Friday, October 31, 2008

Myths and MIrrors A community history

Myths and Mirrors Community Arts

Myths and Mirrors Community Arts is a non profit multi-media arts organization based in Sudbury, Ontario. We believe that people should have meaningful opportunities to contribute to the creation of justice, beauty and health in their communities collectively through art. Our mandate is to develop art projects with community members who who wish to explore issues or ideas with each other, challenge assumptions, collectively and transform their inspiration into art works and have something to say.

The shaping and building mediums we have used include: murals, sculpture, theatre, photography, video, booklets, promotional, documentation, and innovative educational models, toolkits and materials including research around our local evolving community and publishing key community arts theory and practice materials internationally. Many of our projects result in public art works, such as ‘A Show of Hands’, a permanent installation in the main lobby of the Sudbury Public Library, the Youth ‘Respect’ mural between the YMCA and Memorial Park, the ‘Water’ mural in the Elgin Street pedestrian underpass and the 'Earthly Matters' mural blanketing the four walls of our community arts home in honour of all the families who work for safe and healthy mining practices in our community, located in the Donovan neighbourhood playground.

We are committed to our community of Sudbury, a northern Ontario mining town struggling to understand its place in this brave new world. Since 1996, we’ve been based in two of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, the Flour Mill and the Donovan. Under the shadow of the world’s highest smoke stack. We are committed to planting seeds of creativity and hope in the slag heaps of burnt and crushed rock, to join with others in the creation of our common future.

Northern Mining Community, The City of Greater Sudbury
The Sudbury area encompasses one of the largest known nickel ore bodies on Earth. This, along with a mining history of more than 125 years, continues to earn Sudbury international recognition as “The Nickel Capital of the World”. Nickel and copper production in the Sudbury area have provided tremendous social and economic benefits to the region and to all of Canada, however, there are devastating environmental consequences associated with smelting and refining operations and enormous impacts from all stages of the industries activities over the past century.

Greater Sudbury to Scale
The region of the Sudbury basin was built in an elliptical depression stretching out an area much wider and larger in scale than the GTA, housing approximately 158,000 people. It is the largest population Northern Ontario, and the 24th largest metropolitan area in Canada. In land area, it is the largest city in Ontario, the seventh largest municipality in Canada. The city's Census Metropolitan Area consists of the city proper and the including a large population in and , and with a population of 158,258 in the 2006 census. The area also includes Falconbridge, Garson, Coniston, Minnow Lake, New Sudbury, Central Sudbury, The Donovan, Flour Mill, The West End, Gatchell Copper Cliff, Azilda, Rayside Balfour, and some residence consider the towns of Markstay-Warren, the French River and St.Charles, a region commonly known as , as well Sudbury East, as well as the outlying unincorporated communities of Estaire, and Cartier as part of Greater Sudbury.

Youth Opportunities
Within this high populated area there are minimal opportunities for youth engagement. Families and youth have not much more than the extracurricular activities in the educational system and few institutional programming offering expensive membership such as the YMCA, sports teams, and high art programs also at minimal enrollment space. These do not reflect realistic opportunities for the larger population of high risk pre-teens, and youth. Aside the opportunities Myths and Mirrors Community Arts has been able to offer thanks to the generous funding we have received over the past number of years, these alternatives for young people have been few for the many needing guides and shaping constructs for many who travel from these regions to participate in projects and events.

In this large community, youth involvement is crucial in inclusive decision and policy making for the future. Inclusivity in these processes ensures young people the right to know and participate in issues impacting their communities, to explore, and advocate in realistic terms by physically doing something about the issues we face, under the constructs of an open, intergenerational, family friendly, inspiring structure with award winning practices.

Building on solutions into long term realistic developmental stages involved in these important decisions and policies ensures exciting learning, building, and shaping opportunities, builds youth inclusive social frameworks for respect and responsibility in youth led non-hierarchical loose and open structure.

Creating this platform includes essentials models Myths and Mirrors Community Arts has spent many years developing through the process of trying and doing.

The skills and tools utilized by this not-for profit grassroots organizations include; Popular education, facilitation, network sharing and building, community events, meeting and conference organizing, opportunities for public speaking and organizing press releases and launches, democratic decision making using consensus and feminist based models for engagement and community activities, the allowance and enabling of opportunity taking that encourages activities that foster stepping outside of mainstream socio frameworks, challenging oneself, pushing and expanding personal thought boundaries, self- identifying and defining, togetherness, collectivity, creation, visioning, and the building of hope.

These models also create encouraging, stimulating pro-activity, collective engagement and inclusivity offering exciting opportunities as to connect with others, relationship, community and solution building through multi-disciplinary artistic forms. Our role in the community is crucial and necessary as one of the youth avenues ensuring young people a place for participation under the constructs of, an open, welcoming, intergenerational, family friendly, joyful, inspiring, attractive structure and award winning practices and models. These models have been a strengthening backbone for our and tens of thousands of other young people's guidance and role modeling throughout Sudbury, Ontario and surrounding areas.

