Buttons & Banners

2 June 2014 – Bravo for buttons & banners, is what I say. Especially when they’re bouncing all over a happy community event, in warm spring sunshine.

Just look at these buttons…

detail, Button Mosaic Project, SJT

They’re not an isolated burst of Canadian patriotism, either.

These bright maple leaves are part of a great big mural, covering the side of an otherwise boring utility vent. (Or something like that. Frankly, it was too boring to check.) Here’s the whole splendid thing, designed with professional help but created, button by button, by volunteers connected with the St. James Town complex of residential towers.

Button Mosaic Project, SJT

I realize in this photo nobody is admiring the Button Mosaic Mural. They’re too busy looking around this outdoor party, choosing what to do next.

It’s the official launch part of St. James Town Arts, a community-based support network for local artists, residents & their neighbours. It facilitates arts-related events & programming, and exists under the larger umbrella of Community Matters Toronto, “which [says the CMT website] provides neighbours, volunteers and Community Assistants the opportunity to increase skills and the means to apply those skills.”

I’ve become a friend of the family via my peripheral involvement with the Bell Box Murals Project, because Michael Cavanaugh, who drives that project, is also program director for Community Matters, and Paul Byron, an artist & arts educator I met through his work on a Bell Box, is both a St.James Town resident and a key facilitator for the Banner Project. (I’ll get to the Banner Project. Be patient!)

So here I am, just like the ladies above, eyeing all the possibilities — buttons & banners, a colouring table for the kiddies, face painting, information tables and food tables. There’s a South Asian emphasis throughout, reflecting the geographic origins of many St. James Town residents, and that makes for wonderful odours in the air from the home-cooking food tables, and intriguing homeland displays (e.g. the “Naturally Nepal” table).

I’m about to dive for food, when I realize the entertainment is getting started. First up, classical Indian dance, and I see a little girl just waiting for her cue to take to the stage.

waiting to dance at the St James Town Arts launch

The air is thick with smartphones & tablets. I tell you, every moment, every gesture, is being captured by proud parents & friends crowding ’round to watch. The girls, none older than 10, I’m sure, are very good & astoundingly focused. They do quite a long number, yet never lose poise (or the beat) for a moment.

This dance school is just one of the art/dance classes on offer in the community. There’s also jewellery making, henna art and, for young dancers not quite so classically inclined, a choice of Bollywood, Capoeira, or Hiphop/Breakdance.

I don’t know any of this at the time, but I learn a bit more about the dance moments later, when I chat with a young woman named Poonam at the Banner Project table.

She’s at that table because she is one of the project artists. The project is to have residents design images to be turned into banners, which will then wave in the courtyard for all to admire. Poonam attended one of the winter workshops, learned some skills, got inspired… and has had several of her designs chosen for use.

Poonam, with one of her selected images

“Oh, I’m not an artist!” she protests. (But she is.) “I’m a learner.” (That she also is.) “I saw them advertise these workshops, and thought it would be so interesting.” (Which it was.)

I admire a few more of the selected images while I’m there, all of them attached to the back wall of a community tennis court — finally in use again, after our long winter.

some selected Banner Project images

I congratulate Paul Byron, who has not only helped lead the project, but created one of the images himself.

Paul Byron, with his Banner Project image

And then, with the dancing finished and the drumming group now in action, I move on.

I can still hear the drums after I cross Parliament St. eastward into Cabbagetown proper. Probably whoever painted this peace log for his front yard would be totally in sympathy with the drums.

Cabbagetown front yard peace log

I can even still hear the drums — or maybe just feel them deep inside — when I’m over by the Necropolis, admiring, as I do each spring, the delicate blossoms of the Horse Chestnut tree. This one has pink blossoms, a really nice variation on the usual white.

Horse Chestnut spring blossoms

But, given the height of this species, a soaring great tree laden with white blossom candles is also a totally wowzer sight…

Horse Chestnut, with spring candles of blossoms

And then back home, where — thanks to Poonam — I am able to email an Indian dancer friend of mine not just the image of the little girl, but a description of what they were doing.


Leave a comment


  1. What a wonderful sounding day…..love the button art….so creative

    • It was a spirit-lifting event. It’s also so encouraging to see energy directed to positive ends, and people coming together to laugh and celebrate. All the ugliness reported on the media daily is true, but so are events like this one. Thank goodness.

  2. So many beautiful colours. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    • You’re welcome! The buttons especially were wonderful, the closer you got, the more varied the hues.

  3. Great post – it’s so wonderful when we come together as a community!

  4. Wow! Who knew that buttons could be so bountiful and beautifully displayed?! Absolutely love it!

    • Thanks for commenting. I remember seeing this button-mural project in its very early stages, when only a few buttons were placed & looked quite orphaned & forlorn, so you can imagine my delight at the final results.

      • You’re welcome! I couldn’t help but comment! The end result of the button-mural project is nothing short of spectacular! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. You see? I’m learning from you already! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Isn’t it great that people encourage positive input and in doing so encourage social interaction. The public art here is much diluted because of cut backs – so many people do not realize its good for mental health.

    • We live in a climate here of cutbacks & unsympathetic govts in general, yet do seem to have continuing progres in resources available to grassroots organizations (usually heavily volunteer) in subsidized housing complexes. Not before time Of course it makes a huge difference to mental health… and I’m pretty sure to crime stats as well

      • I thought that it was just David Cameron who expected the country to run on Volunteers

      • I think volunteerism is a good thing, but certainly don’t agree with politicians shoving off their responsibilities onto volunteer shoulders — that’s an abuse

      • Yes – but how do we get that message across. Blogs are so interesting – one of the ways we get to know what ‘ordinary’ people think

  6. Love the button piece!

    • I’d forgotten about this post! And here’s the coincidence: the “Poonam” I refer to in this post is the same Poonam co-leading the Cabbagetown mural project honoured in today’s post. In the intervening years, I’ve come to know her better, and admire her expanding presence in the arts community here.


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