The Book Of Places Project

Introduction

In the Spring of 2018, Lyf (Actor-in-Residence) & Mel (Artist-in-Residence) got together to brainstorm about a community project for the year. Having collaborated on several other projects in the past, they were excited to work closely together once again. Dreaming about what would inspire the community at Sanctuary and what would give the community’s voice resonance, they came up with an idea for a book. Mel had experience creating visual books/essays in the past – both for herself and for people in the community – so this seemed like a natural step. But what should the book be about? Lyf had been bandying ideas about for himself for a project involving the community telling stories (which still might happen!) and one of those ideas was interviewing people and asking them about their favourite place in Toronto. They both lit up as this idea hit them and decided this was the way to go! To top it all off, Mel – an incredibly talented photographer – would take portraits of the community in their favourite place (ideally). And that is how the project began!

The Process

Over the course of the summer and early fall of 2018, Lyf & Mel interviewed 14 people from the Sanctuary community. In the middle of this goodness, they teamed up with Ruth Howard, Adrienne Marcus Raja, and Jamie-lee Oshkabewisens from Jumblies Theatre. Together they facilitated a 4 week workshop in July where they and the participants made miniatures of their favourite places in Toronto. It was a joyful and amazing time of discover and creativity. Some of the participants were people who had been interviewed but there were a good number who hadn’t been and this was their opportunity to share their favourite places.

THE BOOK!

Meet The Participants

(note: the link to the videos of the interviews will be coming soon, so come back and visit again!)

Richard

Richard

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Traci

Traci

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Mike

Mike

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Adrianna

Adrianna

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Angela

Angela

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Raylah

Raylah

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Janice

Janice

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Snickerz

Snickerz

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James

James

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Amanda

Amanda

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Ziggy

Ziggy

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Charles

Charles

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Audrey

Audrey

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Chris

Chris

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RAYLAH

First of all, thank you for having me and I’m happy to take part in an interview. My favourite place, since I’ve been to Toronto, I’ve always been gravitated towards the chess board, and wherever I see the chess boards that’s where I would go. And the surroundings that it may have, it may not have any influences where I may be but the table itself, that’s seems like that’s where I’m always focused on. And once I’m there, and everybody that comes in and sits at my table or I would go to my table. And most of the times when I would see people come by and sometimes I won’t seen them for a while and once they come in and their gestures or movement and sound and how they approach me and it tells me a little bit more about myself when they come in. And other times, it tells me a little bit about them, but I’m not really certain if I know who they are just because I may have some knowledge or some intuition or something of knowing who they are. And how do I really know?

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RICHARD

My favourite place in the entire city, it has to be the Canadian National Exhibition. And the reason for that is it was the first place I got a job after school: working security. I worked 23 hours the first day. I had a sunburn that lasted 3 days, but my boss said for me to work nights after that and I did. I went there one time early and it was quite warm out and the temperature was quite hot and so I decided to go to one of the tents to get myself a cold drink. I picked up a can of coke, sat down at one of the tables, and as I was sitting relaxing this young girl happened to come along ask, ya know, “would you mind very much if I joined you?” And I said, “no not a problem,” ya know, “have a seat.” So we talked for a bit, and during the course of our conversation she had said to me, “I understand that the Osmonds are going to be showing up today here at the exhibition.” I didn’t know the schedule of the entire grandstand. I said, “I’m not sure, ya know, maybe they are maybe they are not, I’m not sure.” And she said, in a very soft way, “Oh I’m sorry, excuse me, would you mind telling me your name please?” And I said, “my name is Richard.” She goes, “Richard, very nice to meet you. My name is Marie Osmond.” And it floored me.

