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TELUS Newcomer Artist Award lets new Canadian artists shine

“We’re recognizing people that might not have had the opportunity to shine. The impact that we’re trying to have eliminate barriers and gaps in information and opportunity,” says Angie Aranda, Manager of Events and Operations for the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Neighbourhood Arts Network. The TELUS Newcomer Artist Award aims to address that gap, and to expose Torontonians to the newcomers who make the sounds of the city so diverse.

The award is given to a practicing artist who lives in Toronto and has moved to Canada within the last seven years. “It’s a prize specifically geared for individuals who are newcomers to Canada, who are making a positive impact on their community, both in Toronto and in their home countries. We’re really celebrating their total body of work, not just their work in Canada,” explains Aranda. In addition to the $10,000 prize, the winner will receive a mobile device from TELUS, “so that they can call internationally and continue doing their work without having to pay with their device.” The gala award ceremony is also an opportunity for both the winner and award runners-up to network with arts-community movers and shakers.

“In 2012, the TAF put together a research project, and what they noticed after talking to a lot of newcomer artists was that there was a huge gap in resources and information. Because the Neighbourhood Arts Network is able to act quickly, we decided that we wanted to work together to support newcomer artists and help them get further ahead in their career in Toronto,” says Aranda. This year's awards ceremony will be held October 15 at the TELUS headquarters.

Last year’s award went to Bruno Capinan, a Brazilian singer-songwriter. His Toronto-based work includes “Make It.” As a part of Habourfront Toronto’s China Now festival, Capinan collaborated with the Chan Brothers for an east-meets-west musical experience.

Aranda expects more than sixty applicants for this year’s prize, with submissions coming in from all areas of the arts. Aranda says the award is a chance to showcase the city’s diverse artistic excellence. “It’s really something to be celebrating. The main impact is to highlight and showcase voices and artistic expression we might not otherwise have seen.”
 

Toronto-based educational robots makes their classroom debut this fall

Robotics and programming aren’t always easy, but Mimetics is aiming to change that. The brainchild of Myke Predko, Mimetics is a Toronto-based company that works with kids to provide an entryway into the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “Our robot is fully assembled—our competition, LEGO, requires their robots to be assembled, but ours doesn’t. When you tell someone, ‘Hey, we’re going to build and program a robot,’ you set the expectation that when you’re finished building the robot, you’re finished.” 

After spending close to a decade fine-tuning their educational program at the Ontario Science Centre (where Predko says they had the highest-rated activity in the history of the Centre), Mimetics is now taking their robots into workshops and classrooms. Mimetics offers sessions ranging anywhere for a hour-long introduction to a five-day camp, and has partnered with local organizations like the Royal Ontario Museum, Ladies Learning Code, and Robots Rule.

The mission of all this robotic play is to let kids dive deeper into science and math. Mimetics is especially interested in working with girls, who often express a lower level of interest in STEM fields. Predko says that, prior to a session with their locally-made JADE robot, only 9% of girls are interested in higher-level math and science; after a session, that number jumps to 63%. “One of the big comments we get back from students, especially girls, is that something that seemed difficult now seems doable. Science and math isn’t a boys-only activity. When they come into this, they feel that this is something only the boys will be good at.” Predko says that the middle school girls that Mimetics targets are able to grasp the programming concepts and “it turns into something quite successful.”

This fall, Mimetics will partner with the Toronto District School Board in an effort to bring the JADE robot into more classrooms. “We started this at the end of the last school year, and ended up with more opportunities that we could manage. Right now, we have ten classrooms that are asking for us to come in.”

Complete Streets Forum coming up October 1

Now in its eighth year, the Complete Streets Forum will kick off September 30.

“What we’re really attempting to do is push the envelope in terms of the information that’s out there, and pushing the practice around incorporating pedestrians and cyclists around road design,” explains Nancy Smith Lea, director of the Complete Streets Forum and co-founder of the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation.

