Comments and likes went from being shared on smartphones to being shared in person at the Common Ground art show, which closed out this year’s Manifesto festival in Toronto.

Ashley McKenzie-Barnes, who is in her sixth year with Manifesto, curated the event. She says she chose Instagram artists because social media art is taking over.

“It would be naïve of me to think that art isn’t booming over social media and isn’t booming over the web,” Barnes says.

“It’s kind of the new way of how people are finding artists and finding the top artists, so I kind of had to combine the traditional ideals of having your fine artists that show in galleries, or that are contemporary artists, or even street artists, and bring in what’s new and what’s relevant and that is Instagram.”

Ashley Mckenzie-Barnes, curator of the Common Grounds art exhibit. // Photo By. Chantal “Rose” Gregory © Urbanology Magazine

As such, this year’s art show included a 6IX x 6 photography art exhibit featuring the work of six of Toronto’s top Instagram photographers – @soteeoh, @mr.jobeezy, @bora.vs.bora, @jayscale, @tahaphoto and @ellenaturel – in a series co-created with 1LoveTO.

“When you think of Instagram, you think of beautiful images and you think of photographers and that’s kind of where I went with that,” says Barnes.

Fourteen visual artists were also featured in the exhibit, held at the city’s Super Wonder Gallery, including Andrew Palmer.

Palmer, who draws inspiration from street photography, graffiti and everyday life, says his piece “The Invisible Man”, which he showcased was based off the idea that people judge others based on how they dress and their body language before ever getting to know them.

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“[With] “The Invisible Man” they’re only seeing who the person is with their clothing,” Palmer explains.

“You don’t see the person, you don’t see any facial features or any other features on their body. It can also represent a person that maybe on the inside doesn’t have that confidence to them, so what they lack with their interior confidence, they’re trying to express that with their clothing and how they act.”

“I just feel it’s the best way of preserving our stories – through illustration.”

Also on display was the work of Mark “Kurupt” Stoddart, owner of LIWI68 Inc., which makes the popular Live It Wear It clothing seen around Toronto. He says his artwork is inspired by sports, particularly athletes who were also activists like Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown.

Stoddart says he aims to bridge the generational gap through his artwork. At the exhibit several of his pieces were of Canadian track and field legend, Donovan Bailey, who had a record setting gold medal winning time of 9.84 seconds in the 100 metre sprints at the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta.

“Kids of today have no idea of our athletes and what they’ve done,” he says. “So for me I’m trying to show that … I just feel it’s the best way of preserving our stories – through illustration.”

Photos By. Chantal “Rose” Gregory © Urbanology Magazine

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