COVID-19 Program and Mentorship Update

Dear VIBE supporters,

The health and safety of our artists, staff and community partners remain our top priority. Social distancing resulted in an unexpected shift in VIBE’s programming and mentorship. Like many nonprofits, this sudden change has challenged our organization to restructure the ways that we offer our work.

Thankfully, our NExT: The Future of Art Exhibition opening took place on March 5th at Fort York National Historic Site. Check out the video below for a powerful reminder of the value of creativity, especially at this time.


The COVID-19 Pandemic struck right as we were scheduled to wrap up the first of two cohorts of our
Black Youth Mentorship Program, NExT. We reacted quickly, cancelling all remaining in-person offerings. Fortunately, support from our program funder, Canadian Heritage CSMARI, will allow VIBE to provide an extended mentorship opportunity for our current NExT participants and mentors. Participants will receive individual consulting sessions with top industry professionals, creative leaders and business experts, to help them pivot and remain inspired during these unprecedented times. 

Pushing forward with the same energy and focus, our team is in the process of on-boarding our second cohort of RBC Desire Lines Artists. We have connected these folks with their mentors, who will help skill-build and offer advice, and are shifting a wide offering of Professional Development workshops to virtual learning spaces. 

Stay tuned for updates from these artists, as well as their resulting work, showcased in Toronto Subway Stations in late 2020.

VIBE Arts continues to adapt to support our artists and the Toronto arts community. In only a short time, we have launched four new Online Programs, including VIBE BLOOM virtual art-making lessons and VIBE Makers, a unique artist content series, both of which will engage communities while providing meaningful employment opportunities to artists. 

If you haven’t already, please sign up for our mailing list, follow us on social media and spread the word. This is an unimaginable time, but one that we can get through together. 

Stay safe and take care,

Onika Powell
Artistic Director, VIBE Arts

Happy Black History Month from Onika Powell, Artistic Director

Happy Black History Month!!!

Again, it’s time to rise up and celebrate the works and achievements of Black creators, innovators, leaders and activists across the world. For many, February serves as both a time of pride and a reminder of the contributions Black people have made in our world.

For VIBE Arts, February also marks an exciting milestone in our continued efforts to create opportunities for Black Artists; it brings the last leg of our introductory cohort 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.

Before the launch of the NExT program, our mentorship team sat down with a group of eleven Black Youth Artists to explore their wants and needs. Some shared a desire to exhibit work on a larger scale and asked for support on building their brand. Others expressed interest in learning important life skills, like financial literacy. As the conversation continued, it became clear that in some way or another, they were all on a quest to gain exposure, and build their networks.

After stepping back and taking some space to consider a programmatic solution, we created a mentorship model involving our Established and Emerging Artists. This mentorship structure laid the foundation for NExT programming. In November, teams were uniquely paired based on individual needs, goals and experience and have been connecting with each other regularly since.

On Tuesday, November 25th, Yonge Street’s Diner’s Corner, a Black-established restaurant that would ordinarily be closed, graciously opened its doors to welcome the first official meeting of our NExT Mentors and Mentees. The space was buzzing with excitement and an air of determination. Later that evening, participants were granted an exclusive opportunity to view the critically acclaimed film Queen & Slim, courtesy of Entertainment One. We even attended an intimate Q&A session with the film’s director and writer, Melina Matsoukas and Lena Waithe, two Black creatives. This kick-off event set an extraordinary tone for VIBE’s Black youth-focused mentorship program.

At VIBE, we believe that mentorship is a skill that is constantly evolving, which is why we began our mentors’ journey with a workshop. Facilitated by Black leader and coach Aina-Nia Ayodele, this workshop provided a safe space for our artists to be vulnerable, self-reflect and take on unique tools to help them serve and succeed as mentors.

In just a few months, the NExT program has offered workshops on art creation, exhibition and performance and has attended exclusive events, including the Mandela exhibit (courtesy of TO Live), the Future of Work & New Economy Series with Barack Obama (S/O Rookz) and the grand opening of Kuumba25 at Harbourfront. NExT has received additional opportunities to attend the opening of Musical Stage’s hit musical Caroline or Change, and exclusive viewings at the Toronto Black Film Festival 2020.

The first of two NExT cohorts will wrap up in March 2020 with a Black Futures Exhibition, NExT: The Future of Art. All are invited to join us at the public opening reception on March 5th at Fort York Visitor Centre. Presented in partnership with Toronto History Museums and Junction Craft Brewery, This exhibition will highlight the art that participants have created throughout this journey and celebrate their achievements as they turn the page of this NExT chapter.

The NExT Program is made possible with support from Canadian Heritage’s Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives Program.

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