Our vision for this project is to work with artists and elders residing in the City of Toronto. In this project, we encourage elders from various neighbourhoods in Toronto to share their lived experiences and wisdom. Then for artists to collaborate with the elders to transform the elders’ experiences into artworks in any desired media (such as painting, poetry, music, textiles, photography, ceramics, sculpture, installation, etc) and to disseminate their knowledge to the public.

The main focus of this project is to produce opportunities for artists and elders to converse and connect in meaningful ways. During this process, we hope to foster stronger community connectivity and enhance the sense of belonging for people who live in the same neighbourhood.

The selected artworks for this project were exhibited in TIFF Atrium and Remote Gallery as part of AACT Experience for 2022 Asian Heritage month.



Dinner Time

Toronto is a city of welcoming multiculturalism and has the most diverse food scene. Toronto offers almost endless options for all kinds of Asian food, and the food is not just authentic, but also has a touch of creativity by the restaurants. Having a Korean-Canadian background, I have been naturally drawn to Asian food. Going out for dinner to Asian restaurants with a group of friends was the highlight of a tiring day after class. In Toronto, there are many famous Thai restaurants that also offer options for vegetarian/vegan friends so everyone can have the dish they want. The unique scent of spice and interior in Thai restaurants welcomes you as you step in, and you can have a joyful dining experience in an atmosphere where diversity is respected and appreciated.

Veri Lee

is a Korean-Canadian illustrator and concept artist based in Toronto. She studied Illustration at OCAD University. Ever since Veri was a child, she has been fascinated by the dynamic visuals and narratives of video game culture, and it is still her inspiration when creating art. Growing up in a multicultural background, she synthesized the intersection of the two cultures in her art by perceiving the Canadian culture through the lens of her Korean heritage and integrating it into her artistic vocabulary.

Instagram @somuchveri 

Saturday Afternoon

Saturday Afternoon
captures the food court and food stall culture of the Asian diaspora in Toronto. When I was a child, my parents visited various grocery stores across the city in search of ingredients to create the dishes they missed from their first homes in China and Vietnam – with two bored children in tow. After the careful selection of produce I didn't recognize, we'd enjoy a meal in a humble, no-frills food court. As a child I'd long to be elsewhere, but today these food courts bring me back to those Saturday afternoons and evoke sentimental feelings of nostalgia. Food is a language that needs little interpretation, it can transcend borders and differences. Whether it's a dish that reminds us of home or introduces us to somewhere new, it can be shared around the same table.

Steph Truong

is a designer and illustrator currently working and residing in Toronto. She primarily works with digital illustration or ink and paper. The environment and space around her are what inspires her the most, trying to capture form and perspective. She also tries to portray ordinary objects one might not pay a second glance to, in a fun and memorable way.

Instagram @stfnetea 

Tea Tower

Tea Tower is the feast of my dreams! I’m fascinated by how deeply food is intertwined with human connection, family, and memory. Many of my memories of times spent with my family and of growing up, both the good and the bad, have all been formed around food. There’s a comfort in the repetition of preparing meals and of enjoying a warm meal with friends and family. I’m interested in the space and connections created by food, the ability it has to continually excite us, comfort us, gather us, hold us together, and literally nourish us. One thing I always worried about was that I would miss out on certain connections because my family didn’t pass on any recipes to me—I had no idea how to prepare the foods that felt like home and were a part of my heritage. But over time, I slowly started to meet folks in Toronto who shared their knowledge of cooking with me. I learned that your nuclear family is not the only legitimate connection to culture. Our neighborhoods, our communities, our friends, come together around food.

Steph Truong

is a designer and illustrator currently working and residing in Toronto. She primarily works with digital illustration or ink and paper. The environment and space around her are what inspires her the most, trying to capture form and perspective. She also tries to portray ordinary objects one might not pay a second glance to, in a fun and memorable way.

Instagram @stfnetea 

Neon Buffet

Neon Buffet
, a vibrant digital painting, pays homage to Toronto’s dense and diverse Asian food cultures under a crescent moon. The lights and colours of this piece are inspired by late nights under a warm neon glow and memories of celebrating every occasion with food. Even on the coldest nights, the warmth of a hot meal is always better together.

