Artist Project 2022 / Opening Night

Artist Project Opening Night / April 21, 2022
Queen Elizabeth Building, Exhibition Place

There were people lined up to get into this year’s Artist Project after its absence in 2021, and they were greeted by attendants in what looked like white lab coats—a little tongue-in-cheek post-COVID humour. People might have thought they were lined up for another shot in the arm! Visitors were anxious to return to normal and enjoy actually walking through the Artist Project.

Emma Fried, Exhibitor Relations manager for Informa, explained the change of venue from the Better Living Centre to the Queen Elizabeth building. Apparently, the Home Show had already booked the Better Living venue. The Artist Project had been held in the Queen Elizabeth Building in its past, so the place was familiar. The Project is curated by a combination of organizers and guest curators and they try to achieve a mix of art that will reflect the diverse appetites of collectors. Emma said that the panel talks had disappeared due to a lingering wariness about COVID, though they had been replaced somewhat by walking tours with art professionals. The Artist Project also partnered with FAT , the Fashion group and, as Emma explained, it was a good mix as art often cosies up to fashion. There were two designers with a small runway show and people attending seemed to love the mix.

Art Project Director, Mia Nielsen (left) and Emma Fried, Exhibitor Relations manager (right) at the Opening Night

Art Project Director, Mia Nielsen was busy with last minute fixes. She works at the Art Toronto Fair as well and said she enjoys working with the artists just as much as working with galleries at the Fair. For some artists, this is their first time participating in such a big event and Mia said she enjoyed seeing emerging artists have this great opportunity for exposure.

Portuguese-Canadian artist, Tania Costa had references to her culture in her work. She graduated from OCADU and I like her colour palette. I talked with Chloe Chlumecky, an art graduate from Windsor, Ontario. It is her first show ever.

Tania Costa with her painting

Grace Qian in her booth

Chloe Chlumecky in front of her work

This year’s crop of artists included some from the Maritimes, some from Quebec, such as Stephanie Rivet, and some from the West, but not any international artists due to COVID. Metal artist Joel Sullivan of Halifax said he and his wife enjoy coming to Toronto. He drives here and his wife flies in.

Stephanie Rivet in front of her work

Metal artist Joel Sullivan

I also talked with Alexandrya Eaton from Sackville, New Brunswick. She likes the new location of the Project. Her colourful works use feminine iconography. Artist Marianne Enhörning came all the way from Vancouver Island and has been a participant of the Artist Project several times and sold many works in the past. Stephanie Avery’s work includes repurposed ad posters with playful parodies of culture. The Project offers a good mix of traditional, contemporary and unique art works with something to please everybody.

Alexandrya Eaton in her booth

Stephanie Avery with one of her repurposed ad posters

I liked Zoey Zoric’s unique portraits on old iPhone 8, and iPhone X screens. They were priced right and she joked they will last longer than the phones. There was even a tablet version. I stopped by Laurie Skantzos’ booth just as she was completing a sale. The Guelph artist paints on sculpted wood and the works were getting lots of good attention. Laurie told me she had started out painting on canvas and these new works just evolved lately. I liked Mary Philpott’s sculptural ceramics that centred around myths and folklore.

Zoey Zoric with one of her unique portraits on old iPhone

Laurie Skantzos in het booth

Mary Philpott and her sculptural ceramics

Sculptor, Morris Wazney uses bronze and was looking forward to more days at the Project and connecting with collectors. Painter, Jacques Descoteaux is back as part of the Project. I last saw him in the 2020 Artist Project. His paintings of skies are mesmerizing. Paul Brandejs combines sculpture and painting in his sculpted works. Artist Sandra Tarantino participated in the Project in the past and was already getting some sales. I talked with Amy Shackleton, a talented painter who moved to Oshawa from Toronto with her husband and family. She was having a good time being back in the Toronto art scene and had already made a few sales.

Sculptor, Morris Wazney

Painter, Jacques Descoteaux

Sandra Tarantino with her sculptural pieces

Amy Shackleton in front of her painting

The Artist Project has brought back some of its regular attractions, such as the Untapped Emerging Artists and the venue was very easy to navigate. Though this year’s Artist Project might be a little smaller, with over 200 artists, as compared with previous 300+ artists in the larger Better Living Centre, but people and artists seemed to be happy with this year’s edition. Indeed, after living through COVID, just being in a large venue with hundreds of expressive artists and many colourful works plus thousands of art-deprived individuals, one cannot help but feel uplifted and almost overwhelmed. It feels good.

Text and photo Phil Anderson

*Exhibition information: April 21 – 24, 2022, Queen Elizabeth Building, Exhibition Place, 195 Princes’ Boulevard, Toronto. Hours: Thursday: 4 – 9 pm, Friday & Saturday: 12 – 8 pm, Sunday: 12 – 6 pm.

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