Arts and culture

Art Toronto 2020: Shining a light on emerging artists in challenging times


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Working more closely than ever, Art Toronto and RBC are using the digital world to continue to profile Canada's most exciting talent. 

close up paint brushes

Throughout the pandemic, we've continually been confronted with the question of how we connect with others when we can't share the same space. But for the arts community, this disconnect—the abandonment of the physical spaces it relies on like museums, galleries, shared studios—presents a philosophical dilemma.

It's one the arts ecosystem has had to sit with in an attempt to find a way forward, says Stephanie Lupinacci, senior manager of social impact and corporate citizenship at Royal Bank of Canada.

“We're so accustomed to enjoying or consuming (art) physically—(but) we are not entering the digital era, we're in it,” says Lupinacci. “COVID-19 has expanded that exponentially by, five or ten years. . . and I think, with the art communities, we really didn't give much consideration to what that means for artists.”

Artists help us make sense of who we are and the time we're living through, that nowness we so often lose between future and past. In a way, COVID-19 has called on the arts ecosystem that supports and funds artists to also reflect the times we're living in. For arts organizations, says Lupinacci, that means adapting the way it supports in order to give equal weight to both person-to-person interactions and digital exposure.

 How are we ensuring all of our programs that we're funding still offer the physical in-person [experience] when we actually reconvene to the new normal?” she says. But it's also about how the ecosystem ensures “we continue on that digital journey and offer exposure opportunities that are enabling our artists to continue to profile and expand their networks through digital experiences.”

Elevating the art community, who enrich and inspire us all.

The RBC-supported Art Toronto 2020 fair is a prime example of that transitionary moment artists are living through. The event—dubbed “Canada's Art Fair”—stitches together virtual exhibitions, curated collections, talks, and tours in galleries and museums across Canada. Fair director Mia Nielson says: “It's exciting to work with a committed partner in RBC, their support of the art market and fostering culture in Canada is crucial to creators.”

Under the RBC Emerging Artists Project, a new video series, From Within, looks to go deeper into the mind of the artists, profiling five of Canada's notable emerging visual artists, the space they work in and their unique view of the world. It's an intimate look at some of Canada's emerging artistic talent.

Artists can inspire us, not just through their work, but through their reflections and perspectives.

The vision for the series was not just to look at emerging artists creating but to hear them reflect on what motivates them to create – what shapes their inspiration and outlook on the world? When we understand an artist's journey, we have a deeper understanding and appreciation for their work.

When we understand an artist's journey, we have a deeper understanding and appreciation for their work.

“RBC has a long tradition of supporting the art community in Canada” says David Agnew, CEO RBC Wealth Management Canada. “We're proud to continue our lead sponsorship of Art Toronto and bring together the best of the Canadian art community in this new virtual environment.”

But Lupinacci says this digital pivot is bigger than the present moment we're living in. It's about safeguarding and protecting artists going forward, allowing for digital growth in a world that's shown no sign of going back to the way it was before. “We're providing them a bigger and a broader bandwidth,” she says. It gives Canadians across the country, whether they're in a remote community or major city with multiple galleries, the opportunity to experience artists and art they might not be able to otherwise find.

The video series, which profiles Anique Jordan, Marigold Santos, Jagdeep RainaDarcie Bernhardt and Caroline Monnet, will be on show at this year's virtual Art Toronto fair. “It really allows them to make broader connections,” says Lupinacci. This series is another demonstration of RBC's commitment to elevating the exposure of Canada's emerging talent.

“We know the true nature of artists is to be able to share their artwork and it's really important to us that RBC is providing them opportunities to showcase and provide exposure opportunities to them,” says Lupinacci. “We're working with different agencies and different partners that have similar mindsets and are on this journey with us as well.”

We know the new world will blend virtual and physical environments but beyond that, how we interact and how we share spaces are impossible questions to answer at this moment in time. “I don't think it's going to be where we are right now,” says Lupinacci.