Arts

Our border may be closed, but this project is pairing Canadians and Americans to make art together

BIPOC artists in both countries interested in collaborating from a distance can apply now to Connecting Perspectives, the latest initiative from the Social Distancing Festival.

BIPOC artists in both countries interested in collaborating from a distance can apply now

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

As the pandemic continues to severely compromise the lives and work of artists across the world, new initiatives — thankfully — continue popping up to try and help. And one of the latest is Connecting Perspectives: A Cross-Border Art Initiative, a spinoff of the Social Distancing Festival (which was one of the first projects CBC Arts highlighted when COVID-19 first hit Canada).

The project aims to pair up 13 Canadian artists with 13 American artists, all of whom identify as Black, Indigenous and/or people of colour — communities that have been particularly impacted by the turbulence and uncertainty of the crisis. Each pair will create new, collaborative works of art together, drawing inspiration from the theme "Art Today." It's the kind of symbolic gesture we could certainly use right now as the physical border between the two countries remains closed.

"Something that I've been moved by during this lockdown is the possibility of connection over long distances," says Nick Green, the creator of the Social Distancing Festival. "I think for a long time, there's been this feeling that meaningful and authentic connection can't happen unless you're face to face, breathing the same air. [But] in the past eight months, I can't even count how many incredible moments of connection I've had over the phone or through a screen. And a huge amount of those times have been in the process of experiencing or creating art."

"I'm really hoping that this opportunity can facilitate even more connection across long distances during a particularly scary and discouraging time."

The Connecting Perspectives logo. (Social Distancing Festival)

The project is being produced and presented by the Social Distancing Festival in collaboration with Canada's diplomatic missions in the United States. They are looking for visual artists, choreographers, poets, composer/musicians, and spoken word artists who are "enthusiastic about collaborating on new work that will be presented online."

"The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the art world, while at the same time revealing just how important art can be in times of crisis," says Khawar Nasim, Canada's Acting Consul General in New York. "This initiative is a great opportunity to support our artists, who are often our best ambassadors, as well as to show the power of art in amplifying important voices, bringing people together and generating hope."

The deadline for applying to the project is January 22nd, or once they have reached 400 submissions in total. Given that they are seeking to include participants from across Canada and the United States, they may need to stop accepting applications from certain areas if they have received a large amount of submissions.

"We've developed an application process that, I think, will give the artists an opportunity to show the jury who they are and what kind of art they love to make, while not having to take a day off work to fill it out," Green adds. "So far the submissions we've reviewed have been astounding. I have no idea how the jury is going to choose."

This initiative is a great opportunity to support our artists, who are often our best ambassadors, as well as to show the power of art in amplifying important voices, bringing people together, and generating hope.- Khawar Nasim, Canada's Acting Consul General in New York

All participants will receive a fee of $1000 USD, as well as $200 USD for expenses. These artists must have a minimum of two years professional experience and be available to work on the project between February and the end of April 2021. 

"I'm excited to see who steps up to this challenge and which cultural backgrounds are represented," says Tawhida Tanya Evanson, the project's Artistic Associate. "I expect to see applications from emerging artists, but also mid-career artists who are seeking to widen the breadth of their practice and expand their network. This is a great opportunity at a time when communication and acts of bold unity are vital."

For more information, check out the initiative's website

About the Author

Peter Knegt (he/him) has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and spearheading the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag and interactive project Superqueeroes, both of which won him 2020 Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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