The next time anyone accuses Edmonton’s arts scene of playing it safe, ask if they checked out the Graffiti House. Tucked away in a corner of Mill Creek Ravine, a house slated for demolition was transformed into the Graffiti Art Gallery from March 16th to 23rd as a fundraiser for Toy Guns Dance Theatre.
Upon arrival, Jake Hastey, artistic director, and Richelle Thorsen, executive director and performer, awaited to greet visitors to the visual extravaganza. Having kicked off with a soirée featuring projections by Guru Digital Arts College, exterior work by iHuman Youth Society and graffiti by 39 artists, Hastey explained that by halfway through the exhibit, hundreds of visitors had already stopped by.
Hastey’s parents, owners of the house, were not surprised by this project. Ever creatively ambitious, Hastey transformed one childhood Christmas morning into a laser light show featuring gifts on pulleys. “There’s a point when they just learned to roll with it.”
With art ranging from silly to macabre to overtly political (“Putin with Polar and Brooklyn” was a personal favourite), the house featured a pillow-and-cereal lounge and basement with several swings. This was obviously the central gathering point for visitors, with Hastey’s vision of “high level art where the average person in the audience isn’t left out” clear given that every swing was in use.
Renegade art fans can check out Toy Guns’ next experiment in novelty on April 17th in Vacancy Hall (basement of Mercer Tavern). This three-phase theme party is only one of many events planned by the company over the coming months. Toy Guns is primed to make a unique and welcome footprint on Edmonton’s arts scene with their philosophy of “let’s make stuff happen and let’s make stuff happen now.”
For more information on Toy Guns Dance Theatre, visit toygunstheatre.com.
Words and photos by Ester Malzahn