It is mandatory that we recognize the availability of time and opportunities for youth within our geographic area, and funding alloted for young culturally diverse groups to advance their experiences within a cross-cultural and intergenerational housing that allows for challenging, collective, self determination and reflection that explores tomorrow’s functions and encourages articulating our voices actively in the shaping our lives. If rules are to exist they need to be shaped in flexible dynamic ways and be responsive to the needs of vulnerable population who may feel emotional challenges around the community issues we theme our work around. Positive accessible artistic movements are our attempts to bring about important changes promoting open dialogue, creating a space for critical thinking within life's epidemics, sharing a sense of spirit or tradition, healing and educational creations in attempts to prevent future injustices, valuing youth's experiencing as vital keys for building youths' own non-commercial heart and soul. These projects have been key landmarks for a great population of youth in the form of something permanent, temporary or in experience kept in memory.

The project entitled, “Conversations with the Earth”, has involved youth, young parents and children in participatory research and public dialogue events on how mining has affected Sudbury’s environment. The research and discussions have led to youth’s collective creation of public multi-disciplinary art forms about Sudburian's environmental challenges, as well as strategy build for awareness and action.
The Mining and the Environment projects explore possibilities for our future engaging young residents in discussion, response, reflection and solution building, strategizing, planning and management, fostering engagement, and the physically doing in making things work realistically in the community, suiting the response and demand of citizens on all stages.

Summary of Funding

Conversations with the Earth
How does a population deal with knowing that their air, water and earth are poisoned by the very industry that employs them? The answers to this global question are crucial to our survival. Unfortunately, throughout our history, humans have a lousy track record in this regard. The recent best-selling book, Ronald Wright’s ; Jared Diamond’ both look at civilizations that self-destructed due to their inability to adapt and change their short-sighted behaviour. These human tendencies are a complicated mix of denial, fear and hopelessness; and in the longer term they are obviously very dangerous to our species and the planet. In the shorter term, our refusal to engage with the reality of our poisoned environment is killing us.

Sudbury, Ontario is a prime example of this human quandary: over a century of mining activity has radically affected the air, water and earth of a city that would not exist without the mines. The scarred landscape features blackened rock bare of trees, miles of slag heaps, and the everpresent swath of sulfurous smoke in the sky. Many studies have shown that Sudburians have higher rates of cancer and heart disease than the national average. Those same studies also show higher rates of smoking, obesity and drinking. Many resources are expended in promoting a ‘healthy lifestyle’, with little mention of the environmental hazards that surround us.

This two year project was based on the premise that promotion and commercials designed by health care professionals focusing solely on lifestyle changes are not enough. Unless the population are actively engaged with their environment, particularly when it may be posing a threat to their health, the stress of the denial itself is enough to drive them to drink, smoke and eat more. Sudburians internalize the ill health that is reflected around them, and feel as hopeless about changing their lifestyle as they do about the arsenic levels in their backyard garden soil.

Ideally, we had hoped to launch Conversations with the Earth as a three year project coinciding with the release of the soil study, which in tern, was not released until this past June, 2008. Little public reaction was noted until the release of another expert study showing loopholed information that was used throughout the study and the misinterpreted (whitewashed) when presented to the public by the media. Emphasis is put on specific recommendations the HHRA must take to ensure our safety and how the community should be involved in decision making within Environmental Defence expert study, released October 2008.

The goal of the project was to engage Sudburians in the maintaining the health of the environment as a natural extension of maintaining the health of their families. We have not pretended to have any magic answers on how to overcome the complicated forms of denial that are shaped just as much by politics and economics as by fear and apathy. However, we do have years of experience in organizing forums where people can figure out those answers for themselves. To do this properly, and to have a lasting effect on policy, infrastructure and public engagement, time is needed.

In 2001, the Soil Study in the City of Greater Sudbury began, addressing the public's questions and concerns regarding the health risks posed by 125 years of mining activity. The Human Health Risk Assessment, (HHRA) began concurrently with this project.

The comprehensive 2001 documentation concentrated on 20 inorganic elements found in soils in the Sudbury regions' soil. These elements are aluminum, antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, calcium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, strontium, vanadium, and zinc. In at least 5% of the samples, the concentrations exceeded WHO guidelines, often by considerable amounts. This data provides the foundation for the Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessments to be carried out essential for the City of Greater Sudbury and surrounding region.

In 2006, one of the young parents involved in the Myths and Mirrors Community Arts youth projects, was concerned about Greater Sudbury's environment, and soon became quickly involved, searching for public awareness materials to assure our childrens' living conditions were healthy and safe. This parent also began looking over public reports to ease her health concerns.
Report on Projects


In early 2007, Myths and Mirrors was given funding by the Laidlaw Foundation to partner with the Canary Research Institute to provide expertise in our collective “Conversations with the Earth”, community projects. This opened up a platform for young people to be involved, come together and design projects based on the theme "Mining and the Environment". This gave many youth the opportunity to participate, ask questions and a forum to respond to many of these issues.

The environmental art projects explore Sudbury’s environmental challenges, including possible risks to our health from 125 years of mining activity in our local environment. This gives the community a place to participate, actively engaging young community members in discussions about responsible, safe, and healthy mining practices. The projects have been funded and backed up by solid partnerships in expertise using specific, clear information delivered in easy language around the many touchy environmental issues to aid community discussions regarding the impacts of industrial pollution, remediation and land reclamation across our Northern Ontario Communities.

