The Artist Spotlight series aims to celebrate creators at a time when art is being consumed the most. We wanted to invite individuals working within the creative field to provide their voice, opinions and suggestions for the improvement, development and future of the Canadian creative community.
Emma Brito is a Toronto-based multi-media creator currently working in the advertising field. When first approached to be included in the series she was apprehensive about being called an “artist” or “creative” but dubiously agreed. Emma is both heedful and modest, having worked in the development and production of several multi-media projects which you can view on her website emmabrito.com. She also has a background in copy editing and is a published writer.
Q: Can you share a little about yourself, your education and your background in the arts? (I’m curious about the Digital Futures program, clearly you were thinking ahead professionally!)
Yes! I was very much so, haha. Last spring, I graduated from OCAD U’s Digital Futures Masters program which explores the intersection of design, technology and art. It provided me a space to play with a number of different media and programs. Before that, I graduated from Ryerson University with an degree in Culture studies, which obviously had a very different focus. I studied mostly history, sociology and philosophy which allowed me to really explore the ideologies and biases that determine how we perceive the world around us. These two disciplines kind of culminated in my Graduate thesis project Who We Are / Quienes Somos where I designed an interface (research, wireframing, Adobe XD, HTML, CSS) to explore second generation Latin American identities in Toronto. The purpose of my project was to explore the different ways in which these identities have been discussed and to find better ways to imagine and discuss the varying experiences (Emma is second generation Canadian, her father is from Mexico).
Q: What are you up to right now?
Unfortunately my creative practice has taken a back seat as I’ve settled into full time work. Prior to my current position (in advertising, particularly on digital channels) my work was focused in exploring how people experience the digital and forge tangible connections with others in such an abstracted space.
In the future I’d like to shift into more research oriented roles.
I also recently starting working on a new creative project with a good friend which will be internet based. Stay tuned!
Q: Sounds like you’re keeping busy! What has been the most important tool for you in your recent work/creative practice?
These days my desk at home has been a saving grace for my work.
Q: How has your work changed with the ongoing physical distancing measures? Has the organization you work for released any plans for a return to the “new normal”?
My company has been great with the shift to work from home (as a result of the pandemic), they have treated their employees with empathy and have actually been really proactive. I’m well aware of how lucky I am. As it stands, we are on a work from home policy for the rest of the year and they are reallocating our wellness credit (health benefits) to include desks and ergonomic work features for our home work spaces.
Q: Has your organization provided any mental health resources for employees? Where do you go for resources? (in light of isolation, increased violence against black lives, protests, etc.)
Again, we are lucky that some mental health resources are covered under our team benefits. That, along with our wellness credits, has been consistently reiterated to us by our supervisors. My team’s director held a meeting during #BlackoutTuesday and we were told that anyone affected by these events who needed time to process or to take time off was completely understood. They’ve also asked for employees to suggest charities to hold donation drives for. (Since originally writing this, the company has announced that they will be addressing the lack of diversity in its senior levels).
And while I believe the acknowledgement was necessary and a step in the right direction and it would be great if there was follow through, it is still in the early stages with concrete steps yet to be taken. That being said I also do believe that how companies should respond is a learning process. I’ve seen a lot of reactionary responses rather than critical focus on why these practices weren’t already in effect, as well as proactive, long term and genuinely effective plans for sustainable change on company/corporate levels.
(In regards to social media) I’m trying to be very conscious of what I’m posting and re-posting right now. I think this is a smaller version of the learning processes I touched on above because I am definitely not perfect. While the conversations being had are all very necessary and long overdue, I’ve chosen to opt to participate through donating rather than posting, simply because of the echo chamber in which I exist. On my media in particular, it isn’t about changing minds it seems but more about having the right voices being heard (which I am not) and going beyond the surface. This is not to say that I shy away from these conversation when they do arise in life.
Overall, I am very grateful to be in the position that I am, especially during these times, so I’ve been trying to give back where I can by donating to local organizations and food banks in my area. My support of Toronto’s Planned Parenthood in particular has been more on-going.
Q: How do you see changes in the current economy and in the Arts & culture sector affecting your work and/or personal creative practice? Is the future really all digital?
Haha, the future is very digital!! Although I do believe there will always be spaces where non-digital works… as there should be.
I think this is an interesting time for digital art as well especially as galleries, pop-ups, museums, etc., are all closed at the moment. I think digital works are important to the continuation of arts and culture during these times (which speaks to the larger discussion and push for greater funding and relief for this sector). I also think we will see the digitization of some work that otherwise would not have been.
The Night Sky
Written in the Stars is an experience that begins with printed map of the night sky and constellation names but void of their images. In order to reveal a constellation, up to 20 participants were required to use their phone to follow a link to a specific constellation, then raise and tilt their phone in front of the printed sky to see the image. A gyroscope feature in the coding only allows for the image to appear when the phone is raises, mimicking the raising of one’s head while stargazing into the night sky. This installation was part of a Digital Puzzle developed by Emma and a classmate for their Creations and Computations course at OCAD U. For the full project, click here.