When I first moved to Toronto about a year and a half ago, I was determined to discover and befriend the galleries in my neighbourhood. Who were these amazing people who managed, in the face of overwhelming odds and prohibitive costs, to run contemporary exhibition spaces in the heart of arts on Queen Street West? Turns out there are an amazing amount of amazing people opening cool spaces because since I have been here, I have seen literally dozens of galleries come and go. I have been directly involved with starting up four galleries and only one still continues today – but that is a student gallery and is well supported by the school it is located in. The others were completely independent – no funding or free spaces. I am very proud of these “projects” and respect very much the four galleries that defied the odds and provided excellent shows to the community of Parkdale but are now gone or exhibiting their last show this month. Each one is closing for a somewhat different reason, and each is based on a different model.
1. DK Gallery: This was a professional photography group that has a neat and small space with big windows. Most memorable perhaps for the derelict industrial architecture photography and their Bravo! TV show “Photo Xplorers”. Always interesting exhibits from the members of this collective as well as guest exhibitors, and they shared their window shelve for other gallery invites and publications. They also were kind enough to be the first Art List Pro video interview (I cringe watching it now!) and I really enjoyed promoting their exhibits and were one of my main reasons for extolling the virtues of Parkdale.
2. Gallery 47: Got the low-down from a friend that this aspiring to be a high-end contemporary installation gallery space was closing down to revert back to being a studio space for the artists who own the space. A big, beautiful and rough space with a yard, the space reeked of potential and had a very well-developed intern program and academic sensibility to all the exhibits. The exhibits were wonderfully crafted installations.
3. culturshoc gallery: This is the gallery that invited me to take the position of curator and I enjoyed the experience immensely. More of an emerging artist space, I was very intrigued by the idea of the boutique “gift shop” in the back of the galley that helped support the exhibitions in the front. Not a large space but very well designed, everyone who came in enjoyed the experience and we had a great sound system to boot.
4. Snowball Gallery: In my mind, this is most “genuine” and earnest gallery model and effort out of all of them – and probably because it was run by one person, Alison, who is very resourceful and industrious with communications and curating really interesting exhibits from students and emerging professionals. Located on the very western edge of Parkdale it probably suffered from a lack of walk-in traffic as well and I know how burdensome it can be to be the only one responsible to keep open hours for the space. Always interesting shows – but the good news is there is one last exhibit to commemorate the one year “project” that was Snowball Gallery and I highly recommend attending it, at least to show support for this kind of quixotic artist-led effort that provides great opportunities for so many artists.
So what went wrong?