The Alleyway of Dreams is a project started by Mark Kerwin and Sarosh Anwar, two local Danforth Village residents. The project is about creating a cross-pollinating art and cultural corridor in east end Toronto, embracing nature, human potential, freedom of imagination and community. It is a 50 year art project which began in 2013. The Alleyway of Dreams was originally inspired by the power of art in community throughout the world – particularly the seaside murals of Cinque Terre, Italy, and the tiled stairway of Selaron in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the artist Selaron transformed an ugly stairway at the bottom of a favela (slum) through mosaic tile art. This community art piece catalyzed a transformation of the economy in his neighbourhood as well as changed the perception of the area.
The vision is for the Alleyway of Dreams to be a landmark destination for tourists and Torontonians alike, leading to more foot traffic, media attention, international draw and discussion around our neighbourhood as a go-to destination to be seen and experienced. Our hope is this will lead to business stimulation and more attention drawn to our vibrant neighbourhoods located near the Danforth Village BIA.
There is a safety component to the project – as bright, well lit, well cared for space becomes a visible extension of the backyards and back of businesses instead of the alley being a place that people lock their gates. The alleyway will be a place to engage those who live in the area and a place to truly be proud of.
June 7th brought together neighbours for an Alleyway of Dreams Walk/Cleanup to brain storm ideas for new art murals, neighbourhood improvements while cleaning up the alley as part of the 100 in 1 Day events in Toronto. Together people got to know each other and build trust so that conversations happened in a natural, unhurried or unforced way. We heard other issues such as laneway housing, greening, carbon and water footprint reduction, all discussions as a direct result of having the Alleyway of Dreams Project in our community.
The long term goal is for the Alleyway of Dreams Project to be a wildlife corridor for artists that will connect the east end Toronto to stimulate pedestrian/bike path infrastructure and more. The alleyway and neighbourhoods can be transformed and elevated as a focus point for innovation and thought leadership. We can also link nature through pollinator pathways and bring more attention to food security and the anology of Dr Vandana Shiva’s “monocultures of the mind,” as something that is dangerous to our well being. The alleyway serves as a diverse and creative way to use space, while also encouraging more interaction with a green space that is a commons, rather than private. It is owned by the people.
The Alley Way of Dreams started by getting simple murals done on backyard garden sheds facing the alley as a way to improve the space, create more safety and beautify an ugly place – and it led to a huge conversation with neighbours and inspired the community to have big dreams for their neighbourhoods. Envisioning a known architect or designer like Calatrava, Liebskind or Gehry to design the Main St subway station to design it would be a destination must see for artists and tourists alike.
An upcoming event “Neighbours Night Out Alleyway Party ” is planned for July 12, involving the Crime Prevention Association of Toronto. The party will focus on showing a film created by someone in the community and also serve as a gateway for more broader discussion on neighbourhood identity, safety and upgrades.
If we build it, they will come!
Facebook Link: www.facebook.com/alleywayofdreams
Youtube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lhDDbgvW48
(This video is just one element of Citizens in Action, a project by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship that showcases the stories of new citizen volunteers from across the country. Each new citizen is introduced through a video, photographic portrait and short story in an effort to create a better, broader and different understanding of volunteerism, community engagement and citizenship – the most important thing Canadians share. Visit citizensinaction.ca to learn more about Sarosh and our other new citizens.)