Interview with Phil Anderson

Interview with Phil Anderson, Executive Director of Gallery 1313 (PA) on the occasion of Gallery 1313’s 25th Anniversary by Emese Krunák-Hajagos (EKH)

EKH: You have worn many hats: a filmmaker, writer for many publications, a curator, a board member in various organizations and you are also a photo based visual artist. How did you become the director of an art gallery?

PA: Living in Parkdale I had joined an art collective, the Parkdale Village Arts Collective and was Chair of the Board for that organization. I had helped organize and hang many exhibitions with the art collective so when I stepped down from the Board, they asked me if I wanted to be director of the new gallery, Gallery 1313, we had just moved into. I had also helped to get the space and so I was excited to try this new adventure. We even started a little art publication, Artery that covered the art scene in Toronto for years. It was a fun project with many writers and designers putting it together.

Outdoor view of Gallery 1313, at 1313 Queen St W (left) and the cover of Artery Winter issue, 2000-2001 (right)

EKH: Did you ever imagine you would be a director of an art gallery for 25 years?

PA: I had no idea that I would last in this new job as long as I have. I had another part time job in social services and was looking to become a film director/writer of independent films. I learned from other gallery directors and enjoyed the constant challenge working with different artists, putting up a new show every two weeks, I enjoyed the variety of it. I have never had a job performance review in 25 years so I figured I did something right.

Gallery 1313 celebrates its 20th anniversary, Opening Reception, January 19, 2017

Installation view of The Sex Show, February 14 – 25, 2018

EKH: 25 years is a long time in a gallery’s life. Looking back at it what do you think was your greatest accomplishment?

PA: I hope that many young artists have enjoyed having their first exhibition at Gallery 1313. Some artists still remind me that the gallery was their start. I also am proud that families and residents have had a place to see contemporary art that was welcoming. We have produced or hosted over 1,600 exhibitions with probably over 9,000 artists and welcomed over 500,000 visitors over the years.

Installation view of The Collective, Visual Arts (BFA) Majors, York University, February 28 – March 9, 2019

1st Emerging Artists Show, Opening reception, January 5, 2012

EKH: What was the most difficult situation you faced during these 25 years? How did you overcome it?

PA: In the beginning I had a difficult artist who was trying to create a scene calling media and police because he claimed he couldn’t access his exhibit. It was a misunderstanding and I quickly defused the situation. Media and police left without incident. The artist continued his show and I figured it was all easy after that.

EK: What are the most important things you learned about running an art gallery over the years?

PA: I have learned to keep things relaxed and make sure that everyone felt welcome in the gallery. No pretense. No attitude.

Opening Reception of Between Tradition and Concrete, Deja Shapiro-Innis (left) and Hawk Mason (right), June 26, 2014

EKH: Who typically are the artists who are drawn to exhibit at Gallery 1313? What do you think attracts them?

PA: We get local, national and international artists. The Gallery‘s strength is its support of emerging artists young and old. I think word of mouth has been the greatest way people have discovered the gallery. If everyone has a good experience then it all just grows better.

Darcia Labrosse, Beautiful corpses, September 16 – 27, 2015

SuperDanish, water lily installation by Nikolaj Recke, curated by Patrick Macaulay, Director of Harbourfront Galleries, 2004

EKH: Gallery 1313 is more than just a gallery; it is a community as the board of directors and the member artists also have an impact on the programming and the running of the gallery. How does it work?

PA: Gallery 1313 also has a community mandate to embrace and reflect the community in Parkdale and Toronto. We have over 50 active artist members from across the GTA who show on a regular basis especially in the Cell Gallery which is dedicated to members. Our Board of Directors is mostly comprised of artists and I work with them to help decide the direction of the Gallery. It is a shared governance board model. Running a gallery with over 70 exhibitions a year in four exhibition spaces with a tiny budget requires more that one person so with a volunteer board of directors, artist members and volunteer-interns the work load becomes manageable. Working together we all make it work. Though sometimes people feel that as I have been there forever, I can steer the ship in the right direction.

Installation view of Thomas Ackermann, The Apostle – Astronauts, Main Gallery, October 24 – November 4, 2018

Asma Sultana, Constellationscape, Cell Gallery, February 14 – 25, 2018

EKH: What do think the impact of Gallery 1313 has been in Parkdale and in the city? Where do you see the gallery’s place in Toronto?

PA: The Gallery has become a cultural hub with not just a diverse range of exhibitions but with performances and other events.

Fantasy Fashion Show, May 23, 2017

Rest In Peace Morgan Freeman, OCADU exhibition, dance performance at the Opening Reception, performed by Montreal Dance Troup, 2013

We also hosting book launches, community fundraisers, film and video screenings as well as panel talks and professional development workshops for artists. We do some community outreach as well. I think the gallery gets some most deserved respect in the arts community.

Collecting Art, A Panel Discussion, June 3, 2014

EKH: What was your most ambitious dream for the gallery? Has it been fulfilled?

PA: Sometimes just surviving as an organization for 25 years with little funding seems like an accomplishment. Hosting some international exhibitions has been exciting and developing many partnerships has been valuable. Not knowing what lies around the corner is exciting. Getting through a two-year pandemic is good. I hope that the gallery has helped others see their dreams come true.

Installation view of Art Parkdale Fair International, October 29 – November 8, 2020

Eco Art, Opening Reception, January 9, 2014

EKH: Gallery 1313 is very successful. What are your secrets to make it so? What advice do you have for other artists run galleries?

PA: The Gallery has achieved some success and it has not always been easy. I think it is always important to be ready to try new things and try to approach problems with an open mind. We don’t have the financial support of some artist run centres but sometimes it gives us the opportunity to be more spontaneous and take more chances.

COVID-19 Portraits I-III, an online exhibition, 2020

EKH: Gallery 1313 has established itself. You survived the pandemic. What is your vision of the future of Gallery 1313 in the next 5-10 years?

PA: I hope that the gallery will continue to do what it has done in the past and perhaps with more capacity and more staff it can do even more in the future. We may be faced with a move in the future to another nearby location so I hope that works smoothly and that we continue to present a space that welcomes people, helps artists and enriches the community.

Images are courtesy of Gallery 1313 and Artoronto.ca

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