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Here’s another story. I was really angry at the time, but it’s in the past now so I can let it go. A few days later, again I got to the exhibition early and I was in the grandstand. I was about halfway in and it was the day that Evil Knieval showed up. He was going to be jumping 18 double-decker buses. And I’m thinking to myself, ya know, despite the fact that I’m early I could see this jump because Evil Knieval is so famous for his motorcycle jumps. The whole crowd was roaring and cheering and unfortunately I never got to see the jump. My boss happened to come along and said, “Richard, you can’t be here, it’s time to get to your post.” I walked away very angry. So the closest I got to see Evil Knieval jumping the buses was reading about it in the paper the next day.

JAMES

I, I chose Sanctuary because I come here when I need help with things that are going on in my life, uh, problems, solutions, help. And, I met my wife here. So, it’s fun. I like it. It’s like, um, family. I enjoy being here.

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SNICKERZ

My favourite place in Toronto is the Dome. The reason- I don’t know if you guys know where that – it’s where we stay, like it’s outside. Um, it’s 365 University? It’s where the lawyers is. Ya know, the high court, you know by city hall. There’s a big circle area, yeah, underneath there. Reason why is because, it’s where, I don’t know, when I feel alone or whatever, ya know like, days are rough for me I go there, there’s people there that I always know I can count on. Um, special memory? I don’t know. I guess that’s where I fell in love with James. Uh, it was- we were fighting. We were always fighting. We were constant- like last year, or yeah, a few years ago, always fighting. And then he just like, we went there and it- just the look on his face, he’s like, “I’m just tired of fighting.” And I just felt bad, so. Yeah.

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AUDREY

Wherever there’s frogs and toads: swamps, wetlands. I like everything about frogs and toads. I like the way they sound, the way they look. Their environment. They’re friendly. They, they take care of the insects and bugs. And they’re beautiful. I love the sound of ‘em. Makes me think of how beautiful nature is. When I was big enough to crawl, I picked up my first frog. I seen this thing and I hear the sound of it and I heard it leaping and hopping an’ I thought, “I gotta have ‘em.” So I picked ‘im up and checked ‘im out and I loved ‘im: the feel of ‘im, the look of ‘im, the sound of ‘im. The way he jumped. I thought he was really cute.

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TRACI

Well, one of them we’re at is Sanctuary ‘cause it’s saved my life numerous times. And the people under it, they’re a blessing. They, I don’t know what to say about the people here. They’re magical. You come in here and you feel the warmth; even when you’ve gone away for a few days and you come back and, you just feel the warmth of love and friendship and family and you don’t get that anywhere else. Um, I really like that ‘cause I’ve never had that in my life: a steady family I can come to and that will love me forever. Um, unconditionally no matter what. And to have that is…there’s no words for it. The best day of my life is when you and Shannon came up to me and asked me to participate in a play. That was by far the best moment in my whole life: to acknowledge that I was, could be a part of a community, ya know? And that’s kind of when it started for me.

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I remember it was a drop-in. And I-I really didn’t know Shannon and I didn’t really know anyone at the moment, I was…in drop-in. I was just hanging out with the people I knew. And, I don’t know if it was you or Shannon but one of you came over and said, “would you like to be a part of this play?” And as soon as I got to see the people who were in the play, like this is by far my favourite frikkin’ thing about Sanctuary you guys are going to know. I like doing plays here. Another place that kind of makes me feel that way is Medieval Times only because I’m an animal lover. I love medieval ways. I liked everything back then. And, during the ex, the whole parade at 5 o’clock – the princes and the knights are out there – handing out carnations. And at least you get to experience little things. Even though you can’t experience this whole world in a city, you can experience little bits. And the brightness shines in every little spot, even in the darkest spots. That’s what I’ve noticed in this city. This place probably shines the brightest. Sanctuary’s pretty dear to my heart. And I don’t think I could ever not be here because it’s such a big part of my heart. Like when I’m not here it hurts. I worry about the people. I genuinely care for these people. Even the people I just have to tolerate, I actually genuinely care about even though I hate them. You know what I mean? I don’t know if that makes sense, but I really do love this place, I love the people under it and I love the people around it. I couldn’t ask for anywhere better. But away from Sanctuary is probably Medieval Times. But Sanctuary is by far number one. This place is so safe. And I love that. That is beautiful. I love this place so much. To have a place like this is unspeakable to have in this world because people cherish this kind of thing. They cherish the family and the community to have. And we have it. We’re making people jealous by having this. So, I am just proud of what we have under this roof, and I’m proud of the people under it. I really am. I am so in love with every single one of them.

