Saturday, June 27, 2015

WILLIE

A tall man with an infectious smile and an engaging personality, "Willie" Wimple is a street performer who has two alter egos, Marshal the Moose and his straight-up cousin, non-performer self, Art Henkel. 

Originally from Abbotsford, British Columbia, Willie has travelled all over Canada and the United States performing children's concerts and public events. Between he and his true self, they have have produced entertaining CDs and have been entertaining for over decades. His style is kid friendly and kid focused. He has also served as a children's pastor, event MC and children's programme director. Check him out at, www.funtasticart.com

The main focus for Art is to get the message across to kids that they can be real winners in life. His shows and event appearances deliver positive messages to children, pointing out that everyone is different and nobody's perfect.

Art has been performing part-time and sometimes full-time since he was a teenager. He has recently moved from Victoria, British Columbia and now lives east of Toronto in the town of Whitby where he is beginning to spread the word of Willie and Marshal the Royal Mounted Moose!

ART, WILLIE & MARSHAL FUN FACT: "I have eight kids, six grandkids and I'm barely 30." With his infectious laugh he picks up his huge, brightly coloured squirt gun and goes to cool downs his adoring fans!


PHOTOS: SPENCER WYNN
Willie Wimple, above, seen with his spinning basketball. Below, Marshal the Royal Mounted Moose.                                                                               



Friday, June 26, 2015

TOMITHEOS

Artist, Tomitheos' journey to the end of the Rainbow Tunnel is as broad and colourful as the piece of street art which sits placidly beside one of Canada's busiest highways, the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto.

Born in Chicago to a drummer musician and inspired by the music at a very young age, he often sketched the musicians and performers who would go on stage he recalls this was the first time he began to draw.

A Greek, Tomitheos' father never performed in his home country. After touring with his band all around the States, he decided to move the family moved to Greece where he might perform. The dream of achieving the same success he had in North America, did not pan out, so the family moved again after three years, this time to Montreal.

Montreal was a fun place to grow up as a teenager. He loved those years. "When it came to working, I spoke French, I was very English sounding, I was having difficulty finding the right fit," he says of trying to find work in French speaking Quebec. " I knew if I moved to an English city, I had the French and that would be more of an asset, where in Montreal, it's kind of common to speak English. In Toronto I had three job offers as soon as I came here," Tomitheos recalls of his arrival in Toronto.

Before drawing on computers, Tomitheos was hand drawing structures for civil engineering firms. It was very technical and helped him refine his drawing skills. He also worked for Osler Hoskin, a law firm in corporate Toronto almost seven days a week and getting as much overtime as possible so that he could afford to finally take the plunge and become a full-time artist.

In 2003, leaving the corporate life behind, he has never looked back and is busy. His painting work, photography and mural work began to flourish and lead him to the Rainbow Tunnel project for the city of Toronto. Though never confirmed, it is said that the original rainbow painted at the tunnel entrance was painted about 40 years ago by a man who lost a dear friend. The painting would represent a smile as his friend looked down from heaven.

Tomitheos and other volunteers worked with the city to scrape, prep the concrete, prime and finally repaint the tunnel, inside and out. Since it has been cheerfully painted and the area tended to, joggers, children and families use this space whereas before it was run down, neglected and considered unsafe.

TUNNEL FUN FACT: Since the south end of the tunnel entrance is visible to northbound drivers, many called the police, reporting that people were vandalizing and defacing the tunnel. Not long after, Toronto Police raced to the location with a huge show of bravado and force – only to find that this was City of Toronto-approved work and that permits were granted, colours approved and restoration was underway!

TOMITHEOS FUN FACT: "Robots! I like vintage robots! I'm always looking for them on eBay!" He says laughing of his fascination. "They have to be functional and they have to be in good condition, and I like having the box if it's available." Tomitheos' favourite robot is the one from the 1960's television show, Lost In Space. Tomitheos ends his revery with the classic line from the robot that e everyone of a certain age remembers, "Danger, Will Robinson"!


PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Thursday, June 25, 2015

ADAM

For the better part of the day, Adam Lancia has been teaching visitors to this outdoor urban basketball court how to race around the court and shoot a basketball while riding a wheelchair. Several chairs are lined up for people to use and test their skills against this well decorated Olympic athlete. 