In the Winter of 2007 Myths and Mirrors was honored with the opportunity to move into its own Community Arts Space with the support of Better Beginnings, Better Futures Association and the City of Greater Sudbury. Sitting aside the same neighbourhood from which it was birthed, founded and developed in, this now opened a whole new world of possibilities. Sitting at the cross roads of the Donovan, Flour Mill and Downtown neighbourhoods where young working class families (including many miners) live and raise their families. The site stands across from a successful re- greening project, but just a bit further down the road are the devastating remains of land scarred by the functioning Frood mine, one of the oldest mines in Sudbury. This location allows us to keep the issues front and center.

Making a Home- Community Design Project
The community design project began in the winter of 2007, re-inviting youth from previous projects and welcoming residents from the two sister communities to the neighbourhood, creating strength through a new union. This opened up new relationships with grassroots not-for-profit community organizations for uncharted future possibilities. Cleaning, painting and moving the communities' art treasures brought back memories while celebration of the possibilities and opportunities afforded by this new union was cause for optimism. Many stories were shared regarding the impacts of our history on the lives of young people both today and in the past.
The opening featured a smudging and blessing by Elder and former board member, Winnie Pitawanakwat. It also included a young group performing drum honour songs. Joan Kuyak, from Mining Watch Canada, made a presentation regarding her experiences with pollution and the Canadian mining industry. Other presenters included two representatives from local mineworkers’ unions, a local business owner, and residents of the neighbourhood.
People shared their stories and experiences of their time spent in and around Sudbury, and how mining has touched their lives and their environment. It attracted over 100 people from the community and good media coverage. The celebration included lots of food, music and performances. A hopeful sense of energy and emotion filled the air giving breath to the new residency and the relationships that would be built from within.
The beginning stages of the “Conversations with the Earth” community projects began with outreach and public consultation of youths by community organizer, artist and coordinator, Tanya Ball. Open public meetings and information sessions featuring educational toolkits were held by Joan Kuyak and by the Canary Research Institute's Marilyn Crawford. Miners, environmentalists, and residents' experiences and stories soon led to the beginning stages of art projects.

In March 2007, Myths and Mirrors under the guidance of young people in our community, began exploring various public responses to industrial pollution, waste and contaminations effecting our air, earth, and water. This included the feelings and emotions residents feel around the issues, from denial, to apathy and fear, encouraging the public to be involved in asking questions and exercising our rights to know what is in the environments we live in. Our goal has been to engage young people in collective community art creations emphasizing shaping towards reclamation and remediative solution building, inclusive to all community members. Youth in particular, felt it necessary to consult the public on their interests in building answers to a few main questions; “Where do we go from here?” and “What are we going to do about it”?, starting right here in our backyards, playgrounds, schoolyards, and neighbourhoods.

Myths and Mirrors Relationship to the HHRA, our Role and Responsibility to Young Citizens

The purpose of the "Conversations with the Earth" projects was to give citizens a place to ask questions about, be involved with and respond to the large scale risk assessment. It was created to enable residents to do something about the conditions they were about to be told they are living in. We believe together can make great changes for our quality of life and improvements to our standards of living.

Before the artistic creations come into play, the extensive process we undergo begins with consulting residents to explore possible themes. We then move to the phases involving project strategizing; raising community interest; outreach; research; and partnership and network building. These tasks are carried out in developmental stages inclusive to young people who are interested in taking on leadership roles and to feed thorough, current information into our community arts projects.

We have also been able to monitor related and upcoming issues, host discussions and community meetings and pass on and circulate information from our networks. This enables the movement of information, and gathers people together when it has been necessary for residents to voice their say in issues related to the HHRA. This ensures the young public that someone is out there to encourage them in participating in public meetings, consultation processes and policy changes related to our themes.
“Earthly Matters” Community Mural Project
The “Earthly Matters” mural was created at our new site, Victory Playground on Frood Road, blanketing the four walls of our new home. Over 60 young people designed and created the mural over a five month period which comprised community consultation, development and creation prior to it’s public unveiling and media launch. The youth project took advantage of the new bare walls to include and initiate a larger group of young people in the neighbourhood. The permanent outdoor mural encourages the public to participate in asking questions concerning our environment's contaminations, exercise our rights to know what is in our backyards and watersheds, explores possible solutions, and includes imagery of utopian dreamscapes and visions for a better world. The mural's broad exploration of issues stands in the center of a large Northern population and region, impacting many lives with it's powerful indentation. Caressing the four walls of the community space are the deepened thought and emotions that birthed its warmth and wonder. The youth's images and words speak; Mother, Sacred, Creation, Making, Together, Rest, Revive, Impacts, Assessment, Policy, Protect, Land, Rights, Decisions, Policies, Safe, Healthy Mining Practices, Children, Backyards, Playgrounds, Schoolyards, Toxins, Pollution, Contaminations, Soil, Air, Water, Tailings, Slag, Uranium, Waste, Vegetable Gardens, Food, Seeds, Security, Toxic Soup, Families, Nutrition, Health, Honor, Put Back, Respect, Relationships, History, Stories, Land, Oppression, Truth, Denial, Struggles, Justice, Change, Recovery, Dream, Hope. The project is “dedicated to all the children who live in mining communities, and to the adults who work for safe, clean mining practices.”
Young Families
Weekly family potlucks helped spark the beginning stages of written draft stories and theatre skits developed by young families, neighbourhood children and youth. Children were encouraged to partake in theatrical drama involving silly costuming, with themes centered around their responses to industrial pollution. This allowed them to become more comfortable talking about environmental issues. In the beginning stages, the group focused their conversations and creativity on global warming.
As ideas emerged, the construction of a small public playhouse was created made from natural materials found in the immediate environment constructed by and for the kids and families of the immediate and sistering neighbourhoods.
The idea of the Earth Castle was envisioned by the youth of the neighbourhood. Their ideas emerged from their memories of their small size as toddlers on ground level building sand castles and those memories' relationship to what was exposed to them at that height and age (i.e. cars, cigarettes, garbage, etc). The young parents and kids, aged two to ten, took the lead, designing and creating a performance and puppet stage, writing and directing their own shows and performances about The Fate of the Earth to be played and performed at the Earth Castle. Many of their activities have been documented in photographs and video footage.
Cob Earth Castle

