On November 6, a new arts and culture hub opened at 1100 Bathurst Street in Toronto. The facility is the result of a collaboration between B Street Collaborative and the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA).
City and provincial politicians, as well as a broad swath of Toronto’s performing arts community, were on hand for the festive occasion.
The project came together through an $188,000.00 grant from the Community Services Recovery Fund, along with a one-time $400 million investment from the Government of Canada. The latter was part of a pool of funding set aside to support community organizations in their pandemic recoveries.
The facilities include:
- The Jon Kaplan Community Lounge
- The Dora Mavor Moore Mentorship Studio
- An Audio Recording Studio, and separate Self-Tape Studio
- The David Mirvish Rehearsal Space and Green Room
- Meeting spaces
- A curated art collection
- Storage spaces
B Street Collective, an incubator and advocacy group, was formed in 2022 to help artists realize their potential. It’s a natural collaboration with TAPA, a non-profit with the goal of giving the city’s performing arts community a unified voice for advocacy and support.
Cutting the ribbon
Kelly Straughan, nearing the end of her seven-year term as TAPA Board President, outlined the fascinating history of the area, which was once underwater. Jacoba Knaapen Executive Director of TAPA talked about the history of the building itself. Previously a clothing store, it was a bank before that. She pointed out that John Goddard, the former bank manager, and by the by, also past treasurer of TAPA, was in attendance.
Dylan Trowbridge, Resident Director, B Street Collaborative talked about the building and its purpose in his speech.
“When artists feel valued, they become courageous, and when they become courageous, they take risks. And, when they take risks, they create provocative, beautiful, sublime works of art. B Street is not just a building though, it is a mission — a mission to embolden artists to create their most impactful work, to eliminate barriers that prevent artists from reaching their full potential, and to develop and amplify voices that have been marginalized.
“How do we do this? By providing affordable, inspiring creative work space for artists. By facilitating transformative mentorship opportunities, and by reigniting a sense of community by providing a real physical headquarters for artists to get them out of their homes and into a space together again. We also want to be an incubation centre for big, bold ideas in the performing arts.”
Dianne Saxe, City Councillor for Ward 11 Unversity-Rosedale’s remarks echoed the jubilant mood of the crowd on the sidewalk. “Isn’t it wonderful that (there’s) something to celebrate?” As the representatives of both levels of government noted, it was a celebration that was unique in a city where so many other neighbourhoods had seen arts spaces, and rehearsal space in particular, closed down.
Saxe mentioned the facility at 877 Yonge being developed by Tapestry Opera, also in her riding. According to Saxe, and confirmed by Andrea Donaldson of Tapestry Opera in the crowd, the facility at 877 Yonge is scheduled to open in the fall of 2024. As she explained, 1100 Bathurst is the place for new works and young artists; 877 Yonge is designed to serve established and professional companies. “I am so proud of being able to be part of making this happen,” Saxe added.
Local MPP Jessica Bell, also spoke about the needs of artists, and the importance of their work.
“It’s how we learn, and how we grow in this city,” she noted. “But we also know that our city has become incredibly expensive.” She mentioned the cascade of club, venue and rehearsal space closings that has plagued Toronto in recent years. “We know how important artists are to our economy and our way of life. But we also need to make sure that artists can afford to live in our city.” Jessica also noted the recent cuts to the Ontario Arts Council funding, calling them “unacceptable”.
The ribbon was cut by Saxe as the crowd cheered. Later, TAPA Membership and Sponsorship Manager Theresa Gerrow and others led the sidewalk crowd on tours of the building.
The utilitarian structure itself is unassuming from the outside, but the space has been cleverly used to make the most out of all the square footage, including an old bank vault that now serves as storage space.
The building is not designed as a performance space per se, but a cultural hub providing affordable rehearsal and studio space, with a particular focus on being accessible to under-served and under-represented communities in the arts world. The lower levels house the creative spaces. The dance rehearsal hall, for example, which includes a green room and storage area, rents for $25 an hour.
The facilities were designed with a practical eye, and include an attention to detail:
- An easy to use interface in the DIY Self-Tape Studio;
- Rehearsal space with a sprung dance floor and mirrored wall;
- Green room with adequate lighting, and plenty of storage space;
- Two engineers available for the Audio Recording Studio.
It’s anticipated that the compact audio recording studio will be used for podcasts and post-production as well as recording projects. An open area will serve as a community hub, and the offices of TAPA now have a permanent home. The washrooms are accessible, with an elevator in the works to make the entire facility accessible.
Here’s to looking forward to experiencing the new works that will be fostered in a friendly place for the arts.
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