Art gallery’s new home proves to be a smart decision

Ryerson Artspace’s recent move to the Gladstone Hotel has proven to be a smart decision – they have had more programming opportunities and seen an increase in gallery attendance.

“It’s definitely more than we’ve had before. It’s a bustling place, so I think just the location and the association with the Gladstone Hotel has really helped amp that up,” says Robyn Cummings, assistant professor at Ryerson and director of Ryerson Artspace.

The new location is street-level and located inside the Gladstone Hotel (right beside its Melody Bar), which helps generate traffic. “At the old space, you’d get maybe two or three people on an average day, which is pretty dismal,” says Jesse Sarkis, second-year photography student and fundraising co-ordinator at Ryerson Artspace.  “We do have days like that here, off days in the week, but typically attendance is 10-15 people a day, which is amazing compared to our old location.”

When the gallery first moved into its old location, the building was known for being an arts hub. “It was great for a while because that’s where a lot of galleries were for a lot of time,” says Sarkis.

However, in the past couple years that changed as the building became more of a corporate space. The gallery was tucked away on the third floor, making it hard for those not part of the image arts community to know it was there.

When the lease ended last year, due to taking over the Ryerson Artspace floor, the organizers needed to make a decision. “We had the choice of staying in the building, just going to a different floor, or moving elsewhere. So I thought, ‘Well, let’s at least see what’s out there.”

That’s when they found the Gladstone Hotel.

“It was such an ideal space. It’s right down where all the galleries are,” says Cummings, adding that the Gladstone Hotel also has its own established promotional exhibitions that feature both international and local artists, making it a good match for the gallery.

The Gladstone Hotel is an art boutique hotel that hosts over 70 art exhibitions and numerous art-inspired events each year. This January, a Ryerson new media student will design a room for the Gladstone Hotel’s Come Up to My Room (CUTMR) event. CUTMR is an annual alternative design event that allows artists and designers to collaborate and design a room together. The event attracts about 4,000 people each year, according to the Gladstone Hotel.

CUTMR is not the only event Ryerson Artspace has been able to participate in. Since the move, it’s been able to participate in Nuit Blanche and it hosted a Halloween party.

This year’s annual fundraiser and print sale, Full Frame, has seen more sponsorship from local businesses than ever.

Full Frame, which runs until Dec. 14, is a chance for the gallery to raise money to pay for rent and other gallery expenses, as well as a chance for students to showcase their work and establish themselves in the art community.

Cummings says that because of the new location, companies have been more willing to sponsor the event. “We got all our usual sponsors (this year), but new people that we contacted were far more interested than they have been in the past.”

Sarkis has also seen benefits from the move. “It’s great because we’re at this new location, we can do so much more programming. We can get people through the door. Our Halloween party was awesome; We’ve never done anything like that before and we want to do more.”

Among its plans for the future, the gallery will participate in pride week this year. “We’re trying to now engage on a more cultural and public level,” says Cummings, who adds that the association with the Gladstone Hotel helps in such efforts.

The Gladstone cross-promotes all of Artspace’s events through the hotel’s promotional outlets and that helps to attract people to the gallery.

Britt Welter-Nolan, managing director of artistic projects at the Gladstone, says that having Ryerson Artspace has been good for the hotel.

“Having a young audience here brings a lot of vibrancy and keeps everything fresh. It also helps (us) connect to the local art scene that’s emerging in Toronto.” She adds it’s important, as an art hotel, that they connect with local artists and give students the opportunity to show their work and develop their portfolio as early as possible.

Now that Ryerson Artspace is associated with the Gladstone Hotel and has a more accessible location, the gallery can focus on affiliating Ryerson with the arts community.

Ryerson Artspace plans to host workshops, movie screenings, student-artist talks with a focus on trying to get local businesses to collaborate with the gallery.

“This year, more than ever, we’ve put an emphasis on trying to engage with the public and get the public in the space,” says Cummings.

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