I believe something extraordinary happened this past weekend in Toronto. When a small experimental project gets accepted to a contemporary art event called Nuit Rose as part of the opening weekend to World Pride, MAGIC HAPPENS!
As the evening started, I installed the cocoons in the front yard of Artscape Youngplace and didn’t really know what to expect from the evening. Besides a few people asking if they were part of Nuit Rose no one really seemed to mind, after all I was in front of an arts building so locals are likely used to artsy projects happening there. Feeling comfortable with leaving the cocoons to fend for them selves, I had a chance to explore the events happening inside Artscape. This is where the fun begins, with a few hours to kill before the light parade, some wonderful people in the Paperhouse Studio showed me how to make paper. Who knew just how satisfying and relaxing making a stack of paper could be. Plus, Emily and Flora as well as a few others (that I now call The Paper People) did a beautiful job on creating a pride banner to carry in the light parade.
When it came time to prepare the cocoons with the new LED lights, a friend pointed out a small grey moth that was resting on one of the cocoons. Moths and Butterflies are generally good omens and have been pretty regularly visiting the project as I’ve been working on the various stages. This made me smile, I knew at this point we were going to be in for a special night.
The sun slipped away and a few of us fired up the cocoon lights as the night sky began to darken. A small group of people gathered to watch as one by one the cocoons burst into a warm yellow glow. It wasn’t too long after the last cocoon was lit that people’s faces began to light up with a smile and they wanted to explore the project by taking a closer look. Some took photos from a far, but most came in close for a chance to take a selfie among the light of the cocoons.
Once people had a chance to snap their pictures, a small group of us pulled the cocoons out of the ground and handed them to those that wanted to walk the parade route. Some of us with two or three in each hand we began the enchanting walk down Shaw St., with photographers buzzing around us to catch the beginning of this parade of lights. As we approached and then waited at Shaw and Queen St. to cross the street everywhere you turned people were looking and smiling. Cyclists rang their bells, drivers honked their horns and people stuck on the streetcars waved and gave a thumbs up. Walking west on Queen St. the parade slowly gathered random people who wanted to join. The fact that people who knew nothing about the project were so attracted to lights (like moths to a flame) really warmed my heart.
Halfway through the route we took a pause in the CAMH park to redistribute cocoon lanterns to all the new folks that joined in. With a group of about 30 of us now parading west on Queen St., it was a sight to see the looks on people’s faces in the stores, bars and restaurants we passed along the way. Arriving at the end of the light parade, it was wonderful to see a fair-sized crowd all gathering around in front of The Gladstone Hotel to get a look at all the cocoon lanterns. To those of you reading this that walked or carried a cocoon in the parade, I THANK YOU, I’m touched to have shared this unique experience with you!
At this point I was completely content by the response to The Cocoon Project and I had yet to move on to part two of the installation in the east end. With a little coaxing by a new and old friend, they helped me get the project set up quickly in Barbara Hall Park at The 519 Community Centre. A curious crowd gathered almost immediately that had me talking almost nonstop about The Cocoon Project, its symbolism and the decline of the monarch butterflies. I was very impressed by those that understood the situation and have taken action or are also trying to raise awareness. Everyone I talked to had such kind words to say and I’m so happy the project was able to invoke such positive feelings for them. One woman came to me to tell me she had come to the park for 20 years at pride and this was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen happen in the park. A gentleman also let my friend know that, this is the caliber of work he would expect at events like Nuit Blanche but never see it, and it’s nice to see non corporate public installations with deeper meaning. But what was most amazing to me, was having a chance to step back and watch people interact with the project. So many people being gentle, curious and taking a moment to understand what they were looking at. By far the best reaction of the night was witnessing a man walk up to the cocoons in awe and strip down to a tiny g-string so he could be photographed with them. I let him know I had the same reaction the first time I shot all the cocoons in a forest, except I was buck naked 😉
I don’t think I could be more please with people’s response to The Cocoon Project. Getting to share it with so many of you has definitely filled this artists heart with some much-needed love and joy! I have so much thanks to give to those that have helped out with the project. Thanks to the Throbbing Rose Collective for believing in the project, Artscape Youngplace for the workshop space, Dana Moore for being totally solid help over the last week, Tanja Tiziana for the beautiful parade coverage photos, Catharine MacIntosh and her trusty bike carrier, and all the rest of you that came out to walk in the parade. YOU ALL ROCK, keep being awesome!