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

In partnership with three boundary-shattering Canadian women artists, Johnnie Walker will proudly introduce the
Canadian branch of its 'First Strides' initiative at Nuit Blanche Toronto with a thought-provoking installation exploring
systematic gender biases in the arts.

TORONTO, Sept. 13, 2023 /CNW/ - While women-identifying artists continue to make bold strides to combat historical gender biases in the art industry, there remains important work to be done to create more space and equal opportunities. To highlight the boundary-breaking work of women-identifying artists, Johnnie Walker is proud to announce the launch of 'First Strides' in Canada ? an empowering initiative that celebrates and champions those driving progress and pushing cultural boundaries ? through its new free immersive installation "She Work Hard For It" at Nuit Blanche Toronto on September 23, 2023.

Building upon Johnnie Walker's commitment to progress encapsulated in its 'Keep Walking' brand anthem ? a symbol of rallying for progress, an encouragement in adversity and a joyful expression of optimism through it ? the inaugural year of 'First Strides' in Canada is dedicated to creating space and catalyzing impact for women-identifying artists across the nation. Unveiled in the U.S. in 2022, the Johnnie Walker 'First Strides' initiative invests in cultural trailblazers through grants, visibility, mentorship and empowerment programming, with a goal of uplifting diverse communities spanning film, music, sports, art, hospitality and technology.

"Progress beats at the core of Johnnie Walker," asserts Nadia Niccoli, Head of Marketing at Diageo Canada. "Our enduring 'Keep Walking' brand essence serves as a resounding call to push forward boldly. We embrace the opportunity to introduce one of Johnnie Walker's most impactful corporate initiatives to the Canadian market. As we approach the inaugural year of 'First Strides,' we're dedicated to championing individuals who defy norms, blaze fresh trails, and inspire change for all."

In conjunction with the First Strides launch, the brand is debuting an immersive installation titled 'She Work Hard For It' at Nuit Blanche Toronto. Conceived by acclaimed Canadian artist and curator Ashley McKenzie-Barnes, the installation features the remarkable works of three leading Canadian artists ? Lido Pimienta, Maria Qamar (Hatecopy), and Miss Me. Through 'She Work Hard For It,' these artists boldly address gender bias in the art world and emphasize the need to nurture, celebrate, and create more opportunities for women-identifying artists in Canada.

After its captivating debut at Nuit Blanche, the 'First Strides' installation will find its new home at the Cultural Goods Gallery in Toronto's vibrant West End. This extended showcase will be complemented with supplementary artworks by acclaimed creatives Lido Pimienta, Maria Qamar, and Miss Me, thoughtfully curated by Ashley McKenzie-Barnes to harmonize with the installation's theme. The public is invited to explore this enriching experience from September 28th to October 12th, 2023.

Removing gender barriers, redefining opportunities for women-identifying artists and amplifying those who believe in taking bold strides and disrupting the norm, is a responsibility we must embrace. '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," says Ashley McKenzie-Barnes, the project's lead curator. "The inaugural First Stride program is providing a platform for these influential creators in Canadian art," says Ashley McKenzie-Barnes, the project's lead curator. "It's about combining diverse approaches, cultures and disciplines to make an impactful statement. With this installation, we're reshaping perceptions, challenging expectations and celebrating the power of women in art."

At 'She Work Hard For It', Nuit Blanche attendees will be able to explore: Lido Pimienta's maze-like installation with embroidered gardens and portraits, reminiscing of children's quintessential drawings, Maria Qamar's large-scale, lenticular pop-art display through a satirical lens commenting on the themes of patriarchy, hypocrisy, systemic racism and stereotypes; and walk through Miss Me's tunnel of sisterhood and love, representing the invisible bond women share, explored through thoughtful materiality and wordplay.

Experience Johnnie Walker's transformative installation, 'She Work Hard For It', at Nuit Blanche Toronto on September 23. Located on the South Lawn of Nathan Phillips Square, the installation will be open to the public from 7 p.m. on Saturday, September 23 until 7 a.m. on Sunday, September 24 admission is free for all.

