Telephone Booth Gallery
Telephone Booth Gallery is an enthusiastic newcomer to the Junction. Representing up-and-coming artists, many of whom work in textile, clay, or other fine-craft media, the gallery fits well with the neighbourhood's love of the handmade-- the Junction area is also home to fine décor shops, furniture makers, restorers and salvagers, framers, antique dealers, and their ilk. Proprietor Sharlene Rankin opened her space on Dundas West near Runnymede after watching the Junction being to grow earnestly in years past. After spending some time away from Toronto running the Headwater Arts Festival in Orangeville, when the time came to move back to Toronto, it had to be to the Junction.
In addition to its growing cachet as an artsy hot spot, Sharlene tells me she had noticed the way the neighbourhood small businesses support each other, and how enthusiastic they are about the arts-- citing the several-years-running Junction Arts Festival, in which local businesses, "from coffee shops to chiropractors," laughs Sharlene, display art on their walls. With that engagement as an inspiration, she worked hard to open the gallery in time for the festival in September 2010, after taking possession of the building (formerly a first-floor apartment) in May. Telephone Booth received a warm reception.
The space is narrow and sunny, split into a front room with ample wall space, and a second room that features a low shelf and larger hutch that serve to display 3D objects, like the ceramics that were on view when I visited the gallery. The namesake telephone booth that stands by the front window is a home for flyers and the gallery's guestbook. Bought for a loft apartment with a lack of privacy, the functioning booth was relegated to various basements until Sharlene pronounced it the mascot of the gallery. The gallery's goal is to encourage the success of up-and-coming artists, she explains, so the gallery is a form of communication to that end-- the telephone booth is symbolic.
As a veteran arts administrator, and lifelong lover and collector of art (especially fine craft), Sharlene says opening a gallery was a natural progression. Through Telephone Booth, she's able to serve as a conduit between up-and-coming artists and their audiences. The gallery has been showing many of the young artists Sharlene has discovered at art fairs, shows, and through her networks. In awe of all the talent she sees, she also admires the work ethic of many up-and-comers who self-promote and do business, in addition to maintaining a practice.
Certainly, many of the artists who've shown at Telephone Booth so far display a labour-intensive quality in their art. From Noelle Hamlyn's stunning embroidered paper and textile works, to Laura Peturson's woodcut prints, to Kim Harcourt's ceramics, the handwork influence is strong. "Fine craft is art," says Sharlene, warmly correcting me when I make a distinction. "I think its growing popularity is probably owing to its accessibility and beauty." Fine craft also creates an opportunity to educate people about the artist's work processes, many of which are losing ground in the digital era. Artists working in oil painting round out the gallery's roster.
All in all, Telephone Booth is a spirited addition to the neighbourhood, and I look forward to seeing what's in store. Sharlene's excitement for art is palpable, and it will be inspiring to see her curatorial vision unfold.
Writing and photography by Elena Potter.