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A Common Table

Reflecting on Summer 2017

 

What is a park?  What does it do?  Who is it for? When people are in need, how can parks help?

This year, thousands of asylum-seekers made their way to Canada via the US. Many have begun their resettlement journey in Etobicoke – housed by COSTI and the City of Toronto in hotels on the edge of the long ribbon of the 401.  A great joy of the summer was meeting these families who have decided to risk so much to build a life in Canada.  Welcoming these Seekers to Mabelle and Broadacres Parks; singing with them, dancing, sharing a picnic lunch, making art together; each act was a small and delightful way of saying ‘hello!’ and ‘welcome to this place.’

 

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Jane's walk

 

This year's Jane's Walk followed the rarely-walked route between our two Central Etobcioke sites: Mabelle and Broadacres Park. Through walking, photography and sensory arts-activities, this walk, led by MABELLEartists; guest artist, Ruth Howard (Jumblies Theatre); City Councillor, Stephen Holyday; and community leaders of all ages from Mabelle and The West Mall, led walkers to explore these two very different Etobicoke neighbourhoods, located only a ten minute drive from each other.

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Iftar Nights

MABELLEarts worked with a group of 28 Youth Leaders, to create four inter-cultural celebrations to mark the holy month of Ramadan. We invited residents from a range of cultural backgrounds to gather in the Mabelle Park to join their Muslim neighbours as they broke their Ramadan fast.  Each night,  we also welcomed bus-loads of asylum-seekers and refugees from across the GTA, who joined Mabelle neighbours for festive evenings of musical performances, art-making, fire-side stories, and a meal served at sundown.

 

 

FIRST IFTAR FOR ME EVER IN CANADA. WE ENJOYED OUR TIME WITH YOU ALL. ALL WERE HAPPY. WE HEARD AZAAN, WE SHARED FOOD, WE CELEBRATED AND ENJOYED ARABIC TRADITIONAL SONGS AND MUSIC. PEOPLE FROM EVERYWHERE, FROM EVERY RELIGION WERE THERE. THIS IS HOW HUMANITY IS. THANK YOU MABELLEARTS TEAM, NO WORDS CAN EXPLAIN HOW PRECIOUS YOUR WORK IS TO ALL PEOPLE AROUND YOU. 

- Islam Rezk, Community Participant

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Eid Al-Fitr

 

Our first ever celebration for Eid al-Fitr celebration in Mabelle Park welcomed over 231 guests, including many Mabelle residents and buses of guests from across the city. This festive finale to the month of Ramadan brought together visual, performative and musical elements built through our four Mabelle Iftar Nights and featured musical performances by Turkwaz, three community choirs, shadow-puppetry performance, an installation in the Mabelle Park wild garden, treats prepared by the Mabelle Ladies Cooking Circle and the annual Mabelle Park Watermelon Smash.

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Neighbourhood Workshops

MABELLEarts hosted on-going workshops across Etobicoke, including a workshop series with MABELLEyouth, after-school workshops with asylum-seekers, a pop-up booth at a local Food Market, and two two-week family day camps in Mabelle and Broadacres Parks. As we made new connections and deepened relationships through these drop-in workshops, we continued to invite the people we were meeting to attend our public events and provided support (including transportation, translation and childcare) for their participation.

THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME SINCE I HAD MY THREE CHILDREN THAT I HAVE A PLACE TO COME AND TAKE PART IN SOMETHING THAT IS GOOD FOR ME AS WELL AS GOOD FOR THEM. 

 - Hatice Bozdogan, West Mall resident

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Performative Picnics

Broadacres Park was the site of four performative picnics which envisioned this underused green-space as a picnicking site for neighbours and families from nearby and across Etobicoke. West Mall families were joined by Mabelle and Quality Hotel residents to join in singing, miniature-making and natural dyeing, while exploring picnicking as a cultural form and sharing picnic memories and stories from across the city and around the world.

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A Common Table

The summer culminated in a celebratory performative picnic in Broadacres Park that showcased choral singing, performative poetry readings, a picnic-blanket procession, miniature landscapes, offerings from local cooks and the installation of temporary naturally-dyed sun-shelters.

