Awesome Kingston’s November grant was awarded to ‘Kingston Hidden Artist Collective,’ a project that aims to empower artists in disadvantaged situations by providing an easier path to sustainable, self-generated income. The $1,000 micro-grant supports local projects the Awesome Kingston trustees think will help keep Kingston awesome.
Ali Sheikh, the project’s founder and Master’s student at Queen’s University, was astounded when under-housed artists in downtown Kingston would sell their original canvas paintings for less than $20.
“I did not understand why these artists didn’t just produce prints/merchandise from their work so that they could make more than a one-time sale,” Sheikh said. “I quickly realized after speaking to some of them that a combination of urgent need of money and lack of resources did not allow for them to take their time in selling their work.”
In August 2021, Sheikh founded Kingston Hidden Artist Collective (KHAC), in an effort to support these under-housed and talented artists by managing all of the logistics involved with selling art, so that the artists could “focus on their art and getting well.”
By selling prints, original works, and other merchandise, hidden artists can build a brand for themselves and improve their economic standing, according to KHAC.
The KHAC website currently supports five hidden artists, and Sheikh said they are taking a slow approach to expanding, in order to avoid any mistakes.
A team of three runs this not-for-profit endeavour. Ali Sheikh is the Chief Executive Officer and visionary behind the project. Alongside Mara Fraser (Chief Operations Officer) and Arhum Chaudhary (Chief Marketing Officer), the three have set up a website/webstore and provide support and art supplies to the hidden artists currently on their roster.
One hundred percent of the profits from each purchase made through the KHAC website go directly to the artist. Business expenses for the team include regular website costs such as website hosting and Canva subscription, as well as art supplies, print and merchandise production.
“Getting the profits to the artists can be challenging,” Sheikh explained. “Some of the artists do not have the option of being paid electronically due to a lack of resources. Oftentimes, they are missing identity documents that make it difficult for them to have access to a bank account/other services. Communicating with them can also be difficult if their phones are dead/have no wifi. Some of them don’t even have phones. Thus, we often just drive to the locations they frequent and pay them cash in person.”
The funds from the Awesome Kingston grant will go towards KHAC’s expenses, as well as a debut exhibit at the Juniper Café. A portion of the funds will go toward necessary mounting hardware and frames to display the art, as well as posters to promote the exhibit, according to KHAC.
The café is providing space on their walls to display pieces of art for sale. “I work there currently as a barista,” Sheikh shared. “The owner gives artists space on the walls of the café to advertise and display their art for sale. She is graciously allowing us to display our works for the whole month of December.”
“We hope to shine a light on the hidden artists of Kingston through this exhibit so that people get a glimpse of life through their eyes. We are also hoping to gain exposure as an organization to continue to support our artists through print and merchandise sales.”