Around his neck Adam wears gold medals from the Athens Olympics and the London Olympics. Because of the fragile jade in the medal, he has left the Beijing Olympic silver medal at home.
Born in Toronto, Adam is a wheelchair basketball player who has been on the National Team since 2001. He has also played on the Junior National team in 1997 and 2001. Growing up, Adam started played basketball at the age of nine at Variety Village in Toronto's east end. 

A bilateral amputee, Adam was born without his feet and ankles and has been using prosthetics since he was one year old. By trade, he is a prosthetic technician, for which he went to George Brown College for their prosthetic and orthotic programme. 

Currently Adam is working for the RBC Olympians programme which hires both Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes as community ambassadors who bring Olympic messages of excellence and leadership to Canadian communities.

The Para Pan Am Games in Toronto this summer will see Adam play for Canada. His wife, also a wheel chair athlete will also be playing basketball for the Canadian women's team. "Playing at home is a phenomenal experience. I've been lucky enough to play in Toronto once before at the 1997 Junior World Championships," Adam says of the pride he feels with a home crowd cheering the team on.

At 35, after living and playing around the world, Adam lives in Toronto and is a father of a 2-year old girl. Adam's wife is currently away at a training camp in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

ADAM FUN FACT: "There are certain countries that will not let somebody in a wheel chair on a daily basis, bring their wheel chair with them past security. They actually require them to get out of their personal wheel chair and use one of the airport wheel chairs," he explains, even though the traveller's chairs are thoroughly checked and screened. Though Adam walks with prosthetics, this security issue affects his other team mates who must use a chair full time. It is mystifying and angers him since there seems to be no logical reason for this. "It doesn't affect me, but it does affect my team mates who are like my extended family.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN




Wednesday, June 24, 2015

JASON

Wikipedia describes an environmental portrait as: "A portrait executed in the subject's usual environment, such as in their home or workplace, and typically illuminates the subject's life and surroundings." This is particularly true of Jason Ramsay-Brown, the Toronto native who is at home in the ravines of Toronto on which he has recently published a book.

Born in Toronto in 1973, Jason has travelled extensively, visiting such places as Iceland, most of Europe, lower and eastern Africa, Costa Rica, the Caribbean and North America from the Yukon in Canada to Texas.

Jason began his career building CD-ROM applications before moving to website creation when the internet was still something some people thought would never catch on. After years spent working as Technical Director at the MacLaren McCann advertising agency, he left to found Off to Market, a communications & marketing agency with his wife, also from the agency business.

Jason has been fascinated by Toronto's ravines ever since childhood, and has spent almost 20 years exploring them. When his daughter was four, she began to express an interest in the ravines, so he promised her a "summer of ravines." "We've spent countless weekends since hiking the trails together. Her constant curiosity lead me to dig deeper into their natural heritage and local history." Jason says of his inspiration for his book. He began to blog about the amazing places he had discovered which lead to an article in NOW Magazine and ultimately to his published work, *Toronto's Ravines and Urban Forests. 


Jason is also a volunteer on the Todmorden Mills Wildflower Preserve stewardship team, the Beechwood Wetland stewardship team, caretaker of a Monarch Waystation, and an active member of the Toronto Field Naturalists.  

JASON FUN FACT:  in 1992 I spent two months traveling around lower Africa with the great-grandson of Charles Darwin and the great-great-grandson of John Hanning Speke, the British explorer associated with discovering the source of the Nile river.

Jason's book can be found on Amazon here: 
http://www.amazon.ca/Torontos-Ravines-Urban-Forests-heritage/dp/1459408756

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN





Tuesday, June 23, 2015

KIRSTEN

At the top of a ladder, reaching far to the right with a can of spray paint, Kirsten McCrea delicately adds a little bit of colour to the street art she is creating. She has come to the Live Art Festival as a participant selected to beautify the concrete columns in Underpass Park under the Richmond Street ramp in Toronto's downtown east.

Originally from Edmonton, Kirsten was always drawing and creating. After a trip to Montreal at the age of 18, she fell in love with the art scene there and felt a real affinity to its creative vibe. Eventually she moved to Montreal, becoming very involved in collaborative art and working with street artists.

After five years in Montreal, Kirsten now calls Toronto home and has been deep into the art scene here for the last three years. "It's great being here today, I like this more than the high-brow gallery world," she says of the street art festival going on in Underpass Park here.

On here own she paints and draws as well as running a small art subscription publishing business that she founded five years ago called, Papirmass, (www.papirmass.com). "Every month I send people an art print that has art on one side and text on the other," she describes of the mailed art service which features a different artist every month. Since starting, she has mailed out over 50,000 art prints. As her website says, "Art in the mail. Mail made fun"!

KIRSTEN FUN FACT: "I was famous, briefly, for one night in China when I was 17 years old!" Kirtsten explains of her evening of fame. Her father was a jury member of Shanghai Film Festival and one night they were to attend the opening party. "My father told me, 'This is like the Oscars of China, bring a really fancy dress for the gala.' " Kirsten explains of the upcoming evening. "So I brought my prom dress which was this ridiculous pink Barbie dress. I don't know what I was thinking when I bought it! I show up at the gala wearing this thing!" The flashback is becoming palpable as Kirsten re-lives the evening. "Every other woman wore a pant suit or total business casual dress!

The result was that everyone else there thought I was famous," she says describing the autographs that people wanted. No matter how much she tried to explain to those who could not speak English, dozens and dozens of people in a line reaching around a corner waited for her autograph! She eventually did sign autographs as the only way out of the situation!

"I spent the entire night signing autographs! I didn't see any of the films I didn't eat any of the food! I kept saying, 'I'm not famous' but people were really, really insistent," she says of the time she was the most famous in her life!

PHOTOS: SPENCER WYNN


Kirsten's painting can be seen in Underpass Park



Monday, June 22, 2015

SOX

Cycling in fine style, Sox is on his way to his office to see a client who is waiting. Sox' immigrant story is truly the stuff of inspiration and is as uplifting as he is.

Sox, as he is known, was born in Cambodia and moved to Canada in 1984 with his family. His father was persecuted for his education, causing them to flee as refugees to Canada, moving to the Toronto community of Rexdale where a church sponsored family. The family then moved to the Jane & Finch area where Sox grew up.

Sox majored in English at York University. During his second year of university, his father was injured at work. In order to earn some money for the family, Sox took a part-time job folding shirts. This lead into management, then into the corporate world where he now runs a successful clothing company, "We've been really really busy - I'm blessed," he says of his eight years in the industry.

"We make 'dirty' clothes and 'dirty' is a word for clean in street culture. We make really sharp clothing and its an individualized service. I work one person at a time to create really special clothing."

"Where we grew up, at Jane & Finch, when someone looked real cool, or had the combination spot-on we'd say, 'Hey bro, that's dirty!' " Sox says of the inspiration for his company name, The Dirty Inc. (www.thedirtyinc.com) where he curates men's personal style and consults on men's fashion. 

WHAT SOX IS WEARING:
• SHIRT: White shirt made at The Dirty Inc.
• TIE: Beige linen tie (for which he receives many compliments) $1 from a bin in Kensington Market!
• JACKET: Double-breasted seersucker that Sox made with big lapels and an Italian style.
• SHORTS: Camo pattern from Urban Outfitters' collection last year.
• SHOES: Canvas shoes at H+M for $20.

SOX QUOTE: "Style is not how much you spend, but how you spend it, and looking for the right piece for the ensemble."


PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN


Sunday, June 21, 2015

NINEL, MÓNICA and MARIANA

Three young women from different places arrive in Toronto and become great friends. They are here to study English and are linked by culture and another language. They are here saying Hello and enjoying a sunny weekend at Toronto's Distillery District. 

Ninel Flores is from Querétaro, a small north-central Mexican state. She arrived four months ago and will return home in two months. She loves to dance, hip hop and going out to clubs with friends.

Mónica Dilarosa from Veracruz, Mexico on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. She arrived in Toronto four months ago and will head back to Mexico next month. She plans to take a Masters degree in chemical engineering in Spain. She has discovered that she has a passion for song writing and has written for herself and others. For a moment, she thinks briefly mentions her family and becomes  emotional before changing the subject.

Mariana Irrudi is also studying English at the same school studying English. She has been her one month and will return to her home town of  São Paulo, Brazil in three months. When she is not studying English, she is enjoying movies and getting out to walk. She loves being in Toronto and the freedom of simply being able to go outside for a leisurely walk and not worry about her safety. She also has a passion for travel.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN