Artscape gets a brand new home in the long-abandoned Shaw Street School thanks to a two-million dollar donation announced this morning.
In the hands of artists, everything old can be new again—a sentiment that felt especially poignant on Wednesday morning at 180 Shaw St., former location of the Shaw Street School and, as announced today, the brand new home for Artscape YOUNGplace.
Thanks to a generous $2 million gift from the Michael Young Family Foundation—a longstanding financial supporter of local social development projects like the Evergreen Brick Works renovation and Young Centre for the Performing Arts—the 75,000 sq. ft. hub will be a centre for creative collaboration, housing a number of exhibition and programming spaces for local artists and non-profit groups, event facilities and even a café.
Built in 1915, the Shaw Street institution—and former site of Canadian Infantry barracks in World War I—was closed by the Toronto District School Board in 2001, claiming that the site was no longer required to meet the area’s educational needs.
Now in its 25th year, Artscape’s mandate is to provide affordable space for artists and local non-profits, past examples of which include Artscape Wychwood Barns and Theatre Passe Muraille. Renovations at the Shaw Street facility are currently underway, as evinced today by the sporadic placement of hardhats, caution tape and a spray of loose wall wiring. The finished space is expected to be unveiled in the coming months, according to Mazyar Mortazavi, Chair of the Artscape Foundation.
Calling the West Queen West area the “Mecca of contemporary art in Canada,” President and CEO of Artscape Tim Jones disclosed that the Koffler Centre of the Arts, Centre for Indigenous Theatre and College-Montrose Children’s Place—whose representatives used their hands to unveil the site’s new name—are among several non-profit organizations who’ve been alloted space in Artscape’s newest location.
Joined by other notable community artists like pianist Eve Egoyan and theatrical designer Gerard Gauci, photographer Vid Ingelevics cited 20 years of rental insecurity and storage issues as reasons why he’s excited about this new neighbourhood development, adding that he looks forward “to working blissfully in [his] studio on the third floor.”
Also on hand for the announcement were civic leaders, including Shaw Street alumnus and former Ward 19 Councillor Joe Pantalone and his Trinity-Spadina successor Mike Layton. Though remnants of the site’s past life are still intact—like chalk-scrawled warnings to “not jump rope in class” and mounted paper snowflake cut-outs—Layton proposed that the new development “celebrates the heritage and spirit of the building as a place of learning, as a place where [we] can be creative.”
“There is an element of this city that doesn’t believe in itself. I find it puzzling; I wonder if they live here,” added David Young—Chair of the Michael Young Family Foundation and brother to the organization’s namesake—in reference to the recent urban-arts uproar. “To those disbelievers in this great city, to the naysayers, the pessimists, the whiners and the just plain grouchy, I say come here—this is the Toronto that matters; this is the Toronto of the future.”