New collective aims to create safe spaces for BIPOC artists in N.L.

·3 min read
The BIPOC Creators Collective of NL is for Black, Indigenous, migrant and otherwise racialized artists from across the province, not just the metro region, says organizer Rachel Gilbert. This painting, by Gilbert, is titled I Am/Am Not Black. (Submitted by Rachel Gilbert - image credit)
The BIPOC Creators Collective of NL is for Black, Indigenous, migrant and otherwise racialized artists from across the province, not just the metro region, says organizer Rachel Gilbert. This painting, by Gilbert, is titled I Am/Am Not Black. (Submitted by Rachel Gilbert - image credit)
Submitted by Rachel Gilbert
Submitted by Rachel Gilbert

A group of Newfoundland and Labrador creators have come together to create a support network for BIPOC artists.

The BIPOC Creators Collective of Newfoundland and Labrador is a newly formed group working to share resources, funding, and collaborative opportunities for artists who are Black, Indigenous, migrant or otherwise racialized, said organizer Rachel Gilbert.

The goal is "to bring people together and share their different practices and work," Gilbert said. "To create safe spaces and open up some platforms for all different creators."

Gilbert said the idea for the group was sparked by a conversation between speakers at an anti-racism town hall at Eastern Edge Gallery last year. Now the group has more than 50 members, and Gilbert says they're looking to recruit more.

The group began in St. John's, but Gilbert stresses the collective reaches beyond the metro region.

Newfoundland and Labrador is known for its robust art scene, but the province's small population of artists is scattered across a large land mass, making it difficult for many to find support and engage with one another.

Gilbert said one of the goals of the group is to unite the small community of BIPOC — Black, Indigenous and people of colour — artists across Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I think it's important, where it is so small, to connect with people."

In partnership with Eastern Edge Gallery, the collective has hosted "Creators Nights" over Zoom, featuring artists including photographer Ritchie Perez and writer Xavier Campbell.

The collective is developing a directory of BIPOC artists in Newfoundland and Labrador, and plans to host performances and exhibitions once COVID-19 restrictions loosen.

The organizers behind the collective felt that Newfoundland and Labrador lacked the supports for BIPOC artists that exist in other parts of Canada.

"It's a newer thing here," Gilbert said. "It's just catching up. It's needed."

An intersection of perspectives

Gilbert, a painter and printmaker who is completing an internship at The Rooms, moved to Newfoundland and Labrador from Texas in 2014. Her work looks at the definition of "home" through a multicultural lens.

Gilbert said she uses art to understand the intersection between her maternal family's history in Newfoundland, her father's background in Texas, and her ancestors, who were slaves.

Submitted by Rachel Gilbert
Submitted by Rachel Gilbert

"[I'm] working to create work that will help me understand my past, and my history, and how it relates to Newfoundland and Newfoundland history and people working with what they have, and coming all the way over here and living," Gilbert said.

Ana Luísa Ramos is a Brazilian singer, songwriter, and voice teacher based in St. John's. Her first album came out in 2016, and her next one will be released in September.

LISTEN | Ana Luísa Ramos and Eric Taylor Escudero chat about making music together on First Listen

Ramos joined the BIPOC Creators Collective because she believes it's important for artists to support each other.

"I really think that together we are stronger in every way," Ramos said.

She's also one half of the duo Ana & Eric, with Eric Taylor Escudero.

Submitted by the BIPOC Creators Collective of NL
Submitted by the BIPOC Creators Collective of NL

Ramos also explores multiculturalism through her work. Ana & Eric's debut EP, released last year through Lewisporte-based label Citadel House, features songs in both English and Portuguese, and a cross-section of genres ranging from folk to pop, to bossa nova.

The duo's next album, coming in 2022, was partly inspired by their experience of living in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"We have so much inspiration here," Ramos said. "It's a good place to make art."

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.

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