Kristen Fahrig, the founder of Botanicus Art Ensemble, formed The MacGregor Playground Art Club in 2003. Following her year-long Artist in Residence funded by the Toronto Arts Council and supported by Toronto Parks and Recreation, the park was, at that time, a deserted and dangerous space. Neighbours had heard about Kristen's projects in other local parks and asked her to consider bringing positive, creative programming to MacGregor Playground.
January 12, 1957 – November 10, 2017
Kristen Fahrig, artist, teacher, active keeper of the community, age 60, died of cancer on November 10, 2017 in the Bridgepoint Active Healthcare facility. As an artist, Kristen's work focused on the condition of humankind and the state of the earth. Her passion for art as a 'covering of the body' grew out of a trip to Central America as she entered her 20s. Leaving Honey Gables, a quiet suburb of Ottawa, she spent a year in Guatemala where she interacted with indigenous people doing needlework, and there first connected to textile clothing design. After studying fashion and working in theatre costume production, Kristen moved towards wearable art, exploring how culture influences what we wear and our psyches. Early work included the 'Garbage Collection' and the 'Technology Armour' collections, with pieces such as Chip Bag Coat, which exposes the lengths to which the advertising industry will go to seduce children into consuming junk food, and Wired Woman, a statement on how we surround ourselves with technology as a shield against the world. In 1997 Kristen represented Canada in Fashioning Textiles, a show highlighting design of the Asia/Pacific Rim Countries. Her later work continued to explore the relationship of the human body to the natural world as expressed through forged and cast metal shielded figures, including Bark Man and Liquid Life. In 2010, Kristen was awarded the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award from the Canada Council for the Arts, which recognized her contributions as an outstanding artist in mid-career. Kristen also taught what she loved, developing programs for schools in Toronto and surrounding communities, where she emphasized design as a form of communication. Teaching how symbols communicate and where their power comes from was a 'mini-crusade', for which she received several awards including Community Arts Ontario Best Practices Awards for Equity and Diversity Achievement in 2003 and 2004. Kristen's commitment to community was most clearly expressed through her work at MacGregor Playground and the Botanicus Art Ensemble. The MacGregor Playground Art Club was formed in 2003 following Kristen's yearlong Artist in Residence, funded by the Toronto Arts Council and supported by Toronto Parks and Recreation in what was, at that time, a deserted and dangerous space. Neighbours had heard about Kristen's projects in other local parks and asked her to consider bringing positive, creative programming to MacGregor Playground. Seeking and receiving funding from multiple granting agencies, the Art Club and later, the Botanicus Art Ensemble, embarked on a Park Improvement & Beautification Project, culminating in a current commitment from the City of Toronto, through community engagement and in collaboration with DTAH Architects, to renovate the fieldhouse and parkland. Kristen's last weeks were lived with grace and thanksgiving, and in continuous awe and gratitude for the support she received from her art community, friends, healthcare professionals and family.
Published in the Toronto Star on November 25, 2017