Lawrence Heights teens create 'dystopian' artifacts for 2050 residents to uncover

A new exhibit at the Gardiner Museum shows off the work of Lawrence Heights teens who captured elements of their neighbourhood that they would like to see live on into the future.

Project explores themes of gentrification, revitalization in the community

If artifacts were to be uncovered in the dig for a new condo building in the year 2050, what would they be? This is the question at the heart of a new project at the Gardiner Museum. (Submitted)

A new exhibit at the Gardiner Museum shows off the futuristic work of Lawrence Heights teens who captured elements of their neighbourhood that they would like to see live on into the future.

The project, dubbed Reclaiming Artifacts, takes aim at the gentrification of one of the city's largest community housing projects.

"The fiction allowed us to make [the teens] feel more comfortable talking about these topics in a way that isn't necessarily purely personal," project co-creator Prateeksha Singh explained Thursday on CBC Radio's Here and Now

The finished clay pieces include a THC robot, a flower-book and more.

One of the project's participants at the pottery wheel in Lawrence Heights. (Submitted)

The artist who created the robot "was talking about how her generation and her neighbourhood is so surrounded by cannabis. And so she imagined this robot could deliver it to your door in the future," said Calla Lee, who collaborated with Singh on the project.

"To see that level of creativity where she sees the things that are happening around her and then projects them forward was really cool," she added.

The book of flowers was meant to catalogue scents of different blooms in case there are no flowers in the future, Lee explained.

 
Lawrence Heights youth participate in a workshop to explore the impacts of their changing neighbourhood. (Submitted)

"It's a little bit dystopian but it also begs the question: what are those things that we want to see in our future?" 

Lee and Singh launched the project in the Lawrence Square mall where the local youth have seen the disruption that revitalization projects can cause for most of their lives.

The plan that debuted in 2010 under mayor David Miller was to replace the existing Toronto Community Housing units with private housing, essentially launching a decade of change for local residents.  

The art piece represent the youths' memories and experience, Singh said. But its also the imagining "a shared future," the project's website says. 

Built in the 1950s, the neighbourhood is located in an area north of Lawrence Avenue between Bathurst Street and Dufferin Street, near Lawrence West subway station. (Submitted)

The free exhibit, a part of the Gardiner's community arts space program, runs until April 16, 2018.

with files from Here and Now