107Shaw takes the idea of opening a gallery in one's home to a certain extreme. Unlike those enthusiasts who cobble together makeshift exhibition spaces in small apartments that aren't really well equipped for the display of art and the traffic of openings, co-founders Daniel Fazio and Lana Mauro actively sought out a living space that would specifically accommodate the exhibition of art on a permanent basis. This isn't a particularly easy task under the best of conditions, but it's even harder when the searching is being done from another city, in this case Vancouver. So it might be fair to say that it was rather serendipitous that Mauro came across a Craigslist ad for 107 Shaw, a residential location well suited to do double duty as both a home and a gallery.
Opened in February of this year (2009), 107Shaw is located just north of the West Queen West strip, yet it somehow feels as though it's far removed from the hustle and bustle of a main thoroughfare. Perhaps it's the proximity to Trinity Bellwoods park or simply the residential prominence north of Queen Street - either way the two-story Victorian building that houses the gallery space on the main floor is a nice variation on the more common and commercially situated main street galleries throughout the city. I say this not because I think there's anything wrong with galleries located on busy streets - in fact I think such locations are great for sustained traffic and thus long term viability - but because diversity is critical to the overall success of a city's gallery scene.
Indeed, it's precisely this diversity that drew Fazio and Mauro to Toronto from Vancouver. Although I'm quite sure he has no intention of starting an East/West war of the proportions that fans of 90s hip-hop will recall, Fazio nevertheless explained to me that a key factor in their desire to relocate was the belief that Toronto's arts scene is currently more vibrant than Vancouver's. As I'm not really up-to-date on what's going in Vancouver, I'll have to take his word on this. At the end of the day, though, both he and Mauro are in a pretty decent position to make such a judgment. Not only did they both live in Vancouver, but their primary occupations are arts-based: Fazio's a graphic designer and the creative director of ION magazine and Mauro is one of Metric's managers.
The mandate at 107Shaw is a loose one, defined primarily by the myriad creative interests of its founders, including the plastic arts, fashion and music. Such a varied approach is becoming quite common these days, with more and more gallery directors and owners redefining the types of art that are worthy to display. I'm quite a fan of this for two reasons: on the one hand, I think such redefinition/reconsideration reflects a more critical approach to the always tenuous distinction between art and non-art, and on the other, it helps to diversify an art scene that is finally reaching the size at which such range and miscellany are necessary to keep new additions relevant and exciting.
As both a recently opened gallery and one that takes the ground floor of Fazio and Mauro's home, it'd be fair to say that it's only in the last little while that the space has got fully up and running. Although the gallery has already hosted a number of shows, aside from openings, visitation was by appointment only. That's starting to change in the form of regular gallery hours on Wednesday and Saturday between from 12-6pm. I think this will help bring the space to the attention of curious gallery-goers, many of whom might not have taken the initiative to make an appointment.
Still, there are challenges to running a permanent gallery in a space that's been designed with residential purposes in mind. Perhaps the most obvious evidence of this at 107Shaw is that Fazio and Mauro's kitchen is actually adjacent to the exhibition area. For openings this is actually quite the boon, as there is a natural bar area and the preparation and offering of food is made quite simple. But I know that if it was my kitchen, visitors during regular gallery hours might be witness to stacks of dirty dishes and the general untidiness that seems to ever define this area. Thankfully, in the couple times I've dropped by the gallery, it's become pretty clear that the owners aren't slobs like me.
The other significant challenge posed by the space is a basic one. The exhibition area isn't that big. This need not necessarily be a bad thing, but it's obvious that no one's about to have a major retrospective here. Instead, the exhibitions so far have been intimate affairs. Taking it's size into consideration, I think the gallery is perfectly suited to putting on solo shows of up and coming artists who can concentrate on putting their ten best pieces together without the pressure to do more. As its size isn't cavernous, 107Shaw has also served as a great spot for the vintage clothing sales and video/film screenings that have already taken place at the gallery. I should think that the Fazio and Mauro will build on such events by hosting future happenings that maximize their unique and intimate space.
The art in this post is by Seth Fluker.