Designed and created in partnership with Indigenous artists and communities, this outdoor installation is meant to host collective conversations and animation, exploring the impacts of gender-based and colonial violence, and to generate ideas on how we move forward to create safe spaces through public art. Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities alike are invited to engage in conversations to promote understanding and awareness of the impacts of violence and celebrate the enduring resilience of Indigenous communities.
Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, partners and artists, female-identifying or gender non-binary, have been involved in the creation of this installation.
Otsíkh:èta (Candy) Blair, Kaya DeCosta, Ashley King, Karaleigh Metherel, Harley McDowell, Bert Whitecrow
Creative Documentation: Maanii Oakes, Melisse Watson
Aliza La Pagilia
We’re grateful for the partnership and friendship of the following:
Community Partners & Professional Consultants | Heidi Campbell MLA, BEd. (Senior Design Consultant, Evergreen); Rocky Dobey (Artist, Public Memorial focus); Blaire Richard (Medicine person, Marlbank, ON); Vivian Recollet (Traditional Knowledge Sharer, Toronto, ON); Sandy Watters (CTYS); Elijah Phinn (Parks, Forestry & Recreation, City of Toronto); Laureen (Blu) Waters (2-Spirit Elder, Toronto, ON); Native Sexual Health Network, Native Women in the Arts, Springtide Resources, Artscape Youngplace, 2 Spirited People of the First Nation and to other Indigenous artists and cultural knowledge keepers who contributed to our project.
Initially, the project sought to work with young Indigenous female-identified artists in creating furniture to recline or rest on, constructed from natural materials rich in cultural meaning and symbolism. This space and installation is meant to provide a site for animation by local artists and partners to converse with young people and the broader public and community, through artistic workshops, storytelling and gathering, to create a more comprehensive and far reaching dialogue on ending gender based violence. As we met and explored the space during our first week, it was evident that the broader space would also need to be addressed in order for Indigenous placemaking and the group’s sense of cultural, physical and community safety to increase within the space.
The location of the installation will be contained within the space initially identified by Artscape Youngplace (AYP) and SKETCH Working Arts (SKETCH) on the property of 180 Shaw St. (Toronto ON). The artworks are contained on the south-west corner of Shaw St. & Argyle St. with semi-permanent features installed within the borders of the concrete curb or inside edge of the sidewalk on each side. EXISTING TREES AND NATURAL FEATURES The eight existing trees within the space have been considered and incorporated into the final design. Special consideration has been given to the root systems of the mature trees for the project and the artist team specifically chose to avoid any significant digging to maintain the spirit of the least amount of interference with the land as possible. There are no other natural species requiring additional care, and no ESA (Ecologically Significant Areas) designations on the vicinity.
Four simply constructed archways will be created on the perimeter of the site, which are created from weaving willow shrubs which will be placed in raised beds. The raised beds are designed as cedar post palisades to hold amended soil and the mature willow shrubs that create the archways. The main archway will be the Eastern-most entrance as a focal point and entry to the space.
“The archway symbolizes unity & togetherness, and promotes a safe space. The archways are alive because we want it to require attention and care throughout the year to echo our conversations about this subject. The post in front of the archway will have a poem burned into it about the space.” – Artist
Four large tree logs lying horizontally create the base for seating. The willow backs consist of two to four mature living willows planted into a raised bed garden which is woven from cedar/willow/dogwood and amended with soil. The back is woven into an arch-style shape by the artist team, to the extent that the natural materials allow.
“This space is meant to help people in the city to reflect and get in touch with natural spaces – I wanted it to be similar to my experience sitting in the forest back home. The city seems to sever the connection between its residents and the earth they grew up in. Four generations are represented in the artwork on the benches to reference a healing journey, and other medicine wheel teachings. The cedar wigwam structure is meant to shelter the people sitting there.” – Artist
Large birch tree stumps have been sourced for a series of 2 stump seats. The bark is stripped and glyphs are burnt into the sides by the artists. The stumps are carved at the top to create a wide seat, and coated with varathane containing anti-graffiti solution to help mitigate vandalism.
“I selected glyphs from areas within Ontario to promote Indigenous meaning and themes, as well as healing in the space. The stumps are meant to fit a variety of sizes to be more welcoming for everyone in the space.” – Artist
A series of 4 cedar trees (Native species) contained within square, raised beds of fruited mushroom oak logs. Soil will be added to the beds to support the cedar root system and also hold a small series of medicine plants (aka. medicine gardens). The first round of species planted there (TBC) will help to draw toxins from the soil, and then will be disposed of at the end of the growing season. The mycological process using the mushroom logs will help to build the soil and assist the future growth of the medicine plants.
“Cedar is a womxn’s medicine – it holds water and has lots to do with water. Holds it in it’s roots and is symbolic for womxn having water to envelop the child. Cedar is for protection and not only for medicinal use. It’s used for protection in ceremony too – and has lots of powerful medicine. Having it surround the space brings another Indigenous element of having the four directions of the medicine wheel represented. Normally with ceremony you make a circle and surround it with cedar to protect everyone inside. To cut out pollution, sound of the cars and some of the wind. I chose dogwood and willow to surround the cedar so that the cedar isn’t surrounded by cedar strips – being considerate of how the cedars feel too. We want to create safe spaces for the plants too and as an artist I want to have awareness of our connectedness to the environment that surrounds us, not solely amongst humans. The cedar will also protect the medicines in the medicine garden & help absorb the pollution from the highways. Like the warrior plants along the highway – they help guard & protect the plants behind so they stay healthier.” – Artist
A river pathway will be developed with mulch and river rock and provide accessible passage through the space and map the walkway. Community partners and artists will come together to collaborate acknowledging names of the missing and murdered or those whose lives have been affected by gender based violence. The group is still in discussion about the exact details and may also include representation of various nations. These will be etched, sandblasted, painted or dremmelled into stones. The development of this component includes research on the best materials to use aesthetically and with consideration of the space remaining wheelchair accessible. We are also researching the longevity of the materials to ensure a thorough process.
“The river pathway is meant as a memorial element for the artist team and broader community to honour Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2-Spirit individuals who have been victims of Gender-Based Violence. The rocks or other surface material will be marked to represent these community losses and will be done in consultation and collaboration with partner organizations and artists.” – Artist