Painting live in front of a crowd would be daunting for the average person, but for one Toronto artist that has become the norm. Kofi Frempong has turned this skill into a chance to engage with his community.
Frempong helped start an initiative in 2012 that encourages art and artists in the GTA, called Freedom Fridayz. The community event predominantly serves the youths of the Jane and Finch neighbourhood. He encourages residents to embrace their artistic sides, either through painting or performance.
Frempong was on painting duty Saturday at the Supernatural juice bar’s grand opening on Vaughan Road, in Oakwood Village. This was not his first time doing live paintings in front of a crowd, nor was this the biggest crowd he has painted in front of.
“This year, I have done maybe 30 pieces,” Frempong said. “My first painting was in front of a crowd of over 500 people.”
Frempong enlisted the help of his longtime friend and DJ, Felix Cabrera. Cabrera also collaborates on Freedom Fridayz.
Cabrera said the event caters to anybody in the area and community of the Jane and Finch, and Black Creek areas.
“It’s definitely for the community, but understanding that the community we serve like Jane and Finch is predominantly from Caribbean decent,” Cabrera said.
One message the community should get from Freedom Fridayz events is that everyone is welcome.
“There’s always a space for you to come to feel safe, to be free, to enjoy yourself, good vibes, and for a moment in time you’re just living, is what we want to portray,” Cabrera said. “And anytime anyone comes in, they’re welcomed with open arms.”
Though he has become somewhat of an expert at doing live paintings, having completed this day’s canvas in under two hours, Frempong prefers taking his time with his pieces. Some, like the one pictured below, take him a year to complete.
“I can put on music, sit on the couch, come back to it, there’s no timeline for me to meet. I think that’s when I’m at my best when I can just paint without worrying about when I’m going to finish it.”