‘Black Joy is Resistance’ installation to be unveiled at Union Station in the new year

30 November 2022 / by Daniel Centeno

A new art installation, “Black Joy is Resistance”, will debut at Toronto’s Union Station in the new year.

MakeRoom Inc, an organization dedicated to showcasing the work of marignalized BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Persons of Colour) artists, partners with Toronto Union and TD Bank for this Black history open call. 

The theme was born out of a conversation with Toronto artist, activist, and mental health advocate, Gloria C. Swain, who told MakeRoom that “Black Joy is Resistance,” according to MakeRoom founder Trevor Twells. 

The open call, which was held until Nov. 8, is solely for Black artists. 

“Black voices who have been ignored for far too long, who have been belittled by those who are themselves small-minded, and marginalized into boxes to comfort gazes that are not their own,” the open call’s description reads. 

Twells said the theme is a response to “resilience being phased out.”

“Often times when you talk about Black stories, people talk about struggle,” he added. “That struggle deals with rolling through the punches despite the status quo, without actually changing the status quo.” 

Twells said he hopes the open call will gather more stories about both resilience and resistance.

“Black joy, despite the systemic barriers we face, is resistance – just being here is resistance,” he said.“Living and having purpose and being joyful is some of the most revolutionary things you can do as a person in the systems that we live in.” 

During the curation process, which ended on Nov. 25, Twells and two anonymous jurors selected the winning art pieces. The anonymity was to allow transparency in the selection process, Twells said.

While the pieces have not been publicly named as of yet, Twells said the city can expect to see themes about family joy, Black futures, Black pasts and “joy in just being rooted here, and thinking beyond yourself.”

A notable standout from the pieces, accordinng to Twells, is moving away from “stock image depictions of Black faces smiling” that he said are common place in magazines trying to be diverse.

“We wanted at its core, joy, and it comes in many flavours.” 

A microsite for the installation is expected to be set up soon, and will include artist bios and descriptions of the selected pieces.

Listen to Trevor Twells’ full interview: