After lunch with a friend last Monday, I enjoyed a windy walk on the shore of Lake Ontario at Humber Bay Park. Much to my delight, I discovered a spontaneous outdoor gallery on top of a boulder.
Anonymous artists had created a gathering of small inuksuit sculptures, and I loved how the waves had become co-artists, knocking some sculptures over and leaving others intact.Before I left the boulder gallery, I contributed an inukshuk of my own to say thank you.
Recently I offered a collage session to enrich an ESL textbook’s chapter about trash and recycling. I loved how the eleven international students in the class called on their creativity to transform magazines, leaflets, cards, calendars, old books, music scores, and stickers into individual works of art.
The workshop took place on March 19th in a sunny room in the Bluffs Gallery. On the walls, Reese de Guzman’s striking photo-collages inspired us with images from Scarborough high school yearbooks that dated from the 1920’s to the present.
Resonating with Reese’s work for the Myseum exhibit, the objective of the YEARBOOK collage workshop was to support the creation of personal collages that explored related themes, such as memory, history, identity, and loss.
All art materials were provided, but participants were also invited to bring personal photos or copies of them. Almost all of the eight attendees came prepared with an engaging assortment of photos, beautiful stationery, fabric, buttons, and even driftwood and a glue gun!
I loved the communal hum of work and conversation that continued throughout the two-hour event. Together we hunted for just the right images when somebody would call out that they needed a picture of a dog or bright colours for balloons.
By the end of the afternoon, it was uplifting to see the gorgeous variety of collages that surfaced.
Thank you Scarborough Arts and Myseum for creating the conceptual and literal space for the YEARBOOK Collage Workshop! Making art with the support of these two organizations felt both meaningful and fun.
I loved these collages created by eight international students in an intensive English program. In addition to photos of the artwork, I’m including descriptions that the artists wrote to explain their individual collages. (Sending a big thank you to their instructor, Barb, for assigning and collecting the written work).
Once upon a time, Professor Monster lived in the house. Although he looked like devil, he like to use magic to help people. He hoped to improve their life, so he gave some rice, bags, and clothes to them. Finally, they were very happy.
Don’t believe in money. Believe in yourself.
This collage’s topic is Empty. Recently in Korea some intelligent young people think emptiness is an important problem. We use many objects. We have many goods, but we are empty for nature, for earth, for simple human life. Now this is Korea social trend.
My collage is about lovely story. Everyone have a dream about your ideal and everyone goes to his dream.
This animal is the woman’s pet. The woman is so happy because everyone has a dream for her son. Although the dream is very naive, it is like a diamond purity.
The old man in the small picture is the monkey’s conscience. He says, “Don’t worry. She (the doll) is crazy about you. Repeat after me, I’m the Best.”
Man: Hey girl! Look at me! I’m soccer superstar.
Donkey: No! Look at me! I’m the super donkey. Ha! Ha!
Penguin: You are really funny. I’m the super penguin. See me fly!
It is free and dream. Many people are not free because of work and life. “The world is very big. I want to see anything!” This sentence is a catchword in China.
In this collage series inspired by sea and river voyages, shipwrecks tilt on the ice, abstract shapes go swimming, and an arctic hare chews on a twig. Meanwhile, a famous Norwegian explorer inhabits a turnip-shaped kayak, and a tapir chooses a canoe for his journey downstream.
Facilitating several collage workshops on the theme of “Picture Your Success” was a rewarding experience, especially when I saw how much the resulting artwork meant to the participants. I love the colours, stories, and messages contained in the collages featured below. They help me picture peace, fun, success, hope, freedom, love, and inspiration!
Gathered in this post are 100 photos with 100 links to meditations on my gratitude for the Toronto Public Library system. I hope you enjoy this on-line gallery of my photography exhibit at North York Central Library (July-August 2015).
On my way to see a friend’s exhibit on Queen Street West one winter evening in 2008, a blue and white TPL sign stopped me in my tracks. Not wanting to waste a library-visit opportunity, I took a quick art detour to Parkdale Library, which was the 45th branch on my pilgrimage. (Four years after this evening visit, I returned to the site with my camera).
To walk into a warm library on a cold night is very comforting, like visiting a favourite aunt after a neighborhood snowball fight. She naturally offers you hot chocolate and fusses over how chilled you are.
Hot chocolate wasn’t available at Parkdale, but its main level had a vibrant mural that nourished the eyes with colourful shapes. Though the shapes were abstract, I could still identify a whale, a cow, a bird, and some eggs. (I liked how the clock seemed more egg-like than most clocks because of its proximity to the mural eggs).
On the west side of the library, I saw a homework room, two quiet study rooms, and a community outreach office. In this office, a staff member was talking to numerous clients in a friendly, respectful manner.
Along the south wall and part of the east wall were books in Vietnamese, Polish, Gujurati, French, Russian, Spanish, and Chinese. (On my 2012 visit, I saw Tibetan and Tamil books but not Russian ones).
