Artisans at Work: New Gallery and Studio Space
By Amanada Kirsten Grant
With its floor-to-ceiling art displays, custom-made jewellery case, and welcoming atmosphere, you would never guess Artisans at Work only opened two months ago. Already Tara Shelton and Lorraine Cheng have gathered together unique, local artists to display their work in the gallery.
For more than ten years, Tara Shelton has been searching for a place on the Danforth to not only showcase her own jewellery but also bring together members of the community to share their arts and passions. When she finally found the place she had been looking for, Tara invited the Danforth community to join her in this project. “We knew what the community wanted and had been asking for, and so we created this space to provide that,” Tara says. Lorraine and Tara have labelled themselves a “community hub,” and looking around the gallery, you can see that this is true. Work is already hanging from the walls from artists across Canada, though 80% of the artists using the space are local.
Artisans at Work is more than just an art gallery. The day I visited, not only were there paintings to admire, but also crafts, jewellery, and a display by Cara Adams, who makes her own hand creams and bath essentials and will also be performing Operatic Cabaret April 5th. The performance is part of a series called “First Fridays,” run in the gallery all day long on the first Friday of every month. On these days local talent is showcased all day long with food, a cash bar, and entertainment. Visitors on First Fridays not only get to view the amazing artwork, they also get to see talent from the Danforth community.
Another of the upcoming events Artisans at Work will be hosting is a Spa day for Mother’s Day. Moms can sit back and relax with a glass of wine as they are pampered for the day. This is just one of the ways Artisans at Work goes beyond being just an art gallery.
Because the back of the gallery is made of up several different rooms, Tara and Lorraine are able to have the gallery function as more than just a space to display art. Five rooms in the back also function as studio spaces, where artists can rent and work on their projects. Each room comes with a counter and a sink. When the rooms are not being used for works in progress, art is hung on the walls, showcasing a particular artist’s work. Right now a few of the rooms are being used by the artist Michael Zarowsky to display his work, as well as art from Lori Popadiuk.
A larger room in the very back of the gallery is used in a variety of ways. Sometimes a local travel agent uses the space as an office, and on Mondays, Jennifer Gray Smith teachers her Guided Autobiography Workshop. A Yoga class also runs on Thursdays and will soon be joined by a pilates class.
There is always something different going on inside Artisans at Work and the Danforth community is encouraged to stop by, even if you don’t think an art gallery is your thing. Tara’s dream for Artisans at Work is to build a space where not can artists grow, but people can gather to share their work and enjoy the work of others.
Photographs by Kayla Grant