Black Lives Matter set to open 10,000-square-foot art and activism centre in Toronto

Black Lives Matter set to open 10,000-square-foot art and activism centre in Toronto

A 10,000-square-foot hub to promote Black activism and art is opening in the heart of downtown Toronto early next year.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) Canada is launching the Wildseed Centre for Art and Activism at 24 Cecil St. near Spadina Avenue and College Street. It will be a space where Black community members of all ages can create and meet freely, Sandy Hudson, the group's co-founder, told CBC News.

"Having a space like this that has a level of permanence, that is large, that allows for different types of organizations to come together and create community. It's going to be a really, really big shift for Black Canada and Black Toronto," she said.

The three-storey building recently purchased by BLM is large enough for a lounge, dance floor, sound recording booth, event space and garden for "explicit political creation," Hudson said. Black interior designs and architects will lead the renovations.

Centre has city's support

The city is providing the Wildseed Centre with $250,000 for capital upgrades, said Coun. Mike Layton, who represents Ward 11, University-Rosedale. When council meets next week, he will be requesting ongoing funding for the centre's operations.

"This was our opportunity to demonstrate through a financial commitment that we would like to see Black Lives Matter and Wildseed excel and thrive in this space," Layton said in an interview Wednesday.

"And in a neighbourhood that's becoming increasingly unaffordable, to be able to protect a building like this and insert the type of energy that will be brought by Wildseed, it's very exciting."

WATCH: CBC News Network's Ginella Massa speaks with Wildseed Centre's Jessica Kirk:

In the past, BLM struggled to find space to plan demonstrations and hold community meetings — a problem faced by many Black organizations in Toronto, Hudson said.

"We were always beholden to somebody else's idea of what we could do or restricted the amount of space that we could get," said Hudson. "The amount of space that Black people have in the city is limited."

The Wildseed Centre's official launch was set to take place in March 2020 in a smaller rented space, Hudson said. Then the pandemic hit along with the lockdowns. For the past year and a half, BLM has been planning something more ambitious.

Now the fully Black-owned and operated building is almost complete.

Sandy Hudson/Supplied
Sandy Hudson/Supplied

"Community members can just come by and not think they need to edit who they are," said Hudson. "They will have access to all sorts of space, lots and lots of space. It's going to be a unique culture to this particular space."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.