hero image of the bentway bridge
Public Art Projects

a wandering

On exhibition at The Bentway until August 21

Start at the Strachan Amphitheater, the west end of The Bentway and walk east until just before the Bathurst Street bridge

Listen deeply as you wander along under the Gardiner Expressway, where many have made home and wandered along before it became known as The Bentway. Witness, wonder, hear and receive stories, wisdoms and gifts, from those with lived experience of homelessness offered through sound and story, with bursts of augmented reality sprinkled throughout.

In co-presentation with The Bentway, the Reconstructions of Home Curatorial Collective invites us to celebrate the creativity of homeless communities in Toronto and join them to end the stigmas regarding homelessness.

Work by @social_anti (aka Renaissance)

Work by @social_anti (aka Renaissance)

“Cities are enriched by street artists, and homeless-community culture is vibrant and thrives despite ongoing displacement and so much loss. Partnerships like this recognize this community’s hidden legacies, wisdoms and histories, yet they’re often not valued as contributions to community or city development–this needs to change. Toronto must recognize its many hidden histories – so HEAR US in the place we call home.” 

Sue Cohen, Creative Curatorial Lead

a wandering

Take the digital tour

map of digital tour

Nothing can replace wandering through the physical site where these stories have been told, and so many more have taken place. The idea of wandering through is an invitation to take time, listen, stop, and process as you move from west to east. The invitation at The Bentway is intended to offer something of an embodied experience. However, this digital exhibition can give you another way to engage in this curated bundle of diverse expressions. Look for the hidden gem tucked deep into this digital journey….you won’t regret it.

Visit these sites one after the other for the full experience. Great thanks to Artists Jess De Vitt and Jane Doe Smith for narrating this journey.

STORY 

Reconstructions of Home is the collaborative work of a curatorial collective of artists with lived experience, who listened deeply to stories, issues and concerns of members of Toronto’s homeless communities and considered them amongst their own. From that story gathering ideas for a wandering emerged. We often rush past homelessness and those who live it. Year after year 

The process started in February of 2021 with weekly sessions of a group called the Think Tank (aka Tink Tank) who later became the curatorial collective. After determining the principles of working together and the key values they wanted to articulate, artists began interviewing folks with lived experience to create an audio archive. 

This project is built on conversations, memories, and shared space in which artists held grief together with those deeply impacted by countless losses from multiple pandemics – the Opioid crisis hitting the houseless community far worse than COVID-19. 

developing deeper understanding

Public Art Approach

We wanted the installation to be simple in its presentation, we also had to work within our budget and the timelines. We chose posters on the Bents packed with augmented reality, visual and sound story or song. While potential is easy to miss and walk by (similar to those living homeless), this treatment allowed artists to demonstrate the layers and diversity of lived experience, beyond what is often presented in a reduced way as an ‘issue’, a ‘problem’, etc. When done so, the complexities and the nuances get lost. The artists sought to invite audiences into a deeper understanding needed to engage in addressing long entrenched stigma and bias. 

Two sites of a wandering offered physical sculptural treatment: one of a graffitied phone booth without a phone ironically called HEAR US; and another of a shipping container flanked by lockers that held detailed dioramas, gifts, and harm reduction supplies. This was intended to play on the many temporary sites involved in living houseless, bus and train stations, train cars, shipping containers, squats, all impermanent and implying a ‘keep it moving’ energy. These were present on-site at The Bentway April 14-May 6, 2022. The poster treatment remained in place at The Bentway for the summer until August 21, and will continue as a digital exhibition beyond the Year of Public Art.

A powerful mode of storytelling the ROH curatorial team engaged in the creation of Dioramas while interviewing and sharing stories and experiences. This medium allowed intimate expression and containment simultaneously.

 

The Bentway: Our Co-presenting partner

The Bentway Conservancy is a not-for-profit dedicated to the creation of shared and inclusive public spaces. The Bentway welcomes, respects, and values all visitors to this space and honours their experiences and histories. 

We chose the site of The Bentway because as the area has become developed to include many neighbours, we wanted to ensure the story of those who were transient there before that development, did not get lost.

Together we have taken the time to tell stories, acknowledge the experience, and consider the displacement that development and even public art can cause. This has made us more aware of our design and intentions throughout our process and final presentation.

