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culture

Artists Shut Out of Popular Community Program

An arts program in the Jane and Finch area has apparently closed without notice—and participants don't know why.

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Participants in the Palisades Media Arts Academy freestyle outside the shuttered program space. Photo by Errol Young.

Young patrons of the Palisades Media Arts Academy were recently greeted with a locked door and a brief notice indicating that the program was closed “as of April 30.” The thriving drop-in arts initiative at Jane Street and Finch Avenue has seemingly shut down without notice, and staff and management are providing frustrated community members with little information.

“There’s definitely something unsettling about the way it is happening,” said Kris Gayle, who has been using the program for several months. “The biggest thing that hurts us is there was no feedback, no clarification as to what was happening.” Gayle and others say they saw workmen changing locks and removing belongings on the same day the notice was posted.

Our repeated attempts to contact PMAA staff and management to ask about the status of the program met with no response. PMAA’s website, which contains no information about the program’s suspension, says youth aged 16-29 are “welcome to drop-in between the hours of 12–6 p.m.” We also contacted the Ontario Trillium Foundation, which provides a grant to PMAA, to inquire about any changes to the funding. As of publication time, no one from Trillium has responded to our request.

Since 2012, PMAA has provided free studio space and business mentoring to local artists. Many participants have produced business plans and recorded albums to showcase their talents. “It’s one of the ways that I can express myself,” Joel Kamalando said of the program. “I don’t even come to make music sometimes—I just come for a good vibe.”

Sun, an artist who goes by “The Real Sun” and graduated from the program last year, told us she could never have produced her own music without it. “There is a need for this space, for youth to have support in our creative outlets.”

At a small rally on Friday, May 9, participants shared a list of demands for management, including the immediate restoration of programming and the creation of a youth representative seat at the San Romanoway Revitalization Association, which houses the program.

Gayle, who is hoping to be accepted by a college jazz program, says PMAA had become a practice space, as he has no instruments at home. “I’m not sure if you’ve heard the saying, ‘Music is what we need when language fails us, yet we cannot remain silent,’” said Gayle, paraphrasing American academic and activist Cornel West. “This is a perfect example of that.”

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