EXHIBITION: Moving Home | The Art and Embodiment of Transience Emerging from Canada’s Child Welfare System

Featuring work by Zula, Xavier Binette, Wolfie, Starchild Dreaming Loud, Sophia Nahz, Singing Thunder, Rachel Macintosh, Oddane Taylor, Nicholas Ridiculous, M.T. Ness, Michelle Charlie, Jessie Stone, Gen Gagnon, Elijah M, Bethany Papadopolous, Anonymous, and Amelia Merhar. Curated by Amelia Merhar.

Critical Distance is pleased to announce our 2017 Summer Sessions exhibition, Moving Home: The Art and Embodiment of Transience Emerging from Canada’s Child Welfare System. Presented by York University Human Geography master’s candidate Amelia Merhar, this project is the second to be hosted as part of our Summer Sessions, a program through which we support emerging curators and artists by providing free space, mentorship, and installation support for their thesis exhibitions.

How is transience embodied, carried, and performed? How do repeated moves of homes, schools, and communities linger in the body, from the past to the present? What sort of people is the child welfare system inadvertently creating through so many foster and group home placements? Beyond pathologizing transience, what can we learn from the young and hyper-mobile?

Moving Home explores the embodiment of transience as experienced by young people who grew up in the Canadian child welfare system. It is part of Human Geography Master’s thesis research at York University coordinated by Amelia Merhar, inspired by her lived experience in care. Using arts-based, participatory, and Indigenous research methods, Merhar worked with 15 co-researcher artists in their chosen mediums to explore and compare urban/suburban and Northern/rural experiences at the partner youth art organizations SKETCH Working Arts in Toronto and Splintered Craft in Whitehorse. Artistic explorations of the theme of embodied transience include works of photography, textiles, silk-screening, collage, mixed media, dance, performance, music, spoken word, painting, text, jewelry, dream catchers, and installation.

The first Call to Action the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is to reduce the number of Indigenous youth in care in Canada. There are more Indigenous youth in care today than were in Residential Schools. In Toronto, research has shown that Black youth are disproportionately apprehended and stay longer in the system than their non-Black peers (although through recent efforts these numbers are declining). Art alone can’t solve ongoing violence and colonialism; however it is a way to transgress and re-imagine present social boundaries. The goal of arts-based research is to provoke conversations instead of static research conclusions, and we invite you to enter the conversation here with former youth in care and their art.

About the Curator

Amelia Merhar‘s work is playful, clever and subversive, exploring themes including feminist response and embodiment, northern life, the sexual nature of cars in our life (for real), the influence music has on our lives, spontaneity and creativity, and the hidden side of an artist’s life. The bulk of Amelia’s work is non-commercial and experiential, through installations, performances and sound art.

Amelia has diplomas in Child Psychology, Train Conducting, and Northern Studies, and a degree in Community Development, with a concentration in Community Research and Indigenous Knowledge, and an MA in Human Geography from York University.


MOVING HOME | On view at Critical Distance from August 18–26, 2017 from 12–5 pm.
Public opening and reception with the curator on Thursday, August 17, 2017  from 6–9 pm.

Location and Map
Critical Distance Centre for Curators
Suite 302 at Artscape Youngplace
180 Shaw Street, Toronto, ON M6J 2W5
Click for Google map

The show opening is preceded by a research presentation at the Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Office from 1-3 pm and the launch of the project zine, TL;DR, a thesis in a zine.

This project was awarded the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada–Master’s Scholarship –Award to Honour Nelson Mandela in 2016, recognizing its commitment to youth participation. Funding for co-researcher artist honoraria and art supplies provided by Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, and the Yukon Child and Youth Advocate. Northern travel and living expenses supported by Northern Scientific Training Fund–Government of Canada.

image, left top and bottom: Starchild Dreaming Loud, Positive/Negative, 2016; right: Sophia Nahz, Welcome Home (1), 2016