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In 2018, I went to great lengths to partner with other artist organizations who do the same work as Unity. Those partnerships included Manifesto, Black Canvas, The Remix Project, Black Owned Unity, Redbull Canada, Artscape, The Margins Of Era Gallery and once again R.I.S.E. and Arts Starts. We also focused heavily on bringing our events into communities and spaces where our youth audiences live and practise their art.

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CINEMATOGRAPHY: Steve “Icey” Senga
EDITOR: Andy Gavin Hicks

 

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Instead of hosting our free outdoor concert inside one of Toronto’s outdoor performance spaces, we took over the entire space inside and around Artscape Daniels Spectrum: a community cultural hub in Toronto’s Regent Park, home to many outstanding arts-based and community focused organizations.

Between 3 PM – 8 PM we hosted a number of workshops in dance, spoken word, beatbox, and graffiti while Black Owned Unity curated a marketplace with local black-owned clothing, jewellery, and food vendors. At night we focused on our first 19+ event with live performances by local Toronto favourites Zaki Ibrahim, Witch Prophet, Just John, The Sorority, Adria Kain and one of my personal favourites Monte Booker from Chicago.

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Six individual paid Facebook event pages were created in conjunction with all partnerships with a total reach of just over 20.5 K accounts and just over 2500 responses and engagements.

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CINEMATOGRAPHY: Steve “Icey” Senga
EDITOR: Andy Gavin Hicks

 

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On day two we returned to Underpass Park for the annual Dance and Beatbox exhibition highlighting not only breaking and Hip-Hop dance but also hustle, dancehall, house, wacking, and popping.

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5000 double-sided flyers were distributed at several major festivals, club events, community hubs and over 1000 homes in the Regent Park neighbourhood near Daniels Spectrum.

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CINEMATOGRAPHY: Steve “Icey” Senga
EDITOR: Andy Gavin Hicks

 

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Once again the festival started with a visual art exhibition alongside the spoken word show inside the Margins of Era Gallery, a multidisciplinary arts space dedicated to showcasing the work of new generational artists who live and work on the margins.

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In 2017 I expanded Unity’s presence inside the Bloor-Mirvish Village area at David Pecaut Square, home to both Toronto Fashion Week and The Luminato Festival, Underpass Park (a new urban space inside the Waterfront/Corktown Corridor), and Geary Lane (a part of Dovercourt Village area set to become the new neighbourhood-wide commercial renaissance).

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CINEMATOGRAPHY: Abid Verani
EDITOR: Andy Gavin Hicks

 

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For our free outdoor concert showcase we relocated to David Pecaut Square and celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the legendary Hip-Hop group Main Source’s album Breaking Atoms. Both Large Professor and K-Cut played before an audience of over 5000 attendees alongside newcomers Tobi, Los Poetas, The Sorority, Jayd Ink and Ebhoni.

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CINEMATOGRAPHY: Abid Verani
EDITOR: Andy Gavin Hicks

 

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On day two we were very excited to host the annual Dance & Beatbox exhibition at Underpass Park. We were one of the first institutions to hold a major event in one of the most extensive parks ever built under an overpass in Canada, and the first ever in Toronto.

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3000 8 page booklets were distributed at several festival and concert events. 3 Paid facebook event listings reached over 8500 accounts with 2200 event views and 1000 post engagements. On Instagram, 53 individual artist posts were created with an average of 1000 impressions per post.

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Partnering with Vibe Arts and Sketch we started the 2017 Festival with the Spoken Word Exhibition at Geary Lane, a new Toronto hub for culture and creativity who aim to build a strong bond with a diverse community of local and international creatives. Instead of hosting an art show this year, Unity’s lead graffiti artists spent several days painting a large mural the entire length of the venue that served as the visual backdrop for the event.

We also hosted two of Canada’s leading artist educators: Stephen “Buddha” Leafloor, an internationally recognized social worker and founder of Blueprintforlife and Dr. Audrey Hudson, an assistant professor at OCAD University where she developed two courses on the influence of Hip Hop in design practices. Both hosts spoke about how their programs empower and effect change in individuals and communities.

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Operating since 2007, Unity is a Hip-Hop based arts youth organization that uses dance, spoken word, MC’ing, DJ’ing and graffiti based art forms to build resilience in POC, LQBTQ, and Indigenous youth between the ages of 12-24 living in underserved communities and to give a platform to express themselves in order to create environments to better face the day to day challenges that life brings.

The UNITY FESTIVAL is a four day city wide  event that is Unity’s  most important community initiative that takes place at highly visible and accessible venues across the downtown Toronto core. The festival provides a platform for emerging youth participants who attend our after school and community programs to present high quality performances under the mentorship of our arts educators alongside contemporary local and internationally recognized headliners.

While past years were dedicated to primarily hip hop, R&B, and spoken word artists and speakers, between 2016 and 2018 I put a strong emphasis on the inclusion of LGBTQ and Indigenous performers as well as putting women front and center, not only as performers but also in major decision making roles.

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CINEMATOGRAPHY: Abid Verani
EDITOR: Andy Gavin Hicks

 

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On for the final day, Unity once again hosted a free outdoor concert at Yonge-Dundas Square featuring a live graffiti wall and a projection of Howie Shia’s film Bam: a co=presentation with the NFB.  Los Angeles native and purveyor of all things funk, Dam Funk headlined the live performances alongside Zaki Ibrahim, The Soul Motivators, Sacha Williamson,  and Above Top Secret.