For more information on 'She Work Hard For It', visit the Nuit Blanche Toronto website. For more information about Johnnie Walker's 'First Strides' initiative, explore johnniewalker.com/en-us/firststrides.

About Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker is the world's number one Scotch Whisky brand, enjoyed by people in over 180 countries around the world. Since the time of its founder, John Walker, those who blend its whiskies have pursued flavour and quality above else. Six generations of skilled Master Blenders have pioneered and crafted bold new flavours that have transformed a small Scottish grocery store business, founded in 1820, into an international whisky business selling stylish, authentic, and iconic blends.

Today's range of award-winning whiskies includes Johnnie Walker Red Label, Black Label, Double Black, Green Label, Gold Label Reserve, Aged 18 Years and Blue Label. Together they account for nearly 19 million cases sold annually (IWSR, 2019), making Johnnie Walker the most popular Scotch Whisky brand in the world.

About Diageo North America

Diageo is a global leader in beverage alcohol with an outstanding collection of brands including Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, Bulleit and Buchanan's whiskies, Smirnoff, Cîroc and Ketel One vodkas, Casamigos, and Don Julio tequilas, Captain Morgan, Baileys, Tanqueray and Guinness.

Diageo is listed on both the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: DEO) and the London Stock Exchange (LSE: DGE) and their products are sold in more than 180 countries around the world.

For more information about Diageo, their people, brands, and performance, visit www.diageo.com. Visit Diageo's global responsible drinking resource, www.DRINKiQ.com, for information, initiatives, and ways to share best practice. Follow at Twitter and Instagram for news and information about Diageo North America: @Diageo_NA.

About Ashley McKenzie-Barnes

Ashley McKenzie-Barnes is an accomplished curator and creative director, with a strong belief in the strength of collaborative storytelling and the potential for driving change through her agency, D.PE. For this installation, Ashley utilized her extensive creative network to curate a unique, multi-disciplinary mobile exhibition featuring three talented and empowering women artists. Through this visionary approach, she aims to help Johnnie Walker uplift and amplify the voices of women in the arts, highlighting their contributions to addressing gender disparity within the Canadian art world.
https://www.mckenziebarnes.com/ https://www.weredpe.com

About Lido Pimienta

Lido Pimienta is an internationally notable queer, feminist, and multidisciplinary visual artist, art critic, curator, composer and musical producer of Afro-Indigenous (Wayuu) ancestry from Colombia. Her captivating piece pays tribute to cherished childhood memories and her grandmother's house, featuring a landscape of textiles and soft sculptures. With skillful mastery, she weaves together patterns and colours of traditional textiles, honouring her family's lineage of skilled Wayuu weavers and preserving their rich cultural heritage.

About Maria Qamar

Maria Qamar, also known as Hatecopy, is a globally recognized artist, author and pop culture influencer renowned for her satirical take on the hybridization of South Asian and Canadian culture. Through a bold and thought-provoking lenticular pop-art display, she fearlessly delves into themes of patriarchy, hypocrisy, systemic racism, and stereotypes while celebrating sisterhood, love, and the vibrant essence of South Asian culture, inspired by Indian soap operas.

About Miss Me

Miss Me is an activist, feminist and one of North America's most renowned outlaw artists. Her unapologetic pieces explore struggles with race, gender, society, and class while uplifting icons of the past. Experience her transformative tunnel of sisterhood and love?an interactive representation of the invisible bond uniting women. Adorned with poignant drapery carrying words and phrases that symbolize the complexity of women's daily relationships, this experience serves as a powerful reminder of our collective support for each other in society.

About Nuit Blanche Toronto

Nuit Blanche Toronto is the city's annual all-night celebration of contemporary art, produced by the City of Toronto, in collaboration with Toronto's arts community. Since 2006, this award-winning event has featured more than 1600 art installations by approximately 5,800 artists and has generated over $489 million in economic impact for Toronto. Information and updates are available on the Nuit Blanche website, on Facebook , on Twitter  and on Instagram . This year's event hashtag is #NBTO23.

SOURCE Johnnie Walker

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