Red Embers, Allan Gardens, Grand Opening, June 8, 2019
Competition Recipient, 2018
Public Space Incubator, Park People
With Larissa Roque, Tiffany Creyke and Citylab’s Lisa Rochon
Allan Gardens is one of Toronto’s most historic parks, founded in 1858 with its iconic glass Palm House and century-old trees. The installation, Red Embers, recognizes that the park has long been an important gathering space for Indigenous peoples, while also struggling with issues of vandalism and violence. Conceived as a celebration of the brilliance of Indigenous artists and as a memorial to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Red Embers seeks to open up new positive relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
The Red Embers installation is a site-specific work by Indigenous designers Tiffany Creyke, Larissa Roque and Citylab’s Lisa Rochon. Below the tree canopy and along the major pathways in Allan Gardens, thirteen charred cedar gates will be installed with a great red banner suspended from each one. All of the fabric banners will be individually painted and interpreted by Indigenous women, including celebrated designers and artists. The installation honours the 13 Grandmother Moons within the Lunar System, as it is the Grandmother Moon that provides healing and a re-balancing of energy for women who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. Elder Jacque (Jacqueline) Lavalley will provide guidance throughout the process. The unveiling of Red Embers on June 8, 2019 will be accompanied by a sacred fire, lit at sunrise, extinguished at sundown, as well as hand drummers, speakers and be linked to a new Indigenous garden in Allan Gardens.
While protecting tree roots and using existing lighting to enhance the installation at night, Red Embers would be fully installed to offer a flowing, colourful soundscape for local residents and visitors from across the city. The inspiring and innovative installation underscores the significance of ‘Unceded’ the first ever Indigenous-led, curated and designed pavilion representing Canada at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale (held May 25 – Nov 25, 2018). Importantly, it will provide a safe space for women and as a powerful backdrop for the Annual Sisters in Spirit Vigil for MMIWG held every year on October 4th and the Neechi Circle gathering held every Thursday.
The Red Embers’ Design Team includes: Tiffany Creyke, an Indigenous Planner, the Artistic Associate for Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto/Vancouver, and a member of the Tahltan First Nation near Dease Lake. Larissa Roque, an intern design-architect for Smoke Architecture Inc., and a member of Wahnapitae First Nation near Sudbury. Lisa Rochon, principal of Citylab, design director of the new Canadian Canoe Museum to be sited on a National Historic Site, and former architecture critic for The Globe and Mail.
Charitable Status Partner for Red Embers: the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto (NWRCT). NWRCT will host regular workshops for Red Skirts, and will execute two banners. They will also provide further programming around the installations. The NWRCT is a community-based organization dedicated to providing resources and support to urban Indigenous women and their families. NWRCT delivers culturally relevant programs and services that empower and build the collective capacity and self-sufficiency of Indigenous women. NWRCT’s work and direction is guided by the Seven Sacred teachings: Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, and Truth. Their teachings, traditions, and cultures inform all of their activities. Regent Park Women’s Sewing Collective will provide stitching services, attaching the completed banners to the pole pockets.
Structural Engineers: Ophelia Bajari and Madina Guillerm, ARUP. Registered Architect: Eladia Smoke, Smoke Architecture.
With thanks to the Friends of Allan Gardens, the City of Toronto, Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto, Park People, Torys LLP.