Durham Street Collective Youth Arts Residence
January 2004–November 2005

In the winter of 2003, Myths and Mirrors undertook a three-month community consult to help us strategize and plan future community-based projects with groups of youth throughout the downtown, Flour Mill and Donvan neighbourhoods interested in building community and exploring the theme of Be/Longing.

By January 2004, a community design project began the Downtown Residency opening it’s doors to community to participate in collectively designing it’s home while creating space for dialogue into inputting what it’s possibilities could mean for young people in our community.

Soon after the opening of the downtown residency, hundreds of local youth were drawn by its open creative atmosphere and soon became comfortable with the place of social inclusion and be/longing. This led relationship-building for a large core group of youths involved in beginning to explore the theme through multi-disciplinary artistic mediums including cast plaster, clay and papier mache mask-making, creation of giant puppets and their manipulation, performance art and street theatre, instrument-making, songwriting and choreography, shadow puppetry, reading and talking circles, spoken word, beat poetry and writing collectives. The young people held all-ages music shows, workshops and conferences to include the larger public in the participatory research needed and that fed the projects that were celebrated with the public through public invitation and press launches to go alongside the collective youth art projects. Throughout the Durham Street Collective Youth Arts Residence, Myths and Mirrors worked with over 4000 young people throughout the Greater Sudbury area. Photographs of our community interactions can be seen in the following projects leading up to the fall of 2005.

Great Grants Award
In November 2007, Myths and Mirrors Community Arts was honoured with the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Great Grant Award for Arts and Culture for the moving work taken place over at the Durham Street Residency during the 2004-05 Be/Longings projects listed below.

Community Closets
Community Closet is a closet and household exchange project for the Flour Mill and Donovan neighbourhoods run by Better Beginnings, Better Futures designed for low income families in the Flour Mill Neighborhood surrounding BBBF’s main site. The community closets mural project was created with a community of young artists living in the neighbourhood who wanted to support the program with their creations of bright, beautiful artworks reflecting the place where communities come together on the community closet doors.

HIV/Aids Community Mural & Theatre
In 2004, a group of local youth and ACCESS, the AIDS committee of Sudbury, came together out of a community need for the creation of a warm welcoming place at the ACCESS AIDS office that would help make young people comfortable coming into the social services office and open up to it’s wonderful essential resources. The group began the project by hosting a series of public street youth conferences to create dialogue with young people infected and affected in the community around HIV/AIDS awareness, gender issues, sexuality and substance abuse issues. What came out of the conferences were powerfully positive hopeful remedies to despair. The youth felt that what they had learned through these experiences needed to be shared and began translating their ideas into beautiful diverse ranges of artistic creation in the form of a mural for the main ACCESS AIDS entrance. The group felt it would be a diverse collective creation that would reflect images that offered positive encouragement and understanding, compassion, care and healing aspects for those entering the site that may want to speak out about the issues subjected to their lives. ACCESS AIDS bravely offered their reception area as the canvas for their artworks and was created by a diverse core group of 50 local young peoples in our community.

Some of the issues the group discussed with speakers during the preconception of the collective artwork included: drugs, alcohol, abuse, physical, subconscious, emotional, mental addictions and prevention, stress in our survival in poverty on low or fixed incomes and with disabilities, health care and financing, medical care and expenses, demystifying popular misconceptions about poverty, illness and disability, relationship-building and support from not only from social services but our peers as well, paranoia, social inclusion, building confidence, inner strength and will, heterosexuality, STDs, sex and sexuality, gender, queer liberation, anti-oppression, feeling equally socially accepted and yearning for equal human kindness, understanding, peace and freedom, allowing ourselves to ask questions, not feeling embarrassed about unleashing our feelings of social disconnect, rejection and abandonment, empowerment, availability of healthy social alternatives, spirituality, availability of open inclusive ways of sharing, generosity of spirit, values and morals, realistic realization, facing issues instead of purging into toxic habits, forgiveness, letting go of wanting to feel wanted, comfort and openness and willing for change, opening our doors, creation of open communication and dialogue, openness in learning, reflection, renewal, rebirth, allowing the freedom of letting oneself feel affection again, inner creation of balance, choices and decisions, the taking of opportunities when they arise, allowing others to be a part of helping ourselves find our way and get back on healthy paths, defining one’s community, dismantling preconception and judgment, empowering marginalized communities in expressing their voices, togetherness, inter-generational and multicultural exchange, and making decisions together about living together.

Using popular education, theatre and group dynamic games, the group created the visuals that were unveiled with the public at a press conference led by the young peoples who dedicated their time and energy into the powerful work. Testimonies have told us that the mural welcomed people coming into the main office entrance lounge of the Sudbury’s ACCESS AIDS Center helping people in feeling more comfortable with it’s warm and welcoming colourful positive offerings and enthusiasm. Please feel free to view the HIV/AIDS Mural and Theatre project photographs here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mythsandmirrors/albums/72157617369967556

Annual Community-led Neighbourhood Clean-ups
Organized by local artists, the creation of public outdoor exciting neighbourhood engaging street games and public site maps were created to engage residents into encouraging having fun in unique ways in their participation of our collective responsibilities towards taking care of our everyday living environments. Community-led teams set out each costumed in their own theme, with their maped areas, garbage bags and gloves, collecting over hundreds of bags of waste in neighbourhood through central and west Sudbury. The cleanups featured appreciation community togetherness barbecues with food donated from local markets and participating musicians generously offering to share their beautiful songs and accoustics in celebration for all of our participation in the care of the earth.

