In 2016, when 25-year-old artist Just John saw a lack of space for artists of colour in Toronto, he leaped at the opportunity to create one. Enter Blank Canvas, a collective of artists building a vibrant arts community in the city with a focus on emerging and marginalized artists. Now, three years later we’ve partnered with Blank Canvas for a six-week program of FREE After Three Tuesdays titled Drew a Blank. Kicking off this week, the workshops for youth 14–25 years old include everything from grant-writing and financial literacy to photo editing and DJing.
We spoke to Just John to find out more about what inspired the creation of Blank Canvas, what he’s most excited for in the upcoming Drew a Blank workshops and why they’re important for youth.
AGO: What inspired you to start Blank Canvas?
Just John: I think DIY spaces come from the idea of something not being there. If there were already enough opportunities, platforms and spaces for marginalized artists and artists of colour where they feel safe to share their truth, then there wouldn’t be a need for Blank Canvas. It came from this time when I felt there weren’t enough spaces for emerging artists to develop skill, incubate their ideas and collaborate with other artists. I took it upon myself to create a space.
AGO: Is there one workshop you’re most excited about from the Drew a Blank series?
Just John: Though I’m excited about it all, I’m really looking forward to the Let’s Talk About Grants workshop. There are a lot of artists with fantastic ideas who don’t know how to communicate them or develop their grant application properly. I know this because that was my experience when I started Blank Canvas. I created this workshop to provide emerging artists with the tools they need, so they’ll learn how to navigate the grant-writing system.
AGO: Why do you think programming like this is so important for young people?
Just John: It’s really about access. Having these workshops at the AGO is great. It provides an opportunity for young artists to work, grow and develop in an established art institution. Programming like Drew a Blank plants seeds and somewhere down the line one of the artists can say they attended their first workshop at the AGO and it was a Blank Canvas program. To me, that’s very cool.
Want to know more about FREE After Three? Find the full list of courses and workshops here.
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