Thursday, July 14, 2016

Toronto Artscapes

Since moving to Toronto, I have come across some of the city's Artscape buildings in one form or another and wondered how they came to be. Each of them is so interesting in both architecture and the events for which I visited, so I thought I would do a little background research.

From the Artscape website:
Artscape is a not-for-profit urban development organization that makes space for creativity and transforms communities.
Our work involves clustering creative people together in real estate projects that serve the needs of the arts and cultural community and advance multiple public policy objectives, private development interests, community and neighbourhood aspirations and philanthropic missions.
Artscape comprises Toronto Artscape Inc., Artscape Non-Profit Homes Inc. and Artscape Foundation. BC Artscape is an independent affiliate.
So they have their hands in lots of pies, but it's nice to see that they're generally in the business of helping people to be more creative, no matter what their standing is in life.

My first brush with Artscapes was at Daniels Spectrum during Doors Open just after it opened in 2012. A beautiful and functional community centre in Regent Park, I was amazed to see how the community around the building was also renovated to become a welcoming area for people to mingle and connect. There was also some kind of children's dance competition going on as we walked around, which made me smile. The building was already getting so much use that the organizers couldn't afford to stop the usual daily events of the centre so that people could come and see the building. And why should they!

Daniels Spectrum at night. Such a striking building!

Daniels Spectrum is Silver LEED certified and fully accessible. It's open to the community, and it is made for a variety of cultural uses. Within its walls you can find dancing, art-making, singing, music playing, learning, socializing, community building, mentoring, collaborating…there's something going on literally every day.

I had visited Artscape Wychwood Barns in a handful of occasions before, but I decided to visit last month after seeing an advertisement on Bunz that there would be free clothing repairs at the Saturday Market. I had some clothing (ironically from Bunz trades) that needed a bit of sew-magic, so I biked up to Wychwood Barns and truly marvelled at the farmer's market that they put on every week. The produce looked amazing, and there was so much to see. 

Beautiful little handmade sushi rolls.

Interesting wall collages in a room where kids were making arts and crafts.

This man serenaded me on the accordion! Scratch that off the ol' bucket list.

I love the aesthetic appeal of Wychwood Barns, especially the fact that you can still tell that it used to be a streetcar shed.

I had a delicious ginger smoothie (in a reusable glass bottle) and absorbed my surroundings while I waited for my clothing to be fixed. As I moseyed around, I met a wonderful man who sells hand-spun pottery in a corner of the indoor area. There was just so much to see!

Artscape Wychwood Barns operates on a self-sustaining model, without requiring ongoing operating subsidy after the initial capital investment. Tenants of Artscape Wychwood Barns pay affordable rents and contribute to the programming of the building and site. It's also Gold LEED certified and fully accessible.

I walked by this building by chance as I crossed Shaw Street to get to Trinity Bellwoods. I could tell right away that it used to be a high school. There was some interesting music coming from inside and lots of people around. I realized that that day, a Thursday, was the launch party for the Toronto Art Book Fair - which I planned to attend a couple of days later. When I came back, I was as excited to see the inside of the building as I was to buy some art books.

The view toward one of the staircases. This building has character in spades.

Someone was selling a potato clock that read "HELP". It tickled me.

The clocks on this wall all read 8:32 (AM or PM is unclear) - the time when the school stopped being a school. I am led to assume that these clocks were actually in the classrooms, and have been repurposed like many of the other displays.

There was art all over the walls and just some very interesting displays of all kinds. I honestly couldn't tell what was part of the fair and what was there all the time. Many of the displays pay homage to the building's original roots as a school, but certainly the hippest school I have ever seen. Everything has been painted a cool modern white, to allow the objects on the walls the opportunity to tell their story.

Many businesses rent spaces in the building full-time like the Bellwoods Academy of Music and the Coffee Pub, but there are lots of public spaces for artists to rent nightly or by the month. I would urge you to visit just to see what there is to see in the three magical storeys of the building itself. Quite a wonder.

Located on the hazy divider line between Hanlan's Point and Centreville on Toronto Island lies a gem of an artscape - Gibraltar Point. I must admit that while I did technically 'visit' the artscape a couple of weekends ago, I was in a tizzy riding my bike all over the island to try to see everything that there was to see. So I didn't stay long.

As soon as I got off the ferry, I saw a handwritten chalk sign on the sidewalk advertising a craft and art fair at Artscape Gibraltar Point, and I knew I was about to cross another one off my list.

This place also functions as an event/wedding venue, and is literally a dream.

When I go back to the island (because one visit is surely not enough), I'd really like to explore the venue a little more and see its beauty from a less blurry-as-I-bike-by view.

Artscape Gibraltar Point opened in 1999. Open year-round, this arts and cultural facility is housed in a former school surrounded by 46 acres of parkland. Over the years Artscape Gibraltar Point has hosted over 1,000 artists both local and international, who have taken advantage of the facility’s quiet and natural setting to focus on their practices and projects through short-term residencies and long-term studio rentals.

Having visited four artscapes, I only have eight more to go! Check out more of the ones I have yet to cross of my list here.

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