Room Choir and marked the transition into our summer season working with Greenest City. Read more about The Way Here.
Making Room was invited to host and program the annual art week at Camp Naivelt, a leftist summer community in Brampton, ON. Taking up the theme of peace and inherited memory, the Making Room team collaborated Naivelters and visiting PARC members to make a celebration, sound piece and shadow puppet show “It Take a Table” to honor the past, present, and future spirit of Naivelt. Read more!
Every summer, PARC takes its members to camp for a few days of sun, solace, and retreat. This year, Making Room artists tagged along and ended upc reating a giant puppet to represent the spirit of Sparrow Lake, where the camp was held. A massive puppet requiring ten people to maneuver it was the result, and it was magically brought to life one night in a summertime ritual!
Throughout the summer of 2015, Making Room created a new partnership with local urban agriculture project Greenest City. We held workshops as a part of their Good Food Wednesdays and gardening days on Thursdays, and asked questions about what keeps the park dependably alive day to day, even as seasons, faces, and activities change. At the end of it all, we revived Greenest City’s tradition of the Harvest Celebration with an afternoon we named Sure As The Park, where we lifted the massive structure we had been working on all summer. Read more about the day at the full blog post.