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Civic Impact

Villaways youth show off their hopes for housing redevelopment project

The young people living in Villaways Community Housing near Sheppard and Leslie know for sure that they’re going to eventually have to move out of their homes, which will be knocked down and rebuilt as part of a revitalization project slated to take place between 2017 and 2019. Maybe they’ll come back to a nicer place or maybe they find themselves living elsewhere.

A diorama created by a group of 28 Villaways youth, aged four to 15, aims to look past all the uncertainty to offer a vision of what they’d like to see in their new community. The Art Starts Up&Rooted project, which took three months of work to complete (and which we featured in our still-current roundup of local events worth checking out), will be on display in the City Hall rotunda until the end of this week. Participants worked with artists Virginia Tran and Douglas Hurst Virginia Tran to create the impressive 6-by-9-foot three-dimensional piece of art.

“Just the time they took and the details—action figures, a picnic table with a little hamburger made of our plasticine—there's a lot of work to it,” says project manager Carleen Robinson. Along with colourful homes, the vision surprisingly includes a lake with fish and a pier. Not necessarily part of the redevelopment plans, which will see the 121 rental units replaced an and additional 642 market units and other amenities added. But you never know.

“One of the things I hope they got out of that project is that once you put your mind to something, anything and everything is possible,” says Robinson. “You have a group of 20-plus kids and some think, ‘I can’t do this,’ or ‘I can’t do that.’ But now their work is sitting in a place like City Hall. It's a very big thing for them.”

Villaways has been a particularly isolated community. As part of the revitalization, Art Starts has been providing a series of programs that use creativity to get residents to think about the transition they’ll be going through.

“There’s a lot of anxiety right now because they don’t know when or where they’re going to move,” says Robinson. “We just want them to know it’ll be okay.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Carleen Robinson
House photos: Kevin Wu
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