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This month, we had the chance to sit down with Akin Collective, an innovative and inspiring team that offer shared art studios and workspaces, and also provide creative development opportunities for their community. Read on to hear more about Akin Collective!
Tell us a bit about Akin Collective and your role in the Toronto art community.
Akin Collective is an arts organization that offers art studios and shared workspace in downtown Toronto with three main hubs in Parkdale, Bloordale Village and the Junction Triangle. Along with providing affordable space our nonprofit, Akin Projects, provides creative and professional development opportunities to members of the city’s artistic and cultural community including our Forge workshop series, open studio events and art crits, gallery and museum tours, and a bunch of other fun initiatives. As far as our role in the Toronto art community, we try to facilitate, connect, support and lead.
How did Akin Collective Start?
Akin Collective began about seven years ago when Oliver and another Michael, Michael Dellios, had a small shared studio with a few friends in the west end. Dellios is a carpentry wizard, check him out here!
How would you describe the studio experience?
Each of our nine spaces have a different feel but the common thread would be creating a studio environment that is bright, supportive, inviting, collaborative and conducive to new ideas.
They’re each these little villages that combine to create a pretty brilliant community that just keeps growing.
You’ve expanded quite a bit, when did you realize you had the opportunity to do so?
It’s been really exciting to see how things have snowballed and continue to grow. We’ve gone from a few friends in a loft space to becoming the largest provider of art studio space in Toronto other than Artscape. Our demographic is quite different from theirs, however, as we cater mainly to emerging artists. We now have about 20,000 sqft of studio space and our membership has grown from 8 to about 160 artists, designers and other creatives. Since its inception last year, Akin Projects has offered services and programs to over 3,000 individuals. There wasn’t ever a tipping point or moment of realization for Akin though, our growth has been organic and we want to keep it that way- for artists, by artists.
What does it take to successfully manage all of the studios?
A lot of emails, a lot of helping hands, and an openness for brainstorming and change. This isn’t a two man show, we’ve got an amazing team of studio members that help us keep things running. Between the studios and all of our programming it’s a lot of work, but it’s also lot of fun and if we ever lose that balance, we’ll shift things around. We’re also juggling our own fine art practices and other things so there’s definitely a lot on the go.
How do you build community awareness?
Word of mouth wins. We’re less concerned about following instagram algorithms or timing our tweets to get the greatest reach. Our programming, events and collaborations with other organizations (Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of Ontario, CAMH, Gardiner Museum and other) spread across the city and helps get word out there about what we’re up to.
If you have a neat idea arts related idea that you think would be a good fit, let us know.
What are some things you do outside of managing the studios?
We’re both full time artists in addition to Akin and are working on a collaborative installation at the AGO at the moment and getting ready to exhibit in Basel, Switzerland at Volta 12 in June. We’ll then be working on a site-specific installation for TIFF Bell Lightbox and getting things together for solo shows and group exhibitions in the fall and into 2017. We don’t sleep very much. We also like drinking and watching The Eric Andre show.
What’s your ideal weekend look like in Toronto?
Summer time. Toronto Island. Friends. Blue Jays game. BBQ. Cold beer. Gallery openings. Friends.
Favourite Toronto resto at the moment?
The Federal hands down. Every single thing on the menu is absolutely top notch but you have to make sure you get the 4 Guys Burger with curly fries. Tell Zach we send our love. Monocle actually just named them one of the top 50 restaurants in the world- one of only two Canadian spots. For caffeine head to Reunion Island Coffee Bar in Roncy- get the cold-brew with tonic.
How can people reach you?
Wander round the west end and we’ll probably bump into you somewhere. Or, you could find us on one of these:
Call us- 416 826 2053
No naughty texts, please. No carrier pigeons, please.
Where do you see Akin Collective in 5 years?
I think we plan to just let things keep growing organically on both the studio and programming sides of things. Let things keep rolling and continue to expand the offerings and social good on a local level while also looking nationally and internationally as well.
Anything else you’d like to share?
You can’t get what you don’t ask for, and try not to sweat the small stuff.