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An image of a mosaic art piece made from metropass cards. The mosaic pieces form together to create a map of the Don Valley. Multiple black lines run through to represent TTC lines, while there is a green and blue part that runs down the middle of the image to represent the Don Valley.

East End Spotlight is a monthly news piece where we highlight a series of east end artists, arts organizations, creative spaces & professionals that we want to shine a spotlight on💙!

July East End Artist Spotlights

For July 2021, we got in touch with some new artists and arts organizations who live or work in east Toronto. Scroll down to read more about the following people and organizations this month:

    1. The Clay Room – Arts Organization
    2. Deivid Cavalcante da Silva – Artist
    3. Lalaa Comrie – Artist
    4. Mahsa Razavi – Artist
    5. Nina Okens – Artist

*Banner image is an image of Don Valley by Nina Okens*

1. Arts Organization Spotlight: The Clay Room

 An image of the storefront of The Clay Room. The sign on top of the store reads “The Clay Room” in black and white, and “Paint your own Ceramics” in purple. The background of the sign is green, with strips of purple, orange and yellow.Name: The Clay Room

Discipline: Retail Ceramic Painting, Clay & Ceramic Parties

Org Website:

www.theclayroom.ca

Org on Social:
Instagram @theclayroom

Tell us a bit about your arts organization, your history, your mission etc:

The Clay Room is an interactive Paint-your-own-Ceramics store where customers of all ages use the ground-level space as their studio. The Do-It-Yourself studio is not only a retail store but also a unique creative learning centre that has been operating since November 1995. This concept gives the customer complete creative control in making a gift or accessorizing the home. The distinctive interior and helpful staff will set you at ease to create your masterpiece. There are over 300 items to choose from and 45+ colours, including functional dinner & gardenware, along with many decor or kitchen pieces.

What makes your arts organization unique or different?

Generational art space!  One woman came in with her baby to do footprints and as I helped her,  she told me that she had her 7th birthday party at the store, her first date with her husband and now was here with their baby. One cottage family has created all their plates & mugs by having family & guests paint over many years.  They are beautiful memories & keepsakes.  Another couple has come in each year on their 3 kids’ birthdays since they were babies and made handprint & footprint plates.  The oldest now is 11 years!  Many high school & university students that had birthday parties here as kids come back to paint- I guess they have good memories.  Numerous families return each year during the winter holidays to make gifts & ornaments. And OUR STAFF!!!!!!

What are you most excited about for the 2021 season?

PEOPLE, just having customers in the store again and the sense of community it brings.  Plus, all the new people we get to meet who come in for the first time with friends & family.  We are also excited for letting kids get back to having birthday parties – both Creative Clay, (where they make & paint in same session) or Paint your Own Ceramic Parties. And also for the adults too!

How can community members interact or support your organization right now?

They can actually COME IN STORE to paint, or if more comfortable painting at home, online orders for takeout are available too. They can buy gift certificates online as presents to be used on our e-commerce site or in-person. Camps, daycares, groups can purchase takeout mug kits for a fun functional activity. It comes with everything: paints, palettes, brushes, instructional sheets- just add imagination. It’s great for rainy days.

What does #EastEndLove mean or look like to your organization?

Beautiful murals, independent shops & restaurants, community & family time.

What are some other upcoming Toronto arts events, programs or initiatives that you’re excited about?

The One of a Kind Craft show is one of my favourite events.  Most of my staff over the years have come from OCAD & quite a few have been featured as Rising Stars at the show.  Love to see all the amazing talent under one roof.  I really hope it happens.  I’m also excited to be hanging out at the AGO and going to their amazing exhibits.

2. Artist Spotlight: Deivid Cavalcante da Silva

A portrait of Deivid. He has brown hair, with a beard and mustache. He is wearing a yellow brimmed hat, with a blue button up shirt, a purple bowtie, and a furry white scarf. He is holding an ornate teacup in his left hand, while pouring a liquid out of a teapot into it with his right hand. He is staring directly at the camera.Name: Deivid Cavalcante da Silva

Discipline: Photography

Artist Website:

www.deividsilva.com

Artist on Social:
Instagram @deividc

Artist Pronouns: He/Him

Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your art:

When I was a kid, my parents had a Yashica film camera which was mostly used on special occasions. It was always fun to see mom taking the old camera out of a shoe box which she used to keep it from dust in her old wooden wardrobe. The kids always knew what was happening when mom pulled the shoe box out of the top shelf. It was the announcement of someone’s birthday, a family gathering in a park, or a super fun trip to the swimming pool. No matter how fun the weekend was, the roll of film taken out of the camera was always a big mystery. We never knew the results until dad arrived carrying the yellow (or sometimes green) envelope full of freshly developed photos with its contents filled with a combination of pirate treasures and Pandora’s box. There was always a funny face or an awkward situation to laugh or to be embarrassed about. My passion for photography was born there when I learned that memories could be frozen on a piece of paper and kept with us forever. 

Today, photography is my way to show what I find beautiful, fun or curious, and capture little sparks of light in the Universe in a way that will never repeat itself.

What are you excited about for the future of your arts practice?

For the future of my art, I am bringing elements of fantasy and fairy tales closer to photography. I want to use my art to tell stories that exist just in my imagination. I want to bring more fairies and dragons to my work.

How can audiences support the work you’re doing right now?

Being an artist is almost never like in the movies. We eat, we need a roof and we most surely pay for what we use to make art. Sometimes, a kind word is all it takes to make us want to keep going on our path and doing what we love to do. Please, support your local artists.

What are some upcoming Toronto arts events, programs or initiatives you’re interested in?

I am open to a universe of possibilities and seeing what is out there. Hopefully, I will be able to exhibit some of my work in a printed form. 

What does #EastEndLove mean or look like to you?

#EastEndLove looks like beautiful sunsets with an amazing cityscape to see, amazing hiking trails, nice neighbours, lots of very colourful flowers and definitely lots of subjects and places to photograph. I probably haven’t ever been so creative in my life since I moved to the East End.

A fun fact about you for our readers:

Fun Fact #1: Sometimes, you can see me around with my camera taking photos of flowers and other odd things. I promise I am not sent by the government to watch your house (yes, it actually happened). Come say hi, I won’t bite. 

Fun Fact #2: I seem to be incapable of keeping my website updated. I already created my personal excuse for that. “If an artist’s website is complete, the artist is most surely too available.” 

3. Artist Spotlight: Lalaa Comrie

A headshot of Lalaa Comrie. She has black shoulder length hair, dark skin tone, hoop earrings, and a black shirt that reads in white text, “YOU’RE NOT WELL-READ IF ALL YOU READ ARE WHITE AUTHORS.” She is looking directly into the camera. Name: Lalaa Comrie

Discipline: Writer + Book Blogger and Diversity Advocate

Artist Website:
www.thisblackgirlreads.ca

Artist on Social:
Instagram @thisblackgirlreads

Artist Pronouns: she/her

Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your art:

I am an Afro-Caribbean Poet, Book Blogger, and Diversity Advocate from Toronto, on a mission to help readers Diversify & Decolonize their bookshelves. In 2015, after traveling across Canada I realized that so many people were just in the dark about race, culture, class, privilege, and systematic racism. I needed to find a way to educate those who wanted to learn and I launched ‘This Black Girl Reads’ Blog as a way of helping readers explore the world and the voices that far extend their own personal narrative. My aim is to highlight the voices that have been suppressed, in hopes that if we diversify our bookshelf it also helps diversify our approaches, bridge the gap, and break down some of the barriers that exist in our community. My podcast “Getting Lit” is a monthly podcast that introduces listeners to new diverse books coming out each month that they should add to their list.

What are you excited about for the future of your arts practice?

I’m excited that there’s been a shift in popular culture, so many people are open to learning and that’s a beautiful thing. I also love the way books are starting conversations with so many different types of people. 

How can audiences support the work you’re doing right now?

People can support me by listening to and sharing my podcast ‘Getting Lit’ they can purchase my merch on my website, and look out for my poetry collection coming out in 2022.

What are some upcoming Toronto arts events, programs or initiatives you’re interested in?

I am interested in participating in upcoming book chats and panels. I’m also excited to continue my work with my monthly book club for Women of Colour. I’m thrilled to be working with Books For Africa again this year, my goal is to donate 1000 books in 2021. And I’m super excited to connect with Book Clubs for Inmates.

What does #EastEndLove mean or look like to you?

