A friend once described Toronto’s experimental art and music scene as an organism growing under a rock. Upon first glance, the material conditions feel so devastating that nothing could thrive, yet it does.
Making art happen in Toronto takes passion, it takes grit. It takes an obsessive creativity and such a deep desire for shared experiences that you defy all barriers, transcending unrelenting and restrictive conditions, to make something special. It takes a certain type of ingenuity to make art exist here, let alone claiming space for that art to be consumed.
Upon hearing that the Geary Art Crawl was denied crucial funding this year, my heart dropped. It is the best street festival for grassroots arts and music this city has. It brings artists of all abilities, styles, and disciplinary practices together to showcase the breadth of talent living across the GTA. It encompasses the fun and freedom that we want for this city. It’s why the Music Gallery has been programming and supporting Uma Nota, the producers of the Geary Art Crawl, since the inception of the festival.
Midway through drafting this public letter, I was also informed of Artscape entering receivership, threatening the long term viability of 14 buildings that provided space for artists to develop and define their craft. An impact that will, without a doubt, shake the city’s art scene for years to come.
When entering industry arts spaces, we often discuss the complexities of subsistence funding; the feast and famine we experience as the funding tap opens and closes, the panic that sets in when grant timelines overlap so closely with those of our events. Running a not-for-profit organization is often exhausting and we find ourselves in these situations again and again.
Funding for publicly accessible, experimental, and boundary pushing art needs to be supported at the government level. It’s not just a carrot to encourage tourism, it is a key indicator of the health and happiness of a city. A healthy city is willing to dream and is empowered to do so.
The Music Gallery has been and always will be a community hub. For this reason, we are taking the needs of our community to heart and acting radically to enact change. This change is three fold.
- A portion of our programming of X Avant will be shifting from October 14 to support local artist fees for this year’s community-driven Geary Art Crawl which will take place September 23 & 24.
- In place of our October 14 programming, a festival themed around the celebration of nerds, we will be hosting a community roundtable and mixer titled “We can’t build until we break.” A place to host difficult conversations in the arts and a reminder that nerds are punks too. RSVP here.
- We are extending an open application this fall for those who were accepted to the Artscape residency program to join our free winter residency program.
While we recognize that these measures are modest in the grand scheme of things, we believe it’s a useful first step in encouraging the ideation of new futures, and encouraging our communities to support one another whenever possible.
Artistic Director, Music Gallery