As part of the 7th annual Manifesto Festival of Community & Culture lineup earlier this weekend, the festival brought out a taste of Toronto’s energetic visual artists with the Sacred Seven Art Exhibit held at 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media & Education. A collection of well established and burgeoning artists, the night celebrated the diverse expressions of community art culture.
Preceding the gallery was the Heartist Panel Discussion, which facilitated dialogue on the collaboration of creative ‘families’ within the city. Moderated by Kate Fraser, the panel looked at the role of communities in the development of artistic expression while also recognizing artists who have connected with one another to share resources, a common vision as well as investments in mentorship programs for the growth of Canadian arts.
The discussion lasted for nearly two hours and highlighted the intellectual wisdom of artists like Gilda “Fiya Bruxa” Monreal, Gabrielle Lasporte, Mark ‘Kurupt’ Stoddart, Michael McQuade and Raquel Da Silva. What caught my attention most was the dialogue surrounding the use of the internet and social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. in impacting Toronto and global arts culture. A common idea was that as a medium of expressing art, the internet works as a tool of intent with both positive and negative consequences. Although the internet is able to bring people together through ‘virtual communities,’ it also works to separate and seclude artists from one another. Plus, it becomes hard to maintain your role as an artist when so many of these mediums require self-worth to be distributed through a ‘like’ or ‘retweet’. Further, as artists move to the internet to access resources, it allows responsibility to be taken away from the state to support the arts through public funding – an issue seen throughout our city as Toronto moves towards a privatized sphere.
As the discussion panel wrapped up, I began walking through the venue and was less than surprised to see the passion, dreams and visual stories of each artist encompassed in the works presented throughout the gallery. Ranging from the surreal and bizarre to fantastic still life drawings, each piece worked as a visual communicator to its audience. Some of the additional artists included in the exhibit were the works of Malcom Yarde, Komi Olaf, Yan Li, Totem Resolve, Francesca Sun and many more.
The exhibit also included an interactive component, allowing visitors to the gallery a chance to take part in live nude drawing of a beautiful young female baring only angel wings. For those with less artistic talent (such as myself) and wanting to take a bit of the festival home, there was a Freshest Goods Market in the next room selling the best in Manifesto gear from smaller art pieces to t-shirts and hoodies.
Headlining the gallery was Paul ”Dazaunggee” Shilling, an artist and well respected member of the Aboriginal community. I had a chance to speak with Paul towards the end of the evening. Considered an elder in his native First Nation’s community of the Rama peoples, his presence radiated wisdom and distinctive energy. The youngest of thirteen brothers and sisters, he joked about the need to prove himself unique in his identity. Since I was so curious to know what the name “Sacred Seven” meant, I asked if the name was chosen due to his presence and knowledge lent to the festival. He modestly denied this but continued to explain that the representation of the Sacred Seven manifests in traditional teaching that are the foundation of the Aboriginal ways of life, built around seven sacred teachings: love, honesty, wisdom, courage, bravery, truth and humility. Needless to say, such teachings were embodied in the vibes expressed throughout the entire night amongst all of the artists.
It was an honor to be a part of the Manifesto Festival this year. A night filled with familiar faces, and new friends – Manifesto truly indulges in connecting diverse communities across our vibrant city.