Red Wagon Collective/Monday Art Group
Bloor/Gladstone Library Installation, May 1-30th, 2017.
The Vibrant Inside: places of abandonment in the gentrifying city
The Red Wagon Collective (RWC) is a loose knit group of women identified folks who do cultural work around the effects of poverty and homelessness in the Junction. The main project of the RWC is the Monday Art Group (MAG). Women from the Junction, including those who are living at a local shelter for women, gather every week as neighbours to make art. MAG is a space where we can work on our own projects, make gifts or practical items, mend our clothes, share and produce knowledge, develop collective projects for public display, and spend time with one another in community.
RWC understands community as an uneasy space of social difference – a space necessary for survival and for activism. With MAG the RWC seeks to push the boundaries of neighbourliness, social arts, dialogue, and resistance to a system that creates conditions of exclusion and trauma. We also proclaim the vital creativity of low-income life in the gentrifying city of Toronto. Our work includes: multi-media installation, video, photographic works, poetry performance, and monograph publication.
The exhibit presented at the Bloor Gladstone Library is comprised of works that remain in the MAG space after women have passed through, alongside of specific pieces that were made for display. RWC has collected and re-worked abandoned art pieces in various ways as a document of our time together sharing a nourishing, healing and often critical creativity. These pieces represent the aesthetic diversity of women who experience the shelter system as either as residents or neighbours. They also represent the conditions in which we create: under stress of social abandonment and without regular funding.
Members of the RWC joined the Water Is Life protest against Trumps reversal of Obama’s decision to the halt the construction of DAPL on Standing Rock Sioux territory. Our role in the demo was in support of test#:collective’s projection project. It was an honor to be in the presence of amazing women organizers, drummers and singers, dancers and speakers who came to share their knowledge of the struggle at Standing Rock.
Members of Monday Art Group proudly participated in this OCAP video. We will also be producing a longer video from the footage that was shot that did not make it into this film.
Everyone’s Invited to the Gala Screening & Premiere of OCAP’s new short film
Bursting at the Seams
Thursday, November 10 | Mayor John Tory’s Condo | 6:30pm
[Bedford & Bloor, Outside St. George Subway Station]
Food will be served before the screening
In collaboration with a few key allies, OCAP has made a short film on conditions of brutal overcrowding within Toronto’s homeless shelter system. We are going to show it outside the building where Mayor John Tory lives in somewhat better circumstances.
(RWC member at OCAP Out In the Cold report release action)
OCAP has provided a succinct and damning assessment of the shelter system and the emergency warming system.
“The provision of shelter beds to people who are homeless is the last act of state intervention before outright social abandonment. After a commitment to living wages has been jettisoned, decent income withdrawn and even the right to housing compromised, all that is left before the authorities wash their hands of any and all responsibility for well being and survival is the provision of shelter from the elements. If this meagre test is applied to the municipal government of the City of Toronto, then the state of the shelter system shows a City that has crossed the line and abandoned people who are homeless.”
– John Clark (Out In the Cold: The Crisis in Toronto’s Shelter System, 2016, p.7)
(RWC member at OCAP Out In the Cold Report release action)
MAG were invited to read poems alongside nancy viva davis halifax at the launch of her new poetry book, Hook. nancy’s work in this book reflects her own herstory of living rough as well as the time spent at MAG, the women encountered and exchanged with while making art, drinking tea, talking laughing…. We were honoured and proud to be there alongside nancy and the many people who showed up to share this space.
The music and food was also amazing. Thanks to everyone who made this a heartfelt space to share work.
Recently RWC/MAG submitted a proposal to Crossroads Gallery in Environmental Studies at York University for an exhibit in conjunction with the Feminist Art Conference at OCAD-U and were accepted.
from the proposal:
The Red Wagon Collective (RWC) is a loose knit group of women who do cultural work around the affects of poverty and homelessness in the Junction neighourhood and environs. Currently the main project of the Red Wagon Collective is the Monday Art Group (MAG) at Evangeline Women’s Residence, which is owned and operated by the Salvation Army in the Junction, a gentrifying neighbourhood in Toronto. Women from the neighourhood gather every week with women living at Evangeline to make art. MAG is a space where women work on their own projects, develop skills, make gifts or practical items, share and produce knowledge and spend time with one another, in other words MAG is an informal economic space of affective, knowledge, informational, supportive, resource, and gifting exchanges. The MAG is also a performative space where we push the boundaries of neigbourliness, of social arts, dialogue and resistance.
The Monday Art Group takes place in the institutional context of a women’s homeless shelter in a gentrifying Toronto neighbourhood and includes members from Red Wagon Collective and women living at the shelter. MAG is a space of racialization, class and disability – the theme of the proposed exhibit is social abandonment and community at the intersections of homelessness, Indigeneity, poverty, class, racism, immigration, health, trauma, exclusion. The work’s concern is the agency of those with lived experience in discourses of social justice. MAG gains its outsider art aesthetic from the neoliberal conditions of poverty in which we work.
MAG is the basis to work on collective and multi-directional practice and to do installation projects that intervene in the public space of the neighbourhood and social justice, activist and academic discourses. Our work is the result of a social practice, which refuses to instrumentalize or leave behind the bodies who have created the knowledge and the works presented here. For this proposed exhibit we are engaging an aesthetic based on the lived experience and creativity and conditions of work within marginal spaces, which looks and sounds different than understood contemporary art. The quality of the work relates to the economic and historical condition of the bodies who have produced it. RWC takes interest in the unique expression of those with lived experience of the violence of capitalist/colonial society and puts forward the question of its inclusion, unmediated, in social justice discussions.
It was a very sunny day when some of us from MAG went to this OCAP demonstration. It felt good to hit the streets and do our bit to let Toronto know that affordable housing needs to be a priority. The marchers had pizza, coleslaw, bean salad and watermelon a la OCAP in the park behind 51 division and then headed down to the Distillery district where the Panam had a booth for tourists – there we chanted and let the tourists know that Toronto is not taking responsibility for the conditions of un-affordability in the city and that the cost of the Panam doesn’t help…..We also handed out a postcard with our homelessness flag on it that people could mail in to John Tory demanding more rent geared to income housing…