Happy Black Futures Month from Onika Powell, Artistic Director

Happy Black Futures Month!!!

The days, months and years have been flying by. It feels like yesterday we were celebrating the launch of NExT: Black Futures Exhibit for Cohort 1. COVID came and tried to shut us down but resilient and creative as we are, I am happy to confirm that we haven’t missed a beat. In case you missed what we were up to in 2020, check out our impact report.

This week we welcomed another Black History Month for us here in Canada. A month that has traditionally focused on the history of the Black community and the oversaturation of stories of slavery. It is refreshing to see that folks have embraced a new energy and focus by shining light on Black Excellence. We are learning and sharing stories of the achievements of Black creators, innovators, leaders and activists across the world. The works of many that impact and shape our future and livelihood; hence the term Black Futures Month.

For VIBE Arts, February is no different from any other month as we continue to create opportunities for our Black Artists. In the coming months we will be wrapping up Cohort 2 of our Black Youth Mentorship Program, NExT. NExT – short for Network and Explore Together – was built on the vision to build, connect and strengthen networks of Black artists throughout the GTA. The program was developed, with barriers in mind, to increase visibility of Black Youth Artists in public Canadian exhibitions. Throughout the program, members of the cohort receive multiple one-on-one mentorship opportunities and access to valuable programs and opportunities. NExT creates a shared understanding and space to overcome the barriers faced by upcoming artists in pursuit of artistic success.

Our program has evolved so much since its start in 2019. A time of discovery and feedback with our mentorship team and our roster of Black youth artists, brought awareness to the many barriers and challenges they all faced, preventing them from exposure and building their network. This program has been tailored to the needs and wants of our Black artists, carefully curated to acknowledge the Black lived experience. What started off with supporting only those directly on our roster, we have now opened this program up to those outside of our organization, increasing our impact and indeed building our network. I have literally been witnessing the magic of this program, not just for Mentees but for everyone involved, myself included. I can’t wait for the upcoming Black Futures Exhibition for you to experience all of this greatness as well. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for those details.

In addition to the NExT program we are excited to continue our partnership with CB2 to deliver Black History Month Tote Bags. These bags have been designed by our very own artist Jason Julien, participant of NExT Cohort 1 and Desire Lines Cohort 1. All proceeds from sales will be donated to VIBE programming, so we may continue to support our artists and the communities we serve. Keep an eye on our social media and upcoming newsletter for more information on how to purchase a tote.

Purchasing a tote bag or making a direct donation to our organization is a great way to be actively involved in shaping the future of the next generation of leaders. We would love to see a Cohort 3 for NExT or other programs designed with the same outcome. This all depends on your support. We all need to do our part to ensure February will not be celebrated as a short campaign to acknowledge the Black community, but instead an opportunity to educate ourselves, as well as elevate and amplify Black voices. Black History Month is Black Futures Month, and “The Future Is Now”.