Interview with Britta B.

Britta B. was the recipient of our Emerging Artist Award in 2021

March 2022

Britta B. is a Toronto based artist, spoken word poet, performer, emcee, voice actor and educator. She was the finalist of our Emerging Artist Award (now referred to as Breakthrough Artist Award) in 2020 and 2021, and recipient of the award in 2021. 

As we congratulate and celebrate the amazing finalists of our 2022 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards, we spoke with Britta about being nominated twice for the award, the impact of winning and other things.

Portrait of Britta B.

1.   How did it feel to be nominated and then be announced as the recipient of the Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award?

I was shocked. Being nominated for a second time came as a surprise; I was a finalist the year before. I wasn’t concerned about winning because of the fact that people I respect and admire in Toronto had pushed my name forward… the awareness of this solid community in my corner, this is extremely encouraging. And then when Weyni Mangesha approached the screen to announce the winner for this category, whew! I started to think how cool it would be if Weyni were to announce my name. And she did! To share a moment of shine like that, Black woman to Black woman, artist to artist… It means the most. I hope to pay that type of moment forward many times in the future.   

2.   What has been the impact of winning the award?

To add “award-winning artist” to my bio is LIT. And to be making a living as a full-time artist is a privilege. I think the impact of an award like this is measured in who knows about the application process and that every artist is worthy of being nominated. As someone who has struggled with my artform not being taken seriously in certain spaces, it is a valuable gesture to be considered and to consider oneself a nominee of awards – I encourage all underground artists, artists who push boundaries, artists who do not fit grant application criteria to APPLY!  I am the second spoken word poet to win this award and I hope to see more poets and spoken word artists be celebrated. 

3.   What do you think is the importance of having the Emerging Artist Award (the name has been changed to Breakthrough Artist Award)?

Well, for one I am glad the name of the award has changed to Breakthrough Artist because there are many professional artists who have years of experience and therefore are not new to the arts scene, it’s just that the city hasn’t acknowledged them yet. My hope is that now that we have experienced two virtual Mayor’s Arts Lunch award ceremonies, the hybrid events will include a public live-streaming of award announcements and speeches so that a wider, public audience can have access to watching these artists be recognized in the moment. The award also comes with a sizable cash prize that could mean funds toward a new project for the artist, opportunities to travel or participate in international festivals, leaving the grueling part-time job, health and wellness benefits… Artists often sacrifice the maintenance of their own health to show up to their craft. This award represents a certificate to keep ourselves in check so that we can continue to grow and make a life through art.  

4.   What is your message for emerging artists?

Put yourself out there and share what you learn along the way, keep that gate open. Keep showing up to your craft. Study twice as much as you create. Be an audience to fellow artists.