In July 2007, four youth were hired by Human Resources Development of Canada for the purposes of strategizing, planning, and building skills for the coming projects. The hired youth students, all of whom were volunteers in the previous months, were a dynamic team. They led a diverse group of youth and young families through the project.

By June, neighbourhood youth and students were gathered to discuss and begin developing the environmental art projects that would incorporate the earth as a main ingredient in its building recipe.
The youth role models and staff led the cob project under the direction of natural building and earth construction expert, Gino Cacciotti, a local stonemason from the Natural Building Institute of Ontario.
The powerful stories about hope for using alternative methods and materials to build our futures rippled across the City of Greater Sudbury and throughout neighboring Northern Ontario communities. Sifted earth, clay and straw were prepared by young people, side by side, mixing by foot. Built by hand, the intensive three weeks were composed of hard labour, interwoven earth techniques and discussions. Topics touched on included sustainability, building alternatives, soil contamination solutions and food, farming, agriculture and guerrilla and community gardening. Many discussions about earth, air, and water quality took place, introducing solid subjects the younger kids used in the creation of story and music for the unveiling of the project.
The cooperative kitchen was run daily throughout the projects to feed the families and youth and open discussions related to food. Specific topics discussed included seed, the food on our plates, human nutrition, food security, with a focus on these issues' impact on human health and determining the future of our health.
Discussions and workshops were held sharing information and activities about heritage seeds, land remediation and reclamation, and the sharing of cultural ceremony, tradition, and indigenous traditional foods.
The construction attracted the attention of many of the neighbours, some of whom visited from the ‘old country’. They remember creating homes of earth in Croatia, Ukraine and Russia. They were delighted by this project and eager to share their stories of building with earth.
For many of us, this project also opened up possibilities for how we could engage a larger population of citizens to be involved in participating in public policy creation and ammendement for the future of our province. Our participation began to expand when we began to realize our work was making an impact in the bigger picture, and began to plateau as the group became familiar with the industrial pollution issues Ontarians face province wide.

Theory and Practice
In the fall of 2007, Laurie McGauley was the keynote speaker on Community Art for a National Conference in Vancouver and another provincial conference in Thunder Bay. Sheis now president of the Board of Community Arts Ontario, and has been awarded a Chalmer’s Fellowship to pursue her writing on our work and Community Arts.
Great Grants Award
One of the big highlights in November 2007 was being honoured with the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Great Grant Award for Arts and Culture for the moving work and incredible impacts Myths and Mirrors performed with all nations, ages, and genders of the Greater Sudbury community.

The Ontario Mining Action Network (OMAN), 2007
The Ontario Mining Action Network “promotes responsible mining practices through mutual support founded on common interests taking into account the social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts of mining in Ontario”.
In November 2007, Myths and Mirrors Community Arts hosted the annual Ontario Mining Action Network meeting held in Sudbury, Ontario, bringing participants on a tour of projects and installations they have carried out with the community over the years.
OMAN members support the concept of sharing benefits from the mining sector with the local and regional economy and are committed to ensuring the vitality of ecological systems. As such, members work to protect and balance all interests.
The Focus topics included in the three day agenda were:
>Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (K.I.);
>The Ardoch Algonquin's uranium stand-off in North Frontenac
>Uranium exploration and mining;
>The Sudbury Soil Study & Human Health Risk Assessment;
>The relationship between protected areas and mineral staking;
>Getting mines in Ontario under Environmental Assessment; and
>A tour of 125 years of mining history in Greater Sudbury and the Myths and Mirrors community arts projects.


In Early 2008, Myths and Mirrors Community Arts partnered with the Centre de Santé Communautaire funded by the Laidlaw Foundation, led by Monique Beaudoin and Céline Maltais under the direction, guidance and support of Myths and Mirrors Community Arts. This began a series of community consults, public meetings and community arts projects based on the environmental challenges Sudburians face. An strong effort was made to involve Francophone families, children and pre-teens in the Azilda area of Greater Sudbury to begin environmental community art projects.

