Based in the west end of Etobicoke, Neilson Park Creative Centre (NPCC) has housed artist collectives, hosted free and paid education programs, and held art exhibitions on its site for 30 years as of 2022. This year, NPCC hosted Pathways in partnership with Alexandra Iorgu, a Toronto based artist who often works with drawing inks and clay to teach children about fostering a relationship with nature. Pathways was a recurring series of free workshops that met outside of NPCC biweekly to learn about making art and inks with found materials, medicinal plants indigenous to Ontario, and skills for storytelling.
Located adjacent to a walking path frequented by many nature lovers near NPCC, workshops were complimented by beautiful greenery which served as inspiration for many artworks and lessons. By being a part of various free workshops, participants learned about the land on which we reside, medicinal plants, Indigenous storytelling, and environmentally conscious art practices.
During the final session, all participants from previous gatherings of Pathways were invited to celebrate their participation in a closing ceremony. A few attendees self-identified as Indigenous folks and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to share their experiences and learn skills relevant to their heritage in the company of their neighbours. A video consisting of footage taken throughout the program alongside poster sized photos were displayed outside the centre to commemorate a successful season of learning and new connections made. It was amazing to see how Pathways generated new friendships and how guests greeted each other with warmth, excitement, and a touch of sadness as the series drew to a close.
The series was incredibly intimate and touched upon important issues of environment, climate change, and care. Despite the challenge of bringing visual arts to the public, I found Pathways to be an excellent method of storytelling and arts education, with smiles from all the attendees evidence of its value!