Platform A: strengthening communities one microgrant at a time

Featured Story: Platform A

March 2016

Artist Adrienne Marcus Raja ready to lead the 'Exploring Cameraless Animation Workshop.' Photo by Liam Coo

In 2016, a total of 77 arts projects are being funded through Platform A, a partnership program that offers microgrants to under-resourced artists and collectives.

“When I was a newcomer to Canada in 2009, I had never been actively involved in a community-engaged project, nor did I know much about the different communities that exist here. Jumblies and Platform A became my starting point for exploring new territories and meeting new people,” states artist Adrienne Marcus Raja who is originally from Sarawak, Malaysia.

Raja is a media artist who recently facilitated an experimental film program in the Jumblies studio. Participants were encouraged to draw on and manipulate 16mm celluloid film to create animations. “The artistic process is painstakingly slow, but one can experiment without worrying about perfection… I hoped that, through these workshops, participants would have fun playing with this form that is rapidly disappearing in the wake of digital technology,” Raja explains. Individuals of all kinds attended the workshops, which were held during Jumblies’ regular drop-in arts sessions. “We had kids as young as 7 years old to adults of all ages dropping by and leaving a mark on the film,” notes Raja.  

The artist has a unique relationship with the Platform A program. She was first introduced to Platform A in 2013 when she received a micro-grant to intern at Jumblies Studio, one of four partner organizations of the program. “Throughout my Platform A internship, Jumblies provided me with a safe learning space where artists and community members could build trust and mutual respect while exploring and working alongside each other.” For Raja, the community connections gained through Jumblies was essential to her growth as an artist. She explains:

Raja and participants at the Jumblies Studio. Photo by Liam Coo

“I have to admit that I was – and still am – part of an indigenous community that has traditionally had little experience, or interest in, cultures other than its own.  It has been a big step for me to go outside my own small sphere of existence and engage with other communities and beliefs, but it has deepened my awareness of and respect for other cultures. Platform A, especially with Jumblies, has played a big part in providing a path for me, to move further in seeing how making art can bring people together from different backgrounds, especially fellow newcomers, to create memories and gain new knowledge about the land we currently stand on.”

The other Platform A partner organizations include SKETCH, VIBE Arts, and Art Starts, all of which are deeply connected to communities of emerging, newcomer or under-resourced artists. Outreach to potential applicants, administration and adjudication of the applications are all executed by the four partnering organizations. In addition, bridge-building and mentorship opportunities are provided. As these are often the first grants they receive, the Platform A initiative plays a significant role in introducing the granting system to new applicants, and enables TAC funding to impact a wider network of artists.

Adrienne Raja’s story is one of many from artists who have benefited from the Platform A program. Originally from India with a background in architecture and folk art, Poonam Sharma captivated St. James Town just one year after moving to Canada with her project entitled Mirror Me (funded in 2014 through Art Starts). With this project, Sharma encouraged local youth to explore self-identity through the art of collage. Poonam explains the significance of the grant:

"You are new in a country and meet new faces every day. You have your art and wonderful ideas. The only thing that you look for is a helping hand. Someone who shows trust in you. And this is what I got from Art Starts and Platform A. My first microgrant that gave me strength to turn my dream project into reality. My first step into this new world of art.”

A view of the A Show at Jumblies Studio in 2014. Photo by Katherine Fleitas

Since the completion of this project, Sharma’s success continues; in 2015 she received her first TAC Community Arts project grant for Mural of Nations, a public mural that was created in St James Town, and she received a micro-award through the Toronto Arts Foundation RBC Arts Access Fund which gave her the opportunity to increase her artistic skills by learning Blue Pottery.

In the fall each year when Platform A projects are complete, Jumblies Theatre hosts an exhibition called A Show that showcases all of the work that was produced. It’s a great opportunity for artists like Raja and Sharma to network and display their work. Liz Forsberg, Executive Director of Art Starts, reflects on A Show: “There is so much creative energy in the room and the feeling that people are tapping in to their fullest potential in actualizing their creative projects is infectious. It's an important space for them so that they can form networks amongst each other, meet potential collaborators, form support networks and form audiences for their work.”

Click HERE to see the most recent recipients of Platform A micro-grants 

Click HERE for details about the program

View Adrienne Marcus Raja's work:

Click HERE to read more about Poonam Sharma

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