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Friday, December 28, 2012

Interesting People: Mrs. Darling

Okay, her real name is not Mrs. Darling, but when you walk into Melissa Peretti's pop-up shop and see her in her red and white striped apron, you can practically imagine her saying "Fly, Peter, Fly!". The proprietress of Mrs. Darling's Imaginarium for Girls & Boys has transformed the space at 1948 Danforth into a whimsical, fun-filled adventure space for kids, to which we can attest after watching Junior Pioneer #1 being chased around the shop in a blue princess dress clutching a balloon and screaming with joy.

Although many may think this is just a temporary 'play space',  Pioneer discovered this morning that it's far more than that.

Q. How did you get involved in a project like this involving children?

A. I have a background in photography and visual arts. While I was shooting for a commercial photo house, I found the clients that I worked the best with were children. As you can imagine, it's tough to wrangle children, but I discovered that I was able to get the best from them which I think is key to embarking on any type of career change geared towards children.

Q. What was the inspiration for the Imaginarium?

A. It was really something that came about from necessity. I wanted to create a place that I could take my children to and DO something with them - not just drop them off and go do errands. As well, I grew up in a small-ish town north east of Toronto and wouldn't it have been great to have something like this when I was little? There was nothing 'creative' for my parents to take me to, so I was inspired by that: a place I would have liked to hang out at when I was younger.

Q. I think the title is very specific, the "Imaginarium for Boys & Girls". Can you explain your thinking behind the title?

A. I've done a lot of reading on the 'lost art of play', and it really concerns me. Children in this era of TV and computers are losing their ability to play, whether on their own or in a group. I wanted to create a space that really helps kids learn how to access their imaginations when they are bored, get their creativity flowing.

Q. But there are a lot of places kids can go and do crafts in the city. What makes this place special?

A. The idea behind the Imaginarium is to bring out the specialness in each child. Instead of setting a task for the day ie. today, we are going to make happy faces out of plates, we don't set an agenda. Children have a lot of imagination and ability to be creative, and we nurture that with suggestions of things they can "play" whether its crafts or princess dresses. It's also about encouraging collaboration, building a mini-community you could say, rather than just focusing on individual achievement.

Q. You mentioned that you are opening a permanent space in the new year?

A. Yes, hopefully in time for March Break. It will be great because I'll be able to expand the dramatic programming and the ability will be there to do longer multi-day craft projects rather than short ones.  I'm looking forward to it!

Mrs. Darling's Imaginarium for Girls & Boys pop-up is open until mid-day on the 31st. For more information check out her website here!

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