A Letter to the VIBE Community from Onika Powell and Katie Hutchinson

Dear VIBE Community,

As Directors of VIBE Arts, a charitable arts organization dedicated to providing high-quality arts education to children and youth, we acknowledge that it has been a difficult time for the world, but particularly for the Black community across the globe. The cruelty that has been exposed is inexcusable and calls for us ALL to do more to break the systemic barriers that impact the lives and livelihood of the Black Community. We recognize the injustice and stand strong in the fight against anti-Black racism

Between the both of us, we are aware of the privileges and inequalities that exist for us individually; and the ways they have supported and created barriers to get us to where we are in life today. This is the reason why, together, we have worked passionately to restructure VIBE Arts over the past 2 years to better support those with inequitable lived experience, as well as continue to build a team that reflects the diversity of our city. We stand in solidarity with our Black Artists, Staff and Board members, and Community we mission ourselves to serve. We are committed to providing opportunities to educate ourselves and others as well as create space to amplify the voice of the Black community.

As an organization, it can be assured that we are committed to continuing doing work with anti-racism as a guiding principle. We will continue to stay informed on social justice issues and use the arts to discuss and find solutions. Our learning is never done. Through our mentorship framework, VIBE Arts will continue to deliver Professional Development workshops and VIBE Connect sessions that will allow our roster of Artists to gain information, tips and tools from industry experts to gain employable skills to support their well being and artistic livelihood. Artists can look forward to the return of VIBE Wave and an increase in social media presence to promote the work they do, and events in their communities. Following the success of our most recent A-Talks, we will continue to host them to amplify the voices of the unheard and underrepresented.

The work that is needed to fight the injustice in our society is not the work of one, but of many. VIBE Arts will continue to work collaboratively with other organizations to create the change that is needed now. We encourage our VIBE family and supporters to research, educate yourselves and others. Be active with your voice and hold people accountable for their acts of racism. Most importantly, support and invest in the communities we serve, so we may build a society that is barrier-free and equitable together.

Katie Hutchinson, ED
Onika Powell, AD


 

Program Spotlight

NExT (Network & Explore Together) builds, connects, and strengthens the network of Black artists in the GTA. The NExT program increases visibility and support for Black artists by providing mentorship, professional development, round tables, facilitation opportunities, and exhibitions. NExT works to create a public understanding of the barriers faced by Black artists in their unique pursuits of artistic success. The program’s goal is to foster confidence and break these barriers, ultimately supporting Black Artists in achieving financial and personal success.

 

Support NExT

What We’ve Gained

You may have seen our last post, which broke down “what we’ve lost” as a result of COVID-19. Although our organization continues to face challenges, we have been able to pivot and continue to do what we do best: engage many communities in need.

Turning a program cancellation into a life-saving gift…

We experienced an unexpected way to give back following the cancellation of a highly-anticipated mosaic mural program at Emily’s House. Emily’s House is Toronto’s only hospice for children and families facing life-threatening illnesses. Featuring a home-like, comforting environment, it is a place of compassion, care, comfort, laughter, learning and play.

VIBE teamed up with the Ralph M. Barford Foundation with plans to engage families and patients to create a vibrant mosaic mural to brighten up Emily’s House. Unfortunately, this was one of 40 programs that we were forced to cancel due to the coronavirus.

Thanks to the launch of our online programs, we were able to extend a small employment opportunity to artist Cristina Delago, who was initially hired to lead the Emily’s House program. Cristina channeled her vast experience in mosaic-making into an episode of VIBE Makers, our artist-made content series.

Last week, a member of our team stopped by Emily’s House to donate a box of N95 masks that were purchased several months ago, for use in the mosaic program. Recent circumstances have changed the purpose of these masks so drastically; equipment once intended to be protective gear for young folks creating something special has quickly evolved into life-saving, hard-to-come-by devices.

We are staying in close contact with Emily’s House in an effort to begin our mural program once it is safe to do so.

Supporting Seniors who need us most…

 

At the request of our partner organizations, we are working on opportunities to improve the quality of life for seniors. Many residents of long-term care facilities only have a short amount of time to connect with loved ones using a community iPad. We employed Allison Buela, a VIBE Arts Educator and dance instructor, to develop a seated, adapted dance video for seniors to access from their rooms. This interactive, movement-based lesson is specific to elders and works to boost morale, improve mental health, activate the body and spark joy.

We are currently working with CAMH, Covenant House and many City of Toronto Long Term Care centres to bring the arts into the confines of residents’ rooms. We need your help to make these opportunities possible, so we can continue to relieve and care for these at-risk members of our community.

This #GIVINGTUESDAY, you can donate to support VIBE Arts’ Senior-specific relief fund, which will allow VIBE to offer significant opportunities for those who need it most. Why wait? Donate today.

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