Mining and the Environment
Throughout our projects, Myths and Mirrors Community arts has been learning about the international mining industry, taking in as much knowledge and experience as possible. Accommodating a great number of people from the public who have needed a place to respond and asking the larger population to participate has been difficult to accomplish, as we have found that a great number of people simply do not want to know about their environment.
Of the many years Myths and Mirrors has explored themes with citizens in it's community building, the theme 'Mining and the Environment' was one of the most difficult boundaries to work within. It has taken many years to build fundamental relationships and understanding of environmental issues to the present day, building up a strong base that excites people to be involved in building a brighter community. How do we inform the general public so that they respond and participate?
The issue is often too sad for people to engage because it is about their lives their future, their employers, and about future of children so it's important to focus on remedies, rather than casting blame, causing denial. The shared knowledge, information, and experience we have had together has been built through exploring different mechanisms and experimentations in trial and error through our community creations.
By January 2008, we worked alongside a core group of informed youth, the base of whom have had interest and involvement in collective art and understand some of the issues faced here and abroad. As no one in the youth group had expertise in the field of scientific data, we set out to research the community for available material for residents who wanted to know more about the studies.
Together, we wanted to create something to share with the public containing information on a range of issues, reflections and responses we had learned about. The goal was to publicly distribute our collective creation, attracting in a larger group of youth for the involvement in the artistic projects in their developing stages.
Collective Pollution|Pollution Collective
A youth led collective for Youth magazine entitled, “Pollution Collective|Collective Pollution" was created over the winter and spring of 2008, beginning with a new partnership with local artist-run gallery space and media arts network, “TAG and Film”. This incredible work came together into a dense and creative 60 page booklet. The booklet is a mixture of youth self-expression describing the reflections and responses to mining and it's impact on human health and the environmental challenges Northern Ontarians face. In writing, visual artwork and poetry, expressions of the youths' emotions, responses, reflections and questions allowed the sharing of information. Discussions on environmental issues and solution building were also included.
This soon became something that embodied the type of work we envisioned sharing with the public as it covered the range of issues we had learned about with the goal of encouraging public response, discourse and attracting other youth in engaging in upcoming art adventures.
The community art projects that followed focused on positive remedial solution building projects, creating hope with and for young people in the Greater City of Sudbury and our neighbouring Northern communities.

Northern Landscapes
In the Northern Landscapes project, the core collective of youth explored man-made landscapes throughout the region. Weekly outdoor winter adventures were accompanied by a collection of stories and testimonials we received along the way from residents, miners and former industry employees from all over the region of Greater Sudbury and surrounding areas. The enthralling stories caught many of us off-guard with their honesty and the story-tellers' enthusiasm.

Our photography, film and video perfectly represents our total engrossment in the raw cold landscapes that surrounded us. Its passion, fierce and powerful imagery and dialogues, allowed us to stockpile a huge amount of photographs and footage. The group met and discussed mining and the environment subjects weekly, met with environmentalists, Environmental Not-for-profit Grassroots Organization (ENGOs), and scientific experts to discuss, learn and answer some of their questions while facing our own personal quandaries.

Earth Day Slag Jewelery Event
On April 21st, Myths and Mirrors was invited to join environmental groups to celebrate Earth Day to showcase our environmental youth art community group. A small group of young people came together to plan the event, pulling together materials and meeting with local natural jeweler and artist Paula Jonhson for the slag jewelery-making workshop.

At the Earth Day event, industry representatives informed the artists and participating parents and kids about the long term effects of water on slag, which creates an acidic substance not safe for human exposure, and other acid rain drainage precautions to be aware of in areas where slag has been used for fill. In the Greater Sudbury Region, Slag is the most commonly used fill in the foundation of most of the population's homes and business.

The Kids of Shevkencho Lane Present:
An Environmental Theatre Production from A Little Hockey Shack, by the Children of Miners, in a Northern Ontario Mining Town neighbourhood.
In late June 2008, two local youth artists were hired under funding aid from Human Resources and Development Canada. These two Francophone and Aboriginal youths along with lead artist Tanya Ball, created a dynamic team to lead the summer youth community projects of 2008.
The group consulted the community in the project's developing stages, while reaching out to young people in the Donovan. This summer project was the stabilization the core youth group in the Donovan neighbourhood.
The group, most of whom were growing up in the immediate neighbourhood, began thinking about Sudbury's environment using theatre games to warm up, build, and get comfortable with the subject and each other. After this, they began writing stories and scripts together. By Late June, a draft script for a play was in the works while the group built character and created props and installation art to be permanently installed as conversation pieces throughout the playground. 'The kids of Shevchenko Lane' planned their environmental theatre performance for late August, about pollution and dreaming solutions, from a little hockey shack in a Northern Mining Town Neighbourhood.
By the last week of August, a youth-led day long communal art event under the partnership and guidance of local youth artists Clayton Drake, Jonathan Danyliw, Cameron Drake, and Carter Drake showcased the Donovan kids' neighbourhood environmental theatre and installation art. The Kids of Sheckencho Lane were able to perform their play for an audience of about 70 people.

