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Scratch & Mix Exhibition launches at AGO with high-energy Youth Solidarity Forum featuring artists, activists and performances

The Michaëlle Jean Foundation, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Environics Institute’s Black Experience Project and NIA Centre for the Arts come together to empower black youth in the GTA

TORONTO— Eleven extraordinary emerging artists from the GTA’s black communities have been selected as winners of the 2015 Scratch & Mix Project. An exhibition of their work will open at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on April 18. The eleven artists were chosen as part of a citywide arts competition to create art that speaks to the theme of “Empowering the Black Community.” Inspired by the AGO’s Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s The Time exhibition, each work reflects an intergenerational collaboration between the artist and a professional artist mentor. Learn more about the individual artists here. The Scratch & Mix Exhibition will be on view at the AGO until August 30, 2015, and is free to the public during regular gallery hours.

To celebrate the launch of the exhibition, the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Environics Institute’s Black Experience Project (BEP) and Nia Centre for the Arts will host a Youth Solidarity Forum on April 18, 2015 from 12 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre.

Bringing together Toronto community leaders, artists and youth, this free event will be moderated by Femi Lawson, Director of Community Outreach at Highclass. Guest speakers and performers will include the Hon. Michael Coteau, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Responsible for the 2015 Pan, Parapan American Games, cultural and political critic Rinaldo Walcott, as well as international Hip Hop producer and Juno-award nominee Rich Kidd.

Following a panel discussion with the winning artists, participants will be invited to attend a series of workshops on community safety, physical and mental health, education, employment and media representation. These workshops will focus on identifying arts-based strategies to tackle priority issues identified by black communities throughout the GTA and on developing a grassroots community action plan to support black youth in their efforts to revitalize their neighbourhoods across the GTA. During the forum, participants will have the opportunity to visit the Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now's the Time exhibition.

The public can register to attend the forum by visiting the registration page: http://bit.ly/1yGkj4z.

About the Scratch & Mix Project
The Scratch & Mix Project is the latest edition of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation’s national program 4th Wall: Make the Invisible Visible, which opens the doors of Canada’s leading cultural institutions to showcase the artwork, experiences and transformative ideas of underrepresented youth. The project is also an integral part of the BEP, being led by the Environics Institute, which is conducting an unprecedented GTA-wide study to better understand the lived experiences of individuals within black communities and the factors leading to their successes and challenges. The Scratch & Mix Project draws its inspiration from the AGO’s Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition, which showcases the artist’s work and his desire to address issues of social justice—including racism, materialism and exploitation. It is sponsored by TD Bank Group with additional support provided by Region of Peel and the City of Toronto. The project benefits from the support of a series of collaborative and supporting partners such as the African Canadian Legal Clinic, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and several other organizations from across the GTA.

About the 4th Wall Program
In theatre, the “fourth wall” is an imaginary screen that creates a virtual separation between actor and spectator. There are many ways to cross the fourth wall and to make the invisible visible. The Michaëlle Jean Foundation chose to do so through the 4th Wall: Make the Invisible Visible program, in collaboration with several prestigious Canadian museums and art galleries. The goal is to invite young creators to break down the invisible walls that create solitudes between individuals and communities across Canada, by opening the doors of our major cultural institutions to emerging creators from marginalized backgrounds. The Foundation offers museum and art gallery space and bursaries to youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, often cut off from museums, so that they can produce original art that conveys their experiences, ideas and challenges. On display for the public to see, their work provokes debate and builds solutions. 4th Wall exhibitions have been featured at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, to mark Black History Month in collaboration with FRO Foundation, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, to celebrate World Pride 2014, and at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, to raise awareness about young Canadians’ perspectives on justice.

About the Michaëlle Jean Foundation
The Michaëlle Jean Foundation supports youth arts initiatives that transform young lives and revitalize underserved communities across Canada. Through our programs, underprivileged youth are using their creativity to build new solutions to pressing social issues, like poverty, social exclusion and mental health. In so doing, they are catalyzing innovative community renewal projects, driving crucial Aboriginal cultural resurgence initiatives and kick-starting cutting-edge business ventures, all over the country. For more info: www.fmjf.ca.

About the Art Gallery of Ontario
With a collection of more than 80,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. From the vast body of Group of Seven and signature Canadian works to the African art gallery, from the cutting-edge contemporary art to Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, the AGO offers an incredible art experience with each visit. In 2002 Ken Thomson’s generous gift of 2,000 remarkable works of Canadian and European art inspired Transformation AGO, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry that in 2008 resulted in one of the most critically acclaimed architectural achievements in North America. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block, and the often-photographed spiral staircase, beckoning visitors to explore. Visit ago.net to find out more about upcoming special exhibitions, to learn about eating and shopping at the AGO, to register for programs and to buy tickets or memberships.

About the Black Experience Project
The Environics Institute, in partnership with Ryerson's Diversity Institute, the United Way of Greater Toronto, and the YMCA of Greater Toronto, is launching a ground-breaking research study focusing on the Black community in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The purpose of this study is to conduct seminal research to better understand the lived experiences of individuals within this community, and the factors leading to their success and challenges. Project results are expected to provide a focal point for the Black community to better harness its assets and expand its successes broadly throughout the entire community. It will help the community build on strategies to move forward, and it will also help the broader community (e.g., community leaders, decision-makers, public) understand and appreciate the vibrancy of the Black community within their vicinity. For more information visit: www.environics.ca/bep-gta.

About Nia Centre for the Arts
Nia Centre for the Arts is a multidisciplinary arts charity that supports, showcases and promotes an appreciation of arts from across the African Diaspora. Nia Centre fundamentally believes in showcasing art for the purpose of human development, and that art is a powerful tool to encourage growth and progress. Nia Centre for the Arts is delighted to retrofit 524 Oakwood Avenue (south of Vaughan Road), to bring a fully accessible 200 seat performance facility into a designated arts community, the Oakwood Village. Nia Centre will create exhibition gallery space, a digital arts incubator and a multi-use space to house programs in Music, Literature, Dance, Photography, Film and Theatre and For more information on our capital campaign, Be Belong Become, visit www.niacentre.org and follow us @Niacentre.

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For more information, please contact:

Peter Flegel
Director of Programs & Communications
Michaëlle Jean Foundation
613.562.5468
pflegel@fmjf.ca

Caitlin Coull
Communications Manager
Art Gallery of Ontario
416.979.6660 ext. 364
caitlin_coull@ago.net

Desmond Miller
Project Coordinator
Environics Institute for Survey Research
416.969.2792
Desmond.miller@environics.ca

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