After learning the building next door to our studio was going to become a healthy restaurant we found ourselves extremely excited at the prospect of not having to have fast food to keep up feuled on those all-nighters. What luck to then meet the owners, Frank Toskan and Josh Broun and discover they were looking for local artists to help create custom wall art for their brand new space.
With a menu focused on locally-sourced, healthy and real food, they were looking for fresh visual identity that could connect to the historic neighborhood of Corktown where they were launching their first restaurant. Working with the owners to shape a new aesthetic to brand their restaurant we collaborated to create a series of hand painted murals and wall art.
To learn more about Impact Restaurant, check out their website here.
One of the things that we are truly passionate about is nurturing the creative spirit in people who do not consider themselves to be artists. Most of us can remember a time in elementary school when a well-meaning teacher bestowed praise upon the lucky child who was capable of creating representational drawings. We are often encouraged at this tender age to create drawings that look like specific things, a cat that looks like a cat, and house with a peaked roof and a thin blue line at the top of the page which represents the sky.
As we get older we learn about colour wheels and three point perspective, additional tools to create images that look as close to real life as possible. For many of us, the inability to create these “life-like” drawings shuts down the part of ourselves which feels creative or artistic. We praise people we classify as true artists who paint life-like birds and landscapes and dismiss our absent-minded mark making as “just doodling”.
What if we began to educate children about a wider variety of creative expression? As their fine motor skills are still developing, they may be more compelled to create performative works, sing, dance, play pretend. They create forts, dig in the mud, create dense imaginative landscapes with dolls, action figures and stuffed animals. This creative spirit blooms in childhood and is quickly shut down by the expectations of realism. But nurturing these expressions can lead to a life-long relationship with our own identities as we create ingenuity through play and exploration.
Having the ability to speak directly with elementary school teachers enables us to begin a discussion about what is art, and how a broader definition of creative expression may be able to fit into the provinces mandated curriculum.
This past summer we were privileged to meet with such a group of teachers and give a talk about Technology in Art. While we can certainly see a rise of digital mediums in art marking, there is a more accessible concept that can directly affect the way we teach art to children. Technology is so much for then the digital consumer products we have come to think of today. In it’s simplest definition, technology is a prescribed method of doing things. From the way you grandmother makes bread, to the method in which we clean our homes, it is an incredibly broad concept.
We wanted to work with these teachers and get them to think about themselves as art-makers too, not just art teachers. We prepared a challenge for them to complete after we finished our lecture: they were going to make art robots.
The goal was to create a robot which could make a mark on a piece of paper. By attaching different objects, weights and different mark-making tools, they could affect how the simple machine applied pigment to the page.
As we brought out the tools they would need for the exercise, their emotions were clear as day; no one thought they would actually be able to make a robot!
After creating an example of how to connect the motor to the battery, we demonstrated a few ways of manipulating the machine. Within 15 mins things were flying across the room, motors were buzzing, paint was being splashed about and we actually began to see some beautiful marks emerging on the paper.
As we finished up, we prompted the group to think about the exercise in a few different ways…
Did we just make art?
Who is the artist, the person or the machine?
How would you document work like this?
How would you exhibit a work like this? Would you present just the finished drawing or display the robot as well?
In partnership with the Ontario Soil and Crop Association and financial support of Enviornment Canada, we created a detailed coloring and activity book for young children in Southern Ontario. Using a mixture of digital techniques and good old fashioned pen and paper, we collaborated using our strengths to put together an educational, yet fun tool for educators to use in 4H clubs and classrooms. The goal is to teach children in rural communities about the impact of farming practices on Species at Risk.
The impact of farming practices in Southern Ontario can negatively affect the natural environments of a variety of species. As part of an outreach program to connect our future farmers to concepts of sustainability and environmental protection, Ontario Soil and Crop initiates projects where children can be introduced to exceedingly crucial concepts to preserve wildlife in our agricultural communities.
By introducing these concepts at such a young age, OSCIA creates a easily accessible educational tool that can be shared with parents (the people presently working in farms and rural communities) and sets a tone of mindfulness and respect towards other species that inhabit our land. The hope is as these children grow up to be our future farmers, they will heed these messages and find creative innovative ways to farm sustainably.
Presented last summer at the Electric Eclectics, the Shout Box is a multimedia public installation which gets viewers to activate it by shouting into the box. Installed in a pine forest at the edge of the Funny Farm in Meaford, Ontario, the viewer comes upon the work by traveling down a secluded pathway from the main field. The outside of the box is covered in eclectic and mysterious objects: goat skulls, lanterns, hooves and antlers it has the impression of a Victorian apothecary or chic taxidermist. A small sign directs the viewer to place their head inside the box and shout. Once the viewer has given their shout, the box mysteriously gives them back a shout from someone else.
By creating these random links through time, the viewer can anonymously free themselves of social and cultural binds that require us to keep our voices down. An expression of joy, frustration, boredom, anxiety or any other complicated human emotion can be expressed and in exchange, you are given a random shout which has been added by someone else at an earlier time.
In a world where digital communication allows us to connect immediately with people across our planet, we still fall into the same social norms and polite behavior which bind our expression of emotions. In Shout Box, you are given the opportunity to add what ever you want. By placing your head inside the velvet curtains, your face can squish into whichever features you desire and you can free your voice to emit whatever strikes you to vocalize in the moment.
There is a learning process with a tool like the Shout Box. The only instructions given to viewers are the mysterious words written on a sign along the pathway up to the installation reading: “An object of curious conception, the Shout Box claims what it contains. Place your head inside and SHOUT!”
Below are a sampling of a small part of it’s collection… (this might be the time to plug in your headphones)
From August 1st to August 3rd, we will be presenting a new work Shout Box at the Electric Eclectics festival in Meaford, Ontario. Join us at the festival to check out this new piece, and see all the amazing things this eclectic offering will be serving up!
About the Festival:
Electric Eclectics takes place on a farm overlooking the scenic Big Head Valley, just outside of Meaford, Ontario. The farm features some of the best sunsets you will ever see.
Each year, we assemble an eclectic program of avant-garde and crossover musicians, as well as art installations, DJs, and films.
Watch the trailer for the Electric Eclectics Documentary here.
On Monday January 10th, P.F.I. co-director Gram Schmalz will be leading a team of sculpture/installation students in the exploration of the neighborhood surrounding OCADU. The team will be creating a time-space document encapsulating this site, these individuals, and this time by collecting found objects of interest from their surroundings. Each object will be described, its properties of interest documented, and it will be located on this map for geographic orientation.
We are extremely excited to announce that from February 14-16, 2014 we will be participating in the Affects of Site conference being organized by the Nipissing Regional Curatorial Collective in North Bay, Ontario. This conference, examining varied practices in relation to site-specificity will certainly be a fascinating journey!
In September 2010 Laura directed a team of adventurers on a hike from East Scarborough through Toronto’s Eastern Hydro Fields to the corner of Yonge and Bloor in the city centre. The goal: to take a group of strangers from different backgrounds, disciplines and ages and chart the landscape of Toronto’s hidden green-spaces to learn about ourselves and our city in ways we never conceived of before.
The end result was a 3-day exhibition at Labspace Studio in November, where participants will be encouraged to represent their experiences through their choice of artistic medium. Both the expedition and exhibition were completely open-format, the participants informed the outcome by our play and experience-based research experienced on the expedition.
This project is part of the East End Expedition Series, which has been executed partnership with John Loerchner and Laura Mendes at Labspace Studio. There are a total of four expeditions in the series, Hydro Hike being the last. Each installment was led by a different artist, to a different geographical feature of Toronto’s East End.