The arts collective uplifting Black artists and supporting the Black and Indigenous community through mutual aid
Yasmine Elsayed (she/her) // Contributor
While Vancouver is known to have a plethora of art establishments, Black Arts Vancouver seeks to stand out by offering opportunities that open doors to the Pan-African community, which refers to those of Indigenous African descent. They strive to create safe spaces for Black community members to express themselves freely through creativity, made accessible.
Established in 2018, Black Arts Vancouver, run by Chase Keetly (he/him) and Berlynn Beam (they/them), was created to make space for Black artists, creatives and community members. A place where they can feel supported, safe and uplifted in fulfilling their goals. Beam and Keetly create spaces for exploring self-expression through their workshops and classes, they continuously work to shine brightly and stand out with their original approach to art.
As the Director of Communication Programming, Beam expressed that Vancouver’s art scene tends to be mural-based and thus why they aim to break the norms through focusing on a variety of artistic mediums. They also seek opportunities to collect funds for various projects mainly catered to supporting the Vancouver Black community while also helping Black artists gain more exposure and have their voices heard.
Black Arts began with a 3-day workshop consisting of illustration, painting and embroidery. And through these workshops, they realized that there were a large number of interracial adoptees, “that was an eye-opening experience to have in Vancouver,” said Beam. Their experience inspired them to create one of their major ongoing projects, historical Black portraiture, which is a workshop that illuminates Black history in British Columbia. Beam explained that through this project, people would be able to better understand their roots. “It’s putting names to faces, teaching kids history through writing it.”, “you’re drawing a picture that you can take home and hang up on your wall and call back to this kind of experience,” said Beam. Further proving that the power of art can truly change the way we perceive the world’s history.
As for smaller ongoing projects, Black Arts aims to get work by emerging Black artists displayed in restaurants and cafes. By helping them gain exposure, they hope that the artists will be able to one day get the recognition they seek. Beam continues to explain what motivated this project, saying, “we want to build stability for young artists, for people who have never been exhibited.” Even though the initiatives may be small, it’s a great way to jump start their careers.
Collecting funds for community members is also an important part of the work Black Arts does. Currently, they are collecting funds for the Jail Bail Support. Beam explained which establishes a rotating bail fund for Black and Indigenous peoples in Vancouver. Black Arts aims to make this fund province-wide. Back to School Backpacks is another fund they are currently working on, which aims to get 1,500 backpacks, along with school stationery donated to Pan-African families. Black Arts hopes that the Vancouver community will come together and support these initiatives with these two upcoming fundraisers. “Having a supportive community can make a major difference,” said Beam.
To contribute, visit their website (https://blackartsvancouver.com) and Instagram page @blackartsvancouver.