To me #EastEndLove means love, support, and acceptance for all, and coming together as a community, knowing that our similarities far exceed our differences.

A fun fact about you for our readers:

I read 100+ books every year.

4. Artist Spotlight: Mahsa Razavi

A black and white headshot of Mahsa Razavi. She has shoulder length dark hair, light skin tone, and a scarf on. She is looking away from the camera with a subtle smile. Name: Mahsa Razavi

Discipline: Filmmaker

Website:
www.mahsarazavi.com

Artist on Social:
Instagram @mahsa.razv
Facebook @mahsa.razavi.12

Artist Pronouns: She/Her

Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your art:

I studied Sociology at the University of Tehran before moving to Canada where I earned my MA in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto and my MFA in Film Production from York University. I have made several short films that have been showcased in many festivals around the world. My works often focus on issues of gender, identity politics, displacement, loss, and belonging. My latest work is the narrative film Ahu (2021), which is funded by Toronto Art Council and Ontario Art Council. I am currently working on my first feature film script, Snowbirds.

What are you excited about for the future of your arts practice?

I am excited about screening my new short film, Ahu in Toronto in the upcoming months and sharing it with the audience. I’m also very excited about my first feature film project, which I have been developing for almost a year now, and am really looking forward to making this film.

How can audiences support the work you’re doing right now?

As an immigrant artist, I would like to see more support for the emerging BIPOC and non binary artists in Toronto. Also, I believe the audiences’ feedback and insights are always a great support for a filmmaker. 

What are some upcoming Toronto arts events, programs or initiatives you’re interested in?

I’m interested in the Toronto International Film festival which will be held in September 2021 in Toronto. I’m also looking forward to the new initiatives, film screenings and events that are organized by BIPOC artists in Toronto.

What does #EastEndLove mean or look like to you?

Belonging to a community like East End love is indeed precious. It provides me with opportunities to share my works with the community and to contribute to the community’s activities, eventually to improve the art production and distribution in our neighbourhood.

A fun fact about you for our readers:

I moved to East York-Danforth seven years ago and love my neighbourhood. I’ve thought about most of my stories and characters while wandering in the East end streets and parks and wrote my scripts in Danforth cafes. My latest short film, Ahu, was mainly filmed in locations on Danforth, in a 1924 built apartment building as well as Danforth alleyways and streets.

5. Artist Spotlight: Nina Okens

A headshot of Nina Okens. She has brown, shoulder length hair, light skin tone, and glasses on. She is wearing a blue paisley jacket with a blue shirt underneath. She is staring directly into the camera with a smile on. Name: Nina Okens

Discipline: Mixed Media

Website:
www.ninaokens.com

Artist on Social:
Instagram @ninaokens

Artist Pronouns: She/Her

Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your art:

 I moved to Toronto in 1997 and have always been a proud east-ender. While my professional background is in costume design, following a period of burnout, I turned to visual art as a way to rebuild my artistic confidence.  I had a stack of metropasses and zero experience in the art of mosaic making, but I desperately needed to try something new.  Never in a million years did I think my work would resonate with so many people.  People dropped off thousands of metropasses at local coffee shops so I could continue my work and that’s how three tiny mosaics turned into 50+ pieces and counting.  My mosaics not only feature the ever-popular Toronto streetcar, but also many of our city’s iconic landmarks that have vanished, like Honest Ed’s, Sam the Record Man, and Jilly’s.

What are you excited about for the future of your arts practice?

Before the pandemic began, I was working on a large-scale mosaic map of Toronto, commemorating our happy memories.  It’s a community project though, that works best with face to face interaction, so much of that was put on the back burner. I look forward to starting that up again, once it’s safe to do so.

How can audiences support the work you’re doing right now?

I would love it if people would contribute one of their own happy memories to my map project.  They can submit here.

What are some upcoming Toronto arts events, programs or initiatives you’re interested in?

I’m really just so excited to be able to go to galleries again and check out what other artists have been up to.  We have such a rich and diverse community of artists right here in our neighbourhood.

What does #EastEndLove mean or look like to you?

 To me, #EastEndLove means learning from each other, sharing our resources, and leaving no one behind.

A fun fact about you for our readers:

I used the abundance of free time in the pandemic to learn how to spin and dye my own yarn!

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