Make Room For... Desmond Tompkins

Culture Days x Desmond Tompkins – March 15, 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. Next up, Desmond Tompkins. Desmond is an artist, artistic director, and student passionate about the intersection of creativity and social justice, advocacy and activism among young people, and creating space for LGBTQ+ artists. Get to know Desmond in his own words below.

Describe your artistic style in 3 words.

Conceptual, provocative, and textural.

Can you tell us a bit more about how and why you create?

I create to comment on the diversity of social identity, as I am inspired by the lived experiences of underrepresented people and voices within my own communities. In my practice I use textural abstract techniques as a way to deconstruct personal and social ideas of identity and transformation.

The arts and culture sector has been particularly devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. How have you cultivated your creativity during these uncertain times?

Being isolated during the pandemic created a space where I had the chance to look inward to myself in a way I never had before. As a result my artwork became more intimate, and I was able to reach other people in new ways with what I had formed. I found new ways to reach people with this work, such as virtual art programs and socially distanced art shows.

You’re passionate about the intersection of creativity and social justice. Tell us more about that.

Visual art has historically been a platform for social influence. Artwork thus allows creators to utilize visual metaphor to speak on social issues and create an emotional connection between the audience and the subject at hand. Much of my work is focused on exposing individuals to societal issues that often go unheard, so that we as a community can work towards creating a better environment for both ourselves, and the future generation.

“Lover Boys”, 2019, mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.

How does your identity as a queer artist and a member of the LGBTQ+ community inform or define your work?

As a practicing queer artist, I am conscious of the isolation that can come from lack of media representation. I have witnessed adverse reactions to my work featuring queer identity, which has solidified my belief in the importance of creating space for LGBTQ+ artists to not only have their work accepted, but to have it celebrated.

You recently curated the first-ever youth art show at the South Surrey/White Rock Learning Centre. How was that experience?

My own passion for creating, coupled with my experience as a student within an alternative high school education environment, such as the South Surrey / White Rock Learning Centre, led me to conceptualize the show. This opportunity for students focused on diversity and asked them to create artwork based on the prompt “What does our school mean to you, and what does it allow you the freedom to create?”. Oftentimes youth coming from adversity face barriers that prevent them from showcasing their talents due to social stigma. I believe that creators such as myself should work towards transforming the art world so that it may encompass the diverse range of human experience.

With the rise of the pandemic and the ongoing fight for racial and social justice, there has been a notable surge in activism and advocacy among young people. What is the role of emerging youth artists like yourself at this moment in time?

I believe that our role is to continue pushing boundaries within the art world, and utilize what privilege we do have to uplift the voices of our peers.

“Callisto”, 2019, abstract painting. Courtesy of the artist.

What’s next for you creatively?

I plan on pursuing formal arts education, and utilizing my degree to become an arts teacher for alternative high school programs. Along with this I hope to continue cultivating my arts practice, and remain active in the arts and culture community through working on new arts opportunities for young artists to have their voices heard.

Where can people go to keep up with your art projects and creative output?

My virtual portfolio can be found on my Instagram @dezzmonndd and I can be reached through my email desmondtompkins@gmail.com for inquiries.


This article is part of a special series shouting-out new or rising artists creatives, and/or collectives from across the country that should be on your radar. Explore more profiles below: