This past weekend we were invited to contribute to a community barbecue in Moss Park, co-hosted by our friends at Building Roots and the Encampment Support Network or ESN, in support of their unhoused neighbours. The gathering was part of a series of gatherings to show support for the unhoused people living in Toronto parks, under threat of eviction by the city.
I was, frankly, worried about attending a group event at this stage of the pandemic. We have been staying mostly at home and as a group, the majority of our meetings are online or on the phone. Plus, we were not sure what role Works-in-Progress could play, without knowing the players, but it seemed like the only way to know was to go. I was free to go, and my friend (and occasional collaborator) Leslie is an enthusiastic social justice activist (check out her recent blog post on being a pest) and was willing to come along for the caper, so we loaded up some basic supplies (needles and thread, cutlery wraps, big dog) and biked down to see how we could contribute.
The latest stay at home order took effect Friday night, and the gathering kept the spirit of the order, a gathering of small islands of people on tarps and blankets, supported by musicians, cooks, artists and others, including a communal art project lead by another artist that works with Building Roots, Stevie Driscoll.
We declined the offer of a table and kept it low key, spread out on a loooong blanket from Building Roots, and worked on a row of bunting. We were joined by two other attendees, a librarian and a teacher who, like Leslie, are part of the Bike Brigade, a group of volunteers who make and deliver food to the underfed across Toronto. Together we made an 8 foot long row of bunting from repurposed fabric samples. The idea was to create a gift for the residents of the encampment as we sat: bunting flags signify an event, a celebration, and delineates space, a sort of welcoming fence. The volunteer at the info table gracefully offered to pass it on to a resident of the encampment.
Tech note: we were able to work together to create this while keeping our distance by sewing the flags onto on a looong piece of twine, and then pushing them together at the end. If you want to make your own bunting, we strongly encourage it! You can download the pdf (created by Treya Beaulieu) below... this is part of a larger project with Building Roots.
We are very happy to be working with Building Roots. Throughout the pandemic they have maintained their market at Moss Park, and worked to ensure (as they state on their website) that "no one is left behind by ensuring emergency food provisioning, at-home resources for children and families, and other innovative programming to enable social cohesion during these physically isolating times." For example, the Building Roots staff and volunteers in this picture are managing the Bookshare program they established to distribute books to residents in the buildings behind the market.
Where we began working together... (doodly doo)
We started working with Building Roots in Moss Park at the end of 2019, with a clothing swap/ winter clothing free shop. In early 2020 joined the Do it Together workshop series lead by Kate Hamilton out of the shipping container market on Queen street and once the pandemic hit, we took part in some online skill sharing workshops, plus offered physical support for a mask making project started by one of the workshop participants. Last May I worked with Dustin from Building Roots to make this video collaboration celebrating the work of staff and volunteers through the early months of the pandemic.
Present day, working on the up-cycling kit project.
We continue to find ways to work together, using the Building Roots distribution and volunteers to help up reach more people and help them make things. Our latest project is to redistribute a generous donation of material from the Textile Museum of Canada by creating physical project based kits from this donated material. We collaborated with Works-in-Progress artist Treya Beaulieu to create some beautiful "How to Make it" pamphlets for these kits, and then in March Leah, Ursa and I masked up and joined volunteers Mary and Lindsay to put together sewing kits, plus kits to make shopping bags from your own T shirt, and a bunting kit.
These kits are available through Moss Park market, and can be ordered either on their bookshare system or when registering for workshops. Or you can download the pdf below and make a shopping bag from your own T-shirt. We co-hosted a workshop on March 28th and will share a video from that and other capers soon.
art experiments turning waste into beauty