Walnut Contemporary is Walnut Studios' new new affiliated commercial gallery and event space. It's also blessed with a great origin story: it replaces the defunct Canadian Corps Legion Hall (a legion known more for its rowdy parties and live shows than the usual shuffleboard and keno). Of course, little evidence remains of the space's recent past, as the peanut shells and beer bottles have all been cleared to make way for hardwood flooring and pristine white walls. It's a beautiful gallery, with space enough to launch large-scale exhibitions and events (including a recent performance by contemporary dancer Meredith Kalaman).
But first, some more background. In 2008, real estate developer Jason Martins bought up an old warehouse near King and Bathurst with the hope of bringing another batch of townhouses to the area. But because of unusually long delays at City Hall, Martins was left with an empty, unfinished space and a lot of time in the interim. Enter a few resourceful artists, who asked to rent the warehouse in what was originally supposed to be a temporary arrangement. Realizing he had something truly special on his hands, Martins shelved the townhouses and thus, Walnut Studios was born.
Only open since November 6th, Walnut Contemporary's modest stable of artists includes locals Hugh Campbell Bisset, Julie Gladstone, Catto Houghton, Anna Pantcheva, and Chris Walsh, whose work, while certainly diverse, all shares an affinity for bold colours and geometric structure. It's energetic and fun work, that would seem right at home within the vibrant community of Walnut Studios. The gallery currently features exclusively Toronto-based artists, but Artistic Director Amanda MacDonald is looking forward to broadening Walnut's reach, eventually showing artists from across Canada and around the world.
Though it won't necessary feature Walnut-affiliated artists, the new gallery seems deeply rooted in the studio's philosophy of communal creativity. As MacDonald writes, "Walnut's mandate is to create, connect and inspire. We are here to support and celebrate professional, passionate artists; foster and help develop budding, emerging artists to be successful; and inspire our community to make art an everyday part of their lives."
With only a handful of shows under its belt, the gallery has plenty of room to grow into this ambition. It took barely a few months for Walnut Studios to blossom into a fully-fledged community; now its become more artist co-op than studio space. It'll be interesting to watch how its partner Walnut Contemporary develops, and how the Walnut empire (which now includes Walnut Studios, Walnut Projects, Walnut Contemporary, and with the Walnut Venue coming soon) will continue to expand.
Walnut Contemporary is open Wednesday to Saturday, 11 am to 5:30 pm (or by appointment)
Photos by Morris Lum