A few months ago, my friend Andrew Williamson told me that he and a few others were renting a loft and converting it into a studio / gallery space. While several people from my program have done this, it seemed like this group was taking it up a notch with consistent programming and even public access. The first opening, which happened earlier this month, was a big success and they’ve got more planned for the future. I decided to ask Andrew a bit more about getting Studio 407 off the ground and the people behind it.
Knock Twice: What is Studio 407?
Andrew Williamson: Studio 407 is a creative loft space, gallery, and studio. We got the space at the beginning of September and renovated the entire loft to create a shared studio, private areas, and a gallery space.
We really want to have a space that we can use as a launching pad to bring attention to emerging artists and are we open to ideas that our peers have as far as hosting events in the space.
We are trying to break down some of the rules or barriers of more traditional galleries and offer a really inviting and different experience. In our first show we let our exhibiting photographers literally write their names on the wall, hang work without frames and they didn’t need to pay any expenses or hanging fees. In fact we even offered them unlimited free drinks.
KT: Who are the people involved and what are their backgrounds?
AW: Everyone involved is either a current Ryerson photography student or recent grad.
I graduated from Ryerson in May and after winning the runner up prize at Maximum Exposure 2011 spent the summer working as a photographer in the Creative Services and New Media department with the Government of Ontario. I met Stephen Brule when we were chosen for a photography co-op for the Ontario Tourism and Marketing Partnership.
Stephen is currently in his final year at Ryerson. He has been working collaboratively with fellow student Mitchell Schmalz on a proposal for the Contact Photography Festival. Mitchell Schmalz has his own studio in the same building and is also involved in Studio 407. We kind of came together over the summer after attending various art shows.
Studio 407 is also lucky to have an exchange student who has been very involved from Edinburgh, Scotland. Ania Mokrzycka is currently studying at Ryerson for the semester and is interning at the Ryerson Gallery. Ania has recently been published in Self Publish Be Naughty.
KT: How did the idea of using it as a gallery space come about?
AW: The idea came about when we first walked in the main hallway. The space already had a 36 foot wall with 12 foot high ceilings with track lighting. We knew right from the start we would make use of the space as a gallery.
We organized our first group photography show in less than a week and a half. It included work from over 20 photographers and two video artists. Everyone came together really quickly to make it successful.
KT: How often do you plan on having new shows go up / hosting events?
AW: We plan on hosting at least one show or event a month. But we are really open to collaborating on organizing events with others involved in the creative community. We already have some exciting things coming up in the next three months – magazine launch parties, group and solo art shows, as well as intimate and somewhat private band performances and DJ sets. We encourage everyone to check out our Facebook page for information going forward.
KT: What has been the toughest thing about getting everything up and running thus far?
AW: The space was rented to at least three people that were all in various rock bands for the duration of the summer. When we got the space the entire place was destroyed. Every single light bulb was smashed. There was holes kicked in the walls and the entire space was covered with garbage. It took nearly two weeks of hard work to patch all the drywall, replace all the lighting and paint all the walls. We went through over 6 gallons of white paint in no time.
KT: What are some of the benefits as well as disadvantages about having a live in studio / gallery?
AW: One is that from the moment you wake up in the morning you are surrounded by the great work of fellow artists and your peers. We have found this really inspiring, both for creating our personal work and being productive on freelance work.
The only disadvantage could be that you can never be sure what your studio-mates will be working on when a visitor comes to check out the gallery. We all work independently on our own projects and come together to organize events. So far it has been more amazing then we could ever imagine.