“Before MABELLEarts, the park was just a shortcut.”
Mabelle Park was once a neglected thoroughfare – what residents referred to as “the quarantine zone.” After ten years of collaboration with thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds, Mabelle Park is a vibrant cultural hub and meeting place for the predominantly newcomer residents of Mabelle Avenue, a place for people experiencing marginalization to take leadership and make positive contributions to their community.
When we began our work in 2007, there were very few programs or opportunities in the Mabelle neighbourhood, which is a place of concentrated poverty surrounded by relative affluence. Over the past ten years, we've seen astonishing outcomes for both participating individuals and the neighbourhood as a whole.
Over the past ten years, over three thousand community members of all ages and backgrounds have directly participated in programming and events; over seven-thousand benefit from the park transformation.
Mabelle Park: Outcomes
"MABELLEarts’ projects have changed this neighbourhood and the people who take part. Now, this neighbourhood is different than all the others in the city because Mabelle Park is here: because of this, I want to always live nearby.”
- Farah Jibril
"Through art, it very easy to forget my traumatic experience: my kids were able to make friends and learn new skills. Through music you united us and helped us know more about one another. Thank you for your time and dedication. Some of us were healed.” - Cleopatra Mbali Masinga
" Volunteering in Mabelle Park has helped me take leadership in new ways: I learned to plant flowers, I played with kids and made art. I discovered that I would like to do more in my own community"
- Anisa Ali
Over the years, a group of over 100 Community Leaders (adults and youth) have played vital leadership roles in all aspects of our programming and organizational development. We’ve supported their leadership through volunteer opportunities, training and mentorship; and by providing honoraria and wages. Each year, up to 10% of MABELLEarts annual operating budget has gone back into the community as wages and honoraria for community leaders.
Evidence indicates Mabelle community leaders are more likely to have developed long-term, transformative relationships with neighbours and that feelings of social isolation indicative of many marginalized communities have substantially decreased. Surveys indicate that long-term participants in our projects (particularly youth) are more likely to lead in other areas of their lives.
A recent investment of over $400,000 by the City of Toronto is launching a new phase of physical transformation in the park, including the development of a four-seasons field house that will provide year-round programming space while sparking unprecedented opportunities to scale-up impact by addressing under-employment in the neighbourhood.
We're working with the City of Toronto and Toronto Communigy Housing to develop a leasing strategy for Mabelle Park (one of the first of its kind in Canada) that will put long-term control of the park in the hands of local residents while offering opportunities for employment and micro-business development. The next three years in the Mabelle neighbourhood will focus on scaling-up community leadership in order to create economic opportunities for participants of all ages and backgrounds.
How We'll Do It
We’ll develop new leadership training opportunities for youth and adults to:
• Connect highly-skilled newcomers to professionals from similar fields;
• Connect youth to local business leaders, politicians, non-profit leaders and other mentors.
• Connect youth to exceptional opportunities that open new pathways to success, I.e. our national project.
• College/University prep, resume assistance and employment readiness training for youth.
All professionals connected to this second phase of transformation (architects, engineers, electricians, plumbers and builders) will provide mentorship opportunities to community members. Community members will collaborate with professionals on designing, building and creating public art and design.
We will expand our capacity to offer volunteer opportunities to adults and youth. Through ten years of neighbourhood-based work, we have found that participants want to be involved in their local communities but they face barriers. MABELLEleaders offers opportunities for adults and youth to make important contributions to their neighbourhoods as volunteers. MABELLEarts tracks volunteer hours and offers honoraria so that low-income, newcomer adults and youth can reap the benefits of volunteering.
We'll create new employment opportunities for youth and adults Including:
• Park maintenance positions
• Workshop assistants (in 2017 we hired 5 newcomer youth in full-time summer positions, this year we hope to double the program). We'll also hire adults to assist with ongoing programs.
• Increasing honoraria to emerging leaders. Providing honoraria has helped us to remove barriers low-income and newcomer adults and youth face which often prevent them making contributions to their local communities.
• Newcomer artists: increased opportunities to facilitate workshops and participate in large-scale productions and events.
We’ll identify opportunities for micro-business development, including:
• Park coffee carts
• Catering collectives
• Flea markets
and other potential strategies yet to be identified.
We'll offer community leaders new opportunities to share their skills and lived-experience with hundreds of refugees and asylum-seekers in Toronto West and across the GTA. We’ll increase programming in the Mabelle neighbourhood while responding to increasing calls to offer programming to newcomer groups in crisis, especially refugees and asylum-seekers.
GTAA has played a vital role in our growth. Your understanding of our work and commitment to the community has meant so much to MABELLEarts. Thank you for this opportunity to further involve you in our work. Don't hesitate to contact artistic director Leah Houston with any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org | 647-989-0807