Posted by Open Studio

OS 45: “That Embracing Space”

Open Studio's original location at 310 Queen Street West, Toronto

Written by Chris Jones

Queen and Peter streets looked a lot different in 1970. In the parking lot across from the Black Bull stood a row of Victorian townhouses, one of them (above, photo by Vincent Sharp) was the original Open Studio.

Despite a lack of windows and ventilation, an acid bath in the washroom, and only a small Sturges etching press, founders Richard Sewell and Barbara Hall were determined to make the space work. Forty-five years later we’re celebrating a milestone anniversary with a birthday party Thursday (July 30) and a group exhibition featuring some of Canada’s most-accomplished printmakers.

“I loved the atmosphere and the conviviality. And sharing the print art life of my soul sisters and brothers in that embracing space. I would do anything to support this mother/institution…” — J.C. Heywood

The name Open Studio was chosen to emphasize the founders’ desire to create a cooperative arts facility that would be open to artists. The concept extended from the use of equipment and exchange of skills to the management and administration of the printmaking studio. A board of directors, all honorary positions, became responsible for the operation of the studio in a legal sense, when Open Studio was incorporated as a non-profit organization in December 1971, and subsequently received charitable status in January 1972.

Current Executive Director Jennifer Bhogal says she feels the weight of that history on her shoulders, a weight she shares with a small but dedicated staff.

“Open Studio has existed longer than I’ve been alive,” she observes. “I strive to honour the Studio’s legacy while supporting the organization’s need to grow and remain relevant. I work to know our history, appreciate the stories, and understand how that informs our future.”

Lorna Livey
Lorna Livey

Next week’s reception will be a who’s who of Canadian printmaking with longtime members reuniting to celebrate the vitality of an art-making institution that has been at the heart of the Queen West art scene from the very beginning.

“I have nothing but positive things to say about my experience at Open Studio. It was such a warm and supportive environment. I was welcomed by both the artists who used the resources and the staff working there. Open Studio continues to be a place that nurtures artists and facilitates those who choose to celebrate printmaking or test its boundaries.” — Ed Pien

The anniversary exhibition brings together more than 80 artists including Ed Pien, J.C. Heywood, Jane Buyers, Otis Tamasauskas and Libby Hague, to name just five. The artworks demonstrate the breadth of approaches to print media being practiced today: from the utilization of traditional printmaking techniques to the experimental. This presentation of the ever-evolving and fascinating nature of print media, reveals the strength, beauty and diversity of printmaking today. Please join us in celebration of 45 years of community and innovative printmaking.

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Categorised in: Artist Stories, Inside Open Studio