I was impressed by the variety of activity at Parkdale Library. For example, I observed a computer class in progress, three men discussing social issues at a study table, and all of the children’s computers in use. The homework room hosted two families studying intently, and one student was camped out near a potted palm in an armchair, his books, notebooks, and backpack strewn about comfortably. With so much light and energy inside, the room was a haven in contrast to the cold and darkness outside I experienced on my initial visit to Parkdale.
As I exited the library after my second trip, I noticed an art-gate that had escaped my attention previously (even when I passed it on the way to a Gaga Dance program earlier in 2012). A companion piece to the globe sculpture outside, it was decorated with eight red book spines that bore an unfortunate resemblance to dynamite. The books represented eight countries: Sweden, Russia, France, Slovak, Spain (with the “s” scraped off by a vandal), Italy, Germany, and Poland.
Thinking I had finished my blog work, I started walking east along Queen Street West. I had tucked my camera away too soon, though, for a mural by Maureen Walton next to the library building immediately captivated me. It was the perfect visual to summarize a morning immersed in the dynamic urban creativity of Parkdale!
Forest Hill branch presides on a rise of land located on the north side of Eglinton Avenue West, just east of Bathurst. It has a wide central aisle flanked by four large arches that span rows of shelving. Each arch contains a wavy piece of metal, and silver mesh occupies the space between the curved metal and the apex of the arch.
I enjoyed walking down the main aisle, noting the large fiction collection, young adult nook furnished with a red recliner, solid ESL offerings, and a Hebrew and Yiddish section. Apart from some kits for learning Russian and French, Forest Hill branch didn’t have the diverse multilingual collections I was used to seeing in Scarborough.
Without a patron or stroller in sight, the Forest Hill children’s section was completely quiet. A forlorn train set rested on a ledge above the raised and semi-enclosed pre-school area. The train’s body was composed of five boxes in varying sizes and covered in fading red, yellow, and blue construction paper. The sixth box, the engine car, was decorated in black and sprouted a paper-towel spool for a chimney. For steam, an opaque white plastic bag puffed out of the chimney. All six boxes carried a word, which together announced, “All Aboard the Forest Hill Express!”
On my second visit, the train had left the station permanently, but many positive features remained. I liked the ivy on the windows, the wall-hanging with a Medieval crest, and the sculpture of a bear mama and her cubs in the pre-school room.
The rewards of return also netted peaceful views of the newspaper reading area, yellow frames of sturdy study carrels, and an empty program room with chickens roosting on the puppet theatre.
After I left Forest Hill Library, I walked in a small garden that helped the branch earn its name, for the pines and rocks evoked a forest so successfully that I tuned out the insistent traffic on Eglinton Avenue.
Forest Hill, thank you for your green arches, folksy crest, and theatrical poultry! Your garden and quiet shelves offer peace in the wilderness of chaotic urban life.
To reach Saint Clair/Silverthorn, I travelled to Saint Clair West subway station and caught the westbound 512 bus. Then I rode along Saint Clair West until I heard the automated announcement for Silverthorn. Familiar blue TPL lettering on a white sign soon caught my eye, making feel at home in a neighbourhood that was unknown.
Similar to Mount Pleasant, Saint Lawrence, and Kennedy/Eglinton branches, Saint Clair/Silverthorn occupied a storefront building, Consisting of one large room, it had a friendly scholastic atmosphere that seemed to say, “Come on in and do your homework!”
Apart from the pretty fern pattern on the carpet and a window bench, the library’s interior decor was somewhat bland, especially compared to the previous branch I had visited, Wychwood Library. However, on my second visit, I noticed a fine specimen of a pumpkin and ghoulish characters strung on fishing line that enlivened the atmosphere.
Saint Clair/Silverthorn’s energy increased dramatically when a kindergarten class from across the street arrived for a program. As the group assembled near the entrance, a child belted out a happy greeting to the pumpkin by just hollering, “PUMPKIN!”
The uncarved Jack-o’-lantern was in better shape than some unfortunate Halloween creatures who had fallen behind the bench that doubled as a low bookcase and perch to watch passing streetcars. From the rusty vent below, a ghost cried out for help.
On the opposite end of the library from the hapless ghost, three shelves were reserved for the ESL collection. As part of the collection, ESL kits, abridged readers, and TOEFL study guides hung from two silver rods by the handles of tough plastic bags.
Four other shelves showed off an impressive selection of graphic novels, and nearby were lots of romance novels and books in Portuguese.
Two titles from the Romance collection stood out: “Three Brides for Three Bad Boys” and “Wrangling the Redhead.” Even though I wanted to wrangle the editor who had approved such a sexist titles, I was nevertheless grateful to Saint Clair/Silverthorn for its welcoming atmosphere, wooden window-bench, and Halloween whimsy.
A photography visit in 2015 increased my gratitude to the library, for it provided the visual gift of two storefront displays that celebrated Black History Month and Chinese New Year. Thank you, Saint Clair/Silverthorn for rounding out the seasons with your commitment to community education!