Anson Ng

is a painter and illustrator who falls in love with places. His family owned a restaurant where he spent his formative years eating spring rolls under tables and later working between the dining room and kitchen for his early adult life. He decided to return to art after spending years in the culinary industry to nurture a different type of creative expression. Anson’s paintings capture places through the passing of time using changes in seasons, weather, and celestial bodies as part of his visual vocabulary. Using these natural changes in scenery, he shows both the beauty and impermanence of places.

Instagram @hello.anson 

Nasi Lemak at Sunset

Nasi Lemak at Sunsetis based heavily on the nostalgia of food experiences I've had in different areas of Toronto and the GTA. In this piece, I chose to highlight Malaysian food because it is a cuisine that is so diverse in history, culture, and flavours. As a child, my family would make trips to the Agincourt Court area in Scarborough to indulge in the flavours of home. Nasi lemak, satay and kueh lapis are some of my favourite dishes to pick up when I'm in the area. This  artwork is based heavily on nostalgia for my childhood and of eating Malaysian food with my family. In this piece, you’ll find larger-than-life Nasi Lemak, Satay telephone lines, and Kueh Lapis buildings all synthesized into the suburban landscape of Agincourt. My intention was to capture the feeling you have when you leave your favourite restaurant with a full and happy tummy, driving home at sunset with the people you love.

Meegan Lim

is an illustrator and arts facilitator based in Brampton, Ontario. She is known for her detailed illustrations focusing on food and cultural identity, and the vast stories within those intersections. From family reunions at Dim Sum to karaoke on New Years' Eve at her favourite Malaysian restaurant, her childhood memories are rooted in the many boroughs of Toronto and the GTA.

Instagram @meeganlim 

Dundas and Huron (1980)
Dundas and Huron (2022)
Golden Harvest (1984)
Spadina and Dundas (2022)

12” x 16”; 6” x 8”, digital painting, oil painting

This series is inspired by the time Anson’s parents lived in Chinatown in the 80s. Storiesabout a fuller, livelier Chinatown filled with movie theaters and endless bakeries —even at night the streets were bright and full of life.

Living through their stories, Anson takes further inspiration from old photographs ofChinatown (Source: Toronto Archive). The series of works you see bridges Chinatownfrom then and now — reminding us that even through decades of change and theglobal pandemic, it has always been a sacred meeting place across generations thatcame to call Chinatown a place of identity, culture, community, and home.

Anson Ng

is a painter and illustrator who falls in love with places. He immigrated toCanada from Thailand with his mother in 1993. His family owned a restaurant wherehe worked for several years. He decided to return to art after spending years in theculinary industry to pursue a different type of expression. As an outdoor oil painterhe blends light and colour along with natural changes in scenery to affect how we feelabout these places and what those feelings make us remember. Reminding us boththe beauty and impermanence of the present.

Tiwala, 2022

15” x 17”; 11” x 13”; 9” x 9”; 34” x 26“; “5.5” x 7.5”, vinyl print

Tiwala is a project that came to fruition following a conversation with a 72 year-old Filipino woman named Priscila. Taken from the Filipino language Tagalog, tiwala holds multiple meanings: it is a word that stands for trust, as it does for faith, confidence, or belief. Given the grace and generosity shared by Priscila during our exchange, this encounter fostered tenderness and empathy that bridged meaningful intersections between lived realities in spite of intergenerational differences.

Consisting of photographs and dialogue excerpts, Tiwala takes a peek at Priscila’s life through reflections on motherhood, family and migration, further marked by moments of tragedy, setbacks and sacrifice that greatly shaped them. These documentations exist in the company of the artist’s old family pictures, functioning as a visual foil to familial past (and present) histories.

This work thoughtfully commemorates the act of bearing witness. The arduous journey of immigration and family uprooting is significantly shared by both subject and artist; and, through unpacking the complexities in their experiences, they are collectively grounded in resilience, in faith, in their tiwala.

Beau Gomez

is a lens-based artist whose practice is informed by ideas, challenges and conversations around cross-cultural narratives as they relate to positions of queerness and community. His work has been featured and exhibited by the Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts, Magenta Foundation and the Royal Ontario Museum. In addition to his artistic practice, he devotes his time to engagement and inclusion through the arts, and has contributed to various cultural organizations in Toronto including Pride Toronto, The Site Magazine, Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival, and Critical Distance Centre for Curators. Beau holds a BFA in Photography Studies from Toronto Metropolitan University’s (formerly Ryerson University) School of Image Arts.