“Take the Airwaves”: Public Multimedia Installation, Press Conference and Performance
In the spring of 2004 a collective of young people came together to discuss the evolution of the media driven world. Some of the main topics the youth were interested in discussing and offered a deepening towards the context of their outcome artworks were: manufacturing desire through selling images of beauty and sex through for what are popularly labeled the norms of aesthetic beauty, analyzing the healthy state of broadcast and it’s reality sweep over the mass populations, the persuasive capitalist influences and driving power over public opinion, how and how much it impacts our lives, with and without our awareness, the super saturation of advertising young people have been given little options to oblige in filtering, corporate branding, messaging through children’s programming, and sourcing the media’s holds on the end producing factors influencing our own family values and morals.

Over 20 youth gutted old television sets found in landfills and street sides with the help of family and friends, reusing the old living room sets as frames for their outdoor collective public artwork installed in an alleyway in the core of the Sudbury’s downtown center.

The public show surprised residents out and about walking and shopping on a weekend in the late Spring. Included in the installation was theatre lighting donated from Thornloe University installed into the brick buildings surrounding the alleyway and streetsides to illuminate the group’s work led by a team of six young lighting technicians for the creation of light and sound as well as a design team of 12 youth along with the core group of 20 artists to install the television set installations and scene atmosphere. The event was well visited by over 250 people, and stimulated lots of discussion about media and culture.

The youth artist’s message: “Many of us feel that technology is starting to leave us divided, unnatural, and confused, alienating us from the freedoms of the outside world and our interactions together. Our artworks reflect what we are feeling and seeing in technology today. Join us today in walking outside together and stepping outside of our popular social constructs to participate in active community togetherness and talk about it. We are one, each our own being unique, with one lifetime given and more generations to come that we are all responsible for. We can choose spend our time together in inclusive moving ways in the world together, participating in the way it works and what will become of our tomorrows.”

Northwinds Junction: Tile Mosaic

A groups of youth working with Myths and Mirrors and Better Beginnings, Better Futures came together with children’s programs in the Flour Mill in response to the environmental damage that was occurring in the neighbourhood from garbage dumping, build-up and vandalism in and around the neighbourhood.

The group explored methods in which they could create conversations with the children in fun, positive and exciting ways that would encourage their responsibility to the care of their environments. The mosaic creation project was facilitated by 6 summer youth artists with the participation of over 200 children in the neighbourhood contributing to the incorporation of each of their designs into the larger four directions spirit symbol that was created as the permanent 20ft by 20ft porcelain tile mosaic located at the Better Beginnings, Better Futures main hub. The garden featured hand-carved benches, beaded and embedded tables alongside a fabric fence installation and a flower potter in the center of the mosaic reminding us to always take time to step back and allow the natural forces of life to continuously evolve and change in their wild organic ways in our growth together. The corner has been used as a place for neighbours to come together, is ritualistically used as an alternative outdoor creative space for grassroots community activities and nurtures an alternative safe outdoor community space for the neighbourhood shadowed beside the community center’s staff offices.

Please feel free to view some of the photographs of our community interactions throughout the ‘Northwinds Junction’ project here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mythsandmirrors/sets/72157617371720352

“Passages and Pathways”: Environmental Theatre

The Be/Longing Environmental theatre was created with a core group of 30 local ‘youth at risk’ led by Becca Hughson, Max Merrifeild, Allison Reed, Jamie Fogal, Sara Kowalski and Tanya Ball. The project explored the theme of Be/Longing, opening up an inclusive inter-generational, culturally diverse circle of information sharing, introducing opportunities for public community to relationship and community-build together. This opportunity enabled the public to input their expressions into building fresh perspectives of respectful ways of working together. The group felt it was important to create artwork that reflected what they had learned about cultural liberation in that regardless of race, class, creed, religion, culture, and gender, everyone has the right to be a part of making big decisions that impact all of us, together. The youth’s environmental theatre performance artworks explored what the group had learned throughout the process and encouraged public participation in the inclusion of learning how to be a part of creating social policy. The 30 local youths collectively developed the concept and design for the series of four theatre pieces, bringing audiences throughout central Sudbury streets to view the performances in local storefronts. Leading the performance, acting guides led residents through experiences in their lives ‘Passages and Pathways.’ Clues and mapped chalkings were place throughout the surrounding pedestrian street sidewalks and on buildings within the area. The chalkings represented pieces of youth street culture that could be found if the public was looking and included questions that had been continuously asked by the youth who searched for answers and understanding offering traces of their existence and their emotions to our urbanized displacements, emotional and personal entanglements through the passages some of the group had experienced, and offered doors into possibilities that could meet with our longings for our future.

Please feel free to view photographs from the ‘Passages and Pathways’ project here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mythsandmirrors/sets/72157617368459694/

Be/Longing Welcome Mats – Water Drain Dover Paintings

In the summer of 2004, a core group of 35 local ‘youth at risk’ led the creation of 15 visual art representations designed and painted throughout the streets of downtown Sudbury. Three main groups set up creative community consult stations at street corners through the downtown area to engage with community in their exploration of ideas around youth culture in Sudbury and feed the creations of their artworks to better reflect the interests of the community for the public artworks. The group collectively designed and painted the covers on main pedestrian walkways. This 3-month project helped to collect crucial dialogue that helped steer vital themes incorporated into Myths and Mirrors theory and practice.

Please feel free to view photographs from the community project here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mythsandmirrors/sets/72157617276972433/