Archive & Collections

We have been working on an evolving project for the last four years to create a smaller, formalized print collection from our archive of 10,000 prints collected over 50 years of studio activity. We are excited by the many great discoveries that have come from reviewing the prints in order to create this collection. 

We are delighted to release a series of video interviews covering each era of Open Studio, as well as the perspective of current artist members who were involved with the print selection process. You can follow the finds from our collection through our dedicated Instagram: @openstudio_collection.

The archive was started with the aim to collect one of every print produced at Open Studio. It contains prints by notable members of the printmaking community, as well as many artists from the wider art community who worked with Open Studio as part of residencies, publishing projects, and other programs since the 1970s.

For many years, the archive had little public visibility within our organization due to it becoming unsustainable in terms of size and resources. Our aim is for the new, smaller collection of around 2000 prints to be digitally imaged and catalogued, with improved storage. The end goal of this project is to donate this important artifact of Artist-Run Centre culture to a collecting organization that can provide the storage needs and access that it deserves.

In March-July of 2022, we began the process of selecting prints from the archive to be included in the new collection. Committees reflecting each decade of Open Studio’s history were formed to look at all prints from that era (the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s).

The committees were each composed of two artists who worked with Open Studio during that specific decade, a knowledgeable member of the wider art community active in that era, a current emerging artist member of Open Studio, and Open Studio’s Curator and Collections Manager. We worked with an Archivist who facilitated the viewing of these prints, and digitally catalogued and organized the new collection. The project was overseen by Open Studio’s Executive Director.

The artwork selected by the committees has been digitally catalogued into an internal database, and the process of photographing each of the prints is currently underway. We are excited by the many great discoveries and conversations that have come from reviewing the prints for the collection.

You can follow the finds from our collection through our dedicated Instagram: @openstudio_collection.

In the coming year, we aim to approach other organizations about donating the collection and safeguarding it in the future.

Artworks that were not selected for the collection will first be offered back to the artist [or their estate] who generously donated the work during their time at Open Studio. In select cases, prints may be transitioned into Open Studio’s Sales Program, in agreement with the artist.

Open Studio’s archive was instigated in 1971 to collect one ‘Open Studio Proof’ (OSP) of every print produced in the studio. Two or three archive proofs were collected for prints with an edition size of 15 or more. A clause to donate at least one OSP for every print created at Open Studio was included in the contract that the artist signed when becoming involved with the studio as a member, renter, or part of its various public programs. Each print for the archive was labelled as an OSP, given a consecutive number, and recorded by hand in an archive record book.

In the following years, the archive grew quickly in size, creating challenges with the storage and staff resources increasingly needed for its care and access. Between 1971 and 2004 Open Studio moved location four times. Although different recording systems were used for the archive over the years, including a digital database in the 2000s, none actively recorded artwork location and movement. This meant that although we had a good notation of what artworks were collected for the archive, there was no information about where those prints were located.

In 2018, collecting was paused until a sustainable direction for the archive could be established. The number of prints in the archive is estimated at close to 10,000.

In 2019, Open Studio received a Museums Assistance Program grant from Canadian Heritage. Through this grant, Open Studio purchased new archival storage units, and photographic equipment and created a digital database framework in consultation with McKenzie Art Projects. This project created greater staff access to and knowledge about the contents of the collection and enabled the archive exhibition PRESS RECORD to be presented as the first exhibition in 2020 – Open Studio’s 50th anniversary year.

In 2020, a Collections Care Proposal Brief was approved at the AGM to deaccession a large portion of the archive to create a more streamlined collection under a new, mandated scope that better serves Open Studio’s vision and mission, and its ability to safeguard such a collection.

In 2021, a Collections Management and Development Policy framework and a Collection Care Policy framework were created with McKenzie Art Projects to set out the guiding principles for the Open Studio Collection moving forward. At the end of 2021, thanks to a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Open Studio was able to hire a full-time archivist to assist with the deaccessioning process and to catalogue the new collection.

From March-July 2022, selection committees for each era of the studio were formed to review prints from every decade of Open Studio’s history. Just over 2500 prints were selected to be digitized and catalogued. A series of video interviews were filmed to document responses to this process, and share experiences from across the studio’s history.

Introduction to Open Studio / archive project

Video – Open Studio Archive: The 1970s

Video – Open Studio Archive: The 1980s

Video – Open Studio Archive: The 1990s

Video – Open Studio Archive: The 2000s-2010s

Video – The 2020s: Back to the Archive