26 Toronto

Is the arts salon set to make a comeback in Toronto?

As I wound up the icy street to 26 Mackenzie Crescent, I cursed Google Street View - I'd thought I was going to a screening in a vine covered mansion, yet here I was standing outside a nondescript house with a friend in tow who was also expecting a mansion. As is often the case with my fancy expectations, I immediately regretted my hasty disappointment in the grey semi-detached home.

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As soon as we stepped inside, Nicole Collins and Michael Davidson of 26, which bills itself as a "domestic viewing space for local and international contemporary art," greeted us warmly and offered tea and popcorn as we took our boots off. In a sign of what may be a growing trend in Toronto (if spaces like Weird Things on Bathurst or events like Small Talk are indicators) these artists are hoping to create a non-traditional environment that engages with art "in its broadest definition."

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The space, which has been open each Saturday from 12pm-6pm since September, operates on zero budget and has hosted art exhibits, performance art, screenings, music, and talks. Events usually start in the gallery / front nook which was formerly Collins' art studio, then migrate into the large dining room where discussions on everything from art to credit card fraud take place.

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The couple show no sign of slowing down, and assure me that opening their house to friends and strangers has been nothing but a positive experience. As artists themselves, they prefer the experience of conversing for a longer time with a small group of people than talking quickly to many individuals at a regular art opening.

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"A lot of people in Canada are starting to host events like this" Collins tells me, naming a few recent run ins with cohorts in at-home curation from Guelph and Ottawa. While salon style art shows are hardly a new idea, it wouldn't surprise me if more start to pop up around Toronto as the rent for gallery space is driven ever higher.

You can stop by 26 any Saturday in January for "Not at Home Movies" - cellphone videos projected larger than life - and Saturday in February (the 1st, 8th, 15th, and 22nd) to view paintings by Sheila Ayearst curated by Jennifer Rudder.

Second photo by Bogdan Luca


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