Toyin Oladele Feature

Toyin Oladele sits besider her title, a pull quote and a brief biography in an informative graphic.

On Art Appreciation Day, we celebrate artists whose creative endeavours enrich our lives. Among them is Toyin Oladele, the Founder and Executive Director of the Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation (ICAI). 

Upon arriving in Calgary in 2017 from Nigeria, Toyin was eager to continue her career as an artist and art manager in Canada.  

“As a newcomer, I was trying to get back to my career, and I couldn’t do that,” says Toyin.  

Toyin accessed different programs and support available to newcomers, but none were able to direct her properly. Toyin recollects the difficulties of navigating the job market and encountering job scams in the arts industry. Her frustration fueled her determination to create a space where newcomers could find reliable information and support. Through networking and research, she built a vast community and turned her dream into a reality – ICAI, a non-profit organization committed to empowering immigrant artists and culture enthusiasts. 

Seeing this gap in programming for newcomer artists, Toyin founded the Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation (ICAI). Since its founding, ICAI has connected newcomers with Calgary’s arts community. As of April 2023, it has provided 400-500 opportunities for newcomer artists, ranging from mentoring to showcases and project exhibitions. 

“ICAI was established in January 2019, with the expressed purpose of connecting newcomer artists and arts and culture workers to the existing arts community in Alberta,” – Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation. 

ICAI collaborates with various organizations and offers opportunities for immigrants to showcase their talents while being compensated fairly for their work. One of their remarkable initiatives is the Immigrant Art Mentorship Program (IAMP), the first of its kind in Alberta and a rarity across North America. Every year, IAMP starts a new cohort of mentees. The mentees can apply for the program starting in April, and then the successful candidates are announced in May/June, and the program runs June through December. 

Since its inception in 2019, ICAI has facilitated 400-500 opportunities for mentoring, exhibitions, and artistic projects. With future cohorts already lined up, Toyin’s vision to uplift aspiring artists and build a strong artistic community in Canada continues to grow.  

Beyond her work with ICAI, Toyin’s impact reaches further into the community. She collaborates with the government and the city of Calgary, focusing on career development and shaping the artistic landscape. Her dedication to mentorship extends across various organizations, including CRIEC (Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council) and CIWA (Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association), where she has guided numerous individuals from diverse professions.  

When asked about her advice to newcomers, Toyin emphasizes the importance of self-belief and determination. Her inspiring journey from a newcomer to a community leader shows the potential for anyone to carve their path with dedication and resilience.  

As Toyin continues to inspire and uplift others, she remains an advocate for the arts and an example of how artistic passion, combined with mentorship and community support, can create a profound impact. Her journey is a reminder that art transcends borders, bringing people together and enriching the cultural fabric of any society.  

In celebrating Art Appreciation Day, let us honour Toyin’s dedication and contribution to the artistic community in Canada, as she continues to be a driving force in empowering newcomers and shaping the future of art appreciation in the country. 

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