The event also featured seven local youth bands, food, prizes donated by local clothing retailer Aila Galleri, games both impromtu and organized, Slip & Slide, Trampoline, Frisbee, Soccer games, face-painting, chalk art, spoken word and acoustic sets set up around the playground throughout the day, bringing out over 200 residents and youth from all over the Greater Sudbury Area.

Workshops, Activities and Events
In the relationship building between the young people of the new neighbourhood and the two sistering, downtown and the Flour Mill neighbourhoods, Myths and Mirrors continually offers a variety of workshops, activities and youth events in and outside of our community space, acquainting and familiarizing the organization and all of it's functions and purpose under it's mandate and funding themes with the community.

This funding helps the continual organizing of regular youth-led music shows, featuring local punk, indy, acoustic, bluegrass, hip-hop, and culturally traditional music, it gives them a venue at which to host their events and gives them an outlet for their art and talents. Some of the youth art groups that have partnered with our two youth group organizers or workshops in conjunction with Myths and Mirrors project events and activities include: Elle Q Dance Factory/Earth dancers, The Doers, usaisamonster, Varge!, the Statues, Jean Wells, LAME, the Saltcoats, Lightmares, BOT, Bunnies in Berlin, The Birthday Cakes, Meadowlark Lemons, DD/MM/YY, Be bad, Ctrl Alt Del, UV Ray, Run Chico Run, Prus Propre, All Purpose Voltage Heroes, One Candle Power, Newport Trophy Wives, Hello Marx, spoken word, beat poetry and acoustic benefit shows.

As well, we have been able to host a broad range of regular multi-disciplinary art workshops including; screen printing, recycled fabric and bags sewing and weaving workshops, clay and sculpture art, tee-shirt and poster art making, photography and video, the sculpting, creation and movement giant puppets in theatre productions touring all over Northern Ontario, and stilting extending out into the community at secondary and post secondary level education, and with other art organizations, NGOs and ENGOs.

The Ontario Mining Action Network (OMAN)2008
In October 2008, Mining Watch Canada and Myths and Mirrors hosted a great cross-cultural core group of people working in different sectors of Ontario's mining issues, impacted by mining issues in communities and/or facing tough process and decisions around the industry across Ontario. These included key members from aboriginal reserves in Ontario, NGOs and ENGOs, top Canadian Pollution Watchdogs, and Legal and Environmental defence, meeting for the annual Ontario Mining Action Network meeting held in Sudbury Ontario.

Topics of Discussion at the 2008 OMAN Conference included:
> National and International Mining Issues;
> Ontario Mining Act Consultation: Free Entry;
> Perils and Pitfalls of Risk Management, making a model;
> Community Land Use Planning and Mining
> Challenges to Environmental Assessment of Mining Projects; and
> In the Shadow of the Super Stack: The Sudbury Soils Study & the HHRA.

Reseau Canadien de L'Environment/Canadian Environmental Network (RCEN)

In October 2008, Myths and Mirrors Community Art Coordinator was selected as one of 10 national delegates to attend the National, Annual RCEN Mining Caucus Steering Committee Meeting held in Vancouver to be exposed to various multi-party discussions and workshops. The purpose of this Meeting was to help identify and map out post-consultation positions, monitor developments and ensure that we continue to lobby the pertinent decision makers/parties so that we are on the same page as the mining industry and government.

The result of these talks was to help the RCEN identify ways in which the Mining Caucus can work on issues including; CEPA – Toxics and Domestic Substances exemption for disposal to waste rock and tailings from mining in the NPRI; Priority Substance List: Study Reports on Radionuclides; Mining and Mineral Effluent Regulations; Mine Environment Neutral Drainage Program; Mining Sector Sustainability; Environmental Code of Practice for Mining; and National Orphaned and Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI).
The National Orpaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI)
In October 2008, Myths and Mirrors Community Art Coordinator was invited to attend a National Conference exploring perspectives on Risk Assessment for Orphaned and Abandoned Mines under the National Orphaned Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI) in Vancouver. This workshop is designed “to explore and understand the different perspectives relating to the process of assessing risk associated with orphaned and abandoned mines.”

The concept of risk, risk assessment and risk management for abandoned mines is complex, and raises issues around public health and safety, environmental protection and related liability. Managing risk requires an understanding of those potential adverse impacts, but also takes into consideration other factors such as legislation, regulations, economics, community concerns, politics and technical feasibility. By understanding different perspectives related to risk assessment, the process may be improved and the health and safety of the public and environment may be better protected.

This workshop will provide Myths and Mirrors the opportunity to learn, explore, share and discuss risk assessment processes and management in order to gain insight into the multi-faceted process and share with the community. It is important to note that the attendance of these meetings will provide a stable base of knowledge and expertise for Myths and Mirrors when dealing with the emotional end of the precautions the community will face and undergo from a grassroots community organization perspective, as well as during the actual construction of our collective art projects.

Planning for the future

Currently, Myths and Mirrors is undertaking projects which challenge youth in Sudbury to be involved in making our northern mining town a cleaner, safer place to live focusing on the airborne pollution coming off the sites which is the main source of contact for human exposure and insist the workers be over and above the study of current and past workers and their families. A community meeting or series of them will follow suggesting other ways of looking at the situation, what needs to be done and discuss ways in which the community can be involved.

