Black Artists Union Collective: Supporting Black Artists through Unique Partnerships

The Black Artists Union (BAU) was a Toronto-based collective comprised of 10 emerging Black artists who made significant contributions to the local art community from their formation in 2016 until their dissolution. Renowned for its innovative approach to collaboration, BAU engaged in interesting partnerships that extended beyond the traditional art world, including a notable venture with the online casino industry in Ontario.

The collective’s primary mission was to support and facilitate the movement and exhibition of artists and creators of the African diaspora while representing the ideas and work of contemporary Black creators. Through these dynamic collaborations, BAU not only amplified its mission but also demonstrated the potential for creative intersections between art and other sectors.

Black Artists Union Collective

Mission and Objectives

BAU aimed to provide a platform for Black artists to develop their skills and navigate the art world effectively. The collective employed an art-as-education mentorship model to support its members in developing programming that advanced their artistic and professional skill sets. These experiences were then used to generate public programming that highlighted the concerns facing young artists of colour.

Programming Structure

The collective’s programming structure for 2018 consisted of three major exhibitions that explored themes selected by BAU members, focusing on Black experiences of self-care, livelihood, and the internet. Each exhibition was paired with public programming that extended these themes into pedagogy, creating shared learning opportunities with communities that may not have had access to the same resources. For example:

  • The exhibition about livelihood was paired with a studio-based skills workshop.
  • The exhibition about being Black on the Internet was paired with a video screening.
  • The exhibition about self-care was paired with community conversations and workshops.

Exhibitions and Curated Shows

BAU organized and curated various group exhibitions featuring their members and other artists from 2016 to 2020 in galleries across Toronto. Some notable exhibitions included:

“Night Glow Fabric” (2016)

“Those Who Dance” (2017)

“You Done Taken My Blues And Gone” (2018)

“Open Studio” (2020)

The collective also curated shows featuring other Black artists, such as:

“Island Fraud” (2018)

“Don’t @ Me” (2019)

Workshops, Discussions, and Publications

BAU organized workshops and discussions on various topics relevant to Black artists, such as:

“Black Zinesters” (2018)

“Island Fraud: Becoming Black” (2018)

“Workshop on Art History” (2020)

“Workshop on Technology and Identity” (2020)

The collective was featured in publications like NOW Toronto and received grants, including the Youth Opportunity Fund from the Ontario Trillium Fund (2019-2020).

Micro-Grants for Emerging Black Entrepreneurs and Creatives

Black Women with Money Grant

In addition to their artistic endeavours, BAU offered micro-grants (up to $1000 per grant) to support emerging Black entrepreneurs and creatives, prioritizing Black women and LGBTQ+ individuals, in developing new products, services, or business ideas. This initiative aimed to help Black individuals refine their side hustles, create prototypes, or take their entrepreneurial ideas to the next level.

Building Partnerships: Beyond Art

In a progressive move towards sustainability and enhanced community involvement, the Black Artists Union (BAU) has initiated partnerships with local enterprises, notably engaging with the emerging online casino sector in Ontario. This strategy not only broadens BAU’s financial bases but also resonates with the province’s evolving regulations on online gambling, which stress the importance of responsible gambling and its benefits to the community.

Aligning with Gambling Regulations

Ontario’s regulatory framework for online casinos, aimed at fostering a safe and responsible gaming environment, has paved the way for community organizations like BAU to collaborate in ways that endorse social responsibility. These alliances have strategically positioned BAU to bolster its wide array of initiatives, ranging from mentorship programs to micro-grants, all while contributing to responsible gambling awareness within the community.

Creative Fundraising

The engagement with Ontario online casinos is particularly remarkable for its inventive fundraising methods. Through events and fundraisers that align with BAU’s mission, the collective has successfully merged the allure of gaming with a strong emphasis on artistic and cultural appreciation. Such events provide a stage for displaying BAU members’ talents, furthering the collective’s goal to elevate and spotlight Black art and artists.

These partnerships also highlight BAU’s commitment to conscientious community involvement. By associating with online casinos regulated under Ontario’s strict gambling guidelines, BAU ensures its supported events and initiatives adhere to responsible gambling practices. This includes advocating for measures that prevent underage gambling, endorsing self-exclusion schemes, and assisting individuals potentially affected by gambling-related issues.

Model for Community Partnership

The collaboration between BAU’s artistic endeavours and the online casino industry’s resources illustrates an innovative model of community partnership. This not only enhances BAU’s influence but also establishes a benchmark for how regulated sectors can work with community groups to promote a more responsible and inclusive society. As BAU continues to explore such ground-breaking partnerships, it sets the stage for a new standard in community engagement and support rooted in mutual respect, accountability, and a collective vision for a thriving, dynamic community.