The Canadian Art Database

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History of Toronto Art Collectives and Co-operatives

The 2011 exhibition THIS IS PARADISE at MOCCA in Toronto traced the early days of the Toronto Art Scene and the cultural industries it spawned. Described by curator Rae Johnson as an 'ecology of the street' the art scene has affected a lasting cultural, economic and social impact on our city and community.

In our project we endeavor to trace the history of artist generated projects /collectives that operated as alternative exhibition venues in Toronto in the late 1980's, 1990's and 2000's. Initially these were renegade acts in temporary spaces that eventually evolved into the sustainable artist collective galleries we are familiar with today.

Initially a reaction to the lack of galleries and exhibition opportunities for artists at the time, and coinciding with an economic down turn in the late 1980's/early 1990's providing abundant and cheap spaces, they became a means of empowerment that helped shift the artist/curator/dealer dynamic. Our objective is to document this phenomenon by allowing the artist's involved to tell the stories of their projects.

The project will consist of video taped segments of the various groups telling their own story. We researched, located and filmed interviews with 24 collectives (and discovered at least another 25 not counting all of the new collectives operating today) and one curator. Each collective will have its own 5 minute (approx.) film based on their history and projects. Each of these films will be accompanied by archival images and will be housed on the CCCA Canadian Art Database web site to be used by schools, artists, curators and the general public.

Accompanying the video segments will be an archive set up on the CCCA site documenting the exhibitions/galleries created by these groups. This archive will consist of links to any existing web sites, photographs of the exhibitions/galleries themselves, documentation of the work presented and the artists involved, information regarding the organization of the exhibits/galleries, promotional material (posters, invites, press releases) and any reviews, press clippings about said ventures.

We hope to offer a history to artists, art students and art audiences of the do it yourself initiatives that have helped to create the Toronto art scene/community as we know it today. With these films we also hope to offer an example for other artists/curators/ researchers in other Canadian cities to start to document their own independent art scenes.

Richard Mongiat
David Sylvestre

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