Appamma’s Journey, 2022

6” x 8”, digital photography

Appamma’s Journey is a series of images that explores memories from back home, values, and life experiences of an elder. In Tamil, appamma is the term for paternal grandmother - one of the many roles she proudly holds. The elder spoke in depth about her love for pets, the importance of unity among families, and sharing meals. She told the story of a childhood haircut that changed the course of her life. After developing a fever that lasted a few months, her long hair was completely removed and she never returned to school as a result. She didn’t end up becoming a doctor or a teacher as she had once hoped.

For decades, the elder has been a part of the Tamil community in Toronto’s west end, and a few of these images embody the feelings of connection and support from her neighbours, caregivers, and loved ones. The Tamil Co-Operative Homes community at Lansdowne and Bloor was created to support the needs of Tamil newcomers and refugees in the late 1980s. It was a landing place for many Tamils who migrated from Sri Lanka. As an elder in this community, she has taken care of children and supported local families. Despite the isolation that stemmed from the pandemic, her family members and neighbours safely brought appamma food and helped her with daily tasks.

Generosity is a key theme in her story, and is reflective in her compassion towards all living things including plants and animals. Giving without expectation is important to her, and is something she has instilled in her family. Appamma’s greatest hope is that her wisdom will stay with her family long after she is gone.

Jeyolyn Christi

is a Tamil-Canadian emerging artist who focuses on the intersection of photography and storytelling, primarily employing a trauma-informed lens to her work. Her creative work is both personal and communal, stemming from her lived experiences and occupation as a social service worker in community engagement. Through her creative work, she aims to give a voice to those who have been marginalized, and uncover the memories that shape who we are. Since 2018, Jeyloyn has been working on a long-term project to collect stories, photographs, and hand- written notes from individuals displaced by the war in Sri Lanka. She has learned how to listen carefully to the stories of our elders and to appreciate the wisdom they share, slowly unlearning the impacts of colonialism to explore the wisdom of her own family and ancestors.

Road to Golden Mountain, 2022

32” x 38”, chinese ink on washi

Road to Golden Mountain depicts Alan’s life journey from a young boy in China during WWII through to his life as a retired dental surgeon in Toronto.

When Alan was a young boy, his family was starving due to the ravages of WWII. Despite this, Alan’s mother rejected an offer of 8 bushels of rice from a childless woman who wanted to adopt him. Instead, she planned her son’s emigration from China to Canada. At that time, Canada was known as the Golden Mountain because of the abundance of wealth and how the roads were considered to be ‘paved with gold’.

Alan’s mother was unable to afford Canadian Chinese Head Taxes so she stayed behind in China while she sent her son to live in Canada. In 1950, at the age of 13, Alan embarked on a lengthy journey to the New World: first by boat to San Francisco, then by train to Vancouver, and finally by train to Toronto, where he was welcomed to his new home by the beautiful snow-covered trees. In Toronto, Alan began to build his new life. He worked as a server at Lichee Garden to fund his university education and support his family. Through his hard work, Alan became a dental surgeon at Sick Kids Hospital.

This painting depicts Alan’s journey via a series of images and symbols that represent the significant milestones in his life trajectory and is based on Alan K. Joe’s memoir ‘Of Ox and Unicorn’ available on Kindle (For paperback inquiries, contact:

Laura Beaton

is a Toronto-born visual fine artist whose art is a fusion of aspects and styles from Chinese Brush Painting, Sumi-e on rice papers, and western mixed media. She studied under master artists Baoxing Zhang and Hiroshoshi Yamamoto and went abroad to further develop her technique in China. Laura has developed a fusion of styles in these mediums to create art for the primary purposes of healing. Healing not only the body, the mind and the soul, but that of cultures through her art by fostering respectful cultural insights, learnings, and newfound appreciation. Her works are in private and permanent collections in Africa, China, the USA, and Canada.

Constancio, 2022

20” x 27.5”, photography on canvas

During the pandemic, attention turned to the elderly and the conditions in which they lived in long-term facilities. It was also during this time that Mariana started working as a cleaner in a hospital in the city and began to reflect deeply on these experiences.

At dawn or when she returned from work at dusk, Mariana would take a picture of the city of Toronto from her balcony. She would simply let her intuition flow to see what life would present to her from this collection of photographs. From the simplicity of nature, she discovered more and more about the beauty and uniqueness of each day.

