Johnnie Walker Announces First Strides Canada Initiative, Unveils Immersive Installation Platforming Canadian Women Artists Breaking the Mold

Johnnie Walker Announces First Strides Canada Initiative, Unveils Immersive Installation Platforming Canadian Women Artists Breaking the Mold

Johnnie Walker has launched its ‘First Strides’ initiative in Canada to support and showcase women artists challenging gender bias. It includes an immersive installation called “She Work Hard For It” at Nuit Blanche Toronto featuring works by Lido Pimienta, Maria Qamar, and Miss Me. The installation spotlights women artists and makes a statement about expanding opportunities in the arts.

Even while artists who identify as women are still making brave moves to challenge historical gender biases in the art world, more has to be done to provide equal chances and more space. Johnnie Walker is pleased to announce the launch of ‘First Strides’ in Canada, an empowering initiative that celebrates and champions those pushing cultural boundaries and driving progress, through its new free immersive installation “She Work Hard For It” at Nuit Blanche Toronto on September 23, 2023. This event will highlight the boundary-pushing work of women-identifying artists.

Building on the dedication of Johnnie Walker to progress, as embodied in its ‘Keep Walking’ brand anthem, which is a symbol of uniting for progress, encouragement in the face of adversity, and joyful expression of optimism through it, the first year of ‘First Strides’ in Canada is devoted to making space and igniting impact for artists who identify as women. Emancipating different communities in the fields of film, music, sports, art, hospitality, and technology, the Johnnie Walker ‘First Strides’ initiative was unveiled in the United States in 2022 and provides funds, visibility, mentorship, and empowerment programming to support cultural trailblazers.

“Johnnie Walker is fundamentally about progress,” says Nadia Niccoli, Head of Marketing at Diageo Canada. The enduring brand essence of ‘Keep Walking’ acts as a strong reminder to take courageous steps forward. We are excited about the chance to present to the Canadian market one of Johnnie Walker’s most significant corporate endeavours. Coming up on the first year of ‘First Strides,’ we are committed to supporting those who break the mould, make new discoveries, and motivate change for everybody.”

The company is launching an interactive installation at Nuit Blanche Toronto called “She Work Hard For It” in connection with the First Strides launch. The installation, which was created by renowned Canadian curator and artist Ashley McKenzie-Barnes, showcases the outstanding pieces created by three prominent Canadian artists: Miss Me, Lido Pimienta, and Maria Qamar (Hatecopy). These artists bravely confront gender prejudice in the arts community with ‘She Work Hard For It,’ highlighting the importance of supporting, recognising, and expanding the chances available to women-identifying artists in Canada.

The ‘First Strides’ installation, which made a splash at Nuit Blanche, will move to Toronto’s lively West End to the Cultural Goods Gallery. Additional works by well-known artists Lido Pimienta, Maria Qamar, and Miss Me will be added to this expanded exhibition; these pieces have been carefully chosen by Ashley McKenzie-Barnes to fit with the overall theme of the installation. This enlightening experience is open to the public from September 28, 2023, until October 12, 2023.

We have an obligation to break down barriers based on gender, redefine opportunities for artists who identify as women, and support those who dare to challenge the status quo. The project’s principal curator, Ashley McKenzie-Barnes, says, “‘She Work Hard For It’ brings together strong and important voices that share relevant experiences in the space of installation, visual, street, pop, and contemporary art.” “These significant artists in Canadian art are being given a platform by the first First Stride programme,” says Ashley McKenzie-Barnes, head curator of the project. “To make a powerful statement, it’s about fusing different approaches, cultures, and disciplines. We’re changing attitudes, upending preconceptions, and honouring the strength of women in the arts with this installation.”

‘She Work Hard For It’ is an immersive experience that offers Nuit Blanche attendees the following: a sarcastic look at Maria Qamar’s large-scale, lenticular pop-art display that satirically comments on themes of patriarchy, hypocrisy, systemic racism, and stereotypes; a stroll through Miss Me’s tunnel of sisterhood and love, which symbolises the invisible bond that women share and is explored through thoughtful materiality and wordplay; and a maze-like installation by Lido Pimienta that evokes childhood childhood drawings.

