The phrase “public art” is used often when referring to massive murals and sculptures. However, that phrase shields the fact that the “public” is not a singular organism but a churning torrent of diverse groups.
CAVE (Communities Advancing Valued Environments) is actively amplifying the creative voice of minority groups in the Toronto area, such as artists with a wide range of physical abilities and urban youth who are seeking positive creative expression through large-scale street art. They promote, improve, and sustain the well-being of the Toronto urban environment and communities through various initiatives, primarily Mural Transformation Projects and artist mentorships.
Underneath CAVE’s umbrella, the Laser Eagles have been enabling artists with a variety of abilities to create their own art. The Laser Eagles Art Guild is one of the only art organizations in the Greater Toronto Area that provides fully-inclusive environments for those who have been labeled with a disability. The goal is to provide a fully-inclusive environment, through art, in every Toronto neighborhood, in order to generate awareness on inclusion.
The Laser Eagles artists gather every week for approximately two hours to create art that is generated solely from their own artistic visions. While in the past the Laser Eagles utilized laser pointers* to guide their trackers in their painting, they have recently discovered their abilities to communicate without them and produce a wide variety of exceptional artwork. Each artist’s capabilities are unique – some lack mobility, others speech – and therefore, their methods of creating art are all different. “Trackers” – volunteer artist assistants or facilitators – spend a great deal of time each session to fully understand the artist’s vision for their art, and to execute it exactly the way the artists wish.
Each tracker is paired with a specific artist, to create a bond and collaborative relationship between the tracker and artist. The artist selects colours, textures, and other artistic elements during the session which are then communicated to the tracker through “start” and “stop” commands. How the artist communicates instructions will vary from person to person, and the strength of the relationship between tracker and artist is imperative in understanding one another. Watch this captivating process in action here:
Emancipation is a good word for it. It’s freedom… It’s not so much that our bodies our limited. They are limited in their abilities, but what’s really limited is what other people say about us and what other people see about us. This freedom to be see outside of these limitations and to be known. It’s so simple…
– Judith Snow, Laser Eagle artist
CAVE also focuses on creative entrepreneurship and mentoring artists to be self-sustaining professionals. As a platform to enable the Laser Eagles artists to sell their work, CAVE has just launched Art Encompassed. Art Encompassed was created to showcase, promote, and sell artwork created by the Laser Eagles Art Guild, CAVE and supporting Community Artists. This state-of-the-art, inclusive online storefront will facilitate the purchase of originals, prints, and greeting cards to help the organization to become fully financially sustainable.
If you are interested in creating a version of the Laser Eagles in your own community, email for more information.
*Footnote: For another example of awesome lasers, watch Mick Eberling’s TED Talk “The Invention that unlocked a locked-in artist” about creating a eye-controlled laser for TEMPT, a famous graffiti artist with ALS, to continue creating his artwork.