The Tranzac dreams up new ways to stay afloat
Tucked off of Bloor on Brunswick Avenue in the Annex, the Tranzac originated in 1965 as the Australian, New Zealand Anzac Club and is currently one of Toronto's few remaining non-profit member supported art-spaces.
Local music fans know the Tranzac best as a multi-room concert venue, hosting musical performances from indie rock and electro-indie pop to folk to improvisational jazz to classical, as well as a long list of theatrical and cultural events.
The library is run by a collective of volunteers. As a lending library, a nominal membership fee grants borrowing privileges. Otherwise, items are free for reading during staff hours. The Girl's Rock camp supports girls 8-16 years old with music education and performances.
In fall 2010, an emergency fundraising campaign was launched to "save the Tranzac." Hard times had fallen on the venue, with major repairs required (a new roof and floor were required), a decrease in revenue, and rental shortfall having put the club at risk of closing its doors.
Through special concerts, an anonymous donor, increased membership and mortgage re-financing, the club was able to match the required 40K needed to obtain a City of Toronto Culture Build Grant.
With the venue still in operation, the question today is, "what's up with the Tranzac?"
There's both good and bad news for the venue. It still remains in a precarious financial position. Like many old buildings, crumbling infrastructure needs constant maintenance. Funds are always being leveraged to repair things like the aging furnace and bar fridge.
The Tranzac, however, would like to stop being viewed as a charity case. Despite its bohemian appearance (perhaps because of it), it is beloved community institution.
Current board president (yes, the club has a board) Collette Savard informs me that there are currently changes underway for the good. Since the 2010 emergency fundraiser, roofing has been replaced, floors repaired and many infrastructure changes most people don't see have been made.
Members of the Tranzac community also held a strategic planning day in April. Discussions took place as to the Tranzac identity, finances, improvements still required, special/branded events, staffing, and future goals. Perhaps most importantly, the board talked about how to stop having to save the Tranzac and turn it into an enterprise capable of self-sufficiency.
"There's no reason why the club should not be able to stand on its own two feet," Savard explains. "Unlike commercial venues, the Tranzac has a potential to gain revenue from four separate streams: alcohol sales, membership fees, granting, and room rentals."
"In order to do that however, we need help from the community on an ongoing basis not just when the roof is literally caving in," Collette tells me.
The current board is more active. Using funds from a recent refinance, they are shining the place up. New carpets have been installed in the Southern Cross Lounge and Tiki Room and dance lights are now up in the Main hall.
An exterior refresh and landscaping are underway. A bathroom retrofit allowing the club to be functionally wheelchair accessible will be completed by the end of May. Further bathroom upgrades will follow.
They have a wish list of bigger projects like soundproofing between rooms and renovations to the upstairs to create more community space. Plans are underway for a crowdfunding campaign with details to where future funds will go.
The club is also expanding its programming. New events include a weekly ukulele jam run by Steve McNie and a reggae night via JuLion King. There's also events like Drunken Shakespeare and Baroque and Beer.
Board members are passionate about the process and Collette is enthusiastic, if practical. She recognizes that if the plan for the next year doesn't turn things around, more drastic changes could happen.
"The Tranzac has a huge community that loves the place. We hope that that community steps up to help us keep the Tranzac rolling for another 50 years and beyond," Collette confides. "I have every faith that we can make this happen!"
On May 3, the Tranzac is hosting a special feast in support of the venue. The lineup includes a group of alumni and current community members. There will be an in-house vegan dinner with a free drink included. Tickets can be purchased online or at the club.
Funds go towards current and future Tranzac improvement projects.
Collette describes the night as "a celebration of great music and great food, but most importantly a love-in for a great community venue."
In order to ensure the continued operation of the club, help is required beyond financial contributions. Many volunteer opportunities exist from painting to grant writing. The Tranzac board and information for membership, space rentals, and other special events can be reached through Collette Savard at email@example.com.
Photos by John Maynard, blogTO, Girls Rock Camp, and the Tranzac.
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