Recently, an Environmental Defense report recently released to the public as an external review of the Soil Study Assessing undertaken by industry, reveals specific findings and results and realistic proposals and recommendations for further inclusion into the Sudbury Soil Study and the public to make decisions on. The Environmental Defense study was commissioned by both unions, Mine mill local 598 / C.A.W., and the Steelworkers local 6500, who are entrusted the care of all the mining industries workers and responsibilities to their families.

Government needs to take a responsible role in creating solutions for protecting our health. A media pole was taken involving Citizens of the Greater Sudbury area with results indicating 60% of people did not trust the study. This is an statistic gives us a little insight into the attitudes that Sudburians have towards information that is presented to them on their environment, and can be used to help Myths and Mirrors tailor it's message to the Sudbury community at large. The creation of poilicies, regulations and standards will be based from the outcome of community's participation.

The assessment
The Sudbury Human Health Risk Assessment was undertaken by the Sudbury Area Risk
Assessment Group (SARA) starting in 2003. It was based on soil sampling data from the
Sudbury Soils Study funded by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and local
mining companies. The metals chosen for the human health assessment were those found
to be contaminating the entire Greater Sudbury Area, to be above MOE soil guidelines, and
those that at least in part come the local mining and smelting operations.

Myths and Mirrors has been able to accomplish community-based participation where it has been entirely essential to the future of Greater Sudbury area's understanding of these issues and how they may impact us. At this point, an even greater widespread need for a place for community involvement and young people to participate, think positively, ask questions, respond and have opportunities to be involved in forward thinking remedial environmental art projects at it's peak for our environment's essential remediation, reclamation and healthy future.

The Bigger Picture: Greater Sudbury Youth's Involvement Province-Wide:
Another major imprint and landmark we have been honored to participate in with young people, was building strong networks with experts throughout our projects who work directly in seperate environmental sectors and regard our challenges with industrial pollution.
Including all of the issues pertaining to the projects, we have been participating alongside these new networks on a grassroots community level in engaging the public in participating in change on specific issues included in recommendations for amending the Ontario Mining Act.

Our projects create emotional, transforming, experiences that shape the direction and interests not only of the people who participate but in the lives of others who are close to them. Over the past two years, thousands of youth have been exposed to, experienced and been impacted by our work whether it be participating, coming to an event or reading about or viewing the public works. The shared experiences, words and collaborative thought put into our creations is always knowingly respected, and greatly valued among everyone involved in putting them together. It is our hope that we have been able to touch the lives of others, creating change at least locally and possibly globally.

Why Our Role is Vital to our Community
Grassroots community organizing has provided an encouraging base of opportunity for young people to explore, learn, share, discuss, debate, expand, analyze, and self-express together through the process of trying and doing. Myths and Mirrors houses public involvement, actively engaging young members of the community to participate in inspiring and challenging projects that step outside of social frameworks, driven by the challenges we face, cultivating personal interaction and the creation of a better future.

We identify youth as essential assets, publicly and socially engaging in democratic decision-making capacities. Myths and Mirrors dedicates time in aiding youth to develop individually, based on their unique interests, identities and differences. It is our hope that these youth can strengthen and empower each other to their full potential and capacity, taking hold of their own futures and become civicly engaged as strong community leaders.

Myths and Mirrors lives for anything that suggests solution building, being socially inclusive and diverse, building brave new standards of living, redefining healthy values and raising new heights for our quality of life. We encourage environments that sustain experiences, explore and challenge assumptions, advocate for change, and that nurture hope for the well-being of all.

Currently Myths and Mirrors Community Arts is situated in the heart of a working class neighbourhood filled with a great flooding of needs and demands by children, preteens, young parents and youth. The period of time Myths and Mirrors has been honoured funding has only enabled us to scratch the surface of initial beginning stages and start to an open relationship with the young people of the Donovan community. A broad understanding of the environmental issues and their related local ENGOs has only recently been established.

