Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts

Friday, April 28, 2017 - 20:00 to Sunday, May 7, 2017 - 20:00

Art Against Precarity
April 28 – May 7, 2017

Mayworks’ theme this year did not come easily to many of us. Working in the arts and nonprofits within capitalist structures, we are intimate with the issues of precarity. Our workplaces rely on the volunteer labour of the socially minded, and on the invisible emotional labour of the marginalized. The question was then, how do we create a critical distance as a space of reflection and work with our artists and allies to bring together art projects that continue to empower all?

Art Against Precarity is not only about using the social function of art to engage in the issues of precarious work. In the face of social insecurity, art as the freedom to create is also at risk. In Journey to Belong, a multi-art event that includes the drag performance Sarap, the short film The Sunflower Man and the visual exhibit My Journey on the “Pathway”, to fight against precarious living as migrant workers is simply to cook, to dance and to make robot head masks.

A festival that privileges “art with a cause”, Mayworks continues to seek that delicate balance between the urgency of immediate actions and the criticality required to change consciousness in the long term. This at times is translated into that tension between content and form, resolved thoughtfully through the two visual exhibitions Strike A Chord and Art & Tomatoes. The former uses performance, video, installation, sculpture and drawing to propel the power of art to activate change catalysts. The latter reaffirms this by bearing witness to the visual strategies of one of the most important workers’ rights, anti-racist, migrant justice mobilizations of 2016.

A cornerstone of capitalist thinking that also drives its system manifests in the arts through the emphasis on the individual “genius” over collective strength and on the final presentation of the artwork over the process and labour going into producing it. Mayworks aims to subvert this by drawing attention to a contemporary art movement that relies on community collaboration and collective capacity building. Working with our longstanding partners Jane Finch Action Against Poverty and the Workers’ Action Centre, we present two screenings of A Day’s Work, a critical documentary on the temporary work industry, to contextualize an international issue in a local setting and to connect it to local organizing. For the indispensable workshop component of the festival, we present Writing While Black in which participants learn to make their own zines by first understanding how the grassroots art medium can give voice to the marginalized, voiceless.

Amidst times of increasing precarity, Mayworks’ roots in the celebration of working peoples’ arts, cultures and histories resonate more than ever with the festival. We find our strength and optimism in honoring our histories and learning from them. In the spirit of May Day Celebration, this year’s edition also features the book launch of The Story of Albert Jackson, a children’s picture book about Albert Jackson, who became Toronto’s first black postal worker in 1882, and the live music and video performance of Packingtown that tells the story of the community behind an important historical moment of the labour movement in Canada – the Gainers strike at the Edmonton-based meatpacking plant in 1986.

Welcome to the 32nd Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts. We hope Art Against Precarity will inform, provoke, inspire and celebrate you!

To view each each day’s events, click on the interactive calendar below. You will be prompted to the event details including time, location, description, ticket information, and Facebook event page.

To find each event on Facebook, please click here and invite your friends to join you.

To find each event on Eventbrite, please click here and register.


Current: 2017 program guide

Various Locations Toronto


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