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Art project aims to raise the voices of priority neighbourhoods

Local artist Dani Crosby will be creating portraits for five priority neighbourhoods in Oshawa. (Photo courtesy of the LivingRoom Community Art Studio)

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Oshawa residents now have the chance to lend their voice to a local art project.

The LivingRoom Community Art Studio has started a project called Listening to Your Neighbours which aims to invite people living in Oshawa’s priority neighbourhoods to contribute to a community arts project.

Participants can contribute by filling out an online survey consisting of seven questions about how they experience their neighbourhoods. If they are unable to go online, there are other options available, such as mail.

The five priority neighbourhoods include Lakeview, Gibb West, Downtown Oshawa, Central Park, and Beatrice North and are considered as such mainly because of poverty, which leads to a higher rate of mental health issues. These areas were identified in a report by Durham Region, which was released last year.

The artist Dani Crosby will create five portraits pertaining to each neighbourhood based on the results of the survey.

Each piece will be accompanied by a soundscape and will be created with the help of a company called Reciprocity Media Collective, which is a non-profit company with the mandate of creating digital content for charities. The portraits will incorporate elements of the participants’ recorded responses.

Executive Director of the LivingRoom Community Art Studio Mary Krohnert says the project evolved out of informal conversations with community members at the studio.

“If you live in one of these neighbourhoods, you’re probably familiar with a lot of the issues,” says Krohnert. “If you’re experiencing them yourself, you’re probably seeing them.”

She says the survey results indicate that people in those neighbourhoods believe things need to change.

“The other thing people were feeling was the fact that if they were living in these neighbourhoods, they were also feeling really stigmatized by a lot of the things others tended to project on them,” she explains.

She says the goal of the project is to “shine a light on things” that people enjoy, love, and appreciate.

“We’re trying to acknowledge the struggles. We’re not trying to whitewash anything here and make it all pretty like there’s nothing going on. We know there are problems,” she explains.

She says they want those problems to be solved and at the same time they want to “lift each other up” and educate those who may not be familiar with the “beautiful stuff” that happens in those areas as well.

The project will be completed by local artist Crosby, who also teaches at Durham College and is “very much connected to community and tied into storytelling,” explains Krohnert.

Crosby participated in the Body Language Exhibit at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery last year, where a series of life portraits were created based on stories people shared about their lives.

Once the project is complete, it will be exhibited online, and in certain locations across the community where social distancing can be practiced.

Those who would like to participate can visit listeningtoourneighbours.com to learn more.

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