Constancio lives in Mariana’s neighbourhood and their meetings took place during his daily walks. Coincidentally, Constancio also worked as a cleaner in Toronto for many years before he retired and this offered the pair a sense of connectivity. Constancio’s friendliness, tranquility, and wide smile brought Mariana peace and inspiration. Their conversations left Mariana with the lasting impression that when we get older, we live one day at a time, and it is this theme that is conveyed throughout her photographs.

The portrait of Constancio holding his sister’s wedding photograph along with his brothers brings him good memories of his life and family. The similarities between their stories inspired Mariana to superimpose Constancio’s portrait with the series of photographs Each Day. Constancio centers around the theme of reflection; to remember and reflect on our roots, our present, the gratitude of being alive, and the beauty of aging.

Mariana Topfstedt

is a Brazilian-born photographer living in Toronto since 2017. In 2012, she started working as a freelance photojournalist for news agencies; her images have been published on national and international news websites, newspapers, and magazines. Moving to Canada, she has been discovering different ways to present her work and uses art as a vehicle to help understand her emotions and the world we live in, bringing themes that are part of our lives and that connect us in some way. Photographing the unusual, the intuitive, and the present moment is the best way to express herself and to feel free.

Betty’s Hidden Wayang Heritage, 2022

16” x 12”, acrylic on canvas

Betty’s Hidden Wayang Heritage depicts a Wayang Golek puppet from Betty’s childhood home in front of a yellow cloudy sky, reminiscent of a striking memory she holds from visiting Indonesia for the first time at the age of four.

Marie-Judith “MJ” Jean-Louis

is an artist who works mostly in acrylic and watercolour, is intrigued by the nuances between looking and seeing, believing that we don’t see things as they are, but as we are.

MJ recently won the Innovative Award for her artwork with the Clarkson BIA. She has exhibited in public spaces such as Cabbagetown BIA CafeTO Art Walk (2021), Northern Contemporary Gallery (2019), Earl Selkirk Gallery (2018), Coffee Public Gallery (2017), UrbanArts (2017), and Toronto Transit Commission (2016-2020)

MJ founded the Toronto Urban Sketchers (now Urban Sketchers Toronto) in 2013, where she organized and led group exhibitions for 5 years and also published an illustrated book called The Disappearing Landmarks of Toronto. MJ grew up in Montreal and currently lives in Toronto.

Dolly’s Life

24” x 48”, acrylic on canvas

Dolly’s Life is an acrylic painting that illustrates the vastness of stories accumulated within a person as they go through life and experience its inevitable peaks and valleys. Dolly’s story is painted within her long hair, a signature look by which she was recognized in her youth. Inspired by Natalie’s own folk-style paintings, this artwork encourages the viewers to connect deeply within their community by listening wholeheartedly to the stories of our elders.

Natalie Very B.

is a professional Polish-Canadian illustrator, muralist, and educator. She is currently concluding her studies at the Toronto Art Therapy Institute (TATI) in pursuit of a graduate diploma in Art Therapy. Her graduate thesis is focused on cultivating the legacy of storytelling through collective mural painting in nursing homes. She is soon to receive her registration with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO). In her clinical practice, she focuses on resilience-based art therapy with the elderly as well as trauma-informed psychotherapy practices with adults.

Hard Pressed, Soft Spoken, 2022

Installation, cheesecloth, ink, image transfer, plaster

Tofu (豆腐) is universal, the tofu-maker told us. It is a source of comfort, nutrition, and connection to home for many members of the Asian diaspora. Our project celebrates the intensive tofu making process and the taste of home found in this humble ingredient.

Mr. and Mrs. Le (黎生&黎太) immigrated from Vietnam at a time before Asian cuisine was commonplace and the nostalgia of a childhood meal could rarely be fulfilled. Every Asian immigrant has a different reason to come to Canada and this is reflected in the three different owners who kept the tofu business at 46 Kensington running through the decades: the shop was started by a Taishan family, then operated by a Hong Kong man, who sold it after a few years to the Le’s. The rising popularity of tofu gives them hope that a fourth generation of tofu-makers will one day take over the business.

Tofu-making uses cheesecloth to strain and shape the soybeans to make milk (豆漿), silken pudding (豆腐花), and blocks both firm and soft. Just as the cheesecloth is used to transform the curds into tofu, the same fabric serves as the canvas for our hanging scroll. The ink drawings depict the ritual and importance of tofu in our community: harvest, preparation, making, cooking, eating, sharing. The white plaster block mimics the act of pressing tofu and also represents how tofu is central to our lives, thanks to the tofu-makers who come with us as we travel from home to home.


is a collective of designers, artists, and researchers: Felix Cheong, Haley Zhou, Eveline Lam, and Rachel Cohen-Murison. Their interests are centered around finding engaging ways for spaces to tell stories based on community, identity, and collaboration. Their most recent projects include a series of installations for the Chinatown Biennale that uses light projections and water sensitive stencils to reveal the people and histories of Toronto’s Chinatown.