On September 23, visit Nuit Blanche Toronto to see Johnnie Walker’s transforming installation, “She Work Hard For It.” The installation, which is free to enter, will be on display from 7 p.m. on Saturday, September 23 to 7 a.m. on Sunday, September 24. It is situated on Nathan Phillips Square’s South Lawn.

Please visit the Nuit Blanche Toronto website for additional details about ‘She Work Hard For It’. Please visit johnniewalker.com/en-us/firststrides for additional information about Johnnie Walker’s ‘First Strides’ project.

About Johnnie Walker

With more than 180 nations under its belt, Johnnie Walker is the most popular Scotch whisky brand in the world. Ever since its inception by John Walker, the people responsible for blending its whiskies have prioritised flavour and quality above all else. The 1820 founding of a tiny Scottish grocery store has given rise to an international whisky business providing fashionable, authentic, and legendary blends thanks to the innovation and talent of six generations of master blenders.

Johnnie Walker Red Label, Black Label, Double Black, Green Label, Gold Label Reserve, Aged 18 Years, and Blue Label are among the award-winning whiskies available today. When combined, they sell close to 19 million cases a year (IWSR, 2019), making Johnnie Walker the most well-known Scotch Whisky brand worldwide.

About Diageo North America

Diageo is a world leader in the beverage alcohol industry, and its impressive portfolio of brands includes tequilas like Casamigos and Don Julio, whiskies like Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, Bulleit, and Buchanan’s, vodkas like Smirnoff, Cîroc, and Ketel One, and tequilas like Captain Morgan, Baileys, Tanqueray, and Guinness.

Diageo’s products are sold in over 180 countries worldwide, and the company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: DEO) and the London Stock Exchange (LSE: DGE).

Visit www.diageo.com to learn more about Diageo’s people, brands, and performance. For information, initiatives, and ways to exchange best practises, visit www.DRINKiQ.com, Diageo’s global hub for responsible drinking. For news and updates on Diageo North America, follow @Diageo_NA on Twitter and Instagram.

About Ashley McKenzie-Barnes

Alicia McKenzieWith her agency, D.PE, Barnes is a skilled creative director and curator who firmly believes in the power of group storytelling and its ability to effect change. Ashley used her broad creative network to design a special, multidisciplinary mobile exhibition with three exceptional, strong-willed female artists for this installation. She hopes to assist Johnnie Walker in elevating and amplifying the voices of women in the arts and showcasing their contributions to combating gender inequality in the Canadian art scene by using this innovative technique.


About Lido Pimienta

Internationally renowned queer, feminist, and multidisciplinary visual artist, art critic, curator, composer, and musical producer Lido Pimienta is of Colombian Afro-Indigenous (Wayuu) descent. Her enchanting work, which features a landscape of textiles and soft sculptures, pays homage to her grandmother’s home and treasured childhood memories. Her family is descended from master Wayuu weavers, and by skillfully combining the hues and patterns of traditional textiles, she honours their rich cultural legacy.


About Maria Qamar

Hatecopy, also known as Maria Qamar, is a well-known author, pop culture influencer, and artist who is well-known over the world for her satirical views on the blending of South Asian and Canadian cultures. She bravely explores topics of patriarchy, hypocrisy, institutional racism, and stereotypes via a daring and thought-provoking lenticular pop-art exhibition, all the while praising sisterhood, love, and the vivid essence of South Asian culture, which draws inspiration from Indian soap operas.

The website hatecopy.com

About Miss Me

One of the most well-known outlaw artists in North America, Miss Me is also a feminist and activist. Her unabashed works honour historical figures while exploring issues of race, gender, class, and society. Discover her transforming tunnel of love and sisterhood—an interactive depiction of the invisible thread that binds women together. This experience, which is adorned with moving draperies that hold sentiments and words that represent the complexities of women’s everyday relationships, is a potent reminder of how supportive society is of one another.

This website, miss-me-art.com

About Nuit Blanche Toronto

The City of Toronto, in partnership with the city’s artistic community, produces Nuit Blanche Toronto, the city’s yearly all-night festival of contemporary art. Over 1600 art installations by about 5,800 artists have been shown at this award-winning event since 2006, and it has brought in over $489 million for Toronto’s economy. You may get updates and information on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the Nuit Blanche website. The hashtag for this year’s event is #NBTO23.

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