Oshawa’s LivingRoom Community Art studio building recently closed because of the pandemic but the organization is still working online virtually to connect with residents for a community-based art project called ‘Listening to Our Neighbours.’
The project aims to portray a variety of people and experiences that make up living in a priority neighbourhood. Neighbourhoods in Oshawa that are considered a priority are, (Lakeview, Gibb West, Downtown Oshawa, Central Park, and Beatrice North.) These areas have been identified by the Durham Region Health Department as communities in the city that require focus on their health and well-being.
Mary Krohnert, executive director of The LivingRoom Community Art Studio, invites people living in these neighbourhoods to take part in a survey online (on a phone or computer) that will inspire five separate neighbourhood portraits soon to be created by local artist and Durham College professor Dani Crosby.
Crosby says she will be creating these portraits in one of the five priority neighbourhoods, Central Park, where she lives with her young son. She has converted her living room into an art studio.
The project was inspired by conversations held at The LivingRoom Community Art Studio prior to the pandemic.
Kronhert says the conversations were about the Durham Region Health Neighbourhoods Report. She says the project’s goal is to help address the stigma people living in these areas often experience.
Other collaborators of this project are Stranger Listening and Reciprocity Media Collective (RMC).
Crosby says ‘Stranger Listening,’ involves collecting stories from others and creating a visual representation of the experiences and identities in those stories.
RMC was founded by Anthony Grani and Ann Tipper who have been collaborators with The LivingRoom Art Studio. They also work with other non-profit organizations to help create professional quality media to expand their reach and messaging.
The portraits created will each be accompanied by a soundscape produced by RMC that will incorporate elements of the recorded responses – so as people view each piece, they will also hear the voices of those who know these neighbourhoods best, Krohnert says.
Survey answers can be submitted in writing, as an audio response or, for those who don’t have access to technology, personal pop-up mask visit arrangements are currently being planned for when its safe to do so, Krohnert says.
But she encourages the community (if they feel safe to do so) to take on the initiative to help give someone a voice. If they know somebody who lives in one of these areas who does not have available technology or WiFi to ask others to help give them access or let them know about this project so they can participate, too.
She also requests, “if there are parents out there with little kids who would like to participate it would be amazing to hear from them!”
Towards the end of the year, it’s possible this artwork could be available to view online, but it relies on having a bigger response from the community, Kronhert says.
“We are trying to provide opportunities for everyone to be represented,” she says.
For the next two months, stories will continue to be collected.
“The faster we get people’s stories, the faster Dani can start to work on this project, and maybe even we can see some examples of what she has been working on,” Krohnert says
Once this project is finished, it will be shown online and, in the community where social distancing can be achieved.
Visit www.listeningtoourneighbours.com for more information and to answer the survey questions.