Overall, we booked over 300 local and international singers, dancers, beatboxers, MC’s, and spoken word artists who collectively performed in front of over 5000 attendees at all four events.

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Through Facebook  and Instagram campaigns we reached over 9000 Facebook and 3500 Instagram users.

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On The final day at Super Wonder Gallery, we combined Unity’s signature dance event with the beatbox exhibition.

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In partnership with R.I.S.E., day two showcased Toronto youth in Emcee’ing and Spoken Word. Artists are encouraged to share their stories of success, struggle and and survival through word and song. Award winning founding member of R.I.S.E., Randell Adjei headlined the show alongside Amalia Mamalia and from San Fransisco, respected  afrohouse legend Rahan Boxley.

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2500 ten page booklet was distributed to all after school and drop-in programs, local music festivals and culturally related events throughout the GTA.

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This year’s festival kicked off on Wednesday July 20th with an opening celebration at Super Wonder Gallery featuring graffiti and artwork by some of Toronto’s most prolific artists, music, and dance performances. Polaris prize winner Lido Pimienta headlined the event in addition to drumtalk poet Mahlikah Aweri, R&B singer Adria Kain, and the dance crew The Moonrunners.

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Although I have made over 100 mixes or so in my lifetime as a DJ under the alias “Andycapp”  these mixes represent the last two years of new music interests spanning deep and left field house, nu-funk, digital soul, futureboogie and bass music. You can also find a number of radio show appearances and some classic mixes from 2005 and onward.

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Below are examples of some of the many events that I have played at as “Andycapp”  in locations such as Sunnyside Pavilion, Circa, Wrongbar, The Rivoli, Luanda House, Nest, Bambi’s, Blk Box Theatre, 99 Sudbury, The Gladstone Hotel, and The Drake Hotel.  Some of these events like the Maurice Fulton, Dego, New Year’s Eve, Paradiso, Dam Funk events were co-productions with other event planners and the other events, featured as a headliner or guest DJ.

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All of the following posters, flyers, and Facebook cover designs were created by myself using a mixture of screen printing, photocopying and digital scans, assembled using Photoshop. All of these events were curated by me and some of my event partners like Rod Skimmins, Alister Johnson, and  The Wavgods.

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Third Culture was an exhibition of multi-media works curated by myself in conjunction with OCAD  that examined and interrogated the historical and ongoing dilemmas of multiculturalism. The artists featured used technological, sonic and visual arts combining elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy and magic realism.

As members of a Third Culture, they have relationships with many cultures, and no ownership of any one culture in particular/ they often interact with many varied cultural communities, and acknowledge that this world of multiple cultures is a valid place of belonging, even if one doesn’t feel rooted in one geographical place or ethnicity.

This project, as part of the annual Nuit Blanche showcase in downtown Toronto which attracted over 3000 attendees through out the night presented contemporary African and South Asian art, both of which get scant representation in Sid the gallery system and outside specific ethno-cultural communities. It was our intention to provide a meeting point for diverse artistic voices and viewers.

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Andy Gavin Hicks, Ayesha Mansur, Darcy Obokata, Hakili Don, Ingrid Mesquita, Kyle “Gripski” Hough. Liam Crockard, Matt “Destro” Langford, Minesh Mandoda, Nep Sidhu, Rajni Perera, Sap Meynert, Sara Golish and Todd Westendorp

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Andycapp, Myth Paradise, Unbuntu, & Liam Crockard

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Pictures 2 was my first curated art show exhibition focusing on appropriated art and featuring ten leading collage, montage, and graffiti artists. This event took place between 1 PM – 6 AM inside the now defunct warehouse space behind the old Rolly’s Garage  located on 124 Ossington Avenue.

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Nep Sidhu, Ryan Mackan, Todd Simmons, Darcy Obokata, Liam Crawford, Kellen Tanaka, Todd Westendorp and Andy Gavin Hicks

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Andycapp, , Mymanhenri & Rod Skimmins

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Although I spent most of my time at OCAD University in the integrated Media Program, I also took a special interest in photography, screen printing , and digital print programs. Over the last 15 years I’ve created large poster prints made up of photographs from my family collection, rare images of some of my music idols, and from discontinued image catalogues from around the world.

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Miles Davis

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I’ve been taking photos of our events since we started hosting parties in Toronto. At first I thought it was a bit self indulgent but I was convinced by one of my good friends to catalog and share images of the diverse crowds that attended our events in hopes to encourage others of various communities to feel safe in an environment that reflects images of themselves.

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My grandparents went out dancing. My parents went dancing. Most of my friends are dancers. Dance and dance culture has been a part of my entire life. I make a point of celebrating dance, an important part of most cultures around the world. Many of the photos below are taken from various dance competitions that we have hosted ranging from popping and breaking to house and wacking.

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The very first events I ever started promoting were underground Hip Hop parties in London,  Ontario where I also hosted a weekly radio show at the University Of Western Ontario. These are some of my first photos from events and interviews with some major artists.

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Cuba is one of the most geographically diverse places I have visited. For the past ten years I’ve been documenting the various regions and am consistently surprised by each visit and its slow, modern transformation.

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