What makes an artist? It is a profession, or an identity? Can you be an artist if you are incapable physically or financially, or must you work at it constantly to be legitimate? Do you become an artist, or is it something you are born with?
These are questions artists face internally as well as externally all the time. Art in its many forms is widely considered a risky career choice. It is thought to be unstable, unpredictable, and hard. It is not for nothing that the “starving artist” is such a well-known expression. Many visual, musical, and performance artists often struggle to find paying work to support their families. Some have to put aside their art for a more “practical” job.
RAW Artists is a movement seeking to change the way artists interact with and are perceived in their communities, and they’re doing it one city at a time. Last week I attended their RAW Toronto show in Maison Mercer, an event to showcase local underground talent and generate sales in hopes of making it easier to be a creative Torontonian. My friend and colleague Emma McArdle-Hughes had scored a 4-foot table at the event to demonstrate her makeup artistry in a live environment, and my camera followed her for a couple hours on this rainy St. Patrick’s Day. As a professionally trained makeup artist, Emma draws on a wide wealth of knowledge in both simple smoky eye looks and extreme prosthetics for film. Her artistry was recently featured in Vogue Italia.
There were dozens of other artists in the building, each just as unique and special as Emma. Visual artists displayed prints, photographs, collages and paintings (for sale on the Square system). Crafty artisans hung sparkling jewellery and pins on chicken wire and vintage teacups. Spoken word artists performed slam poems and original songs on the central stage, shaking the venue with booming music. And at the bar, another type of art entirely was served. The crowd had a fair representation of men and women, and I even spotted a few couples on date night. It was a fantastic opportunity for the city to boast of its talents and for residents to explore. For Emma, at least, the night was a success. Many business cards were exchanged, and I think that she was even pleased with the makeup she had applied on her models in the near-dark.
If you’re looking to attend the next RAW Toronto show on June 16th at 8 PM, please reach out to one of the listed artists to purchase your ticket. It helps them cover their entry cost and sets them up for success. Many thanks to the organizers for inviting me!
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