Youth drum collective Samba Kidz perform at the Neighbourhood Arts Network launch.
Artists, art organizations, and community leaders came together to celebrate the launch of the Neighbourhood Arts Network at the Harbourfront Centre on Wednesday evening. The Neighbourhood Arts Network is exactly what its name suggests—a centralized network through which neighborhoods and artists can come together to create, discover, and support community art.
Toronto Arts Foundation initiated the Network after realizing that the Toronto arts community needed more support, and a central network through which they could connect and communicate. “Artists bring fresh, creative energy to Toronto’s neighborhoods,” Claire Hopkinson, executive director of the Toronto Arts Foundation, said. “We are working to help Toronto become a more creative and more livable city and we believe that community-engaged arts programs will play a major role in neighborhood transformation city-wide.”
After consulting with artists, community leaders, and arts organizations throughout Toronto, the Neighbourhood Art Network emerged, offering artists and their communities support, outreach, and education. “We’ll be doing in-person network events, symposiums, workshops, professional development opportunities, advocacy, pretty much everything,” Frances Mahon, a community investment assistant with the Toronto Arts Foundation, said. “We want this Network to respond to what the members of the network want. By encouraging ongoing conversations, everyone can learn and draw from each other, making the Network and its members stronger. We plan to respond to the needs of artists and communities. This will ensure the Network is dynamic, comprehensive and relevant to community art-making in Toronto.”
The launch saw several arts organizations, including Art Starts, Sketch, and Jumblies Theatre come out. Community art installations filled the room, and attendees were encouraged to locate their local community’s art projects on a map of the city. Michael Chan, the Ontario minister of tourism and culture, came out to show support (and contributed to some of the installations). Performances by the youth drum collective Samba Kidz and Clay & Paper Theatre’s Cyclops, a cycling-oriented puppet group, rounded out the evening.
Tamara Haberman, left, explains the community tapestry to Carlos Rivas, right, and David Wooton, middle.
One installation was a community tapestry. “It’s a representation of what community art and the Neighbourhood Art Network is all about. It’s a communal process. We hope to see this tapestry evolve as the Network evolves,” Tamara Haberman, community arts officer for the Toronto Arts Foundation, explained. “A tapestry is very much like community art. It’s slow to evolve. It can easily be a communal process. It’s very organic. People can contribute whatever they want and as much or as little as they want. It’s a community effort that’s greater than the sum of our parts.”
Currently the Neighbourhood Arts Networks exists as a virtual community, with a website offering a forum for information and idea sharing. Membership is free, and artists, art organizations, libraries, business improvement associations, community leaders, educators, and the art-interested are encouraged to join the network and share their vision for community art in Toronto.
Photos by Erin Balser/Torontoist.