Beyond Drake: The Instagram Putting Toronto's Black Artists on the Map

@Blackcanvas101 puts contemporary art history in your hands.

Apr 14 2016, 5:30pm

Last year, while Toronto based painter Danilo McCallum was doing research for his art initiative, Black Future Month (3016), he realized there was an absence of a recorded history of black artists based in the city. In an effort to fill in the holes of history and bring visibility to past and future black artists practices established in Toronto, he launched Black Canvas 101, a virtual Instagram database in concert with Myseum of Toronto. Since launching last month, the archive has collected hundreds of images of black Canadian artists works, which are published weekly, with uniformly searchable hashtags.

“For me it was important to make the database as accessible as possible, to do justice to the vibrancy of the Black visual arts legacy,” explains McCallum to The Creators Project. “Other important aspects were to make a database that was non-elitist, that would connect with the younger generations of artists as well as engage a broad audience.”  

For the artist, Instagram has allowed him to create a dynamic form of documentation that allows for easy searchability and for the database to make connections between the works featured. Black Canvas 101 features many artists whose works collectively favor exploring representation through portraiture. The works examine blackness from various vantage points, providing a sense of the concerns that inform artists working in Toronto. The platform has presented Komi Olaf's painting, 3014, Wayne Salmon’s photograph, A boy on his beach, Sandra Brewster's mixed-media portrait, From Life 3, and Erika Defreitas’s digital work, I am not tragically colored (after Zora Neale Hurston).

“Look, the way I see it, the absence of black visual arts documentation in Toronto is a form of racism of omission—a problem that happens throughout the Canadian art landscape,” says McCallum. “Now with technology, individuals and organizations like Black Future Month, we can dedicate time, organize, and fill some of the gaps in ourselves.”

In the future, the platform aims to be an online resource for those living in Toronto, like researchers and galleries interested in organizing showings of black artists. By using the Instagram caption as a digital wall text that provides both the title and the artist's contact information, McCallum hopes to educate his platform's followers. He notes, “The future vision is for @Blackcanvas101 to evolve into an up-to-date website with more content, and [eventually] create and publish an anthology, specifically around black visual arts.”

For more information on Black Canvas 101, click here.


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