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!
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.
Meet The Participants
(note: the link to the videos of the interviews will be coming soon, so come back and visit again!)
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?
Read The Full Interview
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
Read The Full Interview
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Read The Full Interview
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.
Read The Full Interview
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.
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?
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 …