November 25, 2020
During the Global Pandemic, Building a More Inclusive Toronto Through Storytelling and Sharing, One Neighbourhood at a Time –
TORONTO – Amidst a global pandemic, the Toronto Ward Museum’s Block by Block program has launched a city-wide public exhibition, an online exhibition, and live virtual events that celebrate resilience, build solidarity, and foster conversations among diverse communities.
Block by Block is a participatory, multimedia program in its second year of development in Toronto. Each year, a new team of 16 youths are trained to interview community members in their own neighbourhoods of Agincourt, Parkdale, Regent Park, and Victoria Park about their experiences of migration, settlement, and civic life in Toronto. These neighbourhoods have served as landing spots for newcomers and continue to be spaces where diverse groups of people live. All are undergoing rapid redevelopment and how they change is of increased urgency as a result of COVID-19.
The 2020 Block by Block team has been working together virtually since the lockdowns began in March. They have produced an exhibition of 25 artistic posters on the windows of 25 local businesses and community centres throughout the four neighbourhoods. Live virtual events and new online content showcase stories of community care and grassroots organising, celebrate local relationships, and explore the effects of neighbourhood change – conversations that are more relevant than ever as cities rebuild from the pandemic. The exhibits and events are underway and will run until November 30 (see below for locations and schedule).
“It’s been a ray of sunshine to have the Block by Block posters displayed in our front window. These days have seemed so full of problem solving one thing after another, and it is such a joy to take a moment and look at these images and read the stories, and remember what we love about our neighbourhood,” said Sharon Abel, manager of YSM’s Double Take Thrift Store in Regent Park.
Event participants and exhibition visitors have also found it a positive and inspiring experience. Dr. Zhixi C. Zhuang, Associate Professor at the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University, expressed, “[The storytellers’] lived experiences have unpacked the multifaceted nature of the multicultural reality, revealed immigrants’ struggles and negotiations for space and rights, and shed a light on how the community as a whole should embrace diversity and inclusion. The digital storytelling through photographs and videos empower immigrants who are traditionally underrepresented to make their voices heard, and share their valuable insights with the wider community.”
She concluded that, “Block by Block carries a heavy weight in promoting intercultural understanding and fostering inclusive community-building, and will have a long lasting impact on our diverse communities.”
For more information about Block by Block, please contact:
Toronto Ward Museum
About Block by Block
Block by Block is a program of the Toronto Ward Museum, a museum without walls and a registered charity. It is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Inspirit Foundation, University of Toronto School of Cities with support from the Faculty of Information, and the City of Toronto Music Office (City Hall Live). The Toronto Ward Museum is leading Block by Block in partnership with ten other organisations. They are: Agincourt Community Services Association; City of Toronto Newcomer Office; Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI); Regent Park Film Festival; Ryerson University; Toronto Community Benefits Network; Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre; Toronto Public Library; West Neighbourhood House; Working Women Community Centre.
This is the third round of Block by Block events. In 2017, the Toronto Ward Museum and nine partner organisations ran Block by Block nationally, focusing on historic immigrant neighbourhoods in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Over one year, the national team engaged 520 participants; recorded 30 oral histories in 3 neighbourhoods; co-created 3 local exhibitions; co-curated an online exhibition (visited 5000+ times); and hosted three “Block Parties”, where the research team and local partners animated neighbourhood stories with creative programming. 2019 was Block by Block’s first year in its current four neighbourhoods.
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