By Prapti Bamaniya
In the dark winter of early 2020, when most were locked away in their homes, 2020 Rye grads Nadia McNairn and Kyle Jarencio wanted to recreate the feeling of community.
McNairn had graduated from Ryerson’s arts and contemporary studies program and Jarencio from RTA media production when the two began to feel unsure of how to use their artistic skills in the midst of a pandemic.
They created a Google form with a variety of questions to collect thoughts on work, graduation, life, friendship and love from young people across the country. The two received nearly 60 submissions and with the help of 30 peers, they began to piece the project together: Amble Magazine.
“It wasn’t just me and [Jarencio], it was a collaborative project among a lot of people,” said McNairn. “Everybody in the project felt like they weren’t just contributing, they were part of a community.”
According to McNairn, “ugly feelings” was a phrase Jarencio used frequently when describing the submissions of photos, poems and essays as they pieced them together.
“[The submissions] showed sadness, frustration, anger, disappointment, grief and a lot of really heavy things that people feel individually that they were maybe dealing with by themselves,” McNairn said.
McNairn said there aren’t many places where people can create artwork out of these experiences, and Amble Mag was just the space to do it.
“A lot of people were feeling like they didn’t really have a space to share these ugly feelings, so coming together and creating a space that enables people to share those feelings in a cathartic way was really the sentiment of Amble.”
After creating a community through Canadian art, McNairn wanted to give back to a similar organization. All proceeds from Amble Mag were donated to SoundStock Academy, an initiative for young Black artists in Toronto to advance their musical careers.
SoundStock Academy was co-founded by Abel Lulseged, a bachelor of commerce graduate [from Ryerson] who worked during the pandemic to give young Black artists in the Greater Toronto Area an opportunity to produce art. McNairn chose SoundStock as a place to give back, especially because of the loss of arts revenue in Toronto due to the pandemic.
According to the Toronto Arts Council, there was an estimated $16 million loss in artist and production salaries/fees because of COVID-19 closures in non-profit arts in Toronto from March 2020 to March 2021.
“The arts have been financially burdened. Over the past year and a half, it’s been very difficult for organizations to stay on their feet,” said McNairn. “This little financial support helps them do their next round, so [Soundstock] has eight young people that support every round of this program,” said McNairn.
“Everybody in the project felt like they weren’t just contributing, they were part of a community”
Although the first edition of Amble Mag captured a grim tone brought on by a grim global experience, the upcoming second edition will be concerned with coming out of the pandemic, with a lighter tone to juxtapose the previous edition, McNairn said.
“We deserve another time capsule to reflect on what this period is because it’s still part of the transitional phase. It might be a little bit more optimistic, and a little bit more reflective of the past as opposed to resting in the present,” she said.
In February 2022, Amble Mag will begin accepting submissions for its second issue, which will be released later that spring.