Photograph by Will McGuirk
Oshawa’s art world has always been a well-kept secret. Mary Krohnert of theLiving Room Community Art Studio wants to change that, revealing stars one secret at a time. On Thursday June 11 the LRCAS is hosting the Little Art Big Difference Secret Art Sale, a riff on the idea of unveiling secrets for the art hive’s annual fundraiser. The event will be held at 50 Bond St. E. Artwork from all over the world has been donated with the identity of the artist hidden. Each piece is $75 and they could be by a professional established artist or from noobie. One purchases for the love not the label. Labels don’t really matter at The Living Room says Kronert.
“We’ve seen extraordinary things happen between people who would not have otherwise met. The art provides common ground. You can be a politician and you find yourself sitting down with someone who lives in a shelter and you don’t necessarily know that about each other but you are sharing your stories, sharing your art, you’re learning from each other. Those are the things that I think can build community, when people relate as humans, when they can become friends without having to have any labels,” says Krohnert who also works as an actor on TV shows and commercials.
Secrets require a safe place to be shared and The Living Room’s goal is to provide an environment where mental health issues, sexual issues, social issues can be discussed as people draw, paint, knit, read or make birdhouse or little libraries. There are no obligations to do so but people gravitate towards the opportunity to reveal their story. Sometimes it’s about getting the tough stuff out Krohnert says and sometimes it’s about finding out what a great artist you are or just telling jokes.
“Our abilities, our strengths, sometimes they are secrets to us and we don’t even know they are there,” she says.
The Living Room is located on Simcoe Street just south of Memorial Park. The Secret Art Sale is a means to reach out beyond grants to the community at large, to sell art and to tell the story of the work the The Living Room is doing. Funding will always be a challenge for any not-for-profit says Krohnert. The location itself presents its own challenges she says yet this part of the city has strengths and secret resources to draw upon.
“I think if you ask anyone who lives south of John Street the challenge is the stigma that’s been applied to the neighbourhood, the reputation. Some of it might be deserved. It feels like a neglected part of Oshawa. Its feels a little unloved. Part of that is there are a lot of social services here working with people who are seeking, who are trying to make their lives better and overcome their challenges. But that is not a reason to be written off. In fact they are more reasons to have more support, to have more opportunities and options made available to you. Cornerstone Community Association is a great example of that. When we told people we were moving here, they are one of our neighbours, we had people who told us don’t go here, because of ‘those’ people, you are only going to have trouble. Since moving here they have been one of our greatest allies and not just the people who run the organization but also the people who use their services. They help us. They bring us art supplies. They make art here. They help us keep the property clean. They look out for us when we are not around. In this neighbourhood and all the way down south there is so much potential in the human resource that is here. I feel perhaps its been overlooked by people who have only been basing their judgements on fear and rumours. We want to be here because we want to let people know that some of that is, well, once you shine a light on something new information comes to the surface. Once you invest in a neighbourhood creatively new opportunities arise. Give a reason, give people a reason to be here. Give people a reason to want to create a better city, a better part of town and they will,” she says.
The Living Room is giving you a reason and now an opportunity to help build up that part of town. And who knows maybe the amazing work being done by some people in this city won’t be such a secret after all.