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Galleries

The Toronto Free Gallery

Posted by Dustin Parkes / Posted on August 11, 2008

Toronto GalleryThere's very little in this world more satisfying than coming across a gallery opening on a Thursday night that happens to have an open bar. If I was pushed to come up with an explanation as to why I love the Toronto arts scene, this would be the number one reason. Second on that list would be making fun of all the pretensions that come from this community.

The idea of a Toronto art gallery dedicated to "social, cultural, urban and environmental issues" inspires my eyes to roll on a scale normally reserved for arguments with undergrads and overheard snippets of conversation on the TTC. I've always felt as though exaggerated combinations of art and activism create outcomes on par with the Ghostbusters crossing the streams of their photon packs: absolute disaster, or as it's also known, Hans Haacke.

With this healthy dose of skepticism in tow I visited the Toronto Free Gallery, located at 1277 Bloor St. West, anticipating a large helping of self-righteous pretension and a side order of holier than thou attitude. What I ended up finding was quite the opposite.

It may be difficult for anyone who has ever wandered into a typical Toronto gallery on Queen West, but try imagining a genuinely welcoming place where art is exhibited and non-prescription eye wear doesn't act as a membership card. Such is the Toronto Free Gallery, which founder and executive director Heather Haynes describes as "almost like a neighbourhood drop in centre."

That isn't just a media savvy sound bite spewed on inquiring bloggers. By attempting to reach beyond the standard arts community, Toronto Free Gallery has embraced its own local neighbourhood.

During my brief time at the space, which is currently closed in preparation for its September 11th Graphics of the Black Panther Party opening, neighbourhood locals stopped by to say hello to Haynes and wish her and her daughter well. Without a hint of condescension, Hayes responded to the well-wishers by name, most of whom I would never expect to see at a gallery.

I didn't really think about it at the time, but later it struck me: when was the last time I was in the gallery district and someone said hello to me or didn't make me feel like an interloper in their pristine art space?

Toronto Free Gallery

Toronto Free Gallery first opened in September of 2004 with the idea of creating a laboratory-like environment for artists. The location quickly became known for artistic experiments that challenged both audiences and artists. Late last year, Haynes and her faithful assistants Carla Bertin and Aaron Cain moved to their new location at Bloor and Lansdowne.

The building still advertises its previous tenant above the door, but a sign isn't needed to increase the space's welcoming vibe. Hayes intends to use every square inch of the property to maintain the ideals that she opened Toronto Free Gallery with four years ago, including eventually offering low-cost work spaces.

Past exhibitions have ranged from architectural models to avant garde performance pieces. The majority of the shows come from calls for proposals to local artists and anyone else who has something to say. Haynes and co-curator Izida Zorde are currently seeking proposals for a themed exhibition titled Strip Mining For Creative Cities.

As previously mentioned, the gallery reopens on September 11th with an opening reception that should be part neighbourhood block party, part art scenester hipfest, and all anything but your typical gallery opening.

Toronto Gallery

All photos by Miranda McGuire.

Discussion

9 Comments

DH / August 11, 2008 at 04:24 pm
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Wow, I'm glad you started this post with recognizing that you're a completely useless jerk. Stupid people ride the TTC and talk... rolls eyes... artists are pretentious... rolls eyes... Why the hell do I keep reading this blog?
Paul / August 11, 2008 at 05:41 pm
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Easily the worst post I've yet to read on this blog. It's a shame because for the most part blogTO tends to be on the money... this just comes across as completely ignorant useless though.
Dustin Parkes / August 11, 2008 at 10:25 pm
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Wow guys, thanks so much for the warm welcoming.

DH: Because insulting bloggers in an online comment section pseudo-anonymously is really the pinnacle of innovation.

Paul: Don't get in a huff. Your non-prescription eye wear will get all fogged up.
Ry-Tron / August 12, 2008 at 07:46 am
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Fuck'em Dustin. blogTO needs a new shit disturber.

You are missing the whole name, address, phone number and email contact at the end, though. Useful if they don't have a proper sign up.
DH / August 12, 2008 at 09:11 am
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I have no qualms at insulting "bloggers" who take great pains at dismissing a great percentage of our population. Wait, I'm going to stop right there... why was an art gallery review written by a sports blogger? The "genius" behind Drunk Jays Fans gets to write this... well, you've gotta make your $10 somewhere I guess. I hope that the readers of the site are not interested in helping BlogTO monitor page views and neglected to click-through to this terrible article. The few that did I hope they get bored after the first round of uninteresting insults and turned their attention towards Google where they are sure to find out more useful information about this wonderful gallery. You should probably take a few notes while learning your insult comedy from the Gawker team, they do it much better.
[/rant]
Paul / August 12, 2008 at 10:42 am
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Dustin: You're a blogger and you want a warm welcoming after blatantly insulting pretty much the entire Toronto arts community? Would you like me to warm up a bottle for you and tuck you in too?
Dustin Parkes / August 12, 2008 at 11:35 am
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Ry-Tron: Thanks man. The Gallery contact info is at the top of the page.

DH: I realize that in your own little world it's impossible for one person to have more than one interest, but believe it or not people are allowed to be interested in both sports and art. And if you actually bothered to read the entire post, you might've learned that I really loved TFG's space. Unfortunately, they're preparing for an upcoming exhibition and so the gallery itself was the only thing I could really write about.

Paul: I know some really good anti-fogging agents that I use for my hockey visor. Flip me an email if you need to borrow them.
Elizabeth / August 12, 2008 at 11:54 am
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This gallery is a wonderful addition to my neighbourhood, and these blog posts are irrelevant and offensive to the spirit of community that the Free Gallery has brought to my community. Go flame each other offlist.
rek / August 12, 2008 at 02:28 pm
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BAWWWWWWWWW

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