C.4 Assessments – off-site programs

Submit off-site programs that contribute to a ‘culture of sustainability’.  Please address the following in your submissions:

How would you describe this program?  In what ways has this program responded to the needs or creative impulses of individuals and communities within the museum’s jurisdiction?  How have individuals and communities become involved in the program? What has been the effect of the program – both on individuals and on communities?  What can be learned from this program?

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One Response to “C.4 Assessments – off-site programs”

  1. dcworts Says:

    The following is a description of community arts projects that were undertaken by Dyan Marie, a Toronto artist. It is an example of programs that emerge from the needs and opportunities within the community itself. Its impacts are measured within the community.

    *****

    DIG IN: Community Arts Project

    Dyan Marie
    Artist and Director of Dupont Projects, Toronto, Canada
    dyan@dyanmarie.com

    Related Website:
    http://www.dyanmarie.com

    Artists’s Overview Statement
    I have lived in Toronto’s LANDSDOWNE AND DUPONT neighbourhood for the past 15 years. My studio is on one side of the tracks and my home is on the other, so I walk the neighbourhood everyday. In the 1980’s the area was the most polluted in Canada. It’s marked by its distinct lack of enhancing features, three rail lines intersect the area. Residents struggle with low levels of education and in many homes English is not understood. We have 50% more children than average Toronto neighbourhoods; parks are perceived as unsafe so children play in the streets with resulting high levels of traffic accidents. The area is recognizable on aerial maps by its lack of tree canopy. We have long standing problems with crack users and prostitution. 1011 Lansdowne continues to be a slum high-rise and a Mecca for drug dealers and prostitutes. In a recent police sweep of the building, a young woman jumped from the 7th floor and the resulting press has worked as an advertisement bringing in more people looking for drugs and prostitutes. Despite this, the area is primarily a family neighbourhood with a vibrant mix of nationalities and aspirations.

    DIG IN start-up
    Three years ago I called the police in response to a brutal beating that was in progress outside my home. The police never came. When I called to complain they were rude and dismissive. In the same week I witnessed a car accident with a mother and child on my street and then a neighbour across the road cut down one of the few trees on the block. It was a move out or dig in experience so I made up a factious organization and called the police back to say that I was the director of DIG IN, Dupont Improvement Group, a community group with a mandate to make the area green, clean, safe and civil. Everything changed. The police offered help as did our councillor’s office and DIG IN is now the first and only neighbourhood improvement group in the area.

    Action:
    In the following months, community wide meetings were organized to discuss urban issues, concerns and opportunities for improvement. Supporting park and safety audits and DIG IN information website, newsletters, posters, email discussion group were produced. With wide community participation, I created a community and cultural neighbourhood master plan as an urban intervention art project. One major element of the plan is to act on the idea that the best way to make safe, healthy, vital communities, where things get noticed, improved and celebrated is by encouraging people to walk their neighbourhood.

    Several urban intervention art projects were created as initiatives that promote walking as a vehicle for reflection, action, and improvement. One of them was Look Out: Look Here.

    Look Out: Look Here was a community-based photographic activity and exhibition that began in May, 2003 as an outlet for the Dupont/Bloor West community to express its concerns over the local murder of ten-year-old Holly Jones. In the aftermath, residents felt both ashamed and fearful of their community. The press painted the neighbourhood as a dangerous place, with hundred of pedophiles living in the vicinity. Parents kept their children inside, people talked about moving away. The project was developed as a way to get people out to walk and rediscover the vitality and goodwill in their neighborhood. 250 disposable cameras were distributed to Holly’s classmates, friends and neighbours, together with a general invitation to the community to participate as well. The project used photography as a way of looking at the Dupont/Bloor West neighbourhood and as a way of making a collection of things that caught and focused people’s attention. It is a way to see the local in the sharp focus that photography provides and it offers encouragement for residents to explore and reclaim the neighbourhood. An exhibition in my studio gave the opportunity to choose a favorite image from the 1400 photographs that were made in the neighbourhood and to actively place it within the exhibition. website

    ****
    Reflections on DIG-In projects
    by Douglas Worts

    Using the Critical Assessment Framework, the first lens to examine Dyan Marie’s program is that of ‘the individual’. Dyan realized that fear has gripped her community as a result of the murder of Holly Jones. Members of the community took refuge in their homes. Individuals avoided being on the street – even though there was a desire amongst community members to ‘take back their neighbourhood’. By giving cameras to 250 individuals she encouraged each of those children and adults to take photos of their neighbourhood, highlighting those aspects that they felt most compelling. Some took photos of newspaper boxes featuring headlines and police componsite images of the prime suspect in the murder. But many people focused most of their attention on the people, places and things that defined their neighbourhood in a positive way. Images of friends, families, homes, shared experiences and more became the material that fostered reflection, focus, creativity and personal ownership of the project and their neighbourhood.

    Dyan Marie’s project, Look Out: Look Here responded to an event that had a profound impact on the neighbourhood. Dealing with the fear and vulnerability that was widely felt across the neighbourhood was a sensitive response to an event that everyone saw as ‘relevant’. By offering her studio as an exhibition space, and inviting citizens to look through all the photos and select images to be displayed, Dyan fostered dialogue and helped to build cohesion within the neighbourhood.

    As the instigator of the project, and because she was intimately involved in each phase of Look Out: Look Here
    , Dyan was constantly engaged in the feedback that her neighbours provided. As a result, these relationships spawned new initiatives that continued to engage citizens in taking ownership for their neighbourhood.

    From a global perspective, Look Out: Look Here may well have encouraged participants to see the countless examples of violence in the world through an empathy that likely is more profound and conscious than would be the case if her project had not happened.

    For all these reasons, I feel that Dyan Marie’s work is exemplary.

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