On a weekend stroll around Queen West, [Space Is] took a curious detour into Gallery 1313’s York University’s student exhibit, one of three student exhibits from York University this year. We stopped and talked with Phil Anderson, Executive Director at Gallery 1313, while he was preparing for the evening’s reception. The non-for-profit charitable artist-run centre is located in the Parkdale neighbourhood in downtown Toronto. There are about 70 rotating exhibits showcasing contemporary art by local, national, as well as international artists annually. The Gallery is wheelchair accessible with 14 ft ceilings, LED lighting, two accessible washrooms, 4 exhibition spaces, an office and resource centre. Entrance is through a gated courtyard in this heritage art deco building constructed in 1931 as a police station.
How do you support emerging artists with professional development & career building?
Gallery 1313 hosts workshops with emerging artists covering the basics on how to present portfolios to a gallery, introduce yourself as an artist, marketing your own exhibition, and how to use social media to your advantage. ”We do it in a variety of ways, primarily as a rental venue that helps enable artists at all levels. We have lots of school shows and thesis exhibits where we help with installation and promotion such as with York U & OCADU. There are different calls for exhibits such as “Summer/Fall emerging exhibitions” call for artists. Roughly 60 member artists across the GTA exhibit with us on a regular basis and call the gallery home. We organize panel talks throughout the year, besides collecting art, marketing workshops, writing for the arts, and catering to as many audiences as possible. For art collectors we are rare in that we take no commission on art sales – 100% goes to the artist. This is an attraction both for artists and collectors.”
What type of criteria are you specifically looking for in your submissions?
”We support emerging artists; we don’t always expect someone to have a polished presentation and portfolio. Sometimes it’s a mix of their background - for example, whether they went to school or are self-taught, which reflects on how they’re participating in the exhibition. You don’t have to be a member to exhibit, but to use the member’s gallery you do need to be a member. It is not limited to emerging artists that we exhibit, however, as we have more established artists who sometimes have received funding through Canada Council, the Toronto Arts council or Ontario Arts Council and are looking for a venue.”
What has been the most unique, unusual, or surprising use of your space?
”We had a product demonstration by Procter & Gamble, for hair salons trying different hair colours. The gallery was packed with hair stylists colouring hair and using blow dryers. We’ve had book launches, sometimes we partner with local organizations for fundraisers (ex. Design Hope, Parkdale Project Read, PARC). Once, there was an installation in the middle of the gallery that had a mockup of a coffin. Members of the local BIA (business improvement association) were standing in a semi circle around the coffin talking about business. There have been some interesting exhibitions such as a NATURE IN THE GARAGE using garden sheds installed around the city with artists using them for an art installation. Every 2 weeks, we have a different show - it’s not a predictable space. One time we might have an exhibition by Indigenous fashion collectives on cultural appropriation, and then the next week we have international Tibetan artist from Amsterdam who just came from Chicago. Or a nonprofit fundraiser with paintings from Shanghai using stencils from Montreal (using random tweets). This was organized by Paul Lavoie who started an ad agency TAXI and was looking to give back to the community. - it’s really all over the place.”
Why is it important to continue supporting art? For you personally, what is the role of this gallery in Toronto?
”It’s good for people to have a space where they feel comfortable looking at art. In some commercial galleries, if you’re not there to buy, you’re treated like a bit of an inconvenience. We like to make people feel it’s an accessible space, particularly because it is a public space in the building that is still owned by City of Toronto and leased to Artscape. I think it's important for next generations - as a gallery to check out the artwork and look into being an artist themselves. It’s also a positive reflection of the community; covering issues such as gentrification, urban development, urban sprawl, and environmental dilemmas.”
Describe your ideal or favourite event space. Have you found it? What are some features of different spaces that you enjoyed?
”The Only One Gallery and Twist Gallery are great large venues for exhibitions and events. I’m looking forward to the opening of MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) on Sterling Avenue with David Liss’ new exhibition, BELIEVE. It’s always nice to be in a large venue that has a good reputation. The Gallery has also done fundraiser fashion shows (the fantasy Fashion Show at other venues such Lula Lounge; it’s a good location for doing that kind of event. It’s nice when there is a stage and lighting; air conditioning for summer events is a bonus. Part of a perk that we have at Gallery 1313 is a courtyard entrance as people like being outside."
" The building was formerly a Police Station – Division 6 City of Toronto 1931-63 and officers would bring horses through the courtyard and into the stable house in the back. The old stable house is now 4 live work artist studios managed by Artscape. There are another 5 studios in the building as well as the local BIA and community offices. The Gallery once housed 12 holding cells for the police station, and visitors are surprised to learn about its history. We are part of Doors Open Toronto and find visitors are curious about the art deco building’s history. We also are part of Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, showing 32 photographers from Gallery 44 as well as others. We hope to continue to be a vital part of a changing community and attract visitors to see contemporary art in a repurposed venue.”
For more on Gallery 1313: