This is VIBE Spotlight: a weekly series that celebrates and shines a light on VIBE Arts’ roster of talented artists. Each Monday, our Instagram and website feature a different VIBE Artist and provide a look into their craft. Stay tuned and get to know the diverse talent that makes up our organization and community with #VIBESpotlight.
On this VIBE Spotlight, we’re shining a light on Desiree Mckenzie, a poet, spoken word artist, and photographer. She’s also part of NExT, VIBE’s Black Youth Mentorship Program made possible by @cdnheritage’s CSMARI program.
VIBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that you would like to share?
Desiree: On March 6th, I will be part of the 20th anniversary showcase of When Sisters Speak, featuring some of the best Black women in poetry! I’m so honoured to be part of the show and its legacy.
Tickets can be found here: https://upfromtheroots.ticketspice.com/when-sisters-speak
Also, as part of the VIBE NExT program, I’m preparing my first ever photography/poetry exhibition and EP alongside some other incredible artists. Keep it locked to VIBE for more info on that!
VIBE: What has been one of your greatest accomplishments to date?
Desiree: Among many things I’m grateful for and proud of in my spoken word work, one of them has to be being a part of the VIBE NExT mentorship program. It has given me not only the tools to create a piece of art I have been dreaming of for a long time, but the mentorship, guidance and skills to bring a project to life! It has also allowed me to begin to explore other art forms, including photography which has been something I’ve wanted to pursue and pair with my spoken word but could never find a way to do so – VIBE helped me do just that.
VIBE: What has been one of your favourite moments while being on the VIBE roster?
Desiree: Working on The Bentway’s Safe in Public Spaces campaign. Big shout-out to Onika Powell for giving me the courage to do so! I was so nervous as it was the first photography thing I had ever done and shown to the public, so it was a really cool experience getting to express my feelings around public safety in that way and for such a great initiative.
VIBE: What are some of your future goals?
Desiree: I would love to put out a full-length book and album of my poetry one day. Being a spoken word artist, a lot of my work is based on live performance, so I definitely want to build the confidence to put out a product that is final and not dictated by performance, in which people can read and enjoy in any way they want. I would also like to continue working with youth and hopefully develop and run my own spoken word program dedicated to giving them the tools and courage to write and perform as well!
VIBE: What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned thus far?
Desiree: It’s not all about creating something. In everything you do, you’re adding to a wealth of experience, emotion, and memory that directly feeds into your art – so do everything you can and what you create in the end will be so fulfilling.
VIBE: What changes would you like to see in Toronto’s Art community?
Desiree: More opportunity for BIPOC to be able to gain mentorship, and showcase their skills and stories year-round, and at any age. This means clear representation of these voices that is not just to fill a quota or to be ‘diverse’, but a standard for all organizations.
Support Desiree: @desireemckenzie
Stay tuned for more VIBE Artists on VIBE Spotlight