Louise Garfield is taking her love of art to the streets. As executive director of Arts Etobicoke, she is collaborating with Lakeshore Arts, her sister organization, to display new works across Toronto. But these pieces won’t be seen on billboards or in other traditional outlets; instead, they will be featured on the side of travelling motorized vehicles for a new project titled ART ON THE MOVE.
The idea emerged because of the vast space that exists between the two arts organizations, which makes it difficult to bring their artists and communities together. As a solution, the two groups re-framed the problem and made that distance the propeller of their whole collaborative project. Instead of hosting a joint event that may be too far out of the way for some of their community members, they have decided to literally bring the art to the people.
To make the project a reality, Garfield applied for and received funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the City of Toronto’s Live With Culture campaign. This money will be used to pay the artists, and it’s already allowed Garfield to think about offering multiple seasons of the project, rather than being forced to validate its merit through a trial run.
The first year of the series is set to launch in late June, and the newly created pieces will appear on three vehicles around Toronto (a decommissioned TTC bus and two vans owned by FoodShare and White Knight Kitchens), each assigned to a different artist and each artist paired with a community group whose members will help to design the works. For the decommissioned TTC bus, artist couple Patrick Thompson and Jenifer Rudski have been matched with the Belka Enrichment Center located in the Jane and Finch area. The bus is of particular importance to those who frequent the Center, because it serves as an after-school mobile computer lab and workspace for kids and as a weekend meeting place for parents involved in Belka’s parent partnership program.
Working on collages at the Belka Enrichment Center.
Having already worked on a project that aims to bring art to First Nations reserves, Thompson jumped at the chance to get involved with ART ON THE MOVE because, he says, “the thought that this work was going to travel was an amazing opportunity…to get work in the greyest places in Toronto.” Both he and Rudski held several hour-long collaboration sessions with kids from Belka and they incorporated collages made by their younger peers into their background mural. These collages, which Thompson describes as “surreal Dada characters,” have been constructed out of head shots of the kids and clippings the kids have cut out of a motley mix of magazines, such as 1960s issues of National Geographic.
The end result will be much different than what Thompson initially envisioned when he applied for the project, but he describes the collaboration as a way of successfully “[creating] something that touches on what Belka is doing… without being overly illustrative of it.” To finish the piece, he and Rudski will take digital pictures of both the background mural and the collages and then layer them in Photoshop. This image will then be printed and wrapped on the side of the Belka bus (as will the other works on the vans).
There is talk of expanding the project to more vehicles in future years, but its growth depends on finding vehicle owners who are willing to transport the art. Garfield is optimistic, though, resting her hopes on the belief that more people will offer to get involved once they see the current works or hear about the project. In fact, word has already started to spread, and there’s a chance that a sailboat will be donated for next year’s campaign. Considering that the idea has already reached the water before the project has even launched, there must be more people on land who will be moved enough to get involved.
Photos courtesy of Patrick Thompson.