For more information and individual member bios, please see: collective.

Handy Work , 2022

36” x 26”, photograph on archival inkjet print

Handy Work is the result of artist Steven Beckly’s conversation and collaboration with his father Nam Ly (李南; b.1942), a Chinese-Canadian war veteran. Touching on his father’s time as a Weapons Technician during the Vietnam War, Beckly’s military- inspired photograph considers the ways in which images, objects, and the legacies of war interlink generations. In Handy Work, Beckly photographs his father’s hands wearing two bulletshaped brass rings. Created using 3D-printing technology, they extend the reach of his father’s fingers, which form the Dharmachakra Mudra, a symbolic hand gesture in Buddhist circles. Typically held in front of the heart, it represents continuous flow and energy, and denotes the setting into motion of the ‘Wheel of Dharma.’ By overlaying military and spiritual references, Beckly explores the connections between these enduring human practices while questioning his own complicated relationship to war, cultural identity, and spirituality.

Steven Beckly (李康然)

is a Chinese-Canadian photographic artist based in Tkaronto/Toronto. Recent solo exhibitions include Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto (2020); Stride Gallery, Calgary (2020); and Centre3, Hamilton (2019). Beckly’s work has been featured in exhibitions at the Doris McCarthy Gallery at the University of Toronto, Scarborough; Remai Modern, Saskatoon; the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Beckly holds an MFA from the University of Guelph, and a BSc in Psychology from the University of Toronto. He is represented by Daniel Faria Gallery.

Community Mosaic

As part of AACT’s Conversations with Elders Project, the lead artist, Sarvenaz Rayati, has designed a mosaic mural inspired by the arch structure found in architecture.

Arches have been used for thousands of years in historical sites and monuments in Sarvenaz's home country, Iran. To her, an arch symbolizes passage and transition. Like an arch, conversations lead us into a new space of understanding.

Building on the centrepiece that Sarvenaz created in her studio, participants of this workshop created a piece of the mosaic to complete the arch mural.

Sarvenaz Rayati

is a multidisciplinary artist based in Toronto. She received her BA in painting and visual communication from Art University in Tehran. She has exhibited her works internationally.For the last few years, she has been working on two ongoing public art projects, the People & Trees installation, and the Mosaic Stories installation. Her You & Me installation was part of Nuit Blanche’s independent projects last fall.“Storytelling has always been my main motivation to create art.Heritage, the self, path, nature, the act of seeking—these are all recurrentthemes in my work. I’m inspired by Persian miniatures & literature,comics, and life around me.”www.sarvenaz-rayati.cominstagram :@the_cypresstree



Contemporary Chinese artist, whose works are in collections at the British Museum, the Japan Modern Art Museum, the China National Art Museum, among many others.


Former teacher, education consultant, poet and author of Fig Loquat Orange.


Vice President Art and Culture and Senior Curator at the Royal Ontario Museum.
* Jury members in alphabetical order by the last names



Feburary 16, 2022
Artists need to submit a  project proposal and other  information about themselves, including:

A short biographyAn artist statement
A curriculum vitae (CV) [optional]
Website and/or social media information


March 25, 2022
The finalists will execute their proposed plan starting with the conversation.

The conversations are encouraged to be in the elders’ first and/or preferred language. After the conversations, artists need to submit documentation about their conversation with the elder, which can be:

A transcript (can be in the elder’s preferred language) OR
Summary and documentation of the conversation (paraphrase accepted)

Each partnership  (the artist and the elder) will be provided with a $1,000 budget.


April 17, 2022
The finalists will create artwork in any desired mediums and genres to transcend their conversation and provide opportunities for others in the city to experience the elders’ lived experiences and wisdom.

The finalists’ works in our partner galleries in Toronto during Asian Heritage Month 2022 in Canada. The exhibition and its related public programming activities will be free and open for all.




TIFF Bell Light Box, 350 King St W, Toronto
May 13-22


Remote Gallery, 568 Richmond St W, Toronto
May 27-29


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