Nia Centre for the Arts, 2023 Finalist

Nia Centre for the Arts is a Toronto-based charitable organization that promotes and showcases art from Canada’s Black diaspora. The Centre supports the holistic development of artists through public art showcases, educational workshops and professional development programs. A new 16,000 sq ft, purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility designed to nurture and support Toronto’s Black artistic community is currently being constructed, and is set to open in 2023.

With thanks to the Nia Centre, we got to learn more about their work and how it feels to be a 2023 finalist. Learn more below.

Describe the work of your organization, and why this work is important.

Nia Centre for the Arts works year-round to provide creative youth a space to make art without boundaries. Toronto has never seen Black cultural and artistic traditions woven into the arts landscape year round in the city. Nia Centre was founded with the intent to change that narrative. In our youth programs, young creatives are able to explore a range of artistic disciplines from a foundation of support, care and cultural affirmation for the work that they create.Young people have access to the materials, software programs and equipment that they may not have anywhere else. These programs are an avenue for young creatives to meet friends, mentors and future artistic collaborators who believe in their work. Artists from our community have made major global achievements and undeniably changed the social fabric of Toronto. Still, our traditions have not been adequately credited or appreciated. This erasure signals to a new generation that they do not have a path to pursue. That’s why our work is so important. We see the lasting impact of these opportunities each year as young creatives choose to pursue careers in the arts and continue to tell the stories of our community.

Tell us what it means to be recognized as a Toronto Arts Foundation Award finalist.

Though the Nia Centre is Canada’s first professional multi-disciplinary Black arts centre, we are not the first people to do this work. We are part of a long lineage of grassroots community initiatives and organizations that have been investing in and supporting Black Canadian talent, without celebration, for decades. Our own work is grounded by the teaching of the artistic elders in our community who dedicated their lives to making sure our stories were written, photographed and painted. Being nominated for this award is testament to the promising future of Black Canadian art, and a sign to Black youth across the city that they matter. Importantly, this nomination is a testament to the work that our elders and ancestors have done to make sure we never forget our own magic.