Jumblies settled into a new location in 2005, at the invitation of Montgomery’s Inn. The project soon found a home in the Toronto Community Housing complex at Mabelle and Dundas. From there, we undertook our usual multi-phase process – leading to the production of Bridge of One Hair and the founding of MABELLEarts, now a thriving, distinctive and highly-regarded organization with a focus on community-engaged design and animation of parks and public space.
YEAR 1, Research & Development (2004-5) –
Where I’m From
The first year of our Etobicoke residency involved connecting with and learning about the different people and cultures living in the neighbourhood and culminated in an installation and performance at Montgomery’s Inn. The youth project, at the core of this event involved teenagers from Mabelle Toronto Community Housing in exploring and expressing the theme of “Where I’m From”, through map-making, object theatre, interviews with local business-owners, photo stories, video, basketball choreography, sculpture, poetry and more. The resulting performance and installation was placed within the local museum of Montgomery’s Inn and, in the words of Loree Lawrence, created a “nostalgic-scientific environment with a quirky twist” that “illuminates notions of permanence and entitlement in a community where continuous transitions are taking place”.
Lead Artist: Loree Lawrence
Other Core Artists: Faye Dupras, Noah Kenneally, Leah Houston
Other Artists and Performers: John Vainstein, Dan Harris, Renwick Herry, Ian Rae, Mariam Adam, Steve Cooper, Eli Howard
YEAR 2, Creation (2005-6) – Tea and Bridges
In the second year of the residency, we started to develop material for our large-scale production, including gathering images and stories on the theme of heroes and childhood bravery. Early in the process, we met Hawa Jibril, renowned elderly Somali oral poet and refugee, living in one of the Mabelle towers, with her daughter, transcriber and translator, Faduma Ahmed Alim. Hawa’s life story and poetry became central to our new work. We also set out to research the Indigenous history of the area, which led to our collaboration with Penny Couchie and Sid Bobb, and Duke Redbird, who offered us the poem “Old Woman”, which also wove through the piece.
Tea and Bridges, in June 2006, was a week-long arts festival and celebration of our second year in the Mabelle/Islington neighbourhood, including workshops, installations in local shop windows and at Montgomery’s Inn, drumming by our youth project, participation in a BIA street festival, and work-in-progress performances of segments of our new piece, Bridge of One Hair, at Islington Middle School and in the Toronto Community Housing auditorium at 5005 Dundas.
Artists involved this year are mentioned below in the Bridge of One Hair credits.
YEAR 3 Production (2006-7) – Bridge of One Hair
In May 2007, we produced Bridge of One Hair, an original music-driven theatre production featuring over 100 community members and 50 artists. The piece wove together the life story and poetry of Hawa Jibril, Duke Redbird’s “Old Woman” poem, the folktale of Molly Whuppie, and other stories from community members of brave girls and heroes. Bridge of One Hair was presented at the 2007 New World Stage Festival at Harbourfront Centre, and received a Dora Award nomination for Outstanding Costume Design.
ARTISTS (Year 2 and 3):
Artistic Director/Script and Concept Creator: Ruth Howard
Poets: Duke Redbird, Hawa Jibril
Composer: Alice Ping Yee Ho
Director: Faye Dupras
Assistant Directors: Noah Kenneallly and Lisa Marie DiLiberto
Musical Director: Erna Van Daele
Choreographer: Penny Couchie
Set, Projections and Lighting Designer: Trevor Schwellnus
Costume Design: Ruth Howard
Props and Puppets: Clea Minaker, Katherine Fleitas
Costume Coordinator/Maker: Marianne Alas
Installation Designer: Loree Lawrence, assisted by Leah Houston
Performers: Shadya Yasin, Diana Tso, Sid Bobb
Cultural Guides: Faduma Ahmed Alim, Duke Redbird
Musicians: Faduma Nkruma, Mark Daboll, Kristin Mueller-Heaslip, Chantelle Grant, Vilma Vitols, Orly Bitov, Graham Hardgrove, Renwick Herry, Nancy Kershaw, Rob MacDonald, Martin van de Ven, Anne Kong, Gregory Oh, VIVA Youth Singers, Juiblate Singers
Other Contributing Artists: Cath Campbell, Malina Bondi
Documenters and Media Artists: Day Milman, Heather Frise, Maggie Hucheson, Katherine Fleitas… and other professional artists, youth interns and community members as cast and crew.
YEAR 4, Legacy (2007- 8) – Pigeon Creek
After Bridge of One Hair, in the summer of 2007, the Etobicoke Residency entered its Legacy Phase, and a new Offshoot started its journey, led by Leah Houston and Noah Kenneally, initially under the name Pigeon Creek Collective. Their first project, Lantern Garden, brought together children and families with professional artists and builders to repair the Mabelle Park, a small Toronto Community Housing-owned park at the heart of the Mabelle buildings. In 2008 the Pigeon Creek Collective produced a whole-school pageant at Islington Middle School, also involving multi-age Mabelle residents, led by Noah Kenneally, with installation by Leah Houston, design by Sean Frey and direction by Varrick Grimes. Following this, the Pigeon Creek Collective transitioned to becoming MABELLEarts, under the artistic direction of Leah Houston.
FUNDERS (2005 to 8): Social Investment Fund (TCHC), Montgomery’s Inn, City of Toronto Culture Division, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, United Way of Greater Toronto, New Horizons for Seniors, Theatre Ontario, Laidlaw Foundation, Metcalf Foundation, Harbinger Foundation, Lawrence Family Foundation, J.P. Bickell, Foundation Raptors Foundation, Job Connect Ontario, Madbakh, Islington Middle School, DPNC, AGO, York University, Harbourfront Centre, Ann Southam & others.
MABELLEarts (2008 and onwards):
MABELLEarts soon became an independently-incorporated charitable not-for-profit organization, with its own distinctive vision, leadership and support. Its main preoccupation has been the ongoing transformation of the small park on Mabelle Avenue. The Park of Many Paths has involved artists, architects, gardeners, cooks and builders to work with Mabelle over 2000 residents of all ages to re-imagine, transform the once forgotten thoroughfare, into a vibrant community hub and art park. MABELLEarts is now bringing its passion and expertise to a new park and neighbourhood at the West Mall. Follow all the wonderful things they are doing on their own Website and Facebook page!