Supporting the Community Through Art with Camila Salcedo
Art is always multifaceted in the way it affects us, from the impression its beauty leaves on admirers, to the impact creating it has on the artist. Camila Salcedo and their work in community art embodies that notion to a tee.
Born in Venezuela and based out of Toronto, Camila is an interdisciplinary artist, curator and facilitator, specializing in textiles, digital art, and most notably, community art practices. Camila comes from a matriliny of textile artists. Their family is a large contributor to why they are an artist today. “I always grew up around creative energy, so it really highly encouraged me to pursue that passion,” Camila told us.
But why community art? And what exactly does this form of the medium entail? According to Camila, “different people describe community art in different ways, but for me, it’s participatory art that involves the community. Community art is about that exchange between the artist and the community at large.”
Camila has been spearheading community art programs in the Greater Toronto Area since 2022. Their latest being a series of Sustainable Textile Workshops hosted at the Oakwood Village library. The workshops taught its participants the different techniques for upcycling, went through the damaging history of fast fashion and offered to help participants build portfolios of their work at the end of the month so they might have something to present to future employers.
Like all of Camila’s art programs, the Sustainable Textile Workshops focused greatly on helping the community. This time, by reaching out to immigrant youth.
“The idea of this program came from the privilege of having really supportive immigrant parents. I know not everybody has the same experience. I wanted to position young immigrants to pursue a career in arts if they want to. A lot of them had wanted to do this kind of thing, but never really had the opportunity.”
Camila speaks to the experience of many immigrant youths. A common feeling in the immigrant community, especially if you are a young person, is the pressure to excel in fields widely regarded as more fruitful – math, science, politics and the like – than art. To repay the sacrifices made on their behalf, many immigrant youth feel as though they can’t pursue artistic endeavours. That’s not to mention the financial constraints.
“We know what financial aid is like a lot of the time for international students,” Camila remarked, “and children of immigrants have less financial stability to support post-secondary education.”
Community art is also meant to be an educational experience. By connecting young immigrants through a creative outlet, Camila’s workshops provided an education in the important lessons of the creative industries. This community art program focused on discussing fast fashion and the environmental impact of the industry while sustainably upcycling and creating their own designs.
“I hope people take away how terrible the fast fashion industry is” Camila said about those in their workshop, “As individuals, we don’t have control over the situation, but it’s about shifting our social consciousness. Being able to sew a button or naturally dye a white shirt covered in stains or do anything to extend the life of your clothing is already a huge step, because only 1 per cent of clothes can actually be recycled.
More than anything else, Camila’s work in community art is meant to be an effort where people are unafraid to ask for help in matters where they may not otherwise be offered any or be able to afford it.
In a previous workshop, the Clothing Clinic, Camila offered the people in their neighbourhood the opportunity to exchange their clothes in need of repair for an anecdote about their clothes:
“Honestly, a lot of people came in who were houseless and just needed their clothes to be fixed. I was happy to do so because I have the skills to help them out. I didn’t really care if they didn’t bring me an anecdote. The criticism I received most from people at that point was ‘This isn’t even an art project? What’s the point?’ The Clothing Clinic could be seen as an art project, but it’s also a service I’m providing and I’m okay with that.“
Camila boasts a very impressive portfolio for a young artist, graduating from NSCAD University with an Interdisciplinary Arts degree and holding over ten art residencies since 2018. As a result, the question they are asked most frequently is why they focus on community art instead of centring it around themself?
“The art world is elitist and exclusive. So for me, I want to make art more accessible and sustainable for everyone. Something I’m asked a lot is, ‘Why haven’t you made a fashion collection? Why aren’t you applying to fashion shows?’ I’m not really interested in the commercial side of things. I’m much more interested in how clothes can be empowering for the individual when created individually and how they’re a great form of individuality.”
Camila will continue to bridge the gap between art and community, for as long as there are people in their community with wants and needs that can be met through community art.
“It’s been really amazing for my inner child to host these programs because I feel like I’m just making the programs I always wish I had when I was younger. “
Want more Toronto creatives? Read our conversation with L’uomo Strano’s Mic. Carter.
Carolina Pucciarelli is a Glossi Mag contributor.
In her final year of journalism school at Toronto Metropolitan University, Carolina loves Octavia Butler novels, Guillermo del Toro movies and a good skincare regimen.