Creating Space for Grief

L-R Fran Quintero Rawlings, Ziyan Hossain and Calla Lee are NGFP 2023 Fellows.

2023 Fellows Fran Quintero Rawlings, Ziyan Hossain, and Calla Lee in Toronto, Canada, along with collaborating artists Rakat Zami, Mimosa Haque and Madi Chambers, hosted a two-week immersive, public art installation called Space for Grief in Toronto. 

Grief is universal but is often misunderstood, and has become a cultural taboo in many societies. We’ve come to expect grief to be expressed and experienced privately, or in more exclusive places such as  religious environments, leaving many with no place to express and share their experience. The causes of grief are many, from the loss of loved ones to job loss, health issues, and climate change. 

Space for Grief addresses the growing need for those who don’t have access to communities or spaces for support and healing. It invites visitors to explore the multifaceted world of grief and its causes, expressions and supports. 

As a placemaking initiative, Space for Grief aims to destigmatize the expression of grief, and inspire and provoke important social conversations to personal and community transformation and peacebuilding. It serves as a communal gathering place where individuals can come together to express their emotions and share their experiences of loss. It’s also a participatory process for shaping public space to promote enduring social change. 

John Monahan, the President & CEO of Toronto-based funeral services company Mount Pleasant Group, said Space for Grief serves an important purpose.

“It can be very comforting to come together and experience community through shared explorations of death and loss. These can be difficult conversations to hold, but they can really enhance our understanding of the human condition and foster greater empathy across age, culture and identity.”

The team uses industrial machinery and organic plant material to create a surreal environment for reflection and meditation, with prompts to guide visitors to reflect on experiences in their lives. Accompanying soundscapes, composed specifically for the installation by Ziyan Hossain and Rakat Zami, act as a soundtrack for one’s memories. The soundtrack is available for purchase here.

This is the second installation of the project that has gotten much praise for its impact. 

“This project is so important to help us tell the stories of our communities and how we need to support each other. Grief connects us,” said David Reycraft, Director of Housing Services at Dixon Hall, an organisation that serves many of Toronto’s most vulnerable populations. 

Space for Grief is sponsored by Method Collective and the Mount Pleasant Group, and in partnership with Evergreen Brick Works, Dixon Hall, Toronto Shelter Network, CP Planning, Super Ordinary Lab, and Canada Arts Council. To learn more about this project, click here.

Fran, Ziyan and Calla are part of Method Collective. Learn more about their work here.