The forum will take place at Buddies in Bad Times, where Veronica O. Davis, co-founder of Black Women Bike, will speak about her experience challenging the idea that only white people cycle. The kick-off party will include a cash bar and the chance to network with local and international active transportation experts. Davis will continue her speaking streak the next day at the Hart House, where the Complete Streets Forum will host discussions, panels, and workshops on a variety of issues in the active transportation community.

New this year, the Forum will split its program into Foundational and Advanced tracks. Introductory sessions devoted to pedestrian scrambles will be offered alongside more technical discussions about cross-sectoral collaboration. “We’ve been doing this for some years now, so people who are returning have a really great grasp of the issues. We wanted to keep it interesting for them after they’ve grasped the foundational issues,” Smith Lea says. There was also a special effort to appeal to engineers: “There’s really a lack of training available for engineers when it comes to active transportation, and we really want to reach out to them,” says Smith Lea.

Smith Lea says that, since the forum’s inception eight years ago, the event has advanced the conversation. "There’s a lot more acceptance of the idea that pedestrians and cyclists are an integral part of the streets.”

However, she says there is still plenty of work to be done, especially in translating an academic understanding of the issues to how cities really structure their streets. But their work is starting to have an impact. “What sticks out to me is that Toronto has adopted a complete streets policy in their official plan, and are working on complete streets guidelines. I know for a fact that the work that we’re doing has had a real impact on those decisions,” she says. The conference will help move that conversation forward even more.

2Hot4Kitchen and Food Idol Awards tonight in Regent Park

This evening, Torontonians will have a chance to both celebrate and experience the the best—and yummiest—parts of Toronto. The 2Hot4Kitchen and Food Idol awards, held jointly in Regent Park tonight from 4 PM to 8 PM, is many things: a food festival, a community affair, and a chance to celebrate the hard-working men and women in Toronto’s food systems. “It brings people together to acknowledge and celebrate the backbone of what’s going on in food systems work in Toronto and beyond,” says the event co-founder and organizer Vanessa Ling Yu.

In its inaugural year, the 2Hot4Kitchen Awards will recognize local food heroines and their hard work in “production, processing, distribution, consumption, and what we decided to call efficiency, or food waste,” explains Ling Yu. Nominees were judged on criteria including sustainability, community, and creativity. And, unlike other awards celebrating work in food culture, the nominees and winners are all women.

“Often awards go to white men and sometimes white women. We were really inclusive of thinking about this critically, “ says Ling Yu. “It’s the first award like this in Toronto and it may be the first in the world.”

Also on tonight’s agenda are the Food Idol Awards, which celebrates local individuals and business in categories such “Spicy New Venture” and “Breakout Food Activist.” The family-friendly event will include events like painting with condiments, DJ workshops, and face painting. And, of course, the standout star will be the food itself. The event will offer the chance to sample food vendors from around the GTA, including a food truck specializing in in the Indian/Mexican hybrid “naan-chos,” and a purveyor suppling Zimbabwean meat and veggie pies.

As Ling Yu explains, “The food will be incredible, and it’s made by people who know. Our vendors can’t always hit the radar of the mainstream foodies, but this is their opportunity to see them all at the same time. We really want people to come out and celebrate these food champions, the people who keep us well-fed.”
 

Canada's best homeless soccer players crowdfund their way to the World Cup this fall

With last month’s national tournaments now complete, Canada’s best homeless soccer players have set their sights on a new goal: the Homeless World Cup, happening in Amsterdam September 12. Facing off against tough international competitors like the Czech Republic and Costa Rica, the national champions from Toronto’s Covenant House team will join their coaches and managers in the Netherlands. “Those are some tough teams to go up against,” says Paul Gregory, the founder of the national tournament.

Canada’s team has launched an IndieGoGo campaign to help them. Perks for donors include anything from a player’s team card, to the Team Canada shirts (“For a few bucks, you can grab a great shirt,” says Gregory). The team is currently at about 35% of their $15,000 goal, which will help cover airfare and the cost of local travel for the team, with the World Cup picking up the tab for accommodations. Canada’s team also helps support a Cambodian player “to go to that tournament, so we’ll play a friendly game against them.”

The team, which has been supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Salvation Army of Peel, among others, will need to ensure that all its players have clearance to travel abroad. “Some of [the winning team’s] players aren’t eligible because they can’t leave the country,” says Gregory, but they’ve made selections from other eligible teams. In total, about eight players will head to the Netherlands early next month and visit with old rivals and friends. “We’ve developed relationships with a lot of the teams over the years” says Gregory.

“People ask ‘Why not spend this money on job training?’ But this is an igniter, it’s on a different level. Sometimes this kind of an event can be pivotal in somebody's life. I know players who remember this event from 2005, 2006, and they cherish this moment”, says Gregory.

Mapping Toronto's living architecture, one roof at a time

Many Torontonians have seen them: a living wall, dripping with greenery that thrives on its vertical home. Maybe they’ve even come across a green roof, where they can take in the cityscape surrounded by vegetation. Though growing in popularity, these places are still tough to find, which is where Jonathan Silver comes in.

“I thought it was a small project, and it turned out to be an enormous undertaking,” he says with a laugh.

His map of Toronto’s green roofs, available now online, started off as an attempt to catalogue the city’s publicly accessible living architecture. Beginning with about fifteen entries, the map now collects 27 examples of visible and accessible green roofs and walls, and also includes nearby parks, streetcar and subway lines, and bike routes.

“What [artist] Daniel Rotsztain did was highlight some of the parks between the walls and roofs, which highlights the green spaces between the spaces. It’s showing the green places in Toronto, and how to access them in an environmentally friendly way.”

Silver got the idea after attending a living architecture conference. “It was mostly people from the industry: engineers, architects, landscape architects. Everyone there was on the same page and knew what a green roof was, but a lot of lay people don’t know what they are.” He sees green roofs as having multiple benefits for urbanites. “They engage a multitude of our senses. You can smell them, you can touch them, you can feel their humidity on your skin. You really have to see them to understand why they’re so great, and all these sensory experience help you feel more relaxed. If you’re attentive, you’ll notice that after you go out onto a green roof, they feel better.”

The map also comes with a chance to win a dinner for two at T|Bar. Contestants can snap a picture of a living wall or green roof and post it using the hashtag #LivingArchTOur. Winners will be announced this November.
 

Mother Nature Partnership helps girls in Cameroon see red...and feel good about it

Since 2011, Mother Nature Partnership has had an impact on girls and young women in Cameroon.

The Toronto-based organization fights stigma around menstruation, both in Canada and abroad. While MNP had already delivered 1000 reusable Femme Cups and Afripads (washable, reusable menstrual pads) to girls and women in the Wabane District this past January and February, they recently sent over an additional 400 donations. “There was a huge interest, primarily from high school aged girls, but as some young as young as ten or eleven,” explains Irene Whittaker-Cumming, the Executive Director and founder of Mother Nature Partnership.

MNP’s overseas activities wouldn’t be possible without Torontonians stepping in and making it happen. Their popular Question Period fundraiser, which sold out last fall at the Drake Underground, was a “cheeky and fun” pub quiz night featuring local celebrities from Orphan Black and luxe door prizes. Whittaker-Cumming also says that there are several important Toronto donors who make the African programs possible. “Without the support of the community in Toronto, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” she says.

The program not only takes aim at menstruation-related stigmas, but also opens the door for many young women in Cameroon currently limited by their periods. “Across the board, the girls don’t have the funds to get menstrual supplies. There are also other barriers, like no washrooms, or only washrooms with open doors. By having these supplies, and a discreet way to carry them, the girls can go to school and go regularly.” Whittaker-Cumming says. The pads and menstrual cups are all washable and reusable, and MNP partners with Cameroonian agencies to ensure recipients are educated on using their new supplies. “We provide info on how to use, care for, and clean both types, and they have the choice. We really emphasize that they should have a choice.”

Question Period will likely return to Toronto this fall, with an eye to delivering a possibly expanded program in 2016. Future educational programming will likely include a family planning component, at the request of Cameroonian educators and community leaders. Whittaker-Cumming, who was also involved in Toronto’s GDay this spring, also anticipates MNP’s charitable status will go into effect soon. “Our Toronto donors do this from a place of believing in the impact.”
 

Tommy Thompson on two wheels: bike tour examines park's history and nature

Anyone who’s biked in Tommy Thompson Park on the Leslie Street Spit knows that it’s a bit of an unusual urban space. Wetlands and wildlife habitats share a waterline with an active dumping zone, where beaches made of bricks are watched over by double-crested cormorants in nearby trees.

“The park has been undergoing work for years and years,” says Raja Raudsepp, the Environmental Educator at Tommy Thompson Park. “It’s part of my mandate to get the word out about what we do in the park.” On August 16, cyclists will have an opportunity to take a guided tour of the park, led by Raudsepp, and get some insight into all that work.

The tour, which will kick off at 1 PM, will have four or five stops, each focusing on a different element of the parkland. “I’ll share a bit of the history of the park, and the main history of the wetland embayment or cells, and wet habitat creation,” says Raudsepp. On her last tour earlier this summer, some of the stops prompted spirited discussion among the group.

The tour is an attempt to engage with Torontonians about the park, and as Raudsepp explains, to emphasize the park’s positive history and place in the city. “We hear all the time about how humans have a negative impact, but this is positive, it’s urban. When you’re in a park, it’s really easy to recognize that you’re in an urban wilderness and in a success story. The journey to get there is fascinating.” Raudsepp also sees the cycling tour as an opportunity to expand beyond her usual school groups and into the general population. “I’ve heard from people that they’ve wanted to learn more about it.”

Beyond gaining a new perspective on the park, Raudsepp hopes this weekend’s tour will help Torontonians understand the importance of the park on a grander scale. “I hope that people gain a connection to nature, and a sense of stewardship. That they can play a positive role in the world around them.”
 

Eyes in the Sky: Gallery takes a close look at surveillance and cities

On the way to Muskoka, sharp-eyed drivers might spy trees that aren’t quite trees. They’re too tall, too straight, too green, and for a good reason: they’re actually cell phone towers, designed to blend into the natural landscape.

In the city, cell towers are on buildings, topping off towers, even barnacled to church spires, and the Department of Unusual Certainties knows where they all are. As part of their City of Total Awareness project, Christopher Pandolfi and Simon Rabinyuk mapped every cell tower in the Golden Horseshoe area, creating a physical map of the digital world. “Maps aren’t just about what you see,” they claimed. “They’re about what you understand.”

Pandolfi and Rabinyuk were part of Inter/Access Gallery’s three-part brunch series on location, which wrapped up this past weekend with a look at the culture of surveillance. Inter/Access, which Programming Coordinator Marissa Neave describes as “a gallery and a studio dedicated to the cultural space of technology,” hosted both the Department of Unusual Certainties, as well as artist and architect Scott Sorli, in a two-hour about how surveillance—its practice, aesthetic, physical spaces, and how people behave when they’re being watched—interact with art.

Sorli’s presentation focused primarily on the interaction of surveillance technologies with the people it surrounds. As an example, he offered the requirement that passport photos present a neutral face because it makes those photos easier to machines to scan in search of potentially incriminating “micro-expressions” as people pass through border crossings. He also discussed Google’s practice of deliberately fuzzing out certain areas of their popular Google Maps, and compared a grainy aerial shot of Ramallah’s downtown bus station with an image of Toronto’s bus station that was so clear that individual people could be seen. Sorli seemed most interested in where seemingly neutral technology had been mitigated by human control, and examining what those incidents—what he called “glitches”—for clues about who controls the technology.

The Department of Unusual Certainties focused on their recent interrogation of where digital spaces meet the physical world: those cell towers, for example, or images of Toronto’s Internet Exchange. “It’s not interesting to think that these worlds are separate,” Pandolfi said. Their exploration of mapping where tools of surveillance are located in the physical world “helps us understand what was being tapped.”

“It’s important to present discourse like this in an inviting and informal way,” says Neave. “It’s an endless topic, and surveillance will always exist.” Throughout both presentations, the room was full of thoughtfully nodding heads, the questions from audience members after ranged from asking about aesthetic implications to artistic process. The brunch series, which started last year, is part of Inter/Access’s larger mandate to make art accessible to a larger audience. “The topic of conversation wasn’t always explicitly about art, but if you’re interested in art and ideas, they can kind of percolate in people’s minds.” This final event dovetails nicely with Inter/Access’s upcoming month-long workshop about drones and drone art, during which Neave anticipates will raise questions about how the new technology can be used in cities. “I really want to make a space for people to be curious and learn more.”
 

The Scarborough Community Renewal Campaign asks local residents how they want to improve the borough

After the Danzig Street shootings in 2012, Rotarians in Scarborough started talking to one another. “The shootings were a symptom, but we knew the problems ran deeper than that,” says Dave Hardy, the Scarborough Community Renewal Campaign Coordinator. Home to eight Neighbourhood Improvement Areas, and with a population larger than Halifax, Scarborough “needed leadership,” says Hardy.

The five Rotary Clubs in Scarborough stepped up to the challenge. In 2014, they launched the first Community Renewal Campaign, modeled on Saint John, New Brunswick’s Benefits Blueprint. The Rotarians researched community issues and held a series of one-on-one conversations with local resident, stakeholder interviews, and consulted with some of Scarborough’s most important community institutions, like hospitals, colleges and universities. Out of that first year came about a dozen recommendations on how to improve Scarborough, and a commitment from the Rotary clubs to keep asking questions.

This year, the Rotarians are expanding their scope. While the campaign continues and has been expanded to include local faith groups and high schools, they’re also actively working on building up Scarborough’s civic infrastructure, arts community, and business power. “We’re asking City of Toronto to move 10,000 staff from the downtown core to Scarborough,” he says. They’re also supporting Dinner and a Song, a resident-led initiative that sees Juno-nominated artists perform in local restaurants, and a business association.

It’s not going to be an easy transformation. “Between 2002 and 2012, Toronto gained 1.2 million square feet of new office space, while Scarborough got 800 square feet.” In a city with the population of the Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo area, Hardy says there are no major museums, no major art galleries, and one of the symphonies “just graduated from a high school to a church.” Hardy says “The challenge is that nobody in a leadership is really seeing us at all.”

That may change next year, when the Community Renewal Campaign hosts an international conference about the suburbs. Hosted at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus, the conference will focus on “bringing international experts on suburbs to meet with local residents to change to the dialogue about what it means to be in a suburban area.” In the meantime, the campaign will continue to gather information about how the Rotary Club can support a vital Scarborough. As hardy says, “We have a philosophy that this isn’t stuff that government should do. The community needs to come together and work together. Rotary is bringing groups together that will succeed.”
 

Pio! gives voice—and pen—to queer comic creators

“For me, drawing is very political, and it’s also an amazing tool for creating awareness. It’s all about observing the things that you’re seeing,” explains Coco Guzman. Guzman runs Pio! Centre for Drawing, where they will offer Comics for Queers, a two-day workshop, on August 8 and 9. “I love working with people who are scared of drawing. That’s my main speciality,” Guzman says with a laugh.

The workshop, open to eight to 10 participants, is a small, hands-on seminar where participants will be able to leave with both a finished comic strip and “something that gives people the confidence to continue.” Participants will also leave with a revitalized sense of themselves as creatives, and a larger network of like-minded artists. As Guzman says, “That people have fun is so important. Also, their capacity to share stories, to meet other people, to relax.” The intimate workshops are open to all skill levels, but Guzman says they work mostly with beginners.

In addition to Comics for Queers, Pio! also offers a similar workshop aimed at women and trans people. Guzman, who is queer, says, “I make a lot of comics myself, and I started making them because I didn’t have more comics to read. I find that these populations are usually underrepresented in the comic environment.” Pio!, which opened on Sterling Road earlier this year, also offers workshops about embroidery, nature drawing, and life drawing.

The studio was designed to support the queer and gender-nonconforming people who use the space. The washrooms are all gender-neutral, and the studio is fully accessible. “This space wouldn’t have existed without the queer community and the political activist community specifically,” says Guzman, who credits them with providing financial support and donating the furniture. “I see these workshops as a community outlet, and for me, it’s becoming more and more of my art practice, to share this knowledge.”

Guzman’s workshops have both practical goals—to remind would-be artists not to fear their creative side—and loftier ones. “I hope the workshops help break down the competitive aspects of the art word. I hope it brings out this idea of skill sharing, and the importance of the process. I’m very much into anti-capitalist models of knowledge, so how can we create an art space that is shared by everyone?”
 

Wrecking Ball 18 takes on police brutality, invisible people...and racoons.

It’s not quite improv, and it’s not always scripted theatre, but that’s okay—Wrecking Ball seems pretty comfortable thinking outside the box. We checked in with co-host Jiv Parasram before their one-night-only show at the Storefront Theatre on July 27. It was Wrecking Ball’s eighteenth show since 2004, and this installment focused on “the big story,” as Parasram puts it.

They were inspired by the photos that circulated on Toronto social media earlier this month of a dead racoon left on Yonge Street for hours waiting for Animal Control to pick it up. Cheeky Torontonians created an insta-shrine to the critter, but the display left Parasram feeling both amused and disturbed.  He says that, when the racoon story broke,  “People got criticised for not talking about the Pan Am games. But then nobody was talking about Bill C-51, and the in the same week, we had several police shootings.” The Wrecking Ball event is christened #DeadCoonTO, and will examine the divide between what Parasram calls the “living world and the dead world. In the dead world, there are certain people, and areas of the world, where people die and disappear and that’s how it is. And then there’s the living world, where it’s astounding that bad things happen and it’s a big deal.”

Wrecking Ball is run completely by volunteers, and performed in donated spaces. Any profit is donated to the Actors Fund of Canada, which support artists experiencing hardship. Performers are only given a week to rehearse their pieces, which are inspired by the headlines and translated into a blend of styles—Parasram says that previous events have included music, scripted theatre, multimedia pieces, and readings. Since their last installment, Wrecking Ball has also included Time Bomb, a segment encouraging audience members to come up and “rant” for one minute on a topic of their choice. “The key to use it as a place for people to come and get a bit angry, and talk about what’s going on with the city.”

Wrecking Ball will likely follow this performance with one in the fall, devoted to the federal election. “We do the event based on when it needs to happen,” Parasram says. They’re thinking about trying to make it a national event, with performances in cities like Vancouver, Montreal, and Halifax. “We’re interested in artists of all different kinds, in people who want to be part of the conversation.”
 

Nonprofit Startup Challenge give a one-day boost to local do-gooders

“The Nonprofit Startup Challenge is aimed at anyone who has ever dreamt of starting their own socially-impactful organization but didn't know where to start. Our mission through this workshop is to offer the information, resources, and access to networks necessary to hit the ground running,” says Victoria Alleyne, CEO of the Career Skills Incubator (CSCI).

The Nonprofit Startup Challenge is a one-day boot camp on July 25 for people who have aspirations of running their own nonprofits but still need a hand getting started. “We hope our participants will leave feeling well-informed and confident whether they should grow their nonprofit idea into a formal organization. For those who have just started organizations, hopefully they will learn a few things to look out for and can be prepared for them.”

Alleyne cites her own experience with CSCI as the reason for the workshop. “There are so many little things along the way that we learned and wish someone told us. You can get the high level anywhere. We want to share all of the unexpected details. We had to go back and document all of the little—and big—weird things that happened as we incorporated.”

The day will cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from the nitty-gritty to the macro. Questions about HST registration will come alongside discussions on how to define a nonprofit’s mission and values. CSCI will also cover topics like avoiding burnout throughout the often lengthy and time-consuming process of starting up and incorporation. Along with the in-person course, CSCI is building a wiki on how to start a non-profit, which may the first of its kind. “We were unable to find anything like it, so hopefully others will add to it both in Toronto and beyond,” says Alleyne.

