Your Walls Need Some Art

  Since last fall PNC has been engaged in a Community Arts Project. At PNC we have long believed in the therapeutic qualities of art and felt compelled to pursue funding that would better equip us to make it available to the community. In partnership with The Gateway we were able to do just that. Stronger Together, a collective of foundations agreed to support us. I admit this all made me do a very happy dance.

The program is designed with three S’s in mind: Self-Expression, Skill Building and Self-Directed Work.

People experiencing homelessness, addiction and mental health issues deal with isolation, shame and oppression on a regular basis. The arts can empower people to believe that their voice actually matters. We encourage self-expression while being careful to respect that this can lead people to a very vulnerable place. As so as people reach this place, we have to ensure that our commitment to walk alongside people holds true. Certainly I have seen this at work in my own life. Through art exploration we are encouraging one another to connect to our “whole” self, meaning that we become free to give voice to our emotional, spiritual and physical needs. And through all of this we hope to create a sense of belonging.

Skill Building
Community Artists run workshops about different mediums including silk screening, painting, jewelery making, and photography. With the help of two young women from the Ontario College of Art and Design we focus on providing good instruction. It has been beautiful to watch our folks get excited about learning something new. In an ongoing way we are assessing what mediums people are most engaged with and attempt to plan workshops accordingly. In an effort to expose people to a cross-section of culture in Toronto, we are beginning to offer field trips to galleries. In fact, there will be a group wandering over to an exhibit at The Gladstone Hotel next Tuesday.

Self-Directed Work
We have been encouraging people to self-direct their work by providing open studio time at both locations on a weekly basis. And in everything we encourage a sense of play in order to provide relief from the pressures of life. I find this to be especially true on Thursdays, when Sketch (a working arts studio for street involved youth) joins us in the PNC space for an Open Studio for all ages. People eat really great food, sew, knit, paint, jam, sculpt…the energy is LIVE.

I’m certain that the same energy is going to invade 41 Britain Street on May 10th. That evening we are celebrating the art created by our communities. People are generously putting their work up for sale- a portion of the sale will go to PNC and The Gateway, while the remainder will go directly to the artist. Please come.

I’m positive you will see a whole lot of happy dancing going on.


Little Stevie

Steve Clarke or “Little Stevie” as he was known to many, was my friend. Stevie died in the early hours of December 3rd, 2011 at the age of 47.

I first met Stevie in the drop-in at PNC. Not too tall, he had a slender build, reddish-brown hair, a ruddy complexion and piercing eyes. He liked to tease [a lot!], though he was able to hear when things went too far and always quick to apologize. He liked to make people smile and hoped that his humour helped people have a better day.

Stevie lived life hard. Years of substance abuse took a great toll on his body. As we got to spend more and more time together I was entrusted with stories of his past and how they impacted his present. Stevie longed for community and bravely pursued it at PNC. Sometimes it meant plunking himself down in a chair in the little office and pouring out the pain. Other-times it meant staggering in and falling asleep on the couch in the corner. Stevie discovered that PNC was a safe place to be.

Over time I came to be known as “Stevie’s Erinn”. He would walk into PNC and yell, “where’s my Erinn?”- I can still hear his voice. Often-times he would find me, ask for a token and what’s for lunch. Most times though he would check in and ask how I was, always determined to make me smile. Stevie became fiercely protective of me. And I in turn, of him. Our relationship wasn’t easy and on occasion admittedly, infuriating. Most of all though it was marked by love and respect.

Today was my first day back in the PNC drop-in after a time of sabbatical. One of our interim staff handed me a black coat while we stood in the office. It was Stevie’s, given to PNC in order to remember. I held it in my hands, smelled it and cried. What a gift.

I was so pleased to be welcomed home today by my many friends in Parkdale. And in a way I felt welcomed by Stevie.

It’s good to be back.