Feminist writer-organizer Adrienne Maree Browne asks, “how would we organize and move our communities if we shifted to focus on what we long for and love rather than what we are negatively reacting to?” This question centres creative and embodied responses to such things as pain and misrepresentation, and is particularly moving to consider in the wake of the recent experiences of targeted violence experienced within the Church and Wellesley area and the ongoing systematic neglect and insecurity Toronto’s LGBTQ2S and BIPOC communities face. Responding to The Gardiner Museum's unique geographic siting nearby to this, The Transformative Justice Project series was initiated to engage in collaborative, therapeutic art-making with community members to weigh in on what access to justice and police accountability looks like.

As part of this series, Intimate Encounters ~ Animate Histories is a multi-faceted arts project that focuses on The Gardiner Museum’s proximity to important queer and BIPOC histories in/of Toronto. Inspired by the latent ‘cruising’ histories of nearby Queen’s Park, Intimate Encounters ~ Animate Histories draws on this particular history as a starting point to consider the diverse and layered ways in which culturally-specific experiences of desire, physical expression and connection take up space—in spite of illegality or policing—in both public and private ways. As a whole, the project explores how diverse bodily presences in the area complicate its past, present and increasingly gentrified landscape, through the engagement of multi-vocal histories, perspectives and experiences.

Intimate Encounters ~ Animate Histories is co-presented by The Gardiner Museum, The 519, Salon Noir and YYZ Artists Outlet; and was organized by Toronto-based artist Abdi Osman and curator Ellyn Walker. 

*Findings from this project, including original fieldwork, artistic documentation and oral history recordings, will be donated to The Canadian Gay & Lesbian Archives (CGLA) at the end of the project.