UrbanArts holds Culture Shock festival

UrbanArts held its 6th annual Culture Shock festival today. Poets, visual artists, musicians, and dancers entertained audiences all through the afternoon and into the evening.

Artists performed in several places around the high school. Highlights included a fashion show, the York Lions Steel Drum band, and performances by local dance groups.

UrbanArts is a youth arts organization on John St in Weston. It is one of four ‘local arts services organzations’ in Toronto; LASOs work in priority neighbourhoods to make “the arts, in all its diverse forms, broadly accessible and affordable.” As well as preparing for the Culture Shock festival, this summer UrbanArts has been hosting camps and running a graffiti prevention project.

“More than the labels that get put on it”: Weston Public exhibition

Weston Public, showing this week at 1030 Weston Rd, is well worth a visit. It was created by Sarah Sharkey Pearce and Mariangela Piccione.

The show is both a documentary and an architecture exhibit, and it is housed in a small, minimalist, ground-floor bachelor apartment-cum-gallery. Piccione was there to graciously describe the exhibit.

Three small, white, pristine building models are set up around the room, and a tiny video is projected on each.  My favourite was a layered representation of Little Park. On the top layer, Piccione had crafted models of the archway, cenotaph, and bandshell. Layers below show a map of Weston, the stone fences around the park, and the topography of Humber River. The floating layers and the white models make the geography and features of the landscape seem light and abstract. The video is interview explanation of the changes in Weston over the past decades.

Piccione said she and Sarah Sharkey-Pearce made short documentaries and models of “small microsites from the neighbourhood. It’s a portrait”.  They are “trying to see the places through the eyes of the people who use them.” Rather than create a long-form documentary, they created episodes, because they felt that “the narrative arc demands closure. These are different ways of seeing the neighbourhood, in the same room, together.”

Both Sharkey Pearce and Piccione grew up in the region. Piccione said,

“I grew up just outside the neighbourhood, and Sarah grew up in Weston. And we always come back.

I found out that it was this ‘priority neighbourhood’. [But] it is important to understand the neighbourhood through the people who live here; it’s more than the labels that get put on it”

Weston Public runs until Saturday from 1 till 6 on weekdays, and from 12 until 7 on the weekend.

Documentary about Weston back for a local run

Weston Public, a documentary installation by Sarah Sharkey Pearce and Mariangela Piccione, has made it home. The multimedia exhibit about Weston and Mount Dennis will be showing, appropriately, at 1030 Weston Rd, where it intersects Dennis Ave.

The show will be open from 1 pm till 6 pm on weekdays, and from 12 until 7 on the weekend. The run will only be one week long.

Weston Public

Microloan program at UrbanArts

UrbanArts has started a new microloan program for youths. It plans to give $5000 loans to arts entrepreneurs from 18–24 to help them start their own businesses.

Microloans are the newest trend in economic development. The idea is to give loans to people who would not normally be eligible, in amounts that would not normally be profitable for lenders. The theory is that small entrepreneurs can put their knowledge of a community to use where outsiders couldn’t.

Lennox Cadore, the Arts Program Manager at UrbanArts, says that they are “creating opportunities for young people who want to start their own businesses. Artists really are entrepreneurs.”

There are 15 positions available in the business program. Upon graduation, the students will be eligible for the $5000 loans. The money comes from Alterna Savings and the City of Toronto.

According to the Toronto Star, the loans will be at prime plus 6%. If the loans are repaid on time, the 6% will be refunded. The loans must be repaid in three years.

Cadore says that he has already received some applications, and he expects many more.

A few spaces still available at UrbanArts camps

So you forgot to register your kids for summer camp. Big deal. Sloth is not a sin.

Oh wait.

Happily, UrbanArts still has a few spots available in their day camps.

Between July 26 and August 6, kids from 8–14 can attend the Community Arts Experience camp. Lennox Cadore, the program manager, says that the first week of the camp will be devoted to environmental leadership. “We’re integrating the environment with the arts”.

From August 9 to August 20, UrbanArts will be running a visual arts camp called the “Legacy Arts Explore Camp”. They will have field trips and fun daily workshops led by professionals and emerging artists.

All the programs are free; the money has come from the United Way, the City of Toronto, and an anonymous private donor.

Cadore says that UrbanArts is running the programs for free “to provide an opportunity for young people in the area. We’re creating an opportunity too for parents to leave their kids in a highly-supervised environment.”

He says the program is “open to everybody. We get a real mix of backgrounds. We have people from both sides of Weston’s tracks.”

You can register for the programs by contacting UrbanArts at (416) 241-5124.

UrbanArts gets its money

I made a mistake earlier this week when I reported that UrbanArts had received money to clean up graffiti. I believed that the city sub-committee had authority to hand out the grants. In fact, the full City Council had to approve the spending.

It has. UrbanArts will be cleaning up graffiti in Weston this summer by hiring young people to paint murals around town.