OCAD U launching site on Black artists and representation

Andrea Fatona is trying to rectify the invisibility of the country's Black visual artists

As organizations throughout the country are tackling institutionalized racism, one professor at OCAD University is working to increase the visibility of Black artists in Canada. 

Dr. Andrea Fatona, an independent art curator and associate professor at OCAD U’s faculty of art, has spent much of her career trying to make up for the lack of Black visual art from the country’s “official records,” which consist of art critics’ reviews and art archives.

Fatona is launching a reimagined version of her website The State Of Blackness: From Production To Presentation, which was originally started as a way to document an OCAD U conference from 2014.

“This resource is about making it clear that we are here and the work is being done,” says Fatona in an OCAD U press release. “As we try to decolonize spaces, it’s more important than ever to acknowledge artwork by diverse artists.”

The original two-day conference assembled artists, curators and scholars to examine Black diasporic artistic practice and representation in Canada. Since then, Fatona has expanded the site’s content to include spin-off projects from the conference, including a forum at the 2015 Venice Biennale to build transnational networks for Black Canadian visual artists, and a 2017 collaboration with video art distributor Vtape to compile data on Black Canadian video production.

The site also includes links to important resources such as Canadian Black-owned bookstores, with links to important essays by writers like Lillian Allen, Rinaldo Walcott and Kelsey Adams, among others, as well as links to YouTube and Facebook channels.

Fatona would eventually like to create a searchable, web-based, annotated database that includes visual art, essays and research papers, produced by and about, Black Canadian artists, critics and curators from 1989 to the present. That year was chosen because it comes a year after Canada’s Multiculturalism Act went through.

“When we look around the art world, we see very few racialized artists, particularly Black artists, so I’m trying to understand how multiculturalism worked in terms of providing space, and debunk the myth that Black people are perennial newcomers to Canada,” says Fatona, who’s director of OCAD U’s Criticism and Curatorial Practice graduate program.

OCAD U’s president and vice-chancellor Sara Diamond says Fatona’s work to increase the profile of Black visual artists in Canada aligns with OCAD U’s philosophy.

“Supporting Dr. Fatona’s work to raise the profile of Black visual artists in Canada directly connects to OCAD University’s dedication to championing scholarship that paints a fuller picture of the history of art and art makers in Canada,” says Diamond.


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