Christina Angelopoulos and Katie Wasserman are Co-Founders of Burnt Toast Collective, an organization that launched in October 2016 with the goal of celebrating Toronto artists of all styles and mediums. Christina and Katie strive to foster a community that allows creators to showcase their work with minimal stress, ultimately bringing people together for fun weird and wacky events in Toronto.
We connected with Christina to learn more about her journey with Burnt Toast Collective. Read our interview now:
- What’s the significance behind the phrase, “burnt toast?” Why this name?
I love answering this one. Our name is largely inspired by a joke business idea Katie and I started when we worked together. There was a period of time when I would consistently bring toast to work and an obsession with toast variations ensued. We joked about opening up a pop-up toast shop but quickly realized that we weren’t actually serious about getting into the restaurant industry. Then, one day Katie came to me with an idea to host an event to feature some of her graphic design work. I had been pretty active in the Toronto art community by that point and had been dying to throw my own thing, so we started brainstorming. I suggested we should throw more than one event and go by a name. Without hesitation, we both knew that “toast” had to be in the title. Adding “burnt” on the front just added the little something we needed.
- As Co-Founder of the multimedia and mixed media art collective, how would you describe your role in ensuring Burnt Toast Collective thrives?
As Co-Founder, my role in ensuring Burnt Toast thrives is to make sure the artists involved in our events feel a strong sense of pride throughout the process. That might sound overly simplistic, but that’s the first thing I care about. The whole point of the events we throw is to showcase the talent that exists in this city. By celebrating it and talking about it, my hope is that it will continue to grow.
- How many hours a week do you invest in Burnt Toast Collective?
Not as much as I’d like!
- What’s a day in the life of Christina? What other projects are you involved in?
A day in the life of me would start by waking up earlier than I’d like (7:00 a.m.) and heading to my 9-5 as a digital marketer. It’s a cool job – I lead a mini digital agency within a larger marketing department. I touch on website management [and do some] UX design and [incorporate these] into our paid advertising. All things that I can apply to Burnt Toast!
Most days, I head to a dance class after work or have rehearsals – I’ve essentially been a dancer my whole life. I primarily dance and periodically choreograph for Army of Sass Toronto, a community of talented and supportive women. Amongst all that, I’m thinking of how we can improve the collective (website coming soon, I promise!).
- How does Burnt Toast Collective support and encourage one another?
I’ll speak to how Katie and I work together and how we work with the artists. Honestly, no idea is too crazy. That’s the first thing. Katie will often come up with some of the coolest concepts and I’m down every time. Even if an idea might seem a bit unconventional…whatever! For example, with the help of our friends at @avrgbbs, we turned the Black Cat Artspace [in Toronto’s west end] into a wacky aquarium because…why not? Katie and I also support each other if we need a break. Since we both do this on top of our day jobs and school, we realize we need to take a step back from time to time.
- What do you think keeps the collective’s artists and audiences coming back?
I think one of the main reasons why our friends continue to support us is because of the intention behind Burnt Toast. We’re not doing this to make a profit. And we definitely don’t want it to be a pretentious art collective. We stick to that.
- What are some of the values that Burnt Toast Collective possesses and encourages its members to practice?
Katie actually helped beautifully articulated it on our Facebook page: “We strive to foster a down-to-earth art community that gives new artists a platform to showcase their work without the stress of illusions or pretensions.” I think that’s staying up there forever.
- Focused on showcasing Toronto artists, Burnt Toast Collective promotes all styles of artistic expression. What’s your favourite way to express yourself using art?
My favourite way to express myself through art is dance. I briefly mentioned it above, but it truly is one of my greatest loves. I don’t think I’m ever the loudest in a room, but I’ll comfortably express myself through movement.
- How do you remain motivated to continuously create? How do you tackle the highs and lows?
I don’t think I can stop creating. The highs and lows help tremendously, actually. Even when I’m incredibly low, there’s something inside me that gets motivated to do something with it. If I feel deep sadness, anger or if everything feels bleak, I like to take that and choreograph or think of how it can translate into an event. This makes me feel better, even if no one sees it.
- Who’s your favourite Toronto artist, today? Why so?
Oh man, that’s a hard one to answer! If we stick to visual arts, someone who recently captured my attention is Vlad Kato. I saw one of his pieces at the OnlyOneGallery where he has a little series of these headless dudes with cigars or cameras. They make me smile every time.
- What has been the most challenging part of Burnt Toast Collective journey? Why do you think that’s so?
I think the most challenging part, right now, is the cost of throwing events in this city. It’s awesome that more eyes are on Toronto, but damn it’s expensive. Second would be not having enough time for a grant proposal. This has been on our minds for quite some time now, but grants can be a beast. As we continue to grow and throw more events, we’d like to expand to bigger and cooler venues and, of course, continue to compensate participating artists.
- Have you always known you’ve wanted to create? What do you think inspired you to dive into the artistic industry?
I’ve always had such a love for the arts. I would be in my room for hours painting or drawing. I’ve always liked moving or working with my hands, but only in the last little while did I get the confidence to create and actually share it with others. I think my desire to be more active in the arts is because of how it [now] affects my life. I’m happier in a more culturally and artistically diverse city. If art, of all forms, makes me smile more in a day then I’m sure others in this city feel the same. So why not contribute?
- How would you say Burnt Toast Collective has changed, shifted and grown since the brand officially kicked off?
I think we’ve fundamentally stayed more or less the same since day one. Our logo has changed colours with the seasons, though. It was once a piece of toast. We’re now a loaf of bread. I’m sure we’ll keep playing with that one.
- What type of social media strategy, if any, do you use to share messages and artwork online?
So, this one you’d expect to be more sophisticated considering I work in marketing. [Our social media strategy is something] I do want to refine a bit once our website is no longer under construction. For now, we post what we want when we want. Usually it’s when something really captivates either of us or to promote our events, of course!
- Social media can be so fun, but also extremely infuriating. What would you describe as the most enjoyable part about creating social media content for Burnt Toast Collective?
I think the best part is being able to share stuff we wouldn’t necessarily share on our personal accounts. At least for me, it’s another outlet. Secondly are the surprised and happy reactions from artists when we repost their work.
- How would you define the Toronto arts community, right now? Are there any gaps that need to be filled and mended?
I think there’s a level of respect for the Toronto arts community that’s never existed to this degree. The big guys like the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Nuit Blanche, Luminato, etc., have definitely helped with that. I mean, over six-months we’ve had a Yayoi Kusama exhibit and now Banksy. That’s pretty dope. But having said that, I think funding needs some attention. I would argue that the bigger problem is that the stakeholders and decision-makers don’t have a grasp on the impact art has on well-being. Once people give a shit and realize that art can be a form of therapy for some, then I think more change will happen.
- How do you hope Burnt Toast Collective unites Toronto creators more effectively?
I hope people will come to our events and that the events will give audiences another place to meet artists and hopefully collaborate, or at least connect with another like-minded person. We’ve been lucky enough to host events at respected galleries in the city that post about our [work online], which luckily brings in a crowd of people!
- Do you have anything else to add?
We love Twizzlers. You can expect that at every one of our events. Promise.
For more information about Burnt Toast Collective, visit their Facebook page and follow them on Instagram and Twitter. Interested in connecting with Christina and Katie to potentially showcase your work at an upcoming event? Send them a message on Facebook to chat.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Christina! Here’s to summer 2018 and to more Burnt Toast.