In The Making

Curtis Talwst Santiago on growing up Black in Edmonton and the impact of his parents' support

In his episode of In the Making, we follow the Trinidadian-Canadian artist to Portugal — but before that, there was Edmonton.

'There was never any, "No, don't do that, stop singing so loud, you can't be an artist" — anything like that'

(CBC Arts)

In Curtis Talwst Santiago's episode of In the Making, we follow the Trinidadian-Canadian artist's travels through Portugal to explore his ancestry and create artwork to debut at the Frieze art fair in New York.

Before that, though, there was Edmonton. In this clip from In the Making, Santiago talks about his parents' support and growing up Black in Edmonton.

Watch the clip:

Curtis Talwst Santiago on his parents, Edmonton and his calling

3 years ago
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"Then art seeped in and took over and that was the greatest thing for me." 2:00

"My parents are incredible," says Santiago. "My room was my creative hub that I could do anything in. There was never any, 'No, don't do that, stop singing so loud, you can't be an artist' — anything like that."

Santiago's parents emigrated from Trinidad to Fort McMurray, Alberta, and moved to Edmonton where he spent most of his childhood. "They came to Canada to give their kids the best opportunity to do whatever they wanted, to be whatever they wanted, and they really supported that."

A close-up of Curtis Talwst Santiago's artwork. (Curtis Talwst Santiago)

On growing up Black in Edmonton, he reflects: "You don't really notice you're different until people start pointing out you're different." Santiago found the stereotypes placed on him weren't right. "This stereotype of what it means to be a young Black man is not working for me. It wasn't a bother to me until I started feeling different from my Black community. Then I started to travel and meet a range of Black experience."

Before committing to becoming a visual artist, Santiago also made music — something he has shifted away from since. "I was trying to balance becoming a visual artist and being a recording artist." He recounts a time he played his music for a friend, a "music mogul": "He listens to it and he's like, 'This is really good, but it's not great. You can be great in art."

"Then art seeped in and took over and that was the greatest thing for me. I recognized talent vs. calling. I'm a talented singer — I've worked at that — but I feel this realm is my calling."

Stream Curtis Talwst Santiago's episode of In the Making now or watch it this Friday 8:30pm (9pm NT) on CBC TV.

What is In the Making?

In the Making is an immersive journey inside the creative process. The documentary series follows host Sean O'Neill across the country and around the world alongside some of Canada's leading artists as they bring new work to life and face pivotal moments of risk and reward. All eight episodes are available to stream online now, with individual episodes broadcasting weekly each Friday at 8:30pm (9pm NT) on CBC.

Each episode follows an artist from across the creative spectrum — visual art, film, music, dance, theatre — with a unique approach to art-making and something to say about the world. Sean visits artists at home, in studio, backstage, and in the field, giving viewers rare access to intimate creative spaces and inspiring moments of realization.

Watch the trailer:

Stream every episode of In the Making now, or watch Friday at 8:30pm (9pm NT) on CBC TV.

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