AMANDA

I like going near Ryerson. Near where the hotdog stand is, and watching the skateboarders skateboard. And seeing the pond and everything, and seeing the skateboarders wipe out on their skateboards. And do the tricks on skateboards. And…having a coffee there just watching the skateboarders. I like to see the skateboarders do their tricks ‘cause it’s amazing how they do their tricks. It’s a lot more peaceful than across from Tim Horton’s. Across from Tim Horton’s they have people shooting up with the needles and stuff, and they come ask you for cigarettes. But near where the hotdog stand is the teenagers just do their tricks on the skateboards. It’s so amazing how they do their tricks like, they jump on- they, when they on the skateboard they jump on to the sidewalk with it and, it’s so amazing how they do that.

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ANGELA

My favourite place is Centre Island because there’s picnic, there’s rides, there’s water slides, and I can go and have fun. Of course sometimes it’s scary to go on the rollercoaster but I try to get through some rides that I’m not able to skip. And I like friends to go with me and hand out the food and the excitement like the band and everything. It’s fun. I really love the concerts too. And when we get to play. And it’s good to see the dolphins sometimes too. Like some dolphins as well. I’m quite sure they have them there too.

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CHRIS

Sanctuary. I don’t know, I just feel at home here. It’s got lots of good people, lots of good services, um, I don’t know. It keeps me grounded. I remember when I first came here I helped renovate it to what it is now. I worked for I guess Mr. Greg Paul then, volunteered some time and out of that I got hired on by the masonry crew as an apprentice. So in the end I gained something out of it, but it was nice, it was a nice long process; Mike McKeown was here and, God rest his soul, but yeah. It was just a real good time, it was a good time in my life. There are tough days and good days and, ya know. Overall though, it was well worth it. I got to meet a lot of nice people and just watch the place transform into Sanctuary I guess. It was very rewarding. I would just say doing labour here was, ya know, I didn’t really like it at first, ya know, I thought, “for a volunteer I’m sure gettin’ worked to the bone.” But after a while, I don’t know, it’s kind of like I adapted to it and I liked it. I loved working with Burt Tyndal or Scott and Jeremiah and those guys; it was great. Les too was here. Yeah, just like I said lots of good people. It was all, ya know, all a good memory. I’ll never forget it. It will be with me forever. It’s what keeps me coming back.

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JANICE

My favourite place is Croissant Tree which is on Church St just north of Wellesley. I’ve been going there for many years. I like it because you can bring a book and read there, you can do your work, the food is consistently good and the management are nice as well. I remember when they were changing their menu there that they asked me to be the guinea pig to try the new dishes out. So I was given a dish of spaghetti and meatballs which they were trying out and I didn’t have to pay for it or anything like that. But it was really nice. I think at one time it used to be a night club. And there are still remnants of that night club there: if you look on the ceiling there’s one of those spinning balls that catch the light and so forth. When Croissant Tree took it over, they did a lot of renovations. They’ve got a patio outside as well, so in the summer months it’s really quite nice. Anyone who knows me knows they can find me there in the mornings, or during the afternoon reading and, yeah, I’m there a lot.

