Photo: Sierra Bein

Rye artists raise awareness on Toronto homelessness

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By Devin Jones

An art installation at Ryerson is raising awareness about homelessness throughout the city using the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC).

Conceived by Ryerson PhD graduate students Dave Colangelo and Patricio Davila, social media-based piece In The Air, Tonight uses the exterior of the RIC on campus to create LED color patterns coinciding with weather conditions.  By tweeting #intheairtonight, students can change and control the color scheme on the outside of the building.

“After doing research about the area, we realized Ryerson campus is located within a large area of drop-in centers for the homeless, so the location made sense,” said Colangelo.  “For us, this process started a long time ago, working with large architecture to raise and create social awareness and connections across the country,”

The Ryerson Project-Funds Allocation committee (PFACS) as well as OCAD and various groups on campus such as the Centre for Digital Humanities provided funding for the project. Although the installation makes use of the RIC building’s lights, RIC director Paul Roth said the work is an “independent artist’s work.”

The idea started for Colangelo and Davila when they began thinking about how to tell “richer stories that are site specific.” And with more than five shelters in proximity to the downtown campus, they saw Ryerson as an opportunity to make a statement.

While the installation is now up and running, the process was three years in the making.  At the time Colangelo approached the school about using the lights, control was transition from the RIC to University advancement.  After receiving positive feed back from the university, the duo was given a green light from Ryerson Group Director of Communications Bruce Piercey.

“From there we had to learn how to use the system.  We worked with David Bouchard a professor in RTA who did some amazing initial work with the building,” said Colangelo.  “Finally we had to coordinate with the IT and facilities staff at the RIC and school of image arts, so we could install a weather station on the roof.”

In addition to the interactive instillation, a red tent has been pitched next to Lake Devo, representing a makeshift shelter, and a visual representation of how cold weather can play a factor when living on the streets.

According to the artists, they hope the building will act as a beacon, attracting attention for its light show, and help people learn about homelessness in the surrounding area.

“This is where these problems become more visible [downtown] so its another way of alerting people to an issue that extends beyond the city,” said Davila.  “Homelessness happens everywhere,”

The installation runs from sundown to 11 p.m. The piece ends in early March.

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