Funded by ArtReach in 2018, Bright Lights in the Heights is a program presented by PUSH Elite that engages young emerging artists in the Lawrence Heights neighborhood in Toronto. It has provided artists with opportunities to grow their brand, build networks, and develop their craft through workshops focusing on song writing, performance training, studio etiquette, song structure, and understanding industry institutions. Bright Lights in the Heights’ 2018 programming concluded with a final mix tape that was professionally recorded, mixed, and mastered, and provided an intimate listening session for funders and community members with artists performing their songs live.
We asked PUSH Elite where this awesome program idea came from and was told, “Bright Lights in the Heights originated through a group of artists from the same neighborhood, Lawrence Heights. We all made music individually, but we never collaborated together to do music or support one another as fellow artists from the same community. A lot of people and blogs were saying Lawrence Heights has a lot of good artists, but they never work with each other, so through that feedback, we decided to come together and build this program. We also wanted to shine a positive spotlight on our community that rarely gets that light due to other negative incidents that take place there”.
Staff went on to explain, “It started out with one artist spreading the word on Instagram and made a group to discuss making a project together. We decided to all meet up, and started to vibe out listening to beats and writing. We then recorded one song, but the quality wasn’t the greatest, so we decided to sit down and look at places where we could get funding for our music. We finally found the ArtReach grant, and we applied and ended up getting funding to put together a project that would feature a couple of artists from the Lawrence Heights neighborhood which is now Bright Lights in the Heights”.
ArtReach was the sole funder for the project, so PUSH Elite told us what getting the grant was able to make possible for the program: it gave “the program participants an opportunity to record high quality music in a safe space, which would be very hard to do without funding. Studio time for mixing and mastering, and finding a space to create and write all while getting quality mentoring from older artists is very expensive. Most up-and-coming artists can’t afford recording time and finding a mentorship or a support group is so hard, which is why it’s difficult to break into the music industry. ArtReach has provided us with a chance to build ourselves a platform through our musical artistic talent”.
PUSH Elite explained the positives from the program that they’re seeing, “The youth and community have been responding great, and we say that because ever since the younger artists have been seeing the people they look up to collaborating together, they have also started to invest their time into their music. They’re also looking at music as an art form and a way for them to express themselves in what they go through as an individual as well as in their community”. With such great responses to the program, we asked them where they see their program going in the future: “Hopefully we can build a studio and have a consistent safe space where artists can come and record, do photoshoots, EPKs, write, and practice their performances. We will continue to support each other and get better as artist and producers!”
When asked how this project supported their own individual skill as a leader, they answered with, “Working on a project with different artists which all have different personalities/ backgrounds allowed me to be more of a listener, rather than reacting. Coming from the Lawrence Heights area as a young man or woman you always have to persevere, and problem solve through different obstacles and turn negative circumstances into a positive outcome. I look forward to continuing to build my skills as an artist, mentor and a leader”.
Check out the video made through the Bright Lights in the Heights project here: