Working as an artist in Toronto offers a lot of benefits: there’s an active scene, great art schools and galleries, and increasing attention from international collectors and press. But if you need somewhere to actually, you know, make and display your art, things can get challenging. Rent is skyrocketing, and many long-time studio spaces have been demolished to make room for luxury condos.
Thankfully, Toronto’s tight-knit artistic community has found a solution to these problems: the artists collective. By working and exhibiting together, members don’t just save on rent: their newfound group also provides them with constant inspiration and input on their work, in addition to greatly broadening their audience.
Toronto has an amazing variety of active artistic collectives, but for this list, we’re focusing specifically on those that have their own publicly-accessible studio or gallery spaces.
The White House Studio Project
This gem in the heart of Kensington Market has been a beloved studio/exhibition space/community centre since 2008, and its counted what seems like half of Toronto among its roster of 26 frequently-shifting members. With a wood shop, screen printing facilities, zine library, 2600 square feet of studio space, and an always awesome group of people, the White House remains one of the best places to make (and see) art in the city.
In 2008, real estate developer Jason Martins purchased an old warehouse near King and Bathurst with plans to bring a few more condos to the area. But after City Hall left his application hanging, Martins allowed a few artists to rent space in the building in the interim, and thus, Walnut Studios was born. Now home to over forty artists of various media, Walnut Studios has become a major hub, with classes, life-drawing sessions, and abrand new exhibition gallery.
Founded by musician/artists Mike Dellios and Oliver Pauk in their mid-twenties, and orginally operated out of Dellios’ loft, this once low-key collective has now expanded to two studios off Lansdowne and Bloor and Dufferin and Queen west. With monthly art crits, open studio events, and rates starting at just $55 a month, AKIN is a great option for burgeoning artist in two of the city’s major artistic hubs.
What once was Ushers Grocery Store is now a 6,000 square foot studio space composed of, yep, 36 rooms. Located beneath the Goodfellas Gallery on Queen and Dufferin (with whom it shares an owner), the building that houses this Parkdale gem may be in need of a little TLC, but the art is always top-notch.
Founder Billy Cudgel has turned this three year-old collective into a major creative force in the city by relentlessly promoting his collective of over 50 artists through a mix of podcasts, live performances, parties, concerts, and their bimonthly magazine called Nest, the collective. Now with a studio on Logan and Gerrard, public awareness of this dedicated group of talented people is sure to keep spreading.
With the goal to “support all creative creatures,” this studio/gallery space recently made the move from Queen West to Dundas, and their new location seems a perfect fit. With space for the 6-member collective to work in the back, and a versatile space for exhibitions in the front, their new spot has already hosted concerts, retail pop-ups, film screenings, and interactive exhibits. Up next on their busy schedule is the head-to-head exhibition battle SHERIDAN VS OCAD. Things are sure to get heated.
Hiding in a nondescript industrial building on Dufferin just north of Queen lies the exhibition space for the Brockton Collective, a loose-knit group of creative types united by their desire to take advantage of the stellar venue. Thanks to the collective’s open member policy, Brockton now counts over 100 members among its ranks.
Photo of 36 Chambers by Jesse Milns