MAYWORKS FESTIVAL 2017 Art Against Precarity

The 32nd edition of Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts will take place from April 28 – May 7, 2017.

This year’s multidisciplinary program captures and expresses the shared experiences of precarious work and collective struggle for decent wages and healthy working conditions.

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Art Against Precarity

April 28 – May 7, 2017
Festival ProgramWebsite | Facebook Eventbrite

Mayworks’ theme this year did not come easily to many of us. Working in the arts and nonprofits within capitalist structures, we are intimate with the issues of precarity. Our workplaces rely on the volunteer labour of the socially minded, and on the invisible emotional labour of the marginalized. The question was then, how do we create a critical distance as a space of reflection and work with our artists and allies to bring together art projects that continue to empower all?

Art Against Precarity is not only about using the social function of art to engage in the issues of precarious work. In the face of social insecurity, art as the freedom to create is also at risk. In Journey to Belong, a multi-art event that includes the drag performance Sarap, the short film The Sunflower Man and the visual exhibit My Journey on the “Pathway”, to fight against precarious living as migrant workers is simply to cook, to dance and to make robot head masks.

A festival that privileges “art with a cause”, Mayworks continues to seek that delicate balance between the urgency of immediate actions and the criticality required to change consciousness in the long term. This at times is translated into that tension between content and form, resolved thoughtfully through the two visual exhibitions Strike A Chord and Art & Tomatoes. The former uses performance, video, installation, sculpture and drawing to propel the power of art to activate change catalysts. The latter reaffirms this by bearing witness to the visual strategies of one of the most important workers’ rights, anti-racist, migrant justice mobilizations of 2016.

A cornerstone of capitalist thinking that also drives its system manifests in the arts through the emphasis on the individual “genius” over collective strength and on the final presentation of the artwork over the process and labour going into producing it. Mayworks aims to subvert this by drawing attention to a contemporary art movement that relies on community collaboration and collective capacity building. Working with our longstanding partners Jane Finch Action Against Poverty and the Workers’ Action Centre, we present two screenings of A Day’s Work, a critical documentary on the temporary work industry, to contextualize an international issue in a local setting and to connect it to local organizing. For the indispensable workshop component of the festival, we present Writing While Black in which participants learn to make their own zines by first understanding how the grassroots art medium can give voice to the marginalized, voiceless.

Amidst times of increasing precarity, Mayworks’ roots in the celebration of working peoples’ arts, cultures and histories resonate more than ever with the festival. We find our strength and optimism in honoring our histories and learning from them. In the spirit of May Day Celebration, this year’s edition also features the book launch of The Story of Albert Jackson, a children’s picture book about Albert Jackson, who became Toronto’s first black postal worker in 1882, and the live music and video performance of Packingtown that tells the story of the community behind an important historical moment of the labour movement in Canada – the Gainers strike at the Edmonton-based meatpacking plant in 1986.

Welcome to the 32nd Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts. We hope Art Against Precarity will inform, provoke, inspire and celebrate you!

Amee Lê, Festival Director


Festival Partners

Mayworks acknowledges the pivotal role that our community partners and supporters play in maintaining a living, thriving culture for everyone by supporting our annual Festival.


  • Alliance Française de Toronto
  • aluCine Latin Film + Media Arts Festival
  • Between the Lines
  • Briarpatch Magazine
  • Caregivers’ Action Centre
  • Cinema Politica
  • Elementary Teachers of Toronto
  • George Brown College – School of Labour
  • Hot Docs Festival
  • Inside Out: Toronto LGBT Film Festival
  • Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative – Toronto
  • Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto
  • Migrant Workers Alliance for Change
  • Nia Centre for the Arts
  • No One Is Illegal – Toronto
  • Ontario Black History Society
  • OPIRG York
  • Our Times Magazine
  • Regent Park Film Festival
  • Shameless Magazine
  • The Public
  • Tools for Change
  • Toronto Workers’ History Project
  • Upping the Anti Journal
  • Workers’ Action Centre


  • A Different Booklist
  • Allazo Skin Care
  • Aviv Restaurant
  • Bondy House Bed & Breakfast
  • Community Legal Aid Services Programme
  • Esther Myers Yoga Studio
  • FoodShare Toronto
  • Graphic History Collective
  • imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival
  • Jane Finch Action Against Poverty
  • Jane Finch Centre
  • Joan Featherston Registered Massage Therapy
  • Ken McAuliffe for the Rectory Café
  • Nightwood Theatre
  • Radical Design School
  • Smiley’s B&B
  • Steam Whistle Brewery
  • Steelworkers Hall
  • Sur Gallery
  • Tarragon Theatre
  • Toronto Masque Theatre
  • United May Day Committee
  • University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies
  • Whippersnapper Gallery
  • YUFA Community Projects