AGO hosts Wikipedia 'edit-a-thon' to boost profiles of Black Canadian artists

Artists and writers gathered to create new Wikipedia pages for prominent Black Canadian artists missing from the world's sixth-most visited web site. Much of the work will be sourced directly from the AGO's extensive archives.

The new entries will be sourced through the Art Gallery of Ontario's library and archives

Volunteer writers say Black Canadian artists are underrepresented on Wikipedia. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

You can find their work on the gallery walls and in the archives of the Art Gallery of Ontario, but many of Canada's Black artists are missing from one of the world's most relied upon databases: Wikipedia.

To change that, around two dozen people brought their laptops to the AGO on Wednesday evening for a Wikipedia "edit-a-thon," where they built pages for artists who are missing from the world's sixth most popular web site.

"There are very few Black Canadian artists on Wikipedia," said the Toronto-based artist Michele Pearson Clarke, who's building a page for photographer June Clark.

Amidst a pile of books, clippings and posters, Yaniya Lee worked on a page for the visual artist Grace Channer, who also happens to be her mother.

"It's insane that this doesn't exist already," Lee said. "I'm looking at a stack of books, of exhibitions she's done, there's all of these articles yet [the Wikipedia page] is not there."

Before the editing began, AGO staff held a short presentation explaining how to access the gallery's archives, since poorly-cited Wikipedia articles can be swiftly deleted from the site.

The Art Gallery of Ontario hosted a Wikipedia 'edit-a-thon' to boost profiles of Black Canadian artists. 1:38

"When you're making a page and you're a new content creator, they're just really tough on you," J Alvarenga explained.

Alvarenga says some of her previous efforts at Wikipedia pages have been deleted, but her latest attempt on behalf artist Kara Springer may fare better with the backing of the material from the AGO's library.

When the pages go live, Toronto artists already on the site say the next round of Wikipedia-approved artists could see a bump in their profile.

"To be on that page, it's not necessarily like it validates you so much as it just helps people to get to know who you are," said Toronto-based artist Deanna Bowen.

As another bonus, the AGO says the pages will breathe new life and provide a new audience for material that's been hidden for too long in the stacks of its library.

"We have a research library here at AGO which has a lot of amazing information about visual artists but when we think about reaching a wider audience with that material, Wikipedia is really great medium to do that," said Amy Furness, AGO's head of library and archives.