The impact of the course could be far-reaching. “Everyone attending our workshop will walk out of it with the next steps for their idea or organization figured out. That means there will be 25 more initiatives possibly added to the nonprofit landscape, locally and abroad,” says Alleyne. Even if the participants don’t launch their own nonprofits, the knowledge they gain will create a positive impact. “It benefits the entire industry when everyone has an increased understanding of what they need to do.”
 

Project YU wants to hear from Toronto's youth

The Canadian Urban Institute wants to ask Toronto youth the big questions: what city issues matter most to young people? How are youth inspired to make changes in their cities? And what are the best avenues for raising awareness and getting the word out? Their upcoming initiative Project YU is trying to answer those questions, and CUI’s latest focus groups are talking to young people directly about how they want to shape their cities.

Project YU, which was created with the help of a Toronto Foundation Vital Ideas Grant, is a youth engagement channel. Its intention is to create both more education around what civic engagement looks like, and more opportunities for youth ages 15 to 25 to participate in civic process. It's CUI's goal to get input from youth on both issues they want to engage in, and how to best spread the message. The project, which is now launched, is still working towards its final outputs, but CUI and Project YU want to construct the end result with as much youth input as possible; hence the focus groups.

The participants were a diverse group of young people, many already with plenty of urban engagement experience. One young man declared that he would like to someday be the mayor of Oshawa; others are recent graduates of urban planning or urban studies programs; still others sit on youth advisory boards and work at City Hall. Their common ground was a passion for identifying what areas the city needs to improve to better engage with youth, and a general consensus that, to quote one participant, Toronto is “pretty damn good.” They discussed a wide range of topics, including whether or not condos are the suburbs of the future, “the fine line between policy and politics,” and how people of colour fit in small towns.

“We see this as being a long-term program at CUI, one that is informed and driven by Project YU youth where we develop communication tools and an annual Project YU event that helps give youth the tools and information they need to be active urban citizens,” says Shannon Clark, Communications Director at CUI. They have plans for events, more focus groups, social media strategies, and a blog. “Ultimately our goal is to help Toronto’s youth better understand and have an impact on Toronto’s urban policy issues.” This group of well-informed youth people may just be the key to help Project YU figure out exactly how to deliver that goal.

Pan Am Path's newest mural is a reflection of the surrounding built environment

As part of the Pan Am Path Art Relay, Centennial College in Scarborough is getting a shiny new art installation—and that’s shiny in the literal sense of the word. Artist Sean Martindale worked with No. 9, a local contemporary arts organization, and students from both Centennial College and Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts, to create "Corridor Connections/Between the Lines," an homage to nature, the school, and to the changing elements of art itself.

Made of shiny reflective tape, the minimalist design incorporates words as well as images of the wildlife and flora surrounding the school. Officially unveiled on Friday July 17, the mural runs along the top of the school’s outer wall, where large capital letters instruct viewers to “Read Between the Power Lines” and “Look Up Closer.” Martindale explains that, depending on where the installation is viewed from, that message can change. “With the text, there are a few different element of wordplay going on there. It changes depending on the angle you’re looking at from. It can be read a few different ways,” he says: viewed from different angles, the angle of the walls can obscure certain words.

The metallic tape was an important element for Martindale and his student collaborators. “We thought it was a more environmentally friendly option, from a few different perspective: low VOC, less intrusive than drilling and mounting things onto the wall, and the material has a heat-reflective property. We wanted to go with something reflective because there are other elements of the building that have a polished metal finish. And it literally reflects its environment, and it changes throughout the day. Dawn and dusk, you get those nice colours as well.”

Martindale, who did the installation with the help of local architect Yvan MacKinnon, believes that involving local students in producing the mural has led to an end result that the people of Scarborough can really embrace. Devon Ostrom, the lead curator of the Pan Am Path, thinks art like this might have a larger impact. “It’s part of creating a city that’s more reflective of the character and beautification of the city. It’s an act of affection towards our trails and parks system.”
 
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