Together with local collaborators, New York-based art collective Mare Liberum is exploring the relationship between Toronto’s Lower Don River, its constituents, and visioning plans for the future of the watershed. In Which We Create a People’s Map of the Don River Valley, is a two-year collaborative research and public engagement project, which explores issues around urban watershed systems, Indigenous water relationships and the role of art in urban and environmental policy making in a series of commissions that propose the different ways of engaging a river with a complex history.
In July 2020, Mare Liberum hosted a public talk called “Artist as Policy Shaper” which convened artists, writers, thinkers and policy makers to reflect on recent art and policy collaborations.
In summer 2021, Mare Liberum shared a series of designs for DIY boat builds made specifically for Toronto’s Don River – a questionably navigable waterway – and to explore its connection to Lake Ontario. Audiences were invited to engage in dialogues around the river and watersheds and contribute their stories of the Don by calling a hotline set up for the Don River Radio podcast series.
The program culminated over the summer 2022 in a series of activities and gatherings on the water which include:
Mare Liberum will create a series of blueprint templates of a boat which will be shareable to the public. During Mare Liberum’s workshop residence at Evergreen in July 2022, members of the public will be able to attend open workshop hours and have the opportunity to engage and learn about the process of boat building. Boats will be made specifically to navigate the Don River and Lake Ontario, and invited collaborators will be able to participate in educational boat rides around Cherry Beach and engage in storytelling about the Don River and the complicated relationship with public access to our waterways.
While at the Brick Works, Mare Liberum will be welcoming students from artist Shannon Gerard’s “Pressing Issues” printmaking class at OCAD University to develop a thematic largescale puppet performance which they are calling “Funeral for a River,” based on the 1969 “Funeral for the Don” performance enacted by students, some of whom would go on to form Pollution Probe. During Evergreen’s Summer Wednesdays, members of the public will be invited to walk in a parade along the Lower Don River where they will hold space for a group mourning activity and invite guests to reflect on something they want to mourn, mark, record, grieve, or give a funeral for.
Over the summer and early fall 2022, Mare Liberum will be inviting artists, collaborators, ecologists, community members, Indigenous water keepers and historians to record their own narratives of the Don River through a program called Don River Radio. The program will be available as downloadable podcasts released from fall 2021 through summer 2022, and audiences can tune in from home, or from along the river trails and waterfront. As part of the podcast, they have invited artist Maria Hupfield to prepare conversations with several local experts and Indigenous community members, combining, in her words, “plant, embodied, and historical knowledge” around the river and its histories.
On July 16, Mare Liberum will invite collaborators to gather at Cherry Beach before paddling the short journey to the mouth of the Don River and Portlands area. This floating procession is intended to provide participants with the chance to discuss, question and learn about the past, present and future of the area and engage in conversations around access to our watercourses.
The project is presented in partnership between Waterfront Toronto’s Temporary Public Art Program, and Evergreen’s Public Art Program.
This project is made possible through generous support from ArtworxTO and the Canada Council for the Arts.
Mare Liberum is a collective of visual artists, designers, and writers who formed around a shared engagement with the world’s waterways in 2007. As part of a mobile, interdisciplinary, and pedagogical practice, the collective has designed and built boats, published broadsides, essays, and books, invented water-related art and educational forums, and collaborated with diverse institutions in order to produce public talks, collaborative exhibitions, participatory works, and voyages. Mare Liberum has presented work at the Centre Pompidou – Musée national d’art moderne, Paris, the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, the Parrish Art Museum, MASS MoCA, the Neuberger Museum, and EFA Project Space, among others. The collective is Jean Barberis, Dylan Gauthier, Ben Cohen, Stephan von Muehlen, Arthur Poisson, Sunita Prasad, and Kendra Sullivan
Waterfront Toronto is the public advocate and steward of waterfront revitalization. Created by the Governments of Canada and Ontario and the City of Toronto, Waterfront Toronto is mandated to deliver a revitalized waterfront. Waterfront Toronto’s permanent Public Art Program commissions artworks as an integral part of the neighbourhoods they build. A new Temporary Public Art Program was recently created in order to respond to pressing contemporary social issues and reshape how we view our physical and social environments.