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Nia Centre for the Arts hosts grand opening for $12M facility in Toronto's Little Jamaica

A recording studio is among many features of the Nia Centre for the Arts' new facility at 524 Oakwood Ave.

Nia Centre for the Arts hosts grand opening for $12M facility in Toronto's Little Jamaica
The Nia Centre for the Arts is located at 524 Oakwood Ave. in Toronto's Little Jamaica. The $12 million project wrapped up recently, and a grand opening celebration was held on Nov. 2. ROBERT OKINE PHOTO

Nia Centre for the Arts has unveiled its new Black arts facility in Toronto’s Little Jamaica following a $12 million transformation project at the 14,000-square-foot complex.

The arts space, near Oakwood Ave. and Eglinton Ave. W., includes a multi-purpose 100-seat performance space, a digital media lab, a recording studio, collaborative artist studios, co-working spaces, two hallway galleries, private event spaces for rent, and more as part of the expansion plans. It will also include youth zones to prepare them for creative and cultural jobs.

“With the disappearance of third spaces across Toronto, there is an urgent need to address the lack of gathering places for Black communities. The centre is a direct response to this need. We are thrilled to be opening our doors and continuing to create dedicated space in our community,” Alica Hall, executive director at the Nia Centre for the Arts, said in a statement.

Co-chair of the board of directors, Michael Braithwaite, added that “space will unearth new stories and create a larger platform for Black artistic expression in Canada.”

Municipal and federal levels of government, as well as the United Way Greater Toronto and the local community, were all involved in funding and opening the centre.

“As the Government of Canada, we’re proud to be supporting the renovation of the Nia Centre for the Arts. We know the importance of accessible and culturally relevant spaces for the arts and artists. Congratulations on the grand opening! Let’s celebrate this groundbreaking professional arts centre dedicated to showcasing, nurturing, and promoting the work of artists from across the African diaspora,” said Pascale St. Onge, minister of Canadian Heritage.

Founded in 2008, Nia Centre for the Arts was born from discussions between the United Way Youth Challenge Fund and local artist Ian Kamau. To give Black kids and artists in Toronto a feeling of permanence and legacy, Kamau came up with the idea for an arts centre. In the past, the organization has held Toronto’s first Black art fair and several mentorship programs and activations designed to support Black and African artists.

“Nia Centre for the Arts shines as a beacon of transformative power and a place of hope, inspiration, and empowerment for Black youth and the broader community. It’s a movement honoring ancestral legacy and championing the future of Black artistry, culture, and community. This structure is a testament to the community-building force led by and centring on the vision of young Black artists breaking barriers while lighting the path for the next generation. Nia is a shining example of public and philanthropic partnerships dedicated to creating something truly exceptional,” Nation Cheong, vice president of community opportunities and mobilization at the United Way Greater Toronto, said in a statement.

Check out their website for more programming and information about events.