The Lab Cab Festival has gotten so big it needs an entire neighbourhood to hold it.
And so the annual multi-arts festival is moving from its traditional home, at the Factory Theatre, to Parkdale. Which is to say, all of Parkdale.
As a long-time Parkdale resident, festival artistic director Aviva Armour-Ostroff wanted to highlight the neighbourhood’s creativity by holding the festival there. She also wanted to make the festival feel like a part of the neighbourhood. As a result, everything from clown performances to visual-art installations will be happening in over 70 indoor and outdoor spaces along Queen Street West, between Dufferin Street and Roncesvalles Avenue.
“We were using every single nook and cranny of the [Factory] space,” she says. “We wanted to show off the neighbourhood.”
West End Comics will be home to a superhero-themed dance performance. Owner Kirk Sutterfield says he agreed to be a festival venue in part because he’s an artist himself, and in part because he’s a big believer in “saying yes.”
“I just like having events at the store. I want this to be more than a comic book store,” he says. “To keep my store interesting and fresh, the more hands I have involved with it, the better it’s going to be. Comic books are accepted as an artistic medium now, so the more sorts of art we can get involved, the better.”
Armour-Ostroff adds that one of her goals for the festival is to have it properly represent the community. She says she made a point of reaching out to find lesser-known artists from the area.
“We wanted it to represent the community,” she says. “We didn’t just want it to be a festival of white people.”
Derek Kwan’s one-man opera, Mr. Park vs. Dale, directly addresses what’s going on in the community. Kwan says he wrote the opera as a way of discussing the frictions that exist in the still-gentrifying neighbourhood.
“It’s about two men,” he says. “There’s an older gentleman, named Mr. Park, who frequents this green space because it’s very near and dear to him and reminds him of his late wife. And there’s a younger guy, named Dale, who’s up-and-coming and trying to do what he needs to do to get established.”
“It just came from hanging around in Parkdale and seeing the different dynamics that were taking place in the neighbourhood.” The opera will play in a small parkette outside May Robinson Apartments, off Queen Street. It has two showings on each day of the festival.
Armour-Ostroff, Kwan, and Sutterfield all hope that the festival will draw attention to Parkdale as an artistic hub, while also highlighting some of the difficulties that arise when a neighbourhood changes.
“I just want to hold up a magnifying glass to things that are going on,” says Kwan. “This is a neighbourhood in flux, and I just want to look at what happens in neighbourhoods, how needs change, and how the environment changes.”