Grantee Highlight: Purple Carrots
Purple Carrots, The Purple Stage presents Here We Are. Created and Performed by Marley Ratkovic-Shangi, Robin Chase, Steward Selvaraja, Ash Lawrence, Jorge Esteves, Lara MacMillan. Directed by Jordan Campbell. Assistant Directors: Mjaa Danielson, Silvina D'Alessandro. Production Assistant: Evan Mead. Funded by TAC’s Creative Communities Projects program. Photo by Greg Wong (2019).
In 2020, Purple Carrots received a Toronto Arts Council Creative Communities Project grant to create and present an original theatre piece through its Purple Stage program. The organization provides inclusive and accessible arts-based programming, specialized in diverse neuro and physical abilities. As the pandemic continued in 2021, five neurodiverse artists from the Purple Carrots community and Facilitator Jordan Campbell joined over Zoom to create a documentary-art film entitled ARE YOU MY FRIEND? which explored the daily lives and friendships of the artists; a “time capsule of this strange time in our community.”
Although working on Zoom posed some challenges, “Zoom allowed us to get a very intimate look into the artists' own spaces. They were able to create material for the film with their own materials, in a space that was truly their space,” said Jordan. All artists involved in the project were paid for their time, and the piece grew with input from everyone involved. “[the process] is very collaborative,” said Jordan. “It takes a lot of planning and communication with participants and their families or support workers to make everything run smoothly… we're just always checking in and asking how everyone is feeling. We work at our own pace, and we are always experimenting.”
Opportunities like this which offer creative expression and professional experience are invaluable. “These artists are very talented, very creative, and they have a need to express themselves. [The art form] helps the artists work through anxiety, understand complex social dynamics, practise interpersonal skills, and it's also really fun. A lot of life skills are practised too: showing up on time, being prepared, managing timelines, etc. It's certainly full of emotion, and the work gets very deep and intimate. These artists are very well suited to this job. What they need is more job opportunities,” noted Jordan.
A version of the film ARE YOU MY FRIEND? will be presented at Pegasus Incredible Film Festival in the fall of 2022. “The most rewarding part of the process for me is sharing this work with the public,” said Jordan. “We are grateful to the TAC for funding this project and allowing us to keep up the momentum of this work.”
With the support of Toronto Arts Council, Purple Stage will begin creating its third original theatre project in the fall of 2022, with performances taking place in November/December.
A condensed version on this story is in the 2021 Toronto Arts Council Annual Report