Introducing the First Atkinson Artist!

Photo credit: Mat Dunlap

We’re thrilled to announce the inaugural Atkinson Artist: Rollie Pemberton, aka Cadence Weapon. Rollie is an Edmonton-born, Toronto-based rapper and author. He won the 2021 Polaris Prize for his fifth album Parallel World. Bedroom Rapper, his memoir, was released by McClelland & Stewart in Canada and the U.S. in May 2022. From 2009 to 2011, Rollie was Edmonton’s Poet Laureate.

We first met Rollie when he was a featured storyteller at My Labour Our Future and the artist profiled in our #ILO100 campaign in 2019. Since then, Large has become the unofficial anthem of the decent work movement. Rollie has a stellar portfolio of projects that is well aligned with our focus on income, wealth and democratic inequality, and our concern for decent work and equitable economies.

For more than thirty of our eighty years, Atkinson has amplified many ingenious and inspiring voices through our fellowship programs. Atkinson Fellows are widely known for game-changing investigative journalism, policy innovations within health, education and social service systems, and disruptive narratives about the economy. The idea of an Atkinson Artist comes out of this legacy. It’s about the waves only culture workers can make within social movements and the corridors of legislative or corporate power.

This three-year appointment honours the central role of the Black, Indigenous and racialized artists in inspiring and strengthening social movements.  As the Atkinson Artist, Rollie will continue writing, speaking and performing while initiating creative collaborations and events with other artists, activists and their communities. We hope he’ll keep engaging in public debate about urban gentrification in neighbourhoods like Toronto’s Little Jamaica and unfair working conditions in the gig economy. We also expect this appointment will provide him with time and space to pursue his artistic practices.

Stay tuned for more information about this exciting initiative currently under development.

The opinions expressed by the Atkinson Artist do not represent those of the Atkinson Foundation. We respect the freedom of artistic expression, and the right and responsibility of artists to engage in civic life in a democratic society.