There was cause for celebration at 823A Bloor Street West last week as the BAND (Black Artists’ Networks in Dialog) opened its very own art gallery. Even now, long after the festivities have ended, the reason to celebrate is still fresh. For the members of the BAND collective, as well as the vast number of Black artists in the community, this is a milestone.
Support for the arts in Canada is difficult to begin with, but when that support relates to the Black community the difficulty increases exponentially. BAND was created to support, document and showcase the artistic and cultural contributions of Black artists in Canada and abroad.
Nation Cheong’s ‘Caribbean Carnival’ was chosen to open the space.
“The work is juxtaposed historically,” says gallery chairperson, Karen Carter. “It is not a focus of the artist and his work but it shows the history of carnival.”
Asha Davis, vice-chair of the BAND Gallery, adds: “I feel a sense of pride with this exhibit because ‘Caribbean Carnival’ is surrounded by these warm and inviting images.”
Both Carter and Davis agree that to be surrounded by images with colour and vibrancy is something that Toronto needs, especially on cold wintery days.
Securing a space in an accessible part of downtown Toronto came with the help and collaboration of the BAND’s multi-faceted advisory board, the members of which are located across Canada – Montreal, Halifax, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver. With the scope of work being national, the idea is to help the network of Black artists to grow.
“The goal is to grow the work we are doing on a professional level.”
Members of the group hope to reach out to Black curators to curate work and exhibit a specific aesthetic. They also hope to connect with other Black leaders.
The gallery space finally fills the void that has been lacking in the arts community. It has been a necessity for some time, says Carter.
“I would constantly hear from Black artists that ‘there is no space for us’.”
Carter says that this is the perfect time to help the community to grow and collaborate. With artists of different scopes, from visual to spoken word, there are greater opportunities to combine their efforts as well, particularly now that the space is available.
“BAND is lucky to have the energy of young artists who are eager to learn and be trained about the business of the arts,” says Carter, adding that their willingness to assist with fundraising initiatives has helped them to secure some funding.
BAND Gallery is looking at providing multi-disciplinary opportunities such as workshops, where academics will discuss how the visual medium inspires written work.
“The scope of the community is diverse with different nuances and cultural differences,” says vice chair Davis. “Because of this, the output is phenomenal.”
Admission is free and the space is open from Wednesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the winter.
The space is available for hosting events such as birthday parties and wine and cheese receptions. It is a great place to relax, be inspired, learn, collaborate and enjoy.
The ‘Caribbean Carnival’ exhibit by Nation Cheong runs until January 16, 2012.