These kids, ages 7 to 19, of mixed aboriginal, francophone and anglophone are at a critical point in the environmental interests of many of these kids. These pre-teens and youth without continued funding and positive community art projects, we fear, the inevitable abandonment will shift the lives of this young population we have spent years building relationships with. We also fear this will be devastating to the entire neighbourhood and the two sistering surrounding communities. Like many Northern communities, the ‘youth out-migration’ problem will continue to grow without the existing NGO and ENGO's presence leaving young people out and hopeless as more young people may leave our community for the big cities.
After two years spent identifying the enormous environmental challenges threatening environmental devastation, the initiation of diologue on industrial impacts on our community has only just begun. Environmental networks in the Greater Sudbury Area are also beginning to build relationships with us in our projects as an alternative avenue to openly discuss pollution issues. It is thus not hard to make a case for the importance and great need for their vital organizations, as well as our presence, which has been acting as a common mediator between the community, industry, and the environment.
Although the majority of ENGOs have minimal funding opportunities for their vital work, many of them have accepted their vital funding source from the industry that pollutes us as they have had no other means of funding support. This has been a way to work with the companies in ensuring reclamation and remediation throughout Sudbury. However, many sudburians feel this has created censorship of these organizations and resulted in lack of presence and essential voices in the community.
The interest from the networks throughout the duration of our projects was to discuss their funding and why their specific roles are fundamental to our communities. This was held in the form of a public conference and was hosted by the Greater Sudbury Environment Network this past June.
The public was invited to join in the discussions with ENGOs about Corporate Sponsorship. The goal of this panel discussion was to provide environmental non-profits the opportunity to hear and discuss issues to consider when developing corporate sponsorships. Some of the questions included, “Should corporate sponsorships be in line with our vision, mission and values?”, “How can we advance our environmental vision for the community through our relationships with the corporate sector?”, and “What are the key ingredients of successful partnerships with the corporate sector, and issues to consider when developing corporate sponsorships?”. A synthesis of the presentations, as well as opportunity for questions in French, consisted of a panel discussion with the following speakers: Brennain Lloyd – Coordinator, Northwatch, Franco Mariotti – Co-Chair, Junction Creek Stewardship Committee, Deb McIntosh – Coordinator, Rainbow Routes, Laurie McGauley – Artistic Director, Myths and Mirrors Community Arts, moderated by François Depelteaux, Department of Sociology at Laurentien University.

The Greater Sudbury Community and Youth: The next Step

In the time frame we have been generously funded we have built a base for understanding the broad spectrum of issues related to mining and the environment, building necessary networks, strengthening relationships with vital ENGOs and learning through community arts practices. With this base we are situated at a crucial stepping stone which could greatly impact change in our community. As mentioned previously, in the time we have been alloted funding for these projects we have only begun to skim the surface of these issues and understand the importance and need for environmental change. We feel it is necessary for continuity in funding for our environmental community arts projects to undergo it's vital work throughout the Greater Sudbury Area, for the lives of the young people involved, the public at large, and with them, help in any way possible in shaping a healthy, vibrant community.
What does the risk management plan involve after the public comment period is over on November 1st, 2008? How will the committee create a place for community members who want to be involved in doing something about the industrial pollution impacting our health and environments?

With denial, apathy and fear playing a fierce role, most citizens simply did not want to know until it's crucial stages for their involvement this past month. Using our multi-disciplinary shaped organization's models is essential in loosening up the subjects, accommodating our new relationships, we have been able to help strengthen our community at large and cushion space and time for the young people's responses.
After two years of trial and error, experimenting in projects with partners and young people in the community, we would like to develop a plan focusing on positive remedial art projects to ensure this public involvement throughout the building of sustainable risk management. The inclusion the youth at these stages is absolutely essential.

The experiences we have undergone, partnerships we have made and concrete reports like that prepared by Environmental Defence Canada, and written by risk assessment expert Kapil Khatter can be used to create a sense of hope in our community and give direction to many who will need a place to discuss and respond to its disruptive information. It will also determine the inclusion of measures that can be taken in a model for risk assessment used in other communities facing similar industrial impacts.
We propose our community arts projects begin to include all stages, from beginning to end, of the Risk Management Planning for the HHRA to go alongside projects fed by the challenging Ecological Assessment. This will assure seats in the management plan for our soil's remediation and the Ecological study's development for youth involvement.

We predict this will be a much broader subject to engage young people with since the subject is less complex for young people to dive into and improve decision making for the protection of our nonhuman inhabitants. With the ecological testing of the release of chemicals, the study of the adverse effects on human activities on our natural environment, our interactions with water, insects, fisheries, plants and animals, an exciting adventure of creativity will be offered to young people in prioritizing what risks they will choose to accept, be involved with decision making, and environmental remediation. We are hopeful, the community will feel a call to protect and respect their environments, leaving their artistic attributes as landmarks of their beautiful works in building a brighter future.

Granting Opportunities for Greater Sudbury Youth
Myths and Mirrors Community Arts funding is currently drying up. This poses an enormous threat to continouance with our work not only in the neighbourhood where we are situated, but also in the surounding areas where we undertake projects throughout the Fall to Spring Seasons. This will effect over 2000 youth currently involved from areas all over the Greater Sudbury Area.
We are currently searching for granting opportunities to continue our community art projects with young people in our community that fall under our mandate. With our project at an incredible climax built up over two years, we feel it is absolutely fundamental to continue in respect to the relationships and futures vulnerable residents will face and what available constructs exist for their involvement. Engaged youth have participated in environmental meetings and conferences, partnering projects with ENGOs from across Northern Ontario to pursue the insurance of responsible and better regulated mining practices in their community, and health and safety in our own community. We feel at this crucial poing of environmental assessing, it is vital to offer young people forward thinking, remedial solution building art projects offering young people a place with others in making a brighter healtier future.
We are requesting for letters of support in aiding our efforts to continue creating engaging projects which build and develop our communities.

For a copy of our 2009 proposed projects, or to include your own ideas for community art projects, please feel free to email Tanya at
Myths and Mirrors Community Arts

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Anonymous said...

great stuff!

GreenSudbury said...

Did you actually manage to read all of this? Ha quite a history