These in-their-own-words pieces are told to Patricia Lane and co-edited with input from the interviewee for the purpose of brevity.
Alex Rand invites us to dance from climate grief to hope.
On July 8 at 8 p.m., the 31-year-old programming manager for Toronto’s Bentway under the Gardiner Expressway, is hosting Earth Dreams: A Summer Party for Grief & Love. Nocturnal Medicine, the folks who produced New York’s Rave for Eco Grief, will present a free festival centring joy and sorrow, dancing and meditation allowing us to confront the climate crisis and our shared commitment to planetary health.
Tell us about your project.
The Gardiner Expressway runs elevated for 6.5 kilometres past 17 downtown neighbourhoods, moving more than 140,000 vehicles every day. Some 200,000 people live with it as a defining feature of their home landscape.
In partnership with the City of Toronto and public and private sponsors, The Bentway Conservancy imagines how the infrastructure formed by and in between the concrete pillars known as “bents,” which hold up the roadway, can connect us, support us to step outside our cars and inspire us to see our world differently.
Summer visitors to The Bentway can walk along shaded, greened pathways under the highway and 65,000 people came to skate along them this past winter. As they walk, run, bike, roll or skate, users encounter invitations to view or engage with art installations, contribute to community and design conversations and join with others in experiencing the reimagined landscape.
For example, the current theme explores the ecosystems that exist “Beyond Concrete” and draws us in to see and learn about the other life that co-exists with the man-made structures, like lichen, birds, humans in their living rooms and micro-climates.
Alex Rand is a curator and creative producer with a background in creating artistic experiences in non-traditional spaces — like the upcoming bash to chase away your eco-grief at The Bentway in Toronto. #YouthClimateAction
We also host events. Equal parts DJ dance party and urban ritual, Earth Dreams will turn our collective grief about climate change and environmental destruction into a moment of shared hope in the possibilities that await us if we get this right.
We will begin with a guided meditation allowing us to ground ourselves in current reality. An Indigenous Elder will share poetry readings focusing on the power Indigenous people know rests in our collective resilience. And then we will dance. Dancing together allows a collective experience of awe, one of the best feelings a human can have. Feeling good together makes us stronger. You can RSVP here.
How did you get into this work?
I fell in love with theatre in Grade 8 and persuaded my parents to let me homeschool rather than attend my Victoria, B.C. high school so I could spend more time doing theatre work. When I was 18, having graduated early, I moved to London, U.K., thinking I would act. In the six years I lived there, while I did some acting and produced plays, I learned that I was quite good at events management and especially enjoyed making public and performance art happen in unusual places. One was a show underneath a railway station as part of the VAULT Festival.
I moved to Toronto and became a curator and producer at the Luminato Festival, an international performance art festival, which led me here. Curating at The Bentway is a dream job for me.
What keeps you awake at night?
Both the gigantic climate and other catastrophes that are our current reality and the tiny details of event management and other aspects of my work that are so easy to forget.
What gives you hope?
There is so much creativity and activity and energy and resistance in my generation and the one coming up behind. We are not giving up and we are not going away.
What do you see if we get this right?
Humans have built a lot of large-scale infrastructure. We can’t pretend it's not there or simply wish it were not. I see us learning to see the ways we can make those structures work to support a world that foregrounds care for humans and the more-than-human world.
Public art and collective participatory experience turn spaces that at first appear to be barren and hostile into opportunities for collective effervescence and the celebration of public imagination for the common good.
Do you have anything you would like to say to other young people?
The fear and anxiety we feel can best be managed by moving forward together and finding ways to have fun as we go.
What about older readers?
Sometimes it's a good idea to join in the laughter and dancing and giggling and just enjoy each other’s company, even if to do so you might have to rethink your ideas about the Gardiner Expressway.