JUMP North Shore Lunch Program: a women's room and visualizing expressions of 'symbolic social beauty'

Our first workshop at JUMP engaged approximately 12 women including women who have or do experience homelessness, students and a number of volunteers.  Emily and Marnie were invited to JUMP North Shore Lunch Program to deliver our first community mapping workshop on a Tuesday between meal service. Armed with a tool box full of art supplied (paints, brushes, pencils, coloured markers, stickers) and a roll of maps as tall as a human, we arrived at JUMP. It was one of the nice first days at the end of winter and was shining. A few men stood outside enjoying the weather and waved us in to find Cynthia our host. 

Even though we arrived after lunch on a Tuesday, the place was bustling with community members visiting over coffee and volunteers preparing for the next meal. There were at least 6 student volunteers, including a visiting researcher from China, who help to cook and clean but also benefit from the food distribution.  Cynthia introduced us to Brenda who runs the program and also Glenn Hilke. After an engaging orientation conversation with Glenn, we set up the maps and supplies in the side room. Cynthia helped us get physically organized and invited women to join us around the long tables. As this was our first workshop, our game plan was to work with individual women with individual small maps and then bring the group together to discus their experiences while transferring the content onto the large map. On reflection, this side room created a quiet and more private studio space for women to engage.

They came through the door one by one by Cynthia's invitation. After a personal introduction, we would sit with each woman listening to her stories as she marked out places and memories. In this workshop, we used acrylic paint and women colored in areas, made long brushstrokes following along pathways they walked, and some added text to mark important locations and services in ink. Words like 'beauty' were used to describe memories of daughters and husbands passed or areas they liked to spend time in because of the friendliness of people. They visualized these feelings mixing paint with water to create a wash over an entire neighborhood or up in the hills. This 'symbolic social' representation of beauty Others focused on providing advice to other women about unsafe places: "there is broken glass and dirty needles under the bridge" but also places of beauty mapping walks up through the hills.  

Paint was a useful medium to visualize the mixed responses some women had for the same place - we could layer the color red over yellow to show beauty at a community service. Others could add black to mark their concerns about not feeling safe at some services due to their concerns about interacting with particular staff members or other clients. Once completing their personal individual map, the women or the artists would transfer the content onto the larger map sitting on the table top which was later moved to the wall for others to see. The map stayed at JUMP for a few weeks on display for community. 

There was a diversity of experiences, knowledge and expressions of this - across ages, interests, culture and socio economic status. Many did not know each other, but were connected by JUMP over the months and years as a community program and by Cynthia. Later we observed in the final large map on the wall positioned above the piano, that the group at JUMP made marks over the entirety of the map - they were highly mobile across the city, North Shore and Reserve.