Who we are
Red Dress Productions is a Toronto non-profit that creates interdisciplinary, community-engaged, public art projects.
What we do
Our mission is to:
- Inspire dialogue across difference
- Support self-presentation in communities impeded by inequity
- Create inclusive artmaking activities
- Collaborate with people of diverse abilities, experiences and identities
- Mentor equity-seeking emerging artists
We make art with people, transform public spaces, and empower communities.
Red Dress Productions was founded in 2005 by Anna Camilleri and Tristan R. Whiston. For the past 14 years, Red Dress has created over 30 works in collaboration with over 10,000 members of the general public. These activities include workshops, mentorships, theatre, public and installation art.
Back in 2004, Anna Camilleri wanted to produce a series of book launches for her memoir I Am a Red Dress. With the expertise of dramaturge Tristan R. Whiston, Sounds Siren Red — a touring theatrical presentation of Camilleri’s memoir on sexual assault and resilience — was the first production created under the Red Dress moniker.
Soon after, the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre approached us about touring Sounds Siren Red as part of Acting Out Against Violence — a series of performance, Q&A, and community workshops for sexual assault centres across Ontario. During this tour, we began to focus more on touring smaller communities, noting that our work was more impactful in places with fewer resources.
In 2006, Bleecker Street Co-op contacted us to create a public mosaic with co-op members. Shortly following, we were approached by the 519 Community Centre and the St. Lawrence Market Co-op for public art works as well. Word spread and collaborative mosaic and mural making became a big part of our organization’s activities.
Significant milestones include the Countdown Public Art Legacy Project and Drift Seeds. Both projects brought out the best of what community arts can be and best reflect our mandate, core values, and founding mission.
2016 — Countdown Project
The Countdown Project is a series of pebble mosaic monuments created in honour sexual assault survivors. To date, eight monuments have been created in small communities across Ontario, in partnership with crisis centres, front-line workers, and the participation of 1,000 area residents.
For many, it was the first time they were able to speak to their own experiences of trauma, and for supporters, it provided them an opportunity to do something tangible about the issue. Area residents have responded organically to the public work: making sure it is looked after and not vandalized, with each mosaic becoming a community meeting place and symbol of support.
2017 — Drift Seeds
Drift Seeds was an outdoor, site specific, theatrical presentation that brought together members from the Winchester Park, Cabbagetown, and St. James Town neighbourhoods. The piece incorporated a wide range of art from a diverse range of artists, writers, and performers.
Deaf and hearing artists found it to be a rare opportunity to work together, as Deaf artists are normally regulated to disabled groups. Many participants felt that it was a truly diverse event where they weren’t the only ‘one of’ (e.g., trans, Deaf, etc.). Attendees were challenged to alternate ways of communicating and interpreting parts of the work, as sections were presented in different languages, without interpretation, including ASL.
Where we are headed
Both Countdown and Drift Seeds have impacted the direction of Red Dress Productions. In 2018, we created Inkling — a series of creative explorations that focus on intersectionality in the arts. The series speaks to where we are headed as an organization, which is focused on projects that centre disability within the context of collaborative artmaking.
In January and February 2019, 19 Deaf, disabled, hearing, and enabled artists participated in a series of workshops focused on inclusive art collaboration across abilities. The outcome of the incubator brought us to a much deeper understanding of what disabled artists need and experience.
The May 2019 symposium will bring together the same artists, along with their selected guests, to explore creative approaches to centring disability, access, and intersectionality in collaborative artmaking.
The results of the Inkling series are unknown, and we are excited about its many possibilities and how it will shape the future and direction of what Red Dress is becoming.