 

Co-presentation Statement by The Bentway and SKETCH

We come together in Reconstructions of Home designing creative ways to honour and celebrate the community and culture of those who have called this place home. We recognize the pain that displacement causes, and with empathy and compassion we mindfully remember those who have walked here before.

We acknowledge that the voices of homeless and unhoused communities should be included in decisions about the future of our city. We seek to better understand the needs and gifts of this creative community and how public space can address some of those needs and engage some of those gifts. We are seeking to reconcile the past while continuing to look forward. This is done best in ongoing conversations with the communities impacted. 

“The Bentway is proud to be expanding our partnership with SKETCH through the second instalment of the Reconstructions of Home project. We recognize the importance of celebrating and learning from the many communities who have shaped and are shaping the lands under the Gardiner. We believe that public art can be powerful, helping us to see, hear, and better understand the stories of our neighbours. Together, we can continue to inform the evolution of our city’s public spaces.” 

Ilana Altman, Co-Executive Director of The Bentway

Highlights

Opening Day Panel 2022

Amelia Merhar (RoH curatorial collective artist) moderated a conversation about the embodiment of homelessness, sharing her theories on the Inner Hobo – the title of a short film in a wandering. Panellists included former housing and harm reduction workers Sarah Cunningham, Emmerson Outlaw, Olympia Trypis, Joe Amero, and SKETCH Creative Director, Julian Diego. Listen to that conversation here.

Artist & Creative Team

Renaissance

Featured Artist - Reconstructions of Home

Renaissance

Featured Artist - Reconstructions of Home
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The anonymous street artist Renaissance creates art outside of the establishment, turning the streets of Toronto into the artist’s own blank canvas. Their “post-it notes for the people” started popping up around the city in 2020, with messages spray-painted onto boarded up buildings that read “You Are Not Your Mistakes” or “The Sky Is Falling Hold Breath & Wear Mask.” Renaissance considers them whispers to Black residents of Toronto, like a silent nod. The self-taught artist makes gestural paintings reminiscent of Basquiat on any material they can find – salvaged wood, paper, discarded mattresses – and leaves them for people to find and take for free. During the pandemic they endeavoured to turn the city into an accessible, outdoor gallery. 

“I had this idea to turn Toronto into my gallery. I would find a spot that was boarded up and then I would put the words ‘Afro Gallery’ and I’d leave art there. I wasn’t only putting up graffiti-style art in the streets, I was leaving paintings on paper and canvas and also sculptures. I was creating so much art last summer, I probably donated about 50 paintings and the corners became curated, evolving galleries where people could take the art.  

“I turned all of Kensington Market into an Afro gallery. I left paintings and sculptures at every hydro pole in Kensington. There’s one left but people took all the rest of them. People started going there and wondering what was going on, asking ‘did the city pay for this?’ It was like my own personal Nuit Blanche.”

Star Nahwegahbo

Featured Artist - Reconstructions of Home

Star Nahwegahbo

Featured Artist - Reconstructions of Home
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Star Nahwegahbo is Anishinaabe, Scottish and English from Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation, Ontario, Robinson Huron Treaty, currently living in Tkaronto/Toronto. Star is a mother, interdisciplinary artist, former Social Service Worker of 12 years, grassroots community organizer and expressive arts facilitator. In 2017, due to severe burnout and mental health, Star decided to retire from a twelve-year career in the social work sector and enrolled in OCAD University’s Indigenous Visual Culture Program. This decision was made so she may nurture her artistic gifts and combine her passion for social change and art into a new career crafted and designed to support a healthier lifestyle.

Star’s work explores mental health, the parallels of motherhood and land, the impact of colonial violence on Indigenous families, grief, medicine and the art of braiding ourselves back into our rightful place in creation. One of the main targets of colonial violence on Indigenous people has been the attack on culture/Identity, land and children, her work aims to nurture these relationships and dismantle the colonial system within herself. Star acknowledges that her work is guided and co-created with ancestral and land based intelligence.

Otsíkh:èta - Candy

Featured Artist - Reconstructions of Home

Otsíkh:èta - Candy

Featured Artist - Reconstructions of Home
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New parent and entrepreneur, Otsíkh:èta- Candy, is a interdisciplinary-visual/performing artivist from Tio’tía:ke(“Montreal Region”) who continues their as an artist after having completed their Creative Arts-Literature-Languages program at Marianopolis College (“cégep”), 2 years in the Theatre program at YorkU, and their 3 year Acting Conservatory program at CIT here in Tsí tkaròn:to (“Toronto”).

Performances include, Jill Carter’s Encounters at the Edge of the Woods,  Ange Loft’s Talking Treaties, Cheri Maracle’s The Story of Six Nations, and performances on Indigenous languages, land, cultural restoration through dance, combat-choreography, painting, song-creation, etc; including leadership on varied reconciliation workshops and tours aiming to unite Indigenous Nations utilizing Candy’s mixed backgrounds.

Amelia Merhar

Featured Artist - Reconstructions of Home

Amelia Merhar

Featured Artist - Reconstructions of Home
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Amelia has been a creative person since a child, though the only formal art school she ever attended was two years of art High School at Central Technical School in Toronto. Her first group art show was when she was 15. From graffiti mural projects as an “at-risk teen”, to an award-winning MA research project using arts-based research methods, Amelia is always working on at least a few art projects. Amelia came to the Yukon as a 19-year old in 2004 for a summer, and has been a resident since 2008.

Her favourite part of the creative process is the idea stage and learning a new medium, then using that knowledge to better understand all works in said medium, be it burlesque, collage, radio, textiles, photography, or installation. For her the art concept comes first, then the joy and thrill of learning how to make it. Since 2015 she has been actively creating art with communities through arts-based research methods and other public works such as satirical guided meditations to improve health and wellbeing.

Her work can be described as playful, clever, and subversive. She positions herself as a community-based artist. She has explored themes including feminist response and embodiment (Motorboat), northern life (River Guide and Disco Meditations), the influence music has on our lives (Vinyl Tarot), and spontaneity and creativity (Cardboard Carnival).

The bulk of her work is non-commercial and experiential, through installations, performances, video and sound art, though she also designs vibrant merchandise for her music career. She is dedicated to making art that improves community and wellbeing. TL;DR a thesis in a zine and Getting Ripped 4 the Apocalypse projects are the best examples of that goal.

EDUCATION:

Diplomas in Child Psychology, Train Conducting, and Northern Studies, and a BA degree in Community Development, with a concentration in Community Research and Indigenous Knowledge from University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2014. MA in Human Geography from York University, 2017. Presently a 4th year PhD Candidate at UWaterloo in Human Geography. Her dissertation is called Requiem 4 a Tour: Embodied Pasts and Precarious Futures in the Original Gig Economy, and is grounded in economic and health geography, exploring the embodiment of transience among Canadian touring musicians.

Career-wise, some highlights include being a Health Promotion Worker, a Library Assistant, a freight train conductor for CN, and a Policy Analyst for the Council of Yukon First Nations. She has sat on the boards of two music industry associations in the Yukon as well.

Based in Whitehorse, currently in Toronto for graduate school.

ameliamerhar.ca for her artist site @ameliamerhar on twitter and @lele_slavicc on Instagram.

Parker Dirks (they/them)

Operations Specialist

parkerbotaddress@sketch.ca@sketch.ca

Evan Vincent (any/all)

Audio Arts Coordinator

musicbotaddress@sketch.ca@sketch.ca

Evan Vincent (any/all)

Audio Arts Coordinator
musicbotaddress@sketch.ca@sketch.ca

Evan is a musician, DJ, plant lover and curious soul. You’ll find Evan biking around the city on a hot day, working on their street photography or staying up way too late listening to music. Evan loves to travel and record the sights and sounds from adventures around the world.

Quinatzin

Quinatzin Aguilar Gutierrez (he/she/they)

Culinary Arts Specialist

quinatzinbotaddress@sketch.ca@sketch.ca

Sue Cohen

Creative Lead - Reconstructions of Home

Sue Cohen

Creative Lead - Reconstructions of Home
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Though primarily a painter, often utilizing classical techniques, playing with surrealism and collage with a keen interest in figurative imagery. My arts practise led me to learn to play in a variety of materials, sculpture, papermaking and book binding, and more recently environmental arts.

I have worked as a community artist in Toronto for the past 25 years. Currently at SKETCH working arts for street involved and homeless youth, as a Program Coordinator.  I have a deep passion for experiences that explore human relationships with the environment – focusing on integration of the arts and nourishment through urban gardening, horticulture, wild crafting and culinary arts.

Themes throughout my work focus on creative rejuvenation, exploring communal arts practise and inclusion, and finding joy together in the process. The healing act of arts creation and how that fosters a sense of deep community connection are sacred to me, and where all humanity truly shines.

Jess Devitt (she/they)

Associate Artist - Reconstructions of Home

Jess Devitt (she/they)

Associate Artist - Reconstructions of Home
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Jess is a visual artist, educator and muralist based in Tkaronto. Jess has had experience working with community through the arts offering instructional workshops for a range of mediums and art making techniques both digitally and in person.

Jess is currently the Visual Arts Associate at SKETCH Working Arts and a Visual Arts Educator for the TDSB through KickStart Arts, focused on incorporating collaboration through access to art and community. Their approach to art making focuses on finding new ways to create, teach and learn from the artists and inspirations around them. The techniques Jess teaches range from watercolour, acrylic, oil, image transfer, charcoal, resin, jewellery, bookbinding, soft and oil pastels, knitting and more.

Ry King

Sound Artist/Project Advisory - Reconstructions of Home

Ry King

Sound Artist/Project Advisory - Reconstructions of Home
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Ry King is a singer/songwriter, music producer and music educator. He sees music as one of the most powerful forces to promote peace, love and empathy and to heal all humanity. His music is created with these goals at heart.

Originally from Toronto, Ontario, Ry relocated to North Vancouver, BC, where he graduated from SAE Vancouver’s Audio Engineering and Music Production program.

Olympia Trypis

Curatorial Artist/Project Advisory - Reconstructions of Home

Olympia Trypis

Curatorial Artist/Project Advisory - Reconstructions of Home
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Olympia (they/she) is an artist who doesn’t like labels, identifies as a human who is trying to live and create in harmony with earth, which is our home.

Lisa Petrunia

Curatorial Artist/Project Advisory - Reconstructions of Home

Lisa Petrunia

Curatorial Artist/Project Advisory - Reconstructions of Home
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My art often has themes; overlapping different realities or creating completely alternate ones. I use my work to tell stories. I tend to work in sculpture, collage/ assemblage, photography and video.

When designing I think in terms of 3-dimensional space; I enjoy considering how and when to transfer things to print, photo, and bring the 3D world into the 2D.

I enjoy creating worlds that showcase mystical and otherworldly dimensions. Offering holistic visions for all beings and dialogue toward social change.

I work doing harm reduction and advocacy. My art is an extension of that. My art is where I can communicate steps towards further inclusion. When words fall short, art captures emotion and offers healing. Particularly for those who have experiences of marginalization.

Emmet Reed

Curatorial Artist/Project Advisory - Reconstructions of Home

Emmet Reed

Curatorial Artist/Project Advisory - Reconstructions of Home
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My name is Emmet Reed, I am a Queer, Non-binary community artist and performer in Toronto.  I have been creating works for the past 25 years. I was an inaugural member of SKETCH, the Toronto Art studio for street youth which has been vital in bridging marginalized and vulnerable communities back to the arts.

My theatre works include A social justice theatre troupe here in Toronto where we performed and educated people around Violence against women, Homelessness and  LGBTQQTI issues. I have also worked to create soundscapes for theatre works including Africville which played at the Factory Theatre.

I have been a performance artist and Drag King within the community since the late 90’s representing Toronto at IDKE4 and performing in collaboration with the Toronto Drag Kings  and have performed at Harbourfront, Vazeleen, Buddies in Bad Times and numerous PRIDE stages Including our own KINGSIZE stage.

KINGSIZE went on to create  legacy works  within the Toronto Archives which centered around pushing the boundaries of body image, beauty standards and gender with innovative performances and film.

I have worked with other community artists to create multimedia installations. “Deconstructed” was an exploration of gender shown at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. This installation included pre-filmed body parts and visceral imagery which could be configured by the participant to explore identity and authenticity.

I am currently Working on pieces that push the boundaries of what is community, communication and self-identification within virtual spaces as well as documenting the impact of the pandemic through the lens of marginalization with a focus on homelessness and the barriers it presents to intimacy and connect.

See my current work on Instagram: @brawnandbone

 

Presenting Partner

Thanks to Supports and Partners

Canada Council For The Arts
Canada
Canada Council For The Arts
Canada