Where do artists of color go? This is the question that art collective Uproot YYC are striving to answer at their event, Intersections. Uproot YYC’s mission is to take a stand against the art scene in Calgary for its lack of representation, diversity and colour.

Mel Vee is a spoken word artist, one of the founders of Uproot YYC and a proud woman of colour. She talks passionately about the cultural climate in the Calgary art scene.

“Our expression is valid. We are just as professional as anyone else and we are really looking into elevating that platform and addressing systemic racism in the arts,” she said.

Many others like Mel Vee argue that racism in the arts needs to be called out.

Mel Vee, one of the founders of Uproot YYC, sits down at her event Intersections and talks about her personal experiences as a racialized artist in Calgary. Vee says in order for there to be change in art scene in Calgary, artist’s of colours’ voices need to be heard. Photo by Badria Abubaker.

“Not feeling supported as an artist of colour, many of us came to our practice on our own and stumbled through it and no one really encouraged us to be artists.”-Mel Vee

“The racism is not often blatant through kind of the subtle forms of ‘Get Out’ kind of racism if you get what I mean … that’s how racism operates in the art world, it is very subtle and hard to call out.”

She adds the many forms of racism that exists in the arts. “I mean racism is everywhere, but we are specifically addressing it in the arts and intersections really is just shining a light on that.”

Uproot YYC has been working towards addressing those issues specifically by hosting events in the city that moonlight as safe spaces for visible minorities and those that identify on the LBGTQ spectrum. The organization is providing minority artists spaces to express themselves freely.

Ada Arts, is one third of Uproot YYC’s group of founders and says events like Intersections will bring change to Calgary’s art scene. She specializes in community outreach and works closely with Community Wise, a Calgary based organization dedicated to community development along with other community outreach programs in Calgary. Photo by Badria Abubaker.

“I have two daughters and I want them to be able walk down the street or walk down a gallery and go, ‘Oh my gosh there is someone who looks like me.’”-Ada Arts

Ada Arts, one of the co-founders of Uproot YYC has witnessed the need for representation in the Calgary arts community first hand.

“I’ve lived in Alberta for 35 years and when I look around, I don’t see a lot of depiction of people who look like me. I think it is very important that there is an opportunity to see images like that. I’m not seeing them in the galleries, so why not create a space so all of the colors of the rainbow people can be seen,” she said.

Uproot YYC and events like Intersections were founded on the notion that representation matters. The organization not only hosts events to showcase racialized artists, but also provides support in other ways, such as applying for grants and funding, networking and acting as a point of contact.

“The common vision we had was supporting artists of colour, supporting them in community because my background is in community development, creating a safe place where they can come share ideas, and create art collaborations,” said Arts.

“I feel like intersecting identities contributes to a larger community here in Calgary.”- Dan Cardinal

Dan Cardinal McCartney is one of the artists that showcased his most recent project, Apples at Intersections. The event acted as an outlet for him to express the many facets of his intersecting identities.

“I feel that most of the Calgary art scene does not include marginalized groups of people and I felt like Uproot was a really safe organization to showcase my work with since they are all people of colour, I felt very welcomed to do so,” he said.

Collin Menzies is one of the many audience members at Intersections. Being an artist himself, he says it’s about time for events like Intersections to take place in Calgary. Menzies says it’s time for the art scene in Calgary to change. Photo by Badria Abubaker.

 “I think it is about time that this is happening and i just hope that it inspires more change and it inspires more empowerment.”- Colin Menzies

Audience member Colin Menzies, a local art gallery owner, said he was excited to see diversity celebrated in the arts community.

“I saw such a mix of creative people that is so refreshing to see in this city. I saw a space that was created that was safe to express their authenticities, their culture, their independent point of view and their perspective on the world, ” he said.

Keep an eye out for future Uproot YYC events on their facebook page.

babubaker@cjournal.ca

Editor: Kate Paton | cpaton@cjournal.ca