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ZIGGY

Right now, that’s a tough one, and I hope you can bear with me because going through transitional periods like- Sanctuary is definitely at the top, like up there, like you know what I mean?! But after arriving here where I am now, I’m gonna have to just, uh, at this point in my life like even just other places like, there’s so many beautiful spots and I’ll get into that. One thing is: right now this is my favourite spot in the city. Look at this! It doesn’t get any better than that, yaknowha’Imean?! Got my jazz playing in the background, can read a book, I just organized my life, like look we’ve got- they’ve typed it out on the laptop and everything. This is just to make these goals happen. So, I’m restoring my life, my business, my life, um, my health. In all that space – I mean emotional and spiritually and physically, I’m coming together as a whole. They told me, they said, “look, this is not a new chapter, this is a new book. We’re putting that old one on the shelf. This is a new book, so…” I’m like, “I’m cool with that, let’s do this. Yaknowha’Imean?! Let’s start a whole new book, a fresh one.” So, right now, like it doesn’t get any better than this man.

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Like, and this is only a transitional- they’re like, “Oh yeah, don’t worry, this is just, don’t worry, this is just for now, like uh, I would settle for this, like, yaknowha’Imean?! Like, this is uh, not, uh, poverty for me man, yaknowha’Imean?! Like, I’m more than content like as is, so, I can only imagine what they have in store for me yaknowha’Imean?! So, I couldn’t be in a better place right now. I’m fully grateful and I’m-I’m, uh, at a whole new level in life and it’s- it’s just full of hope and-and uh, optimism and positivity. I couldn’t be happier than I am right now man. I wake up and I’m fully content from the second I wake up- first thing I do is give thanks, yaknowha’Imean, I said “thank you father, ya know, for…” I can focus on my life again. It’s like, a neanderthal freezing in the ice and then you de-thaw and you, so you’re… I’ve de- I’ve been frozen in the ice at the- so when everything shut down, it’s like, ya know fro- or like Han Solo and the thing like, Jabba the Hut’s got like, yer know, sittin’ like that and then all of sudden boom I come out and it’s like I’ve picked up from where I left off. So this, as of now, but when it comes to favourite place…that is a good one. Because when I get to sit here I go and a lot of times my father… But yeah, so, there’s places that I remember I would sit with my father and I was happy as pie. So I’m gonna go to these spots and I’m gonna sit there where we sat and I’m gonna reflect on those memories as a tribute. Being at this state of peace with myself and with the universe, I suppose right here right now would be my famous, or my favourite, sorry famous, autographs and all that – naw, this would be, being at this, in this state of zen, ya know, at peace with myself, peace with the world, forgiveness, even to those that have done- I pray even for my enemies, and uh, this is my favourite place in the universe right now. Where I am, right now, this second. That’s absolute.

CHARLES

Well, my favourite place, well up until now would be the kitchen. ‘Cause there’s uh, I have actually a couple stories about that’s why I like the kitchen. And how I end up, that being one of my favourite places. Well, anyways, in the beginning it started off I left home at an early age: I was fourteen. And, I travelled up to Cochrane and basically I starved. It wasn’t until I went to the friendship centre there. And, you know, then somebody took me in and then I end up living at a place there, and long story short I end up here in Toronto. Uh, when I first came here in Toronto it was in 1998, or 1996! And I sorta knew how to cook like when I was living up in Cochrane I was going to highschool, I went from grade 9 to grade 10 there. Basically what I had was my big bag of rice, a whole case of Kraft dinner, and uh, a big thing of margarine and vitamins. That was my breakfast – I’d, I’d switch them up in the morning, my one breakfast would be either rice and vegetables – I know, I had frozen vegetables too – so that would be my breakfast or that would be my supper like, like on a given day.

