Make Room For... Creato
Culture Days x Fiorella Martinez – February 16, 2021
Introducing the Make Room For… Series - a shout-out to new or rising, artists, creatives, and/or collectives from across the country. We’re spotlighting those who are making waves in their practice, building community, creating boldly, and sharing their visions for reshaping the future of arts and culture in Canada. First up, Creato, a stellar initiative for Latinx creatives in Canada. We chatted with Fiorella Martinez, Founder of Creato, to learn more about this unique space/platform. Here is what she shared.
Can you tell us about the idea behind Creato and how it came to be?
After living in Toronto for 10 years and working in a creative industry for 8, I always found it a little odd that I’d only ever worked with a handful of other creative Latinx folks, and when trying to find people I wanted to collaborate or work with, I had no idea where to look. Latinx representation, visibility, and community in the creative industries in Toronto and Canada were clearly lacking, and after talking to a few friends and colleagues it was obvious that this space was very much needed. Of course, it’s no news that 2020 also heightened that need of finding community and support via different avenues. So, in the fall of 2020 Creato was launched with an Instagram page and an invitation to join the messaging platform Slack. This online community quickly became an important space for creative Latinx in Canada to connect and strengthen the community together.
Today, Creato is a growing Toronto-based initiative dedicated to connecting, supporting, and spotlighting artists and creatives who identify as Latinx / Latine in Canada. The community is made up of emerging as well as established artists, cultural workers, creative entrepreneurs, and creators who aim to build meaningful connections, skill-sharing opportunities, and further the development of Latinx self-representation in the arts.
What motivates you to create connection and community building with Latinx creatives in Canada?
The community is what motivates us. For so many, finding a group of people that you can relate to in a variety of cross-cultural ways is not easy, but when you find them it is truly uplifting. We are motivated to continue to provide a safe space where any Latinx creatives can feel confident in both expressing their creative voice and voicing concerns that may arise as they make their way into the arts and culture sector in Canada.
What does it mean to be a Latinx creative living, working, and creating in Canada?
This community, in a short period of time, has grown into a diverse group from across the Latin American Diaspora, and while each of us might have a range of similarities, we also have a wide range of differences. Learning about these differences has been a huge privilege for us, as it has made the community a more authentic and genuine representation of what the Latinx Diaspora in the arts is all about here in Canada. For many of us, understanding our identity as Latinx creatives begins with finding a sense of belonging, and that, in itself, can be a deeply personal, multifaceted, and evolving process.
Since there is no one way to answer this question, we turned to the community to help us build a response, and while we know experiences within our community vary greatly, we think these answers might resonate with other Latinx creatives in Canada.
As Latinx creatives in the arts and culture sector, we often experience social, individual, and collective barriers that follow us as we live, work, and create in Canada. Language and other cross-cultural barriers, harmful concepts around tokenism and stereotyping, and disproportionate access to resources are found at every corner of the art world and creative industries. Yet, as artists, we look for ways to challenge these concepts through creativity, resilience, and by making space for our individual, collective and multi-generational self-representation.
Being Latinx and creating in Canada means being influenced by vibrant flavours, colours, stories, and finding ways to bring them into foreign spaces. It means constantly asking yourself Where do I belong? Where is home? Can I ever truly be part of, and embrace, my heritage? How? It sometimes means cooking food that reminds you of family and home because you need a warm embrace. It means looking for others who ask the same questions. It means finding unity in a commitment to make Latinx creative voices loud, and our multiple and intersectional identities seen.
How are you building community amidst the pandemic?
Building community during these times has been both a challenge and an opportunity to get creative. Given that Creato emerged in—and greatly because of—the pandemic, we have experimented so far with all virtual community-building initiatives.
At the moment, we mostly communicate through the online messaging platform Slack in order to connect and get to know each other. We have a wide range of channels within Slack so we talk about everything from job opportunities, events, and resources to sharing recipes, memes, or the latest Bad Bunny drop. It really is a space that a lot of us were missing in our lives and has become the center of where our community is connecting.
