Erin Stump Projects
Erin Stump Projects is a small art space in the heart of West Queen West, near Dovercourt. Having opened its doors in April 2011, it's definitely a newcomer in an area whose cachet is largely built on the reputations of stalwart galleries like Clint Roenisch, Edward Day, Paul Petro, Stephen Bulger, and Katharine Mulherin.
But Stump herself isn't new to Toronto's art world--she has worked behind the scenes for several years, paying her dues. After studying at NSCAD, she moved to Toronto to become more involved in the Canadian art community. She started as Katharine Mulherin's assistant in 2007; soon after, Stump and Mulherin co-launched Board of Directors, a collaborative curatorial project started in 2008. Stump counts herself lucky that Mulherin was such a supportive mentor.
Stump also served on various committees, such as the curatorial committee for Casey House's Art with Heart charity auction, as well as the committee for Whodunit?, OCADU's annual fundraising auction.
When the time came to open her own space, Stump wanted to stay in Queen West neighbourhood because of the community of small businesses and people, citing neighbouring shops like Chasse Gardée, Art History, and of course, Katharine Mulherin's gallery. Calling Queen West a changing neighbourhood, Stump says that though she likes the art community that has developed on Dundas, she's happy to have found a great space in the "good little block" she was already in.
The space itself is a modest size, but Erin Stump Projects makes great use of it. Formerly a lighting shop, the narrow storefront underwent the standard gallery facelift, adding good track lighting and painted wood floors. A small desk and storage wall just out of sight help keep the visual experience very clean.
When I visited, a new exhibition of paintings by Vanessa Maltese had just opened (coincidentally, Maltese is a friend of mine.) Her work, along with that of fellow OCADU graduates Winnie Truong and Kotama Bouabane, is a good example of the genres that often find a home at Erin Stump Projects: technically skilled, but with an intuitive guiding principle. The artists are often fairly recent graduates (of BFA or Master's programs), have been critically acclaimed or given accolades, and maintain ties to Toronto. Though Stump doesn't limit her roster to early-career artists, it's a common trait. Most of them she had an existing relationship prior to launching ESP, through showing their work at Board of Directors or Katharine Mulherin.
"Toronto galleries grow with their artists," says Stump, explaining that she feels there is room for many galleries that showcase "emerging" artists. Judging by the number of people that turned up for the opening that night and stuck around till it was time to lock up, I'd say she's right.