Ontario College of Art & Design’s (OCAD) Onyx Society students have collaborated with the Nia Centre for the Arts and Northsidehiphop.ca to explore hip-hop’s history and the role that visual artists play in replenishing the musical genre’s aesthetic freshness.
Launched last week, T-DOT Pioneers 3.0: The Future Must Be Replenished exhibit features the creative ingenuity of nine emerging visual and mixed media artists exploring the foundation of the city’s hip-hop scene.
The multi-media exhibit runs until April 26 at the elegant SOHO Lobby Gallery, 36 Blue Jays Way.
Dr. Mark Campbell, the executive director of the Nia Centre for the Arts, said his organization has been working with the students for the last eight months on the project.
“This collaboration has enabled the young people to learn a lot of the background of hip-hop culture and ruminate about some of the ideas they wanted to portray in their works,” said Dr. Campbell, who co-founded the Nia Arts Centre and Northsidehiphop.ca, which is an online resource cataloguing Canadian hip-hop history and culture. “The whole idea is for them to be able to visually represent how hip-hop’s aesthetic has informed their art.”
Campbell said the artists possess a foundation of creativity and knowledge.
“They are very talented across the board and we are helping them build their portfolios, self-esteem and cultural knowledge of hip-hop while developing their careers so they can become successful through their talent,” he said.
Bianca Channer counts herself fortunate to be part of the groundbreaking exhibit that builds on the success of the T: Dot Pioneers showcase three years ago and the T: Dot Pioneers: The Glen Gould Remix production the following year.
She combined with Olayide Madamidola to produce the “Trip Tik” series that utilizes archiving to play on the themes of visibility, access and representation within the hip-hop framework.
“This is a body of three pieces of work that encompasses our idea,” said Channer, who is an advertising major exploring data visualization, digital media and experimental design. “In each piece, we analyze the spaces of hip-hop and how we can replenish and archive our history.”
Channer comes from a family that’s deeply rooted in artistic expression. Edward Channer is the president of the Jamaica Guild of Artists and a multi-media artist and Grace Channer is a painter and multi-media artist.
Madamidola, who migrated from Nigeria with his family at age six, said he relished working with Channer on the project. The second-year student is majoring in environmental and graphic design.
“This field allows you some flexibility,” said the St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School graduate. “There are different ways you can communicate your ideas through design and this is what I have done in this exciting project.”
Joathan McMahon has always had a passion for art.
“My sketchbook has been my best friend for most of my life,” he says.
McMahon’s exhibit – Game Gear – is a compilation of illustrated portraits of his favourite hip-hop deejays and producers. They are Grandmaster Flash, D.J Kool Herc, T-Minus and the late J-Dilla.
“They represent the past, the present and the future of hip-hop,” said the third-year OCAD student.
Also exhibiting their work are Mistee Clarke, Candace Nyaomi, Tamu Beatrice, Carolyn Douse, Michael Hemans and Jessica Bernard.
The Nia Centre for the Arts was created four years ago with Youth Challenge Fund (YCF) financing.
“We know our kids are the most talented across disciplines and we wanted to provide a platform where they would have social services support to overcome the barriers they face,” said Campbell. “In this way, they could blossom artistically. It’s really about cultivating a healthy identity through the arts. So we are talking about learning the historical pieces through performance, spoken word and photography, finding ways for people to learn their culture in a healthy way and utilizing the healthy identity to then become resilient in overcoming barriers.”
The Nia Centre for the Arts is currently finalizing plans with the City of Toronto for their new home that will include visual art, digital animation and music studios.