Tell us about some of the events and/or initiatives you’ve put together so far.
Apart from our Slack community, which really has been the nucleus for engagement, we organize virtual hangouts every 2 weeks where anyone is welcome to join. Each and every hangout has left us with a huge smile on our faces and our hearts totally full. The calls started as a way to simply put faces to those taking part in online discussions, and now we’ve been setting themes for the calls to help prompt deeper conversations and sharing resources or experiences. We like to say that these hangouts are go-with-the-flow-type of vibe, where we end up revealing weirdness, vulnerabilities, and hilarious stories. Friendships and bonds have formed instantly, and even though we can’t wait to do it in person, these calls have been an amazing way to connect with each other.
A huge part of Creato’s mission is to give Latinx creatives in Canada more visibility. Currently, there are very few places where you can find or discover the great talent within our communities, so we are using Instagram to feature artists on a regular basis; who they are, what they’re about, and samples of their work. Go check them out, they will blow your mind!
We also have a firm belief that creators in our community don’t only need to be seen, but paid. With this in mind, we created a holiday market or “Mercadito” guide on Instagram, featuring artists that have beautiful creations for sale. We plan to do more of these in the future on a bigger scale.
What has surprised or delighted you most about Creato?
This whole journey has been a surprise for me. The support and response from the community have been incredible and the constant reassurance that this space is needed is really our biggest motivation—people are excited and happy to help this community grow! So many have found comfort and support with Creato, both on a personal and professional level. There are a number of people in our community who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, others who are newcomers or even students still in or fresh out of school, and we are all doing our part in giving advice or opening doors when possible. We’ve also felt an amazing sense of belonging and connection in the little things like sharing music, recipes, and anecdotes that connect us to each of our roots.
Personally, this has brought an immense sense of self-worth and purpose that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. I love what I do for work, but when your 9 to 5 is the only creative work you’re producing, it’s easy to forget that you are worth more than just your job—which can be pretty deflating at times. Building Creato has been that thing I’ve been searching for without knowing. It’s the intersection of 3 things I’m so deeply passionate about: creativity, community work, and my Latinx identity, and I couldn’t be more proud and happy spending my 5 to 9 on this.
What’s up next for Creato? What goals do you hope to see the group accomplish in the future?
Creato’s future is looking bright and powerful, just like our gente. As we’ve said, we are a growing community, so self-discovery and ongoing development are crucial for us. We have been working on new community-driven programs, campaigns, and events with the goal of providing tools and learning opportunities to Latinx creatives so they can fully express their creative voices, challenge dominant culture, and maintain a sustainable and rewarding arts practice. We dream to one day have a physical space where artists, creative entrepreneurs, and any Latinx creator can showcase their work. However, for now, we have a very exciting virtual line-up for the year!
In line with our mission to build on Latinx self-visibility in the arts, we are developing a Latinx Directory of Creatives in Canada - an online database featuring creatives from across disciplines who identify as Latinx / Latine. We hope the directory will make collaboration amongst creatives more accessible while shedding light on the work Latinx creatives across Canada do.
We’ll be launching a mentorship program later in the year with the hopes of better supporting emerging youth artists with arts entrepreneurship tools as they begin their professional arts practices. We also have a very special event lined up for Latinx heritage month (wink wink, October). We don’t want to reveal too much right now but stay tuned for details ‘cause it’s going to be lively and of course, uniquely Latinx.
Where can other Latinx creatives in Canada find you?
Acknowledgment: As a Latinx community made up of distinct cultures shaped by complex historical relations of power, we are in the process of learning more about how we can acknowledge the historical oppression of lands, cultures, and Peoples, as we are committed to challenging the legacies of colonialism. We are forever grateful to be able to create and build community across Indigenous territories in the land that we now know as Canada. Creato is based in the city now known as Toronto, but remains Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the traditional territory of many peoples and nations including the Anishinabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples.