Cartography 17 Artist Q & A
Keisha James, Map Animator Assistant
Keisha James is a fourth year student at Humber College studying Film and Media. She is a multidisciplinary artist and has worked as a program assistant at Art Starts for 5 years. Currently, she is looking to get a film project of hers funded, Check out her project EVIL here: https://www.gofundme.com/evil-the-film
Could you give us a bit of background on who you are / what you do?
I am Keisha James and I am currently a student at Humber College in the film and media program but I am graduating soon! I have been working with Art Starts on-and-off for 5 years now.
As a part of the artist team, what is your medium and contributions?
On Cartography, I am the map animator assistant; so I assist Daniel in preparing for the workshops and helping participants if they need help with drawing, and with their materials or things like that. In my own time, I am a multi-disciplinary artist.
I study film but I also can sew and I studied piano for 15 years and I can sing. I do a bunch of different things!
What are you excited to see come out of this project?
I am excited to see the final result of Cartography 17!
It’s been discussed a couple times but conceptually, it’s been difficult to imagine this 10×20 feet map. It’s a map but it is not a functional map. It’s artistic so it’s representing Toronto but I still can’t imagine what it is going to look like when it is done. I get the physical attributes and I get the things that we are drawing and I get the medium and how you transfer that but i just want to see what it looks like. We have all these disjointed pieces so it will be interesting to see how they come together and are cohesive and have this display and exhibit it.
How did you get involved with Cartography 17?
Because I have been in Art Starts for the last 5 years, Julian had my contact from previous work and projects, he contacted me and asked if i would be interested in the project.
What does Cartography 17 mean to you?
What I really like about the project is that they are trying to be more inclusive with Indigenous and First Nations representation and acknowledging that it’s great that we have the Canada 150 money but it’s bad that Canada recognizes being only 150 years old. All these other projects seem to be glossing over that so it’s good that in our workshops, it is mentioned over and over again that Canada is not 150 years old and that we respect other cultures when we come to the land. Daniel, so far is doing a really great job of trying to be restorative. He recognizes that he is a white guy working on a project that has indigenous importance and he is doing a good job decolonizing map making and the project that we are working on.
What is the impact you are hoping to see with the project?
I am hoping that the impact Cartography 17 will have is not only as a pretty visual art piece to look at, but that it does continue the conversation about colonization and Canada’s history and it also highlights the different neighbourhoods that we work in; places like Glendower and Lawrence Heights, they are going to be on display because of this project. It’s always good to draw attention to the underserved communities that we’re in. I’m looking forward to the effect that this can have in terms of being publicly displayed and drawing attention to certain issues or neighbourhoods.
Why is it important to create a new map of Toronto?
I don’t think it’s necessarily important that we have to create a new map of Toronto but I think it that it is a good initiative and a good project that is happening. Whether or not it was necessarily needed; it has jumpstarted artistic activations in the neighbourhoods that we are working in so maybe people who didn’t know that they had access to places like Art Starts now know. It’s also really nice to see people’s interpretations of their own neighbourhoods so it will be nice to see what the map looks like when we have all these different pieces and neighbourhoods and drawings on one canvas.
Do you have a memorable moment from the project you would like to share?
I think the seniors , the first [activation] was pretty memorable because we don’t do a lot of seniors programming and when you do they are always clamoring for it and kept asking like when are you coming back. That is memorable just in how excited they got over it cause I think a lot of people overlook what seniors might want for programming. It’s kind of assumed that by the time you are in your 50’s, 60’s, 70’s you already got to do what you wanted. It’s great that we have a lot of programming.
If you had to describe Cartography 17 to a potential participant, what would you say?
I would describe Cartography 17 to a potential participant as a map based art installation that is being worked on in multiple communities to create one cohesive piece that is going to be presented to the public in various locations for an exhibition. Their contribution is not only to Art Starts initiatives and activating in their neighbourhoods but that it opens up a conversation about Canada 150 and it is a new artistic representation of our city that is, hopefully, more inclusive.
Why do you think it’s important to create an inclusive map of Toronto’s diverse population?
I think it is important to create an inclusive map of Toronto’s diverse, multicultural population because we are a diverse multicultural city. I’m not saying that we are the most accepting city in the world; you can walk around the streets of Toronto and hear any number of languages. It’s good to have an art project that engages so many communities on different levels. We’re working with seniors, kids, parents, different ethnicities and people with income brackets or where they live geographically– we have different representations on different levels of the map so hopefully we’ll see it come together as a representation of Toronto.