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Over 1000 Toronto elementary students from 25 schools craft their response to the question—What’s in the lake?—in the form of protest art in FishNet: The Great Lakes Craft & Release Project

TORONTO, Thursday, June 5, 2008 — Harbourfront Centre is excited to present FishNet: The Great Lakes Craft & Release Project, combining the artistic talent of more than 2000 individuals, from students to educators to artists and designers. FishNet, a recipient of Harbourfront Centre’s national commissioning programme Fresh Ground new works, educates participants and visitors about the need for ecological awareness and activism in the Great Lakes bio-region.

FishNet: The Great Lakes Craft & Release Project runs until Sunday, June 22 at Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West. Exhibition hours are: Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, noon to 8 p.m.; closed Monday. For information, call 416-973-4000 or visit and is free.

Conceived by Claire Ironside and Angela Iarocci, FishNet: The Great Lakes Craft & Release Project is a multidisciplinary project inspiring and connecting the communities living in the Great Lakes region. Within this two-phase project, FishNet’s Crafting Phase, facilitated by Harbourfront Centre’s School Visits educational programme, saw elementary students from 25 Toronto-based schools each build a regionally specific school of textile fish, as well as research and share with each other information about their species. Empowered with knowledge and armed with life-size models, students were then invited to educate the public in the project’s Release Phase at Harbourfront Centre. The Release Phase is an exhibition where visitors are invited to swim among the fishes, as they walk through a metaphorical hatchery. Over 1000 textile fish sway from the gallery ceiling, suspended at different levels by clear fishing lines anchored by weights, providing visitors with a virtual underwater tour of the Great Lakes. Wall-mounted graphics, including identification charts and a timeline detailing the Great Lakes history and ecology, provide background information.

The exhibition is not only informative, it is also proactive. By purchasing a $10 “release license” for one of the crafted fish, visitors are contributing to two charities: Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Great Lakes United that aim to revive and protect the Great Lakes bio-region and its fish stocks. A small portion of the funds collected will also be used to “release” crafted fish into other schools in the Great Lakes region; spreading the programme’s educational component and inviting other elementary schools to undertake similar advocacy projects.

Claire Ironside and Angela Iarocci have been engaged in art and design projects centered on social and environmental issues. Claire Ironside's design and art practice draws on her academic training in design, geography, and environmental and communication studies. She is the recipient of several design grants, awards and scholarships and holds a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Toronto, a Master of Environmental Studies from York University and degrees from the University of Guelph - a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Urban and Cultural Geography. As a designer, she has worked in the public and private sector, specializing in urban infrastructure design and planning, architecture, landscape design, and public art. As a Professor in Sheridan College's Bachelor of Applied Illustration, her teaching and research focus combines alternative research methodologies and cultural practice to support information based communications in both two and three dimensions.

Angela Iarocci is a Professor at Sheridan Collage in the York/Sheridan Program in Design where she teaches undergraduate courses in information design, design fundamentals and professional practice. Her research investigations are concentrated in information visualization, mapping, diagramming, built installations and collaborative practice. She has a Bachelor degree in industrial design and is a graduate of the University of Toronto Master of Architecture program. She is the recipient of several academic scholarships and design grants. Her professional experience is concentrated in environmental graphic design, specifically on wayfinding and interpretive installations.

FishNet has received grants from Fresh Ground new works and the Ontario Arts Council’s Arts Education programme. Fresh Ground new works commissioning awards are made possible by the generosity of several individual donors who have actively assisted in the creation of new Canadian art works: Peter Allen, Robert and Anne Marie Canning, Lionel Conacher and Joan Dea, Michael and Sonja Koerner, Wil and Judy Matthews, George Myhal, Sandra and Jim Pitblado, Anonymous, and grants from the Imperial Tobacco Canada Foundation, the Canada Council and the J.P. Bickell Foundation. Additional financial support for FishNet has been provided by the Toronto District School Board and Inner City Angels.

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Media Contact:
Linda Liontis
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