This temporary installation of student artwork in the Historic Stairwell between the second and third floors in the Daniels Building is a reflection of multiple and diverse interpretations of Black flourishing and diverse reflections of Blackness in design and in community.
In response to an open call by the Daniels Art Directive and the Daniels Faculty during the Winter 2023 term, these six artists offer their creative expression of Black traditions and futures of excellence. In alignment with the broad objectives of the University of Toronto’s Anti-Black Racism Report (2021) and the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Higher Education: Principles, Actions and Accountabilities (2021), this installation celebrates and promotes Black art and representation in university spaces.
Black Flourishing by Ally DeLuca
“This work explores the concept of ‘Black Flourishing’ and the ample consciousness and understanding of black human power. The viewer will notice the portrait is in black and white, which conveys that race, ethnicity and one’s background do not impact one’s creative capabilities, which are represented by the bright and colourful explosion of imagination that is emanating from the subject’s mind.”
To Become by Renée Powell-Hines
“I said to the sun, ‘Tell me about the big bang.’ The sun said, ‘It hurts to become.’ ” - Unknown
“To Become centres around my interpretation of change. The focus of this piece is the toll of change, and the impact of the hand, forever taking, on our natural environment, struggling to give. This concept of the toll of change can be seen and felt in many aspects of everyday life; in contrast, sometimes monotony can take just as much of a negative toll. A lack of change can perpetuate a tendentious system, and if that system alienates or neglects a set group of people, this creates a barrier to success. Unfortunately, the onus to enact change is often placed on that neglected group, which already struggles due to a lack of support and is then further weighed down with the responsibility to lift itself and its people up. They are forced to give every part of themselves to a system that holds one hand out and conceals a wealth of untapped resources in the other; but still, the alienated will press on, with the hope that the next generation will benefit from their timeless efforts.”
Boxed In by Kodi Ume-Onyido
“In my acrylic piece, Boxed In, I explore the relationship between myself, a black student, and the work environment at the Daniels Faculty. In order to reveal the subtle yet extreme differences in experiences between myself and other students, I recreated the everyday happening of working in the studio. The architecture materials sprawled upon and under the table depict the willingness and tenacious work ethic that black students display, but also our responsibility to succeed under any circumstance. Ghosted figures interact with one another as I am surrounded by empty chairs in a deconstructed black box that symbolizes the discrete lack of relationality I feel as the only black male in second year. The box is “exploding,” rather than being completely enclosed, to represent the openness and inclusivity that Daniels focuses on and is progressively improving. This aligns with the theme of the open call due to the piece representing the common black experience at the Daniels faculty. Although the painting seems to show isolation, it actually promotes the idea of representation and multiculturalism that the University of Toronto strives to achieve and strengthen through the placement of chairs. Rather than being tucked in and unapproachable, the seats are scattered and facing figures that appear to have just gotten up, inviting them to once again take a seat at their leisure.”
Who We Are by Tamilore Ayeye
“As Black students, we are often questioned about our identity and values but that should never be the case. I often ask myself, ‘Who are we?’ ‘What are the values that embody the Black community?’ My intention for this mural is to celebrate and honour the richness and diversity of Black culture and identity. I aim to showcase the words that highlight the resilience and strength of the Black community and to create a space that affirms Black students, staff and visitors in our school. Through this mural, I hope to empower and inspire Black students to embrace who they are and truly believe in their uniqueness within their heritage with pride and to recognize their full potential to thrive and succeed. I have chosen the values of ‘Bold, Love, Action, Courage, Kind’ as the words centres on the mural in a college with leaves in the background signifying growth as a community. These words are not just an answer to the question of this mural but to also embody the values and aspirations of the Black community and to inspire everyone who sees this mural to embody these values in their own lives. I believe that this mural will serve as a beacon of hope, resilience and affirmation for the black community at Daniels and I am excited to see the impact it has on the community at Daniels.”
Black in the crux of Design by Julien Todd
“I wanted to create a piece which depicted the connection Black people have with the construction of modern Turtle Island. I would describe the piece as constructivist. The building centralized in the artwork is a historic image of a building at Bloor and Bathurst, a historically Black neighbourhood in Toronto. It forms a trifecta image with an anonymous Black woman and a depiction of the mountain scape in Banff, Alberta, a place where, historically, Black people were excluded from bathing in the natural springs. This image is representative of the Black experience in Canada with regard to the natural landscape and urban setting. Black people have historically experienced exclusion in both settings yet remained in Canada and left a mark on the cultural fabric of the country. Bloor and Bathurst, often referred to as “Blackhurst,” was a haven for Black immigrants to the country and is a testament to their resilience. The piece depicts how, even though Black people immigrating to this country were not welcomed on the land, they still found connection and established a home. This home is represented as still in construction within the work. The work empowers the spirit of Black resilience and prides Black constructivist design in a social and physical context.”
See Me by Tomi Bamigbade
“The art piece highlights the representation of Black identities and Black experience. Often Black people are put in a box, identified by their hair and other physical appearance. This artwork highlights that Black people should not be put in a box due to their physical features but be seen for who they are on the inside. They are people who are more than their appearance and are capable of accomplishing amazing things. This digital art piece is also meant to bring light to digital art and afrofuturism. Black people are capable of having a place in the technology world.”