“The really magical things are the ones that happen right in front of you. A lot of the time you keep looking for beauty, but it is already there. And if you look with a bit more intention, you see it. ” ~ Vik Muniz
The first time I passed through the doors of ArtsJunktion I knew with certainty that I had stepped into a magical place. For me it is magical on many levels. As an educator, I go there seeking materials I need for my classroom, not just for art projects, but also for literacy and dramatic play, for experiences involving creating with loose parts, and for STEAM challenges. Given my modest income, (and a limited classroom budget), I must say that to purchase these needed items, it would cost a small fortune. But thanks to ArtsJunktion, I can receive these needed items for free because they were donations from various companies and individuals, and even from such arts institutions as the AGO and the Textile Museum. Of course I enjoy the good feeling that comes with saving money, but it also comes from repurposing items that might otherwise have ended up as landfill. Furthermore, it reduces the need to purchase materials at dollar stores, bearing in mind that packaging creates a lot of garbage. Most importantly, I see how the items I find at ArtsJunktion enrich the learning and creative thinking that goes on in the classroom and the joy this brings to the children. ArtsJunktion reaches individuals, students, families and community agencies, and it has such an obvious and positive environmental impact. How magical is that?
On a personal level, as someone who has made a project of exploring creativity, and of advocating for arts education, I know that Eileen Orr, who is an artist, printmaker, photographer AND the director of ArtsJunktion, is the sort of individual who sees the potential in random stuff like fabric, yarn, corks, paper scraps, packing materials, gift wrap, spools and more. She has been working there for many years and certainly has kept many people supplied with an abundance of materials. And she is an observer of those who come into her space, to browse through and linger over such items and imagine how they will be transformed in their learning spaces. Abracadabra! I feel transported when I go to ArtsJunktion – creative, inspired and alive. And I feel a sense of well-being when I talk to, joke around and dream with the community of ArtsJunktion enthusiasts who get the same endorphin rush from being there, and from finding something really special, that I do. Though this video shows the interior of Manitoba’s ArtsJunktion, it certainly captures the vibe of the one in Toronto.
And so, when I heard that the doors of ArtsJunktion would not be opening in September, I was shocked and deeply saddened. I’m told that I looked as though I’d lost a dear friend, and in truth it does feel that way. I am not naïve. I understand that budget cuts require difficult and unpleasant decisions to be made. But it is so important to look at the big picture in these situations. What I have learned about ArtsJunktion is that it has been in operation since 1980, and in all of those years the needs of several thousand people have been served. Educators like myself have blogged about what they have found there, and what they do in the classrooms with those finds. It needs saying that many of my classroom projects were made possible because of Eileen Orr and the important work she does, not just for educators but for the community at large. ArtsJunktion has a place among charities that provide valuable and necessary services. And as more and more educators learn about the potential loss of our beloved ArtsJunktion they are voicing their concerns because they know what this loss would represent on a broader scale. It’s time for some creative solutions because ArtsJunktion is a community treasure that is in trouble right now and it is going to take a lot more than magic to save it.
“Magic lies in challenging what seems impossible.” ~ Carol Moseley Braun