Nov. 24, 2010 Tuesday drop-in at Cedar Ridge by Beth Helmers

This fall at the Community Arts Guild in Scarborough, we began a free arts drop-in on Tuesdays at Cedar Ridge gallery from 2:30pm to 8:00pm. The first week, we had 2 community members. The second week, we had 18. The third week, we had 33 participants! This week, we had 40 people attending and 12 staff members and artists animating the gallery space, cottage, and carriage house studios.

At our drop-in, we have artists in many different spaces all working on different activities. As people arrive, we give them a tour and invite them to choose an activity. Options from the past four weeks have included sewing winter lanterns and fall scarves, writing and drawing stories for the story boxes, making bowls in the ceramic studio, casting your face for mask-making, playing theatre games, creating object theatre, cartooning and drawing lessons, and a native drumming circle, among many others. We serve a delicious and healthy meal at dinnertime, and we all sit down as a group and get to know each other. For the last three weeks we’ve had the pleasure of home-cooked meals made by Yo Utano, who spends the afternoon in the kitchen cooking up a storm, assisted at times by volunteers.

One of the most exciting things about the evenings is bringing together participants, staff and artists who come from so many different places and backgrounds. Last week we had people from Iraq, Bangladesh, Japan, Estonia, Guyana, Vancouver, Manatoulin Island, the Philippines, Malaysia, Jamaica, Vietnam, and Pakistan all making art, sharing stories, eating and talking together. The youngest group member is two and half. Elders and teenagers make soup bowls side by side in the ceramic studio.

The large and enthusiastic group is partly the result of the outstanding efforts of our Outreach Co-ordinator, Hillari Blumfald, who has tirelessly flyered the neighbourhood, networked with community agencies, and spent hours on the phone co-ordinating transportation, assisted by the rest of us as we are able. In Scarborough, providing transportation is a necessity. The Jumblies van never stops the whole evening, and this Tuesday at the end of the night there was a fleet of 9 taxis waiting to take participants home.

We are so fortunate to be supported in our work by our hosts and partners at Cedar Ridge. As participants arrive for the first time, they are amazed by the space. For many people, it’s their first visit to Cedar Ridge, and everyone loves spending time looking at the art on exhibit and enjoying the gallery spaces. We are continuing to seek out collaborations with the artisans who call Cedar Ridge home and have been delighted to welcome special guest artists from the Cedar Ridge family to lead and participate in activities and to share a bowl of soup with us.

December 7th will be our last workshop for this season. It will be difficult to take a break from these remarkable evenings. But we’ll be back in January to continue getting to know each other, meeting new faces, and finding exciting ways to collaborate in art-making. Stay tuned for details about more great activities coming up and by all means come and join us! Everyone is welcome.

ceramics with Ron Remigio, Photo: Katherine Fleitas