The Wheel Project

The Wheel Project was conceived by artist/curator Sanjit Sethi, an artist whose own projects have much to do with labor, ritual, and the residue both activities leave behind. Sethi approached the Gardiner Museum with the idea for a community arts project in which members of the public would create ceramic wheels for display in the Museum. Bringing their life experiences, varied backgrounds and imagination, and using the idea of the wheel as their starting point, individuals from such community groups as Sketch, the Davenport Community Centre, the Ontario College of Art and Design and the Ryerson Life Institute, participated in a short series of ceramic workshops to produce wheels. Each piece was vastly different from the next and yet all share the universal idea of the wheel. The Wheel Project led the viewer on a journey, from conception to creation to display of the finished wheels, in a multimedia exhibition that included journal excerpts, photographs and video footage of the process.

Such an undertaking involves risk. Sanjit Sethi explains: “The Museum is taking a risk by allowing a individuals of varied and diverse backgrounds access to a venue usually reserved for what the museum or society has traditionally deemed legitimate creators. A museum that invites the public to become not spectators but participants might find the museum changed from a site with a collection of objects to a catalyst for community interaction. The public participants’ risk is in the deeply personal nature of the project… how much are they willing to reveal to a larger world?”

The Museum’s director, Alexandra Montgomery, comments: “The Wheel Project is ground breaking and could be considered risky since, for the first time, we are working with the community to create the objects that will be on display. However, it also represents a unique opportunity for the Museum to demonstrate its commitment to access and to play a vital role in the visual arts community. The Wheel Project is about more than art. It is about spirit, imagination and access.”

This exhibition was made possible in part by the generosity of the George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation, the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Community Foundation, the Ideas Canada Foundation and the Toronto Arts Council, as well as individual donors. Media partner: Viacom Outdoor.