By Alvin Tsang
A celebration of arts and cultural pluralism that had been postponed since May 2020 was finally held last month.
TOGETHER: Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario Showcase took place on Friday, Sept. 24 at Parkdale Park. It was put together by four different arts organizations, the Wellington West BIA, nine artists and six performers.
Alejandro Salgado Cendales, founder and director of the non-profit Multicultural Artists Coalition, helps immigrant and refugee artists find spaces for their art and navigate the cultural sector in Ottawa. He was the emcee and host of the showcase.
“We want to teach artists how to navigate the new normal, how to build a presence online and how to monetize that presence,” Salgado Cendales said.
The series of workshops were funded by the Ontario Arts Council. Salgado Cendales described the difficulty and lack of opportunities felt by systemically marginalized artists, and how important it was for artists to be paid and appreciated.
“That was the idea behind our project, and this showcase is the culmination of the project where our artists can finally show their work and, of course, be paid for their talents,” he said.
“It is so nice to see the demographic changes reflected in the spaces of art and in the cultural arts program,” Salgado Cendales added. “We are celebrating diversity and inclusion within the arts, and we are celebrating this as a community and as a collective social fabric that is rapidly changing.”
Each artist showcased their paintings on display racks and, throughout the night, were called up on stage to discuss their works for 10 minutes.
Donia Al-Issa, a Canadian artist from Libya, had three acrylic paintings on display. Her paintings were inspired by the isolation she felt in the pandemic, and she used recycled and reused canvases that other artists had discarded.
“I was trying to give the canvases life,” Al-Issa said. “Art isn’t always sustainable, and I’m trying my best as an artist to make art sustainable.”
Al-Issa signed all her art pieces with her Arabic first name as the signature.
“I think it’s really special to reclaim and express my Arabic culture,” she said.
Alex Maltby from Arts Network Ottawa was one of the event organizers. He explained the partnerships — between the Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO), Arts Network Ottawa, Multicultural Arts for Schools and Communities (MASC) and the Multicultural Artists Coalition — and how all these organizations came together to form the Ottawa chapter of this arts initiative.
“Together: CPAMO Showcase is a cross-pollination of immigrant and refugee artists,” Maltby said. “We felt it was important for all these organizations and artists to convene and meet in person and to demonstrate the brilliance of art.”