Manifesto Puts Local Artists on the Map
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Manifesto Puts Local Artists on the Map

A giant jigsaw puzzle was unveiled at the Rotunda in City Hall last week. It wasn’t much of a head-scratcher, since it had already been solved, but what it lacked in convolution it made up in sheer optical awesomeness. Commissioned for the Manifesto Festival of Culture and Community (which just wrapped up this weekend), the puzzle—entitled Toronto Artmap 2009—was created by artists representing each of Toronto’s forty-four wards. Ranging from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds, each artist was given a slab of wood shaped like their particular ward, on which they were free to tinker as they so desired. Once the pieces were finalized, they were linked up Voltron-style to form a massive tessellated map of Toronto.
“It’s very important to see this piece as individual elements, but then to step back and see how it comes together and really shows a unified message,” said Che Kothari, Manifesto’s executive director, to a small audience of city councilors, artists, and journalists. “This piece is just the start of a dialogue that I hope will continue between artists, arts organizations and city councilors. I got to meet some councilors today for the first time, and it’s because of this piece of art that we all got to come together.”

Ward 33’s Councillor Shelley Carroll, Toronto’s budget chief, also shared a few words, recounting her early efforts working with the budget committee to make sure the Toronto Arts Council’s investments “spread out and touched the city limits,” particularly by focusing on local arts organizations that can reach out to youth in the GTA suburbs and “make them even more interested in coming here to the central art district and taking part in artistic expression.” Without naming names, she said this unveiling was a big “I told you so” to the committee members who scoffed at her initial proposal and told her that “art has nothing to do with geography.”

At top: Che Kothari waxes poetic. At bottom: Councillor Shelley Carroll spits truth.

“I think there’s always a common perception that art in Toronto is just a downtown issue,” Devon Ostrom, Manifesto’s visual arts director, told Torontoist. “I think this shows that it’s not just a downtown issue; that’s a major, underlined point in this piece.”
One of the main purposes of the project, said Ostrom, was to network artists across the city with each other, as well as with their councillors. “I think it’s always good for artists to have those kinds of connections. A lot of the time, artists are bogged down by the city, depending on what they want to do. I think to have those kinds of connections means possibilities are a lot more open.”
Both Kothari and Ostrom noted that since there was such an overwhelming number of volunteers from each ward, the Artmap could become an annual project. Organizations such as the Toronto Arts Council, Live with Culture, AGO, Scarborough Arts Council, and UrbanArts helped fund the endeavour, which meant each artist received the princely sum of $150 for their efforts. It may not be enough to make them quit their day jobs, but since when have visual artists been in it for the money, anyway?
The Artmap will stay on display at the City Hall Rotunda until September 25. Afterwards, the pieces will be disassembled and given to each corresponding councillor’s office as a “reminder of the vibrancy and unity of artists across Toronto.”
All photos by Miles Storey/Torontoist.