Gardiner launches new interactive community arts space

Gardiner Museum
Museum partners with local cultural groups for a full summer of community-engaged arts

This summer, the Gardiner Museum is opening up its exhibition hall to five community partners who will animate the space with interactive workshops, exhibitions, art making, and experimental theatre: Akin Projects, South Riverdale Community Health Centre, Crazy Dames, UnSpun Theatre, and VIBE Arts.

Through an open call, community groups were invited to “Make It Real” by proposing projects inspired by the tangibility and authenticity of clay, and that encourage hands-on public engagement. Visitors will be able to take part in everything from blanket fort-building and clay making, to silkscreening and walking tours of the neighbourhood, most of which are being offered to the public for free.

The Community Arts Space will draw new audiences to the Museum and allow summer tourists to experience the diversity of Toronto’s cultural scene.

“The new Community Arts Space offers local cultural organizations a platform to present their work to a broader public and the opportunity to draw attention to some of our city’s most important social issues, including the experiences of new citizens and the quality of our urban environment,” says Kelvin Browne, Executive Director and CEO of the Gardiner Museum. “So many smaller cultural organizations don’t have the space or the funds to present their work to the public. The Make It Real Project aims to address this shortage by using the Gardiner’s resources and position in the community to broaden and enrich the local cultural landscape.”

A series of artist residencies throughout the project’s two-month run, in addition to offering local artists the chance to experiment and share their work with a wider audience, will highlight the creative process and bridge the gap between the artist and the public.

The Community Arts Space launches with a special reception on June 28 from 5 to 8 pm, where the partners will be on hand to introduce their projects. Guests will also be able to interact with Akin Projects’ PLACE/SETTING installation inspired by Judy Chicago’s iconic work, The Dinner Party.

The Community Arts Space: Make It Real Project runs from June 28 to September 1, 2016. Learn more about the individual events below or visit for full details.

June 28 to July 8

Akin Projects, an arts organization that provides public programming around Toronto, will deliver a series of all-ages clay-making workshops and community events. Drawing inspiration from Judy Chicago’s iconic work The Dinner Party, visitors will interact with ceramics in a more social, contemporary way. Contemporary ceramists will lead workshops with visitors in which they will create a functional object. As they are created and prepared for display, the works will slowly set the table for a community celebration and active installation. The walls of the space will be covered to create a living sketchbook that documents the project and the planning of each unique piece. The closing event will be a community celebration for all of the participants where visitors will be allowed to share and trade the tableware created, reinterpreting the value placed on functional objects.

Transforming Muslim women’s experience of stigma and discrimination into creative expressions to bring forth acceptance and respect.
July 19 to 24

This project explores the impact of stigma and racialized discrimination on Muslim women’s identities and well-being. The South Riverdale Community Health Centre, a community-based organization that offers primary health care services and health promotion programs to a diverse community, worked with two generations of Muslim women, inviting them to share their stories and helping them transform their individual experiences into forms of artistic expression. These first-time artists will display their work in the gallery as a means of sparking dialogue and promoting acceptance within the broader community.

July 25 to August 5

We Built This City is a playful way to engage diverse communities in animating, changing and improving our everyday experiences. Over the course of the two weeks, Crazy Dames will work with participants to create a scale version of the neighbourhood, build forts, and engage in walkshops, as a way to reimagine our public spaces. The program coincides with the City of Toronto Planning Division’s TO CORE initiative, a study that looks at using growth in Toronto’s Downtown to make the city a great place to live, work, learn, play and invest.

Crazy Dames is a collaboration between Jennie Suddick, a visual artist/educator, and Sara Udow, an urban/community/cultural planner. As an ode to Jane Jacobs, the seminal urban theorist who was often dismissed as a ‘crazy dame’ by male counterparts, Jennie and Sara use the artist’s studio as an experimental lab to test Jacobs’ ideas: her focus on people and her tradition of fostering tactical and collaborative approaches to city building.

August 11 to 20

In All The Things I’ve Lost, Shira Leuchter will revisit significant objects that have been lost throughout her life, alongside her mother, a ceramist, who will reinvent, recreate, and honour these lost childhood objects by re-making them out of clay. An exhibit and performance piece, All The Things I’ve Lost questions how physical objects hold memories and how we pass on stories from generation to generation through the thingswe have kept and preserved. UnSpun Theatre has been creating original award- winning contemporary performance in Toronto since 2004.

August 22 to 26, August 29 to September 1

Shaping the Real is a collaborative project by eight artists working in pairs to create new multi-disciplinary works that explore how to make the creative process real and engaging for audiences. The works developed during the residencies will be shared publicly at the Gardiner and will reflect the community’s rich stories. VIBE’s mission is to engage young people living in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods in high quality and accessible arts educational programs that are meaningful, relevant, and collaboratively developed with community and education partners.

August 22 to 26
From the Earth

Portrait with Sandra Tarantino and Andrenne Finnikin: The artists will create a large-scale relief portrait using recycled and found materials, engaging the public to contribute to the piece by drawing and mark making with handmade natural dyes.

Circles with Pamela Schuller and May Chook: The public will participate in the co-creation of woven, sculptural visual installations, as well as singing, storytelling, and movement that responds to the collection.

August 29 to September 1
Behind the Scenes 

Lost and Found with Jennifer Chin and Amanda Foulds: An exploration of ownership and authenticity through the creation of a narrative photo exhibit of the museum’s lost and found.

Surface with Dara Gellman and Fitzroy Facey: Using portrait photography and projection to represent the invisible community that exists in and around the museum.

The Gardiner Museum celebrates the art of ceramics and engages local and international audiences by promoting understanding of the long history of people crafting in clay. The Museum stewards a highly important collection, connecting visitors to the fundamental role of ceramics in many cultures throughout history, and offers special temporary displays, many highlighting the relevancy of ceramics to contemporary life.

The permanent collection comprises approximately 4,000 objects, and focuses on specific areas which have been collected in depth. These include the most important collection of European porcelain in Canada, with particular strengths in Meissen, Vienna, and Hausmaler decorated porcelain, as well as a comprehensive collection of figures inspired by the commedia dell’arte. The Gardiner holds the best collection of Italian Renaissance maiolica in Canada, and a superb collection of English tin-glazed pottery. It preserves highly significant collections of ceramics from the Ancient Americas, Chinese blue and white porcelain, Japanese porcelain, and contemporary Canadian ceramics. The Gardiner is among the few museums in the world focused on ceramics, and is one of the most important specialty museums internationally. For more information, please visit: