Six Kingston ‘hidden artists’ featured at new Elm Café exhibit

A new temporary exhibit at the Elm Café in downtown Kingston hopes to offer a glimpse into the lives of some of the community’s artists whose work and experience may otherwise go unnoticed.

The exhibit, “Through the Looking Glass,” sponsored and curated by Skeleton Park Arts Festival (SPAF), features the work of six artists from downtown Kingston who make up the Kingston Hidden Artist Collective (KHAC), SPAF said in a media release. 

Image via Skeleton Part Arts Festival.

Ali Sheikh co-founded KHAC in the summer of 2021, after noticing houseless individuals in downtown Kingston selling paintings and other forms of art.

“I would frequently buy something from them,” Sheikh said, describing the artwork he would see as representing “genuine hard work, talent, and interesting perspectives.”

“I was floored that they would sell artwork for $20 after working on it for so long,” he expressed.

He and volunteers Arhum Chaudhary and Mara Fraser created KHAC, a web platform from which collective members could promote and sell their original artwork, and also have the ability to create and sell prints.

KHAC currently features six artists who self-identify as “street people,” Sheikh explained. That lived experience is evident in their artwork, Sheikh noted, pointing out that the Elm Cafe exhibit is another opportunity for people who share a neighbourhood with these artists to get a glimpse into their lives.

“It’s diving into a world that surrounds you, but you’re not experiencing it at all,” Sheikh explains. “This is a view of how our artists live within our own community.”

Sheikh wanted to form the collective to give what he describes as “houseless” artists a platform to sustainably promote and sell their work, not only as originals but also as prints, which can offer the artists ongoing income.

“I saw the value in them creating work that was more than just a one-time sale,” Sheikh said. 

According to the release, this latest show is one of the quarterly exhibits that Skeleton Park Arts Festival runs at the Elm Café. In addition to curating, the Skeleton Park Arts Festival sponsored this show by paying the artists’ fees and covering some of the expenses associated with the exhibit. 

The KHAC exhibit, Through the Looking Glass, runs until Tuesday, May 31, 2022, at the Elm Café, 303 Montreal Street. The artworks on display are available for purchase and 100 per cent of the profits go directly to the artists.

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