I HELPED PLAN EVERYTHING OUT, SET IT UP AND IT BECAME AS GOOD AS IT COULD BE. I FOUND MYSELF TAKING CHARGE AND ENGAGING WITH EVERYONE WHO WAS THERE IN WAYS I NEVER HAD BEFORE. I WASN’T JUST SHOWN THE MAGIC: I WAS MAKING IT HAPPEN

- Tasmeen Syed, Youth Leader

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MABELLEyouth

An incredible team of 28 youth from Mabelle and The West Mall contributed 1297 volunteer hours through the summer. 5 youth joined the summer staff full-time and played key roles as hosts and workshop assistants at all of our workshops and events; providing translation, childcare, facilitation assistance, and one-on-one support for hundreds of community participants. Many MABELLEyouth are young people who began volunteering with MABELLEarts as children and have grown into positions of responsibility and leadership over the years.

1351 People OF ALL AGES AND BACKGROUNDS joined us at workshops and events this summer. 

Our outreach strategy  included, on-going phone-calling to a list of 587 community members; door-knocking at 230 households; facilitating 18 pop-up workshops designed to introduce people to our work; and flyering/postering in high-activity neighbourhood sites.  

Our transportation strategy included, offering free tokens and assigning youth as TTC guides.  We chartered 15 school buses to bring groups from partnering organizations across the GTA to join us in Broadacres and Mabelle Park,  including over 500 asylum-seekers and refugees.

We offered on-site translation (ASL, Arabic, Spanish, Urdu, Somali, French and Tigrinya), snacks and childcare.We relied on community leaders and local partners to provide cultural interpretation so that we could provide an inclusive and welcoming environment.


 

 

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I remember somewhere in Etobicoke.
The welcome was warm from good-hearted people.
I used to eat someone’s pita and sandwiches.
It tasted like uniting and prospering.

-Edith, Mabelle resident

This summer showed us that our parks can be places of welcoming, of getting to know one another and becoming friends.  Our parks can be places where we sing the songs from the places we come from and make miniatures that recall the natural landscapes of our childhoods.  Parks can be places where we share foods that remind us of our mothers and grandmothers and we teach our children to dance as we did in another time and place, far from here and yet so close.

This isn’t a question of infrastructure (though infrastructure is needed) so much as a rethinking of who and what parks are for.  We believe at MABELLEarts we are beginning to unlock a new potential for Etobicoke parks, one that reimagines the role of parks and public spaces in an arrival city that is rapidly changing.  We hope you’ll keep following along on our adventures and that you’ll consider joining us too – we’ll meet you in the park!

- Leah Houston, Artistic Director

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Support Us

At MABELLEarts, we believe that art has the power to transform people and neighbourhoods. We’ve spent the past ten years proving it. Ten years ago, the Mabelle Park was just a shortcut. Now it’s the vibrant heart of the community: a place where strangers become neighbours. Over the years, our shopping cart has been filled with the stories, songs and aspirations of thousands of Mabelle and Etobicoke residents. 

This year we are poised to offer more. More workshops, more events, more parks, more celebrations, more community meals, more leadership opportunities and more art that builds community. To deliver on this promise, we need your help. Help us fill the cart for 2018! Every dollar donated before January 1st will be matched by GTAA's Propeller Project (to a total of $5000)! Donate today and support the art that creates community! 

MABELLEarts

Leah Houston
Shifra Cooper
Fiona Raye Clarke
Christen Kong
Daven Seebarran
Fadwa Ghamen
Farah Jibril
Project Assistants: Aseel Mohammed, Nada Johar, Salma Moalim, Tasmeen Syed, Osama Jibril
MABELLEyouth: Albina Wrobel, Anisa Ali
Anne Simpson-Porco, Ava Macanowicz, Ayuub Abdullahi, Chaz Bennett, Habib Seidu, Jaden Bhimani, Krystall Bennet, Mahmoud Mahmoud, Mohamed Mahmoud, Nuha Johar, Omar Jibril, Raniyah Nandha, Safa Mohamood, Salma Mohamed, Salman Mohamood, Shahad Rubaye, Tauhid Syed

Artistic Team


Waleed Abdulhamid
Marianne Alas
Jayne Brown
Michael Burtt
Joseph Leo Callender
Liam Coo
Helah Cooper
Anahita Dehbonehie
Christopher Desloges
Salima Dhanani
Sharada K. Eswar
Melanie Fernandez-Alvares
Naghmeh Farahmand
Sophia Grigoriadis
Beth Helmers
Hussein Janmohamed
Latasha Lennox

Brenna MacCrimmon
Maryem Tollar
Faten Toubasi
Dan Watson
Merik Williams
Arts in the Parks Volunteers