Finding the right space to create in is integral to the creative practice , and right now there’s no question this is more challenging than ever—but it’s not impossible. As rents in Canadian cities continue to rise and neighbourhoods gentrify, independent creators pushed out of old warehouses and lofts are finding new places to work in. Sometimes this means joining a studio collective, taking over and transforming an unused room somewhere, or finding a spacious and affordable spot outside of Toronto. We talked to three OCAD U alumni who found or built studios they love.
Program: Sculpture/Installation, 2005
Professional practice: Multimedia visual artist with a focus on narrative explorations of identity, cultural displacement and personal experiences within the Korean diaspora. She belongs to Gallery 44 Members Gallery, where she’ll be featured in an upcoming solo exhibition, “A Few Flaps to Belong” (May 5 to June 3). She shows her work across Canada and internationally, including in the US, Italy, Finland and Korea.
Studio location: The White House Studio Project, Kensington Market, Toronto
The find: Min landed a Toronto Arts Council grant in 2016, enabling her to move her practice out of her home and into a studio. She joined The White House Studio Project in November 2016 after an extensive search. Her spot within the collective studio is eight by eight feet, and includes a shared open space where she can work on larger projects or host events.
The fit: The studio is within walking distance to where Min lives and offers plenty of natural light from large second-floor windows overlooking bustling Augusta Avenue. “In my new studio space I’m free to use materials that are messy,” she says. “I was really happy to find this spot. I get here in the morning, go home when the sun sets and I’m inspired by the energy of Kensington Market every day.”
More info: www.jiheemin.com
Photo of Jihee Min's workspace in her Toronto Studio
Artist: Joseph Clement
Program: Interdisciplinary Master’s in Art, Media and Design, 2011
Professional practice: Worked as a landscape architect prior to completing his MFA and brings a background in writing, film and interdisciplinary installations to his new art and design firm, DesignLAND. His feature documentary, Integral Man will also premiere in 2017.
Studio location: A room in a shared house near Trinity Bellwoods Park, Toronto
The find: Clement needed a space where he could set up in to do drafting work on his computer, write at a desk, plan installations and collaborate with project partners. He realized a storage room in the four-bedroom house he shares with three friends had potential, so he cleared it out, ripped out four layers of laminate and linoleum flooring, painted the walls bright white and filled it with plants to create a studio.
The fit: “My studio features natural light and a view. If I need take a mental break I can stare out the window at the park,” he says. He also gave careful consideration to the studio set-up: “A thoughtfully organized space is so important. I know where everything is and my work is very fluid. I’m never searching for materials I need.”
More info: Instagram: _design_land_ and designland.ca
Artist: Melanie Janisse-Barlow
Program: Interdisciplinary Master’s in Art, Media and Design, 2014
Professional practice: Known for The Poets Series, her round-robin portrait series of North American writers. She also does other portrait painting, designs jewellery and writes poetry. Her first poetry collection, Orioles in the Oranges was published in 2009, and she recently completed two new manuscripts for publication.
Studio location: Artist’s studio in the historic Capitol Theatre, Windsor
The find: When she lived in Toronto (before rents skyrocketed), Janisse-Barlow enjoyed working in warehouse spaces, including one at Sorauren and Dundas and one on Brock Avenue. When she returned to Windsor to live and work two years ago she discovered there were vacant artists’ studios in an old theatre downtown. She enquired about the space and ended up landing a 350 square-foot studio. It’s a corner space with two banks of windows. The city, which owns the building, fixed it up for her: the windows are brand new, as is the wiring and ventilation. She rents the space from the building’s tenant: the Windsor Symphony Orchestra.
The fit: “Living in a smaller city and working in an affordable space relaunched my creative practice,” she says. “There’s a lot of light, it’s full of old Persian carpets and beautiful furniture, including a vintage easel from Paris. I’m incredibly productive here. It’s very comfortable, like a home.”
More info: www.poets-series-project.com
Photo of Melanie Janisse-Barlow in her Windsor studio
Suzanne Alyssa Andrew is the author of the novel, Circle of Stones, the associate editor for Taddle Creek magazine and a bass player. She works out of a studio space in Artscape.
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