Celebrating the Cultural Tapestry of Toronto

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Celebrating the Cultural Tapestry of Toronto

The 2017 Intersections festival includes more than 35 exhibits across the GTA during the month of March.

Telling Thorncliffe Park’s Stories exhibit from the 2016 Intersections festival. Photo by Caitlyn-Anne Fairbarns and used courtesy of Myseum of Toronto.

Telling Thorncliffe Park’s Stories exhibit from the 2016 Intersections festival. Photo by Caitlyn-Anne Fairbarns and used courtesy of Myseum of Toronto.

When you live in any city, perhaps going back and forth to work, to the same favourite cafes, along the same routes to the grocery store, it can start to feel routine. Familiarity can be comfortable, but the city can also start to disappear. You might not really notice what’s around you if it’s the same streets and buildings you see every day. Myseum of Toronto‘s annual Intersections festival is looking to change that by opening your eyes to the many ways that people see and experience the city. The theme for the 2017 festival is “Envisioning Toronto,” and the goal is to highlight how the many cultures that come together in this city affect our understandings of the past, present, and possible futures. It just might help you see the neighbourhoods around you in a whole new way.

The festival includes more than 35 projects—exhibits, panels, performances, walking tours—across the GTA throughout the month of March. As the weather warms and people begin to emerge from wintry hibernation, Sarah Munro, Myseum’s director of public programs, hopes the festival encourages folks to get outside and explore.

Myseum started accepting proposals for projects last spring and offered funding to some groups to help facilitate their participation. The first Intersections festival was born out of conversations with hundreds of community organizations whose work Myseum admired, Munro says. They realized that many of these groups were combining resources to continue their projects, and it was through these intersections that new conversations and collaborations were happening.

Myseum also partners up with artistic heavyweights such as the AGO and TIFF for Intersections. This can encourage people to check out both established and up-and-coming artists and exhibits.

AGO First Thursday from the 2016 Intersections festival. Photo by Justin Morris and used courtesy of Myseum of Toronto.

AGO First Thursday from the 2016 Intersections festival. Photo by Justin Morris and used courtesy of Myseum of Toronto.

Munro says she wants people attending this year’s festival to come away with “a stronger understanding, and knowledge of, and appreciation for, Toronto. And we’re talking about Toronto in terms of its past, its present, and its possible futures.”

The historical inspiration for many of the projects is key to the festival. As a museum—albeit, one without walls—Myseum focuses on sharing the history and culture of the city in new ways. Because there is no building of exhibits, as there would be for a traditional museum, Myseum uses the city itself as a location for conversations and narratives about heritage. “We’re at a moment in time where…people are no longer content with arriving at a location, being handed a narrative, digesting that narrative, and moving on,” Munro says. “They desire so much more collaboration, and response, and interactivity than that, and I think that’s really what a festival like this offers. Every event and exhibit is really a jumping off point for a dialogue…you immerse yourself in these histories, but the expectation is that you will engage in that act of Toronto place-making with us.”

Munro says some people who attended the festival last year were inspired and submitted proposals of their own this year. “There’s a lot of momentum here because it is so interactive,” she says. “And I think you only get that when you get out of your own house and you go into somebody else’s neighbourhood.”

Black Future Toronto 2116 exhibit from the 2016 Intersections festival. Photo by Maria Vassiliou​​ and used courtesy of Myseum of Toronto.

Black Future Toronto 2116 exhibit from the 2016 Intersections festival. Photo by Maria Vassiliou​​ and used courtesy of Myseum of Toronto.

The themes that emerge from the dozens of projects at the festival show people grappling with complex questions that emerge from a sometimes fractured and polarized political environment. Munro uses the example of projects from the LGBTQ community, which discuss topics, from protest to safe spaces, that were relevant in the 1970s and continue to be relevant today.

“History is not just a moment in time. It has very current repercussions, whether it’s discussing the results of the census, or talking about contemporary feminist issues,” Munro says. “I think there’s a real desire for young practitioners coming into these fields of art and culture and heritage to find a way to make what might otherwise be dead history into living history again, to make those connections.”

The Ward - Representations and Realities (left to right: Arlene Chan, author; Anique Jordan, artist; Andrew Hunter, AGO curator of Canadian art) from the 2016 Intersections festival. Photo by Justin Morris and used courtesy of Myseum of Toronto.

The Ward – Representations and Realities (left to right: Arlene Chan, author; Anique Jordan, artist; Andrew Hunter, AGO curator of Canadian art) from the 2016 Intersections festival. Photo by Justin Morris and used courtesy of Myseum of Toronto.

No matter what you’re interested in, there is an event at Intersections that will speak to you. Torontoist has highlighted six must-see projects below. They include exhibits outside of the downtown core, youth-led tours, discussions about mental health, inclusion and exclusion, housing, history, and Indigenous perspectives.

mAPPing the Territory

    This youth-led project at Humber College explores how virtual and physical spaces interact, using mobile apps to tell stories through cartography. The exhibit runs from March 7 to 30, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Sundays. The opening reception is March 7 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The youth-led exhibition talk and tour is March 25 from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Vertical Toronto: A Thorncliffe Park Experience

    Starting at the Thorncliffe Park library branch, these performance walking tours are led by local youth who are newcomers to the city. Thorncliffe Park was one of the first planned vertical neighbourhoods, and these young people will show visitors what that community looks like today. Tours are March 17, 18, and 19 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Oral Histories of Indigenous Toronto

    Two guided tours, by First Story Toronto, of different parts of the city show the Indigenous stories and histories that exist in what is now an urban landscape. The tours will also explore what a treaty relationship means for all Torontonians. The “Indigenous Knowledge and Storytelling Along the Lower Don” tour is March 11 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and will meet at Corktown Common. The “Ancestors and Identity in North York” tour is March 25 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and will meet at the Gibson House Museum.

Blood, Milk & Tears

    Muslim and Jewish women collaborated on this installation at the FENTSTER Window Gallery, facilitated by artist Rochelle Rubinstein, which will highlight shared experiences, including menstruation, breastfeeding, and mourning. The exhibit runs from February 23 to May 24, and the opening reception is March 8 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Not Just Numbers: Representation in the Canadian Census

    This event will be an interactive mystery game involving the stories of people counted in the Canadian census. Participants will use archival documents to solve a mystery behind census entries. Registration is required for the event, which is March 22 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Beeton Hall in the Toronto Reference Library.

Being Heard

    Workman Arts and Raconteurs Storytelling are combining forces to share personal stories about mental health at the Gladstone Hotel on March 23 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The 17th annual Being Scene exhibit will also be on at the Gladstone from March 1 to 27, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. every day of the week. The opening reception is March 2 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Torontoist will be highlighting a few more projects at Intersections as the festival continues, so stay tuned for more coverage.

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