A Common Table
Reflecting on Summer 2017
Reflecting on Summer 2017
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Fiona Raye Clarke
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
Joseph Leo Callender
Sharada K. Eswar
Arts in the Parks Volunteers
Arab Community Centre of Toronto
COSTI Immigrant Services
City of Toronto Birkdale Residences
Islington Village BIA
Good Food Market at Capri Park
Making Room Community Arts
The Community Arts Guild
The Together Project
Toronto Community Housing
Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation
Trinity Square Video
Ontario Trillium Foundation
Arts in the Parks Toronto
Toronto Arts Council
Toronto Arts Foundation
GTAA's Propeller Project (Community Vitally Sponsor)
Ontario Arts Council
The Community Fund for Canada's 150th
W. Garfield Weston Foundation
Service Canada (Canada Summer Jobs)
Cultural Human Resources Council
TD Friends of the Environment
Baitul Hamd Mosque - Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat
Ali Baba's at 4928 Dundas St W
And numerous private donors
Special thanks to: Councillor Justin di Ciano, Councillor Stephen Holyday, MP James Maloney and MPP Peter Milczyn