Onika Powell | VIBE Spotlight

This is VIBE Spotlight: a weekly series that celebrates and shines a light on VIBE Arts’ roster of talented artists and now the members that make up our small but mighty team. Each Monday, our Instagram and website will feature a different VIBE staff member and provide a look into the VIBE community. Stay tuned and get to know our organization and community with #VIBESpotlight.

On this VIBE Staff Spotlight were shining a light on Onika Powell. Onika is a mom of 2 and brings over 15 years of experience in the Arts as a Creative with work spanning in the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and Africa. With a degree in Public Service and Liberal studies, she’s the Artistic Director of VIBE Arts; providing a professional focus on mentorship. Onika is the Co-Founder/Director of the non-profit dance company, D’LYFE and also GoLEFT Creatives, a creative service and consultation company. Part time Professor at Centennial College, she is also a proud member of the international non-profit organization Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Onika’s years of experience and passion for the arts provide insight within (and outside) the art sector.  

VIBE: What is your role at VIBE?

Onika: I am the Artistic Director of VIBE Arts. 

VIBE: What led you to the arts?

Onika: I’ve always been involved in the Arts. I found a passion for dance at the age of 7 and made it a professional career by my early 20s. I love meeting new people and learning of different lived experiences whether it is through performing in a foreign country, working as a personal assistant for a high profile artists during tours and festivals, or facilitating workshops to children and youth in under-resourced communities around the world. I love how the Arts can connect you to strangers and be used as a tool to create conversation and meaningful change.

VIBE: What has been one of your favourite moments at VIBE?

Onika: There has been so many amazing moments over the past 3 1/2 years. My favourites would definitely have to be any time we exhibit work from any of our mentorship programs, NExT and Desire Lines. It is amazing to see the confidence and work that come from our Emerging Artists once they are supported with professional development and one to one mentorship with people they can relate to. My goal is to continue creating these opportunities and providing access to spaces that are not easily accessible for them.

VIBE: What is something you’re looking forward to in the future at VIBE?

Onika: I’m looking forward to our Emerging Artists transitioning to our Established Artist roster and delivering programs in their communities. We have made some ground work to support these artists over the past 3 years, and we are now starting to see a lot of them leading large art projects and programs, starting their own collectives and mentoring the next generation of artists. The future is bright and beautiful!

VIBE: What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned thus far?

Onika: One of the greatest lessons I have learned along the way is that not everyone is aware of the barriers that exists in ours sector, whether it is a disadvantage or benefit. It’s been embedded in our education, housing and healthcare system and so forth. If you are not exposed to those who are constantly fighting the system, it is easy to not know it exists. My goal at working for VIBE is simply to share this knowledge, be a part of the change and again create spaces for young folks to learn, thrive and share their stories. Each one, teach one. 

VIBE: What changes would you like to see in Toronto’s Art community?

Onika: I would love to see more diversity on all levels of leadership in arts organizations and funding bodies. I would like to see individuals in positions of authority and power to recognize the barriers that are systemically in place that have caused many disadvantages to the BIPOC community, and start being part of the solution (not just hold space to talk about these challenges). I would like to see a more genuine approach to learning the individuals that make up our city and spaces to amplify them and their stories. I would love to see more work being done to support those who work hard to create, cultivate and preserve culture. We talk about change, but needs to be less talking and more doing.

Stay tuned for more VIBE Staff on VIBE Spotlight