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UTSC grads carve out artistic collective in Scarborough

Y+ contemporary founders Danièle Dennis, Dorica Manuel, Daniel Griffin Hunt and Tiffany Schofield at the studio warming event in November.

In Unit 15 of a classic Scarborough industrial mall, just up Morningside Avenue from Lee Valley Tools and sandwiched between a plastic mould maker and a children’s clothing accessory company, you can now find a groundbreaking gallery and art studio.

Welcome to Y+ contemporary, an artistic collective founded by four recent grads of UTSC’s Studio program who are determined to do something rarely attempted: create a cutting-edge and community-involved contemporary art space in Scarborough, outside the usual high-culture confines of downtown Toronto and the West End.

The four 2015 graduates are Danièle Dennis, Daniel Griffin Hunt, Dorica Manuel and Tiffany Schofield, all of whom were raised in Scarborough – or in Hunt’s case, Pickering – and still live there. They grew close in the Studio program and wanted to have a place to work near where they lived. In October, they found the 1,100-square-foot unit on Morningside and renovated it to include a small gallery at the front with a larger studio behind. “It’s a space for creation, learning, collaboration and community,” says Dennis.

“We really are filling a gap,” says Schofield. “There’s so much happening downtown – it’s very saturated. Here we’re the only ones working on something like this – young, emerging artists in a combined contemporary art space, working studio and exhibition space.”

Hunt says there are plenty of artists with roots in Scarborough. “But they don’t tend to stay there. People gravitate towards downtown.”

There is a lack of places in Scarborough where artists can congregate, notes Manuel. “We hope that Y+ contemporary starts a trend of contemporary art spaces in the suburbs.”

The collective has plans for monthly exhibitions in the coming year. In addition, thanks to two micro-grants through the Toronto Arts Council, members will mount workshops on photography for local youth, culminating in an exhibition.

Dennis, Manuel and Schofield are performance artists, often working with photography and video, while Hunt is mainly a sculptor.

“They were the bright lights in our program,” says UTSC Associate Professor Will Kwan, director of the Studio Program in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media. “We weren’t surprised that they would go on to do something like this. They’re four of our stars.”

He notes that the group has already gotten attention in the Toronto arts scene, including a report and photo gallery in the Toronto Star. “This project is seen in the art world as a kind of pioneering initiative by this ambitious and bold collective,” Kwan says.

The Studio Program, he adds, encourages collaboration and a sense of community among its students. “I think this is a success story about that kind of community-building in the program,” he says.

The gallery, at 1345 Morningside, Unit 15, is open for events and by appointment at ypluscontemporary