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Syrus Marcus Ware

June 13, 2018

Syrus Marcus Ware is a Vanier Scholar, visual artist, community activist, researcher, youth-advocate, and educator. For twelve years, he was the Coordinator of the Art Gallery of Ontario Youth Program. He is currently a facilitator/designer for the Cultural Leaders Lab (Toronto Arts Council & The Banff Centre). He is the inaugural artist-in-residence for Daniels Spectrum (2016/2017) and is a core-team member of Black Lives Matter Toronto. He is part of the creative team for Out the Window at Luminato and, from June 19 to 24, will be sitting on the stage live drawing during the performance.

1. Drawing

Portrait of Dainty Smith and Kyisha Williams

I began drawing as a kid. I still spend a significant part of each day drawing. Lately I’ve been drawing giant portraits of activists as a way of celebrating their work, lives, and magic. I love watching the person appear on the page as I draw each shape or line. I love getting to know these activists better through interviewing them and then drawing them. I love the materials: the paper – its thickness, yet its delicacy, the graphite in its hardest and softest forms. It used to take me 84 hours or so to complete a portrait. Now I can do one in about five hours. Practice really makes magic happen! It’s thrilling to get to do this every day.

2. Activism

I became an activist because as a black, trans, disabled kid, I knew the world treated us differently depending on where we were socially located, and I believed that it was possible to live another way – in a more inclusive way. I believe in the self-determination of all people and will keep fighting and marching and having meetings and sewing banners and being as involved as I can be in movement building until we all get to be free. Truly free. So I work for disability justice, trans justice, the rights of prisoners, queer justice, and economic justice, and within the movement for black lives.

3. Prison abolition

Prisons do not make our communities safer or more secure. Our current prison and policing systems do not work, or rather they work all too well to keep certain populations disenfranchised and out of sight. I believe in abolition – that is the possibility off dealing with conflict and social issues without the use of policing or prisons. I believe we could create systems of true healing and resolution rooted in social justice, community accountability, and transformative justice. I'm working on a play right now for Luminato that explores questions of policing and what could be possible if the system looked different than it does today. It’s been an incredibly powerful experience. If you’re new to abolition and want to understand more about how it could play out in everyday life, check out Everyday Abolition/Abolition Every Day. It’s a blog about living abolitionist lives daily. So great!

4. Gardening

I love this beautiful planet we get to live on. The intricately complex nine-petalled irises in every colour imaginable. The heavy fragrant flowers of the peony, sagging so low that they kiss the grass below their branches. The detailed and highly organized lives of insects and other garden friends. I love spending time in the garden with these other beings, supporting their lives while they enrich my own. I did a residency last year in Santa Fe and met a farmer trying to keep Indigenous corn varieties alive and vibrant. I got some jewel corn from him to try planting this year. Fingers crossed!

5. Family

My daughter is absolutely the joy of my life. So you could say she’s number one on my Hit List. At six, she campaigns for black lives, she stands up to schoolmates about transphobia, and she pushes for fairness and equality at every turn. She is my hero!



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