To enter New Toronto Library, I passed under a silver scaffold in the shape of a steeple. Then I emerged into one lovely long hall that looked like the nave of a modest yet funky cathedral with giant orange slices arching overhead.
Potted palms standing tall in so much open space created a very upbeat and oxygen-rich atmosphere. For this admiring patron, New Toronto summoned a host of adjectives: hopeful, clean, modern, cheery, open, orange, green, brown, and cream.
In the east wing of the library, a display of banned books celebrated freedom of speech with titles such as Huckleberry Finn, Harry Potter, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Color Purple. I also studied a colourful exhibit of children’s bookmarks and selected “Books Open Your Heart” and “Make Peace with Books” as my favourites.
Side wings lined the open central hall, and I enjoyed dipping in and out of them like a bespectacled hummingbird, selecting an art book here, a DVD about Venice there, and admiring the ESL, French and Polish collections.
I could have happily spent more time in this uplifting library, but a few more branches awaited visits. The second time I called on New Toronto, I had the luxury of spending an entire Saturday morning there, allowing me to notice details such as the literacy-building carpet, a Halloween tableau, and a shiny bell in the rain outside.
Thank you, New Toronto, for your imaginative architecture, anti-censorship display, and jolly orange slices!
The moment I stepped into Long Branch Library, I was drawn to the “Once Upon a Time” display in the lobby. A librarian had painstakingly assembled large colorful storybooks that rested on stands, and underneath them lay a magical collection of characters and objects from the collective unconscious.
With auburn hair flowing wild, Sleeping Beauty lay on her life-in-death bed, the fateful spinning wheel nearby — all entangled in vines upon vines of roses. One glass slipper waited near Cinderella, and a sorely tested princess tried to sleep on top of nine multicolored pallets. Finally, a castle glowed inside a snow globe near a dragon, a unicorn, and a pop-up castle book in three dimensions.
Moving into the main body of the library, it cheered me to see how it upheld the artistic standards of the enchanted lobby. In this respect, Long Branch reminded me of Woodside Square, and not only because it had windows with same nautical flair as their Scarborough cousins. What made Long Branch’s interior so stylish, even glamorous, was a combination of aesthetic details: walls the dun color of Lascaux-cave horses, lava lamps in the teen zone, and gorgeous light boxes in the style of Charles Rennie MacIntosh.
With gray skies outside and dim lighting within, a groovy moodiness prevailed, making the act of browsing the Polish and ESL sections seem downright cinematic. I wanted stay longer at Long Branch, but I needed to visit another library before Saturday got away from me.
As I walked to the front entrance, I passed a black ceramic panther preparing to pounce from a tall shelf. And when I went outside, I admired a sculpture over the door that embodied the state of complete absorption in a book. Even the letters of the Long Branch sign lilted artistically over the entrance, welcoming readers into a sanctuary for the imagination.
Sharing residence with a community centre and French-immersion school, Alderwood branch is located across a wide hallway from Alderwood Pool. A huffing fairy-tale loup could never hope to blow down this huge open rectangle of a library, as its exterior walls are made of giant bricks.
At first I couldn’t identify why this branch seemed so familiar until I realized that it was a school library as well as a Toronto Public Library. The white bricks and the formal atmosphere reminded me of my own elementary school library from back in the day.
In the corner closest to Sir Adam Beck School was a well-stocked selection of French materials for children. A “Class in Progress” sign was at the ready for the beginning of the school day, and as groups of kids arrived at regular intervals, their teachers called for quiet, saying, “Remember that this is a li-brary!”
French books were also plentiful in the general part of the branch, joining a robust Romance collection.
Although Alderwood had initially seemed somewhat institutional, a closer look revealed many craft creations that warmed the place up. They included a cardboard Casa Loma replica, a model forest in a box (complete with rock cave), and a Polish castle with pebbles pasted on the exterior.
On my second visit to Alderwood, I was taken by a woodland diorama with a dinosaur painted to look like a badger or raccoon, a castle with outbuildings made from Hershey’s 100 Calorie Snacks, and a truly wonderful Humber Bay Bridge.
Adding further texture to the scene were two men absorbed in a game of chess, an elderly man sleeping under a life-sized plastic tree, and a masked troll in a chair surrounded by autumnal icons.
As this post nears its conclusion, I’d like to compliment Alderwood Library on its clever hanging rack for ESL kits. These kits come in tough plastic bags with handles that click into place and can be hung from rods. In most libraries, the kits hang all in a row like shirts in a closet, but Alderwood’s rack was designed such that language-learning patrons could easily access the kits from four different angles. Having frequently wrestled with kits mashed together into an unreadable mass, I greatly appreciated this innovation in rack-design.
Even though Alderwood has menacing suitcases and alarming trolls, its accessible ESL rack, charming castles, and generous windows offer much to attract visitors to this branch in the southwest corner of the TPL library map.