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Seeing is Believing

Art of the Danforth is back in its second incarnation, bringing incredible local artists to the streets and awakening the community to engage in the sights and sounds of their neighbourhood

by Amanda Philip
Credit: Courtesy of Steve Johnson, Minimalistphotography101.com

On the way to the quaint Cozy Cafe and Bakery at Woodbine and Danforth, one might be taken aback by the starkness of the area. Walking south from Woodbine station there are big, empty streets and papered-up store windows. As it turns out, that is the very experience that inspired Art of the Danforth.

When event producer Cindy Rozeboom moved to the area from uptown Toronto, she took a good look at her new neighbourhood and thought: “What’s the potential of a place like this?” Cindy explains, “We have lots of artists (and art enthusiasts) living out here, and a wealth of cultures, local history, and unused/underused spaces.” [pullquote]“We have lots of artists (and art enthusiasts) living out here, and a wealth of cultures, local history, and unused/underused spaces.”[/pullquote] Not long after her move she met her co-producer Dan Silver, a culture policy and sociology professor from Chicago, who shared her sentiment and ambition to transform the Danforth and unite the community through various art forms.

“It is our mission to bring people together, engage them, challenge them and get them talking, thinking and feeling.” This mission statement of local research/art atelier Mammalian Diving Reflex is warmly echoed by biology-student-turned-art-project-manager Asad Raza as he sits down with On the Danforth to share his experience this year as the manager of curatorial teams for local community-driven art project Art of the Danforth.

The first Art of the Danforth was a week-long event in May 2010, and the community response was tremendous. “People expressed the need for something like this to happen in the area,” Asad says. And it is this overwhelming support from the community that encouraged Cindy to forge on and launch Art of the Danforth 2012, which will take place from May 20 to June 10. “There’s a feeling of responsibility to follow through with something that we’ve stirred up excitement for,” Cindy says.

This year, Dan and Cindy contacted Asad with the Art of the Danforth project to implement a curatorial process to include professional artists from different parts of the city. This spring, the teams will dedicatedly transform the areas with video projections, sculptures, street performances, and gallery shows.

“The art should be an expression and reflection of this community,” Cindy asserts, but she is hoping, with Asad’s help, to widen the scope of the event this year with different artist perspectives. “The quality and range of the ideas coming back are fascinating,” Asad says, “and it’s been really gratifying to see people responding to the space in a very unique way.”

[pullquote]“The kinds of projects we’re doing, and what visual art can do, is to provide a context to get out of your ordinary mode,”[/pullquote]

Asad wasn’t able to reveal too much about the proposed projects because plans aren’t entirely resolute with the event being in its early stages; however, one of the artists is proposing what he calls a “texture detective tour,” wherein he intends to bring local kids armed with paper and crayons on a tour of their neighbourhood. They will trace imprints of various surfaces in the area, which will then be put on display in one of the artist-run spaces.

The Mammalian Diving Reflex is proposing a similar, youth-oriented neighbourhood tour — this time with the kids as the guides. The tour will encourage people to interact with their neighbourhood in an entirely different way, seeing it from “a kid’s eye-view.” This exercise aims to naturalize the so-called “background” areas of neighbourhoods; instead of seeing the back corners and alleyways as threatening and strange, participants will get a chance to experience these spaces from a more innocent perspective.

Asad envisions Art of the Danforth as an avenue through which community members can really learn to step out of their homes and comfort zones, and to truly interact with their surroundings. “The kinds of projects we’re doing, and what visual art can do, is to provide a context to get out of your ordinary mode,” he says.

For more Art of the Danforth 2012 details, click here.


Art Zones

Zone A – Greenwood to Coxwell

Curated by Butcher Galleries

Zone B – Coxwell to West Lynn

Curated by Labspace Studio & Annie Onyi Cheung

Zone C – West Lynn to Amroth


Zone X (throughout festival)

Curated by Madeleine Collective



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