Big Pond Small Fish Laboratory

Big Pond Small Fish Laboratory’s mission is twofold: Firstly, to produce conceptually rigorous interdisciplinary works as collaborations between artists, youth and disadvantaged people and,  secondly, to investigate the boundaries between advanced industrialism, life in the city, the farm and our environment. Big Pond Small Fish operates out of Toronto but our scope is international. 

We believe access to arts and an understanding of arts and culture to be an essential part of life in civil society. We want to bring art to young audiences in the hope that art will continue to be understood, practiced and loved.

We are committed to the principle of artists’ fees and adherence to CARFAC fee schedules.

Radical Pedagogy

Big Pond Small Fish Laboratorydeploys radical pedagogy to explore relations between children, young adults, art, and its institutions. We are committed to challenging conceptions of what are appropriate subjects and to expanding art’s audience through participation, mentorship and public engagement. Young people often appear at the centre of our fears and hopes, yet they are rarely allowed to make meaningful contributions. Our mission is to invite youth from diverse backgrounds to participate, collaborate and direct projects that interact with and challenge cultural assumptions and open up inquiries into urbanization, our collective life in civil society and the natural world. 

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A Brief History

We began as a collective in 2007 and received our not for profit letters patent in May 2012. We have produced projects with Alpha Alternative School, Lord Lansdowne School and da Vinci School in Toronto and a number of schools and public institutions in Australia. Our performance, video and audio works have been shown at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) London (2008); the Quebec City Biennial (2010); Nuit Blanche Toronto (2011); and Dogs and Boats and Airplanes Choir Vinyl LP - The Toronto Concert (2012); the Junction Arts Festival Launceston, Australia (2013); FIFA, Montreal (2013); Biennial of the Moving Image, Buenos Aires, Argentina (2014); The Great Goat Milking Performance, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (adjunct project 2016); the Great Chorus, (adjunct project 2016); Home and House Parkdale, Toronto (2018) the Great Library Festival, Toronto (2018). 

We have received funding for our projects from the Canada Council for the Arts, Qantas Airlines; Toronto Arts Council; Ontario Arts Council; The JAF Festival, Tasmania, Australia; and Nuit Blanche, Toronto.  Our audio works are included in collections at the Museum of Modern Art Library (New York); National Gallery of Canada Library, (Ottawa); London Institute (Chelsea School of Art Libraries); Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto); and Getty Center (Los Angeles). 

Our directors are Jeffrey Canton (President), Geoff Bowie (Vice President), Andrew Zukerman,  (Secretary/Treasurer), Mary Anne Barkhouse (Director) and Sarah Bassnett (Director).  We are a small organization and employ people on an ad hoc basis. Our Artistic Director is Bill Burns; our Producer and Head of Programs is Krys Verrall; our sometimes Associate Producer is Carrie Perreault; our sometimes Choral Director is Alan Gasser. Our board and our artistic team have many years of experience in public libraries, with First Nations art practices, music, film and audio works, education, art, youth advocacy, as well as zine and book publishing. 

Big Pond Small Fish Laboratory's work with marginal groups, children and  youth in Canada, and abroad has focused on intergenerational and intercultural collaborations.  Our main strategies have been to work with sound, choral and performance outside of traditional language structures. For instance, our Dogs and Boats and Airplanes Choir, which has included several iterations in Toronto, Montreal, Buenos Aires and Tasmania, Australia, uses animal and industrial sounds to encourage creation and collaboration amongst children from various language, socio economic and cultural backgrounds.