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So, when I came to Toronto I stayed with my brother for a while and then I sorta wore my welcome out there. Then I end up staying at Na-Me-Res, and then Na-Me-Res, when I stayed there you had to do chores so I went, and ya know I was good at chores ya know sorta gave me like a little structure and gave me a idea of like, Ok, I gotta do this and I gotta do that. So anyways, I end up being in the kitchen and then at the same time I started working ‘cause I, when I moved to Toronto I realized oh shit, I have to work. So then I started doing roofing and then my hands would always be dirty, and I’d end up in the kitchen and doing dishes. So by the end of my chore my hands would be nice and clean. So then I started cooking and then…um, and the cooking part about that was like uh, I end up like I was, I was so, I guess good at it, that um I-I had the responsibility of uh cooking for the, for all my uh, other uh, how would you put that? Housemates? In-in Na-Me-Res. And on-on a Saturday, I would every, almost every Saturday I’d make a, a, three big roasts and I lived and I cooked. So, like, that’s what gave me the satisfaction of uh, being ha-, ya know being in the kitchen, ‘cause… ‘cause if I can be in the kitchen and ya know, and make this and people’ll just say yes Charles that was good, that was like ya know, an excellent meal and that made me feel good like good like. So then…um…once I left Na-Me-Res – the only reason why I left Na-Me-Res is because, if my brother hadn’t started, hadn’t started working there I’d probably still be there, so like it was a sort of a, how they – it was like a conflict of interest – so, so I couldn’t really stay there ‘cause he was working there so like I, so I said oh god here I go again I gotta, try to be…not a sheep I guess. So I-I end up getting my own place and then, what I was doing and then I end up uh, coming there on the weekends and cooking uh…every Saturday and Sunday, the, uh the guys were allowed to sleep in. On-on a weekday it would be like, uh, you have to get up at uh, six and you’d have to be out, out of the house or out of the building by seven or eight. And the weekends, but uh, would, you could sleep in. But I would go in there and they used to have these big grills and I would like, make a whole bunch of hashbrowns and everything – the works, bacon – they used to have big boxes of bacon, holy hell, like and ya, fried everything up and…. People would come down and, how do you like your eggs, how do you like your eggs – over easy, uh, or boiled, or poached or whatever – I, like I knew how to do all that. Oh, another, ok, ok, ok, after, years after that, what happened was my friend of mine, Andrew and his brother, were painters. Then Andrew said hey, come and help us paint at, at Council Fire. And I said ok that’s no problem. And then we got it painted quicker we got a hundred dollar bonus. So we stayed up all night and then, then we went home and then came back on Monday. The boss comes out and says “ok, I uh, I’m sorry but I have to let you all you guys go.” What’s going on here? And um, they saying well, the Executive Director Andrea says, they have a place for people who have like uh, family members who are in the hospital and they have no place to stay, they can stay in the front office. Andrea had a place there. I guess someone had helped themselves to her property. So, anyways, that was that. I went right to Andrea’s office’s and I said “look, I’m, I don’t, you know, I just want you to know right now that, like you know, I wouldn’t I don’t steal, I would not steal. Uh, you know my, you’ve met my uh, boss Vince, uh, we’ve worked on the roof here. Uh, you can call him and let him, tell him that, uh, he’ll tell ya that I’ve had keys to homeowners while they’re in a, and nothing’s ever happened. And that’s all I gotta say.” And she goes “stop,” she goes “Charles sit down.” She goes, “you know you’re the only that came up here and uh, ya know, defended you know, stood up for yourself.” And she goes “uh, well, uh, like…I’d like to have you work here but like I can’t get you paid anymore.” She goes, “can you cook?” And I said “yeah, I can cook.” So I end up working there that night, and I started cooking at Council Fire for three months. I felt so happy just to make everybody happy like, just, just the food- because when I first started working there it was like “oooh, who this idiot there, he’s like, he’s-he’s gonna poison us all and then….” And then I started cooking. And then, about maybe two, three weeks after that my phone would be ringing and ringing off the hook there. ‘Cause in the kitchen saying, “ok Charles what are ya making today?” And the one day I, ‘cause they had every spice, they had everything-anything you wanted ta make, they had like a walk-in freezer, a walk-in cooler. The one day I made KFC ‘cause they had a whole bunch of chicken there. Nobody believed I’d made the chicken or-or the coleslaw or anything. They thought I’d, I’d, I’d ordered out. I go no, look, uh, I made this, I made this. And that’s all I have to say about that.

