Nia Centre for the Arts

Nia Centre for the Arts is a charitable organization that supports, showcases and promotes an appreciation of arts from across the Afro-Diaspora. They strive to build the creative capacities and support the development of healthy identity in Black youth by connecting them to mentorship, employment opportunities and artistic experiences.

Nia Centre for the Arts gave a lot of insight to their Creative Connect program, it's impact, and the importance of mentoring youth.  

Original photo courtesy of Sanique Walters. Artwork by Amber Williams-King
Can you tell us a bit more about the Creative Connect program?

Creative Connect connects youth and emerging artists between the ages of 14 to 29 with Career Professionals and Artists across art disciplines to expand their knowledge, skills, and build their creative capacities to further prepare them for educational and careers in creative sectors and beyond. Using mentorship, experiential learning opportunities and the arts, Creative Connect is able to; build and improve transferable skills, help young people build community among their peers, showcase and perform their artwork and work with career professionals to pursue their goals. 

How has the mentorship structure of the program helped youth participants?

Our approach to mentorship emphasizes meeting young people where they’re at in terms of their skill sets and experiences. Our group mentorship sessions allow participants to build community connections and mould their artistic voices amongst their peers. Then, once they’re ready, we match them with mentors that can support their growth and guide them through their creative journey. 

What kind of impact are you seeing from the program? How does it help build community?

Creative Connect has created a safe space where youth can explore their identities, connect with their peers and artists with similar goals and interests.  We have seen participants enter the program and not only gain professional work experience, but also build their confidence, a sense of belonging that allows them to walk purposefully along their path to pursue their artistic aspirations.  

Nia Centre always had a vision for a physical space to address the lack of safe spaces for African-Canadian communities. Can you expand on the importance of having a physical space? Can you tell us a bit about how you’re transforming your current facility at 524 Oakwood, and the impact this will have on the community?

Our renovation project will transform our facility into the largest professional multi-disciplinary artspace in Canada dedicated to Black art. The new space will include a live performance venue, digital art studio, visual and recording studios and a gallery and event space. Located in the heart of a historically Caribbean neighbourhood, we will finally have a consistent space that is actually designed for young people, their learning and art.  

It will also allow us to finally provide the entire community with access to art rooted in Black traditions. We want this space to be a central hub for Afro-diasporic art and artists. We believe the lack of Black representation in Canadian art means a misrepresentation of our collective narrative as Canadians. After the renovation, we’ll finally be able to bring Afro-diasporic art to an even larger audience, and support a dynamic and diverse narrative about our community. 

What does it mean to your organization to be nominated for the Arts for Youth Award?

Being able to empower youth through the arts has always been a core part of our mission. Winning this award is a testament to how far we’ve come from our early years to now - operating for over 10 years completely in service to Black youth and their creative potential. We’re thrilled to be recognized and grateful to our community for the support.