A Guelph artist is expressing what pride means to him through art.
Romario Smith entered a sneaker art competition, where he had 48 hours to design a shoe with ‘pride’ as the theme.
“It was actually a friend of mine in my art program at the university who said ‘hey, this is for pride, you’re gay, you like shoes, you work at a shoe store, you should do this,’” Smith said .
The contest was put on by the art agency Martk’d and eBay.
Organizers said 250 artists from across Canada entered the competition. The submissions were narrowed down to 30and then a final three.
Smith was voted a finalist.
“It’s clever,” Dion Walcott, founder of Martk’d said about Smith’s design. “One of the things the Martk’d team likes to always say when we do these things is push the needle, which I feel he really did. It makes people uncomfortable, but understanding and reading why he did it, the message behind it, it just makes you appreciate the artwork even more.”
The design on Smith’s shoe was hand drawn and is made up of male genitalia. He said the concept represents being “unapologetic”.
“For me, my sexuality isn’t just something that comes up once a [year]. It isn’t just like a piece of rainbow material or merch or crop top that I pull out once a [year] to go to a parade. It’s a part of who I am,” he said. “I wanted to create something that was very in people’s faces and just explicitly me.”
However, he said he didn’t want to make the design too serious.
“I also lean into that whole idea of like, when you go into a stall – especially in an elementary school – boys are drawing phallic images on the stalls,” he explained. “So being unapologetic about myself but also not taking myself or life too seriously.”
LIVING WITH PRIDE
He said being true to himself didn’t always come easy. It was a skill that has taken him years to gain and practice.
“Especially when I came out to some of my closest friends, I found myself apologizing for my sexuality and who I wanted to love. And eventually I got tired of that.”
The shoe has been auctioned off on eBay. The money raised will go towards the Pride and Remembrance Foundation.
Smith Said he hopes whoever bought and wears his shoe will be confident and not feel ashamed of who they are.
“Just got out there and live,” he said.