Mothers are wise and right most of the time.
When Nova Christian saw an advertisement in Share for last Saturday’s inaugural Black Arts & Innovation Expo, she encouraged her son – Timothy Hunter who is a visual artist – to apply for a space to showcase his artistic talent and network with professionals.
He agreed and his attendance paid handsome dividends.
Not only did Hunter win a $1,000 scholarship, but his artwork was commissioned by Lexmark Canada president, Melanie Hudson, who was at the event.
“What a beautiful night,” said Hunter. “I came with no expectations and am leaving with so much. Had it not being for my mom’s foresight, I would not be in this fantastic position.”
Excelovate Canada and First Book Canada collaborated to host the Black History Month event to celebrate forward-thinking Black creators who are working diligently under the radar to make a positive difference locally and globally.
Grade 12 students and young people pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees who attended the expo were invited to apply for three $1,000 scholarships offered by corporate supporters of the event. Two on-site city educators assessed the applicants and chose the winners.
Hunter graduated from the University of Toronto with a double major in English and Art History and plans to attend a specialized art school.
His artwork caught the attention of Hudson, whose organization had a booth at the expo.
“She was interested in a 3-D sculpture piece which is part of a set of three,” he said. “She just wanted one as a stand-alone which I will do.”
The Scarborough-based artist said his work reflects contemporary modern culture.
“I try to capture energy and invigorate people with colour,” said Hunter.
Barrie resident, Onika Colbert, is delighted she accompanied her aunt, Evelyn Conyette, who had a booth displaying handcrafted jewellery. She also won a scholarship just months before entering Seneca College to pursue early childhood education studies.
“The money comes at a good time to help with my schooling,” said Colbert. “I am so happy I came along to help my aunt.”
The other scholarship recipient was University of Toronto student, Annesta Duodu.
Trailblazer Awards were presented to Toronto Argonauts defensive back Jonathan Hood, who is a youth mentor and motivational speaker; Caribbean Vibrations TV chief executive officer and executive producer, Alain Arthur; Scotiabank senior project manager and motivational speaker, Karlyn Percil and Heroes of the World Comics creators, Mark Williams and Joe Bonsu.
The expo is the brainchild of Claudette McGowan, who started Excelovate seven years ago.
A professional coaching firm registered with the International Coach Federation, Excelovate is also a full-service Canadian publishing house that assists organizations with specialized advisory services in publishing, mobile application development, coaching and creates productivity and gaming apps for a variety of platforms, including Apple iOs, Android, Windows and Blackberry.
“We are a human services company that is all about helping people and enriching lives and we do that through books, mobile apps and coaching,” said McGowan, who graduated from L’Amoreaux Collegiate Institute and has an undergraduate degree from the University of Windsor and an MBA from Athabasca University.
With a full-time staff of 10, the Aurora-based company has networks around the world.
“The people who do the layout for our books are in New Zealand and the illustrators are in the United States and the Philippines,” she said. “Our authors are primarily Canadian, but when we think the message is powerful and will enrich lives, we reach out to other communities as well.”
Writers attending the expo included Kayla Perrin, who has authored bestsellers Playing with Fire and Until Now; T.K. McLennon, who examines the migratory movement of Black women from English-speaking countries to Asia in her debut book, Trailblasian: Black Women Living in East Asia and Dalton Higgins, whose sixth book, Rap N’Roll Pop Culture, Darkly Stated, will be released in May.
“It is a scrapbook-styled collection of essays, musings, art work and pontifications that examine the place where technology, race, music and pop culture intersect,” said Higgins, who offered a sneak preview of the publication at the event at Artscape Wychwood Barns. “I am happy that there are events like this where artists like me can come out, network and display our material.”
McGowan, who wrote Da Ultimate Hookup: Free Things for All Canadians and co-authored Big Big Topics for Little Little Kids, said the expo will be held annually during Black History Month.