Walking the Artist Project

The weather was great and the line up for this year’s Artist Project was impressive. The Fair has had a good reputation for artists with an opportunity to sell work and reach a buying public. The Fair’s director, Emily-Jean Alexander was busy at the Art Chat venue. This is her 6th year at the fair and she was happy with the way it was going.

Artist Project’s director, Emily-Jean Alexander

Art Chat: The Basics of Collecting and Displaying Art, Presented by House & Home, Lynda Reeves and Ashley Mulvihill, February 22, 3 pm

One of the new developments was a booth set up by the Akin Collective plus some media stations by Trinity Square Video, Inter Access Video and Radiance. Alexander said that she wants to involve more community partners next year and showcase more installations and other under represented art works. She explained that while the fair attracts artists from Quebec and other provinces the majority of participants are from Ontario.

I talked with several of the Untapped Emerging Artists including Ioana Dragomir from Waterloo who was excited to be part of the fair and looking forward to go on to doing her MFA at NSCAD in Halifax or Western University in London. Other Untapped artists Christine Nnawuchi and Gillian Toliver were equally pleased with the fair and the response to their work. I saw a large impressive installation of field stone by Synchronized Smile.

Christine Nnawuchi in her booth

Gillian Toliver with her works

On the Curiousness of a Fieldstone Pile by Synchronized Smile

The crowds were thick and the fair had lots of energy. Artist Jacques Descoteaux from Propeller Gallery said that it is his second year at the fair. Last year was slow for him until Sunday when he made some sales and connections. Many artists like Kari Serrao and Mary McLorn Valle are veterans of the fair and came back after previous success. Photographer, Sage Szkabarnicki-Stuart at her second year at the fair had sold some work already and was happy.

Artist Jacques Descoteaux

Artist, Kari Serrao in front of her work

Artist, Mary McLorn Valle

Photographer, Sage Szkabarnicki-Stuart

Painter, Amy Shackleton had just sold a large work and was delighted. She is now based in Oshawa as she found there a more affordable studio space. While I was talking with painters Nicole Allen and Paul Brandejs about the fair, I noticed two women in Brandejs’ booth. I told Brandejs and he laughed and said if I got a sale, he would give me 50%. I walked over and made a quick sale. I told the artist to keep the 50% – his work pretty much sells itself.

Amy Shackleton with her large scale painting

Painter, Paul Brandejs

I asked Montreal artist Ian Stone what was the difference between Montreal and Toronto in terms of art sales and he said, “in Toronto there are sales.” Jeannie Polisuk from Ottawa with some artists from other centres in Ontario stated that there is nothing like the Artist Project.

Montreal painter, Ian Stone

I visited booths occupied by artists from the Maritimes, Curtis Dionne and Alexandrya Eaton. Both are first timers and pleased to show their work. They were not only decorative works but art that has a message. Artist, Heather Haynes has her own gallery in Gananoque and displays an installation on view, called The Wall of Courage – originally 80 works telling the story of survival in DR Congo.

Curtis Dionne from Riverview, N.B.

Alexandrya Eaton from Sackville, N.B.

Heather Haynes from Gananoque, Ontario

I apologized to Gordon Shadrach for interrupting his conversation with a friend – and subject of one of his portraits – the assistant coach of the Raptors. Shadrach explained that he tried to paint people that were not necessarily famous but ordinary. Todd Monk and Morgan Jones also paint figures but with a different, more decorative style that inspired a joyful public response.

Gordon Shadrach with one of his portraits

Todd Monk in front of his painting

Morgan Jones with his composition

The Artist Project offers artists a unique opportunity to sell works and engage the public about their passion for their art. This exchange offers everyone a great and unique experience. Judging from the number of artists who keep coming back to participate, Emily-Jean Alexander and her fellow staff are doing a great job. I encourage the 2 in 3 artists who apply and don’t get in to keep trying.

Text and photo: Phil Anderson

*Exhibition information: February 20 – 23, 2020, Better Living Centre, 195 Princes’ Boulevard, Exhibition Place, Toronto. Fair hours: Friday: 11 am – 10 pm, Saturday: 11 am – 8 pm, Sunday: 11 am – 6 pm.

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