ADRIANNA

My most, my favourite place in the city I’d say is coming from Oshawa on the GO Train and then getting a really good view of the whole city from afar with all the big buildings it looks really fancy. You can see a lot of opportunity and it just, I don’t know, you can see that it’s got major urban life there. Ya know? When I see the city, I get a sense of loneliness but then, and also, I don’t know, it’s very, it just looks, looks peaceful but it looks busy, but it’s just a nice scenery. The first time I came to Toronto I’ve just had this sense of like, “wow I’m here, like, finally.” ‘Cause I was born in Toronto. You see, I was raised in Moosonee. And then coming back home I just had this like, “my family’s here.” I was excited.

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MIKE

My favourite place in Toronto is, like I said earlier I’m not too sure how to call it, but I- we’ll call it, just for the project’s sake the mini little amphitheatre. It’s located at Lakeshore, it’s uh, near like where the ferry taxi goes across. Yeah I don’t really know the intersection, but kinda close to um, what’s that hotel there? The really nice hotel…but um, you know the one I’m talking about. It’s just a place that me and my friends, we used to go there after we used to go to, we used to be clubbers, we used to go to Guvernment on the weekends, and it’s just a place we used to go relax after. It’s cool because it’s just like, we would beatbox and stuff and we’re all hiphop heads, and we’d freestyle, and it-it naturally amplifies like any type of vocals or music that you- that you can play in there. Like it, like an echo, echoing way. And it’s just something really, it’s just, it’s weird, it’s just something I’ve never heard or seen before and it makes a really wicked sound. It’s like you’re enclosed in, like, your own environment but, like, all of a sudden you’ll notice, like, people that are outside of the amphitheatre – they’ll notice, they’ll hear the sound and they’ll stop and they’ll listen ya know? You’ll realize that there’s other people around yaknowha’Imean?! It’s a surreal, kind of like, feeling, ‘cause you’re in there and we’re just doing our little thing, ya know, we’re just playing around really. But then people’ll stop and they’ll be like, “yeah, cool man.” Ya know? And it gives you a cool feeling, ya know. We discovered it, um, just walking. Just walking around on Lakeshore. We met a couple of girls at Guvernment one night, and we were just walking around and this girl’s like, “oh this, you guys gotta check out this place.” So we kind of walked, you kind of walk around it, there’s like a boardwalk, then there’s like these little steps that go into it. And about maybe six, seven people can only fit in there, and then, it’s really weird place. There’s like this metal place with like music notes on it so like you can almost put like sheet music on there, yaknowha’Imean?! So I think maybe years ago, like 50, 60, 70 years ago, I don’t know, whenever this place was made. I guess they did play music there, and like it was meant for some sort of musical, I don’t know, it’s so hard to explain ‘cause I’ve never seen anything like it, and I-I’ve still to this day haven’t seen anything like it. And I’ve never even looked it up online to tell you the truth, but, it just kind of gives it it’s own mystique, ya know?

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Thank you

A big thank you to Ruth Howard, Jamie-lee Oshkabewisens and Adrienne Marcus Raja from Jumblies Theatre who hosted our Miniatures Workshops in conjunction with this project, and to Kristyn Freeland for her helpful assistance. 

Thanks also to Christine Wu and Tiffany Wu for their fantastic video documentation; Sam Sundar-Singh and Steve Cooper for their lively music; and Cynthia Leung, Jennifer Park, Smantha Harding Mudiappahpillai, and Shannon Blake for their input on editing and design.

Our deepest gratitude to all who participated in The Book Of Places and the Miniatures Workshops. In addition to our book contributors, participants included Amos, Julio, Kendall, Margo, Mikey, Stephanie and Sue. We’re grateful for a number of artists who made themselves available to our community for collaboration.

To learn more about the Sanctuary community, please visit our website: www.sanctuarytoronto.ca 

Photograph at the top of the page by Martin Cathrae.

this project graciously and lovingly supported by …