Explore Toronto: Eco-Art-Fest @Todmorden Mills

AU_no9_EcoArtFest_8036Last week, with intentions to squeeze every last bit of summer fun out of what remained of the summer days, Carol, Nathalie and I took our boys to explore no. 9’s Eco-Art Fest.

Just off Pottery Road in the Don Valley, is a tucked-away enclave sheltered by a canopy of trees where art and green collide. Andrew Davies, Executive Director, is a man with a vision. Having spent years in New York City working for the Museum of Modern Art in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Davies became enamoured with the emerging art scene that seemed to couple art and social consciousness so seamlessly. Upon his return to Toronto, he learned about the Evergreen Brick Works, at that time in its planning stages, and envisioned a place where art and the environment could not only flourish but also serve to inspire people to live more sustainable lives.

Drawing on his extensive art and architecture background Davies went on to found no. 9. It is an arts organization that uses art and design to bring awareness to environmental concerns through school and community based programs. Earlier this summer when I explored the Brick Works with my boys we were able to view My Sustainable City, a collaboration between no.9 and the Toronto District School Board that is on exhibit at Brick Works until September 23.

IMG_4848While My Sustainable City is an example of a school program, Eco-Art-Fest is an outdoor summer-long art festival held at Todmorden Mills until September 21 for the entire community to enjoy.

Davies and his staff of artisans offer daily programs for children. Our boys got their hands dirty throwing clay and enjoyed a water colour painting workshop where they learned about endangered animals and just how interrelated the creatures in our environment really is. We ended our morning activities with a guided tour of the various outdoor art installations by celebrated artists Dean Baldwin, Nicole Dextras, John Dickson, Sean Martindale, Ferruccio Sardella, Penelope Stewart, John Loerchner and Laura Mendes.


It was an enriching opportunity to learn how art is not just paint, paper and brush strokes. Art can be just as much about aesthetic and expression as a social message. In particular my boys enjoyed Sean Martindale’s installation of the word HISTORIES created from the earth, and depending on perspective history could be rising up from the ground or buried.

Saturday nights offer live music after 5 pm, delicious artisanal charcuterie boards that are works of art in themselves, and organic beer and wine all under the lights of Helliwell’s.


Nearly four hours passed before I looked at my watch.   The green space combined with the art, and the easy-going, light-hearted atmosphere was enough to make me forget that I was in the city, less than a few minutes drive to the centre and its hustle and bustle. It was four hours of appreciating art in many forms, learning about our environment and most importantly connecting with each other.

Time is running out to experience the wonder of Eco-Art-Fest this summer. The festival ends on September 21 but will return next year. To learn more or to register for the activities and tours please visit Eco-Art-Fest.


At Issue: Kids, Parents and The Great Outdoors

boy-469264_640Ruth Lera could be any mom.  She describes herself in her 2012 article “Learning To Love The Natural World” for Today’s Parent as a “hodgepodge” and says that finding a place to pat herself on the back can be difficult.

Being a parent is wrought with not-so-proud moments, so when you recognize something you’ve done well it’s nothing short of inspiring.

Lera has made connecting with nature a priority and because of that her children have developed a love for it.  A respect for it.

Author Richard Louv is worried that not enough children are making connections with nature and fears that many children are suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder.  This is very concerning to the man who authored Last Child in the Woods and who believes that when childhood passes without any connection being made to nature during the formative years, the resulting deficit is a serious detriment to society’s wellbeing.

Louv has spent years researching, collecting anecdotal evidence and inspiring policy makers because he believes a connection with nature can boost mental acuity and creativity, promote health and wellness, and build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities and economies.

This week we will be discussing parenting and nature.  Catherine Ross, a mother of two and of the blog Learning is Fun will be our guest this week.

As always we welcome your comments and insights.  Join the conversation by leaving a comment or follow us and share via Facebook and Twitter!

Here are a few videos on the subject to get you inspired:

Simple Steps To Living A Greener Life

imgres-1Last night I watched An Inconvenient Truth as penance for my environmental sins, for which I have many and am now more ashamed of than ever before.

My worst nightmare is facing a green tribunal headed up by Al Gore, flanked by Carol and David Suzuki with Prince Charles bringing up the rear.

I take the car more than I should. I use plastic baggies when I could just as easily use a reusable container.  I don’t consider my carbon footprint when I book our family vacation and I am guilty of purchasing inexpensive, disposable clothing from big box retailers.

To be truthful, I considered myself environmentally conscious before last night’s education.  I dutifully separate my compost from recycling and garbage, I only do the laundry and run the dishwasher at off-peak times, we have high efficiency appliances and our house is kept temperate with the help of a timer.  I try to pack waste-free lunches but on occasion a juice box makes it way to the school.  Supporting local growers, artisans and businesses is something that we make a habit of in my home but regular runs to Costco happen too.

A hipster or greenie I am not.  I don’t make my own soap and I refuse to pay triple the price of something just because it is “craft” or “artisan”.

But do I have to?

An Inconvenient Truth had been on “my list” for quite a while but I could never find a convenient time to watch it.  Last night the timing was fortuitous.  Al Gore was on the screen detailing the dramatic rise of green house gasses, the earth’s skyrocketing temperature and increasing wind speeds that together are a tempest of destruction.  Just then my iPhone buzzed to life with a message from my neighbour appealing for relief on behalf of families living in the Philippines ravaged by typhoon Haiyan, a storm that killed thousands, and left behind mass destruction in its wake.  The worst of its kind ever recorded in history.

For decades Al Gore has been riled by proof from leading scientists around the world that human beings can longer be oblivious to their actions and the impact it has on the planet.  At the time of this documentary Gore warned that we were entering the era of consequences – hurricane Katrina had just decimated New Orleans.

We can longer rest on our laurels and debate the validity of global warming.  It’s happening and the hundreds of children orphaned by Haiyan is all the proof that I need.

An Inconvenient Truth ends on an optimistic note and encourages people to continue to make simple changes in their daily living.  Suddenly the problem doesn’t seem so overwhelming, so out of my hands.

I have learned so much about living a greener, simpler life from Carol.  In fact, just this week I added soapberries to my grocery list.

From Al Gore, I learned to pay closer attention to what environmental policies our elected officials are passing, championing or ignoring.  I learned that with my vote, comes my voice.

I now know better, so I must do better.


What You Can Do

 Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

Take Action Now

Canada’s Action on Climate Change

Nature Canada

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

While I am certainly not in the exemplary green league of Green Style Mom, Mindful Momma or Happy Simple Living, I am aspiring to be more of an environmentalist.  I may not always make the best choices but since becoming a mother, I am more mindful of the impact my choices will have on the earth.

I was a child when the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle movement took hold.  My teachers would hold up items from the trash and the class would call out in chorus “garbage” or “recycle”.  We then took those ingrained lessons home with us, bundle together with “Never say yes to a cigarette!” and “Just say no to drugs!”, we taught our parents the three Rs with the verve of a religious zealot.

Twenty-five years later, I obsessively dissect packages.  The plastic cover deposited into the “gray bin” and the cardboard backing into the “blue bin”.  All food materials, and compostables make their way into the “green” bin.

Yesterday Nathalie made reference to Mrs. Draper and how her ignorance depicted the general attitudes of a generation.  If ever there were a T.V. mom who embodies the principles of RRR it would be Mrs. Walsh.

Just like the 902010 matriarch, I pick through the washroom garbage before collection day to ensure toilet paper rolls find their way to reincarnation via the blue bin.  I just hope that my garbage sorting, doesn’t uncover any sordid details not meant for my eyes.

As Earth Day approaches, I have made my own green resolutions: to walk more, to line drying the linens and to replace all of the plastic food storage containers with glass.

What commitment can you make to honour the Earth?

Video credit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42HO2yqSAzQ

Photo credit:  www. ewswa.org