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International student artists encounter a mix of opportunities and challenges in Durham art scene

Durham Region is a diverse cultural centre where artists from various corners of the globe converge to share, celebrate, and showcase their unique artistic expressions.

This creative vibrancy, however, is not without its complexities and challenges, particularly for some international student artists who have settled in the region.

Uriel Martinez, despite being a recognized artist in his native Uruguay, shows little interest in the Durham Region’s artistic community.

On the other hand, Atharv Grover, an enthusiastic Indian vocalist, leverages Instagram to share his vocal talents through brief but captivating videos. Meanwhile, Ritesh Patel, also known as DJ Plus Play, has been carving out a successful career in Canada, resonating particularly well within the international student community.

Each artist has their own story about trying to be part of the art world in Durham. Martinez talks about his experience in Durham Region’s arts scene.

As a journalism student, he had the opportunity to cover the Oshawa Music Awards. This was an opportunity to connect with artists from the region but things did not go well. He said that while he enjoyed the experience, he struggled to connect with the local artists.

His journey mirrors the experiences of many other artists from around the world who find themselves in Durham.

“My labels, my shows, my following, everything is back home. I am fortunate that they cover my travel expenses and other costs now, but when I started, they didn’t. I had to cover the expenses myself if I wanted to record,” he said.

His non-Canadian status presents challenges for him to immerse himself in the art scene and gain recognition. “My internationality has stopped me from getting awards, which is really annoying,” he said.

Concerning the difficulties a foreign artist faces, Martinez stressed the feeling that everyone shares. “People tell me that if I were a Canadian or if I sang in English, I would get more opportunities here,” he said.

According to Martinez the Durham Region is very supportive if you’re looking “express your art” but it might not be the best place for making a career out of your artistic work.

Grover, who recently relocated from India, is facing similar challenges. “As an international artist, amalgamating Western and Eastern cultures into my art can be incredibly challenging,” he said.

Grover highlighted the differences, “I’m very proud of my heritage, and the art that has influenced me for more than 20 years is very different from what most people in Canada know about,” he said.

He explained that juggling school, personal art projects, and a job is quite challenging, particularly for an international student, and the fact that there are many different and talented artists in the area makes the competition even more intense.

Grover is appreciative of the support of the Durham Region’s art community. “Some places host open mic nights where artists like us can showcase their skills,” he said.

Grover is motivated in his musical path by a desire to convey his family’s story. Despite his fascination with Western music, he remains deeply connected to his cultural roots.

He strives as an artist to blend these influences while remaining authentic to who he is.

Grover is optimistic about the future, believing it will become “more inclusive and more open to more diverse forms of music,” thanks to the internet and the influx of people from across the globe.

Patel, notes the stark contrast between India’s Bollywood and Hindi music and Canada’s diverse music scene. “It’s entirely different in Canada due to its multicultural nature,” he said.

After moving from India to Canada, Patel’s music evolved as he embraced genres like hip-hop, R&B, and country. “I needed to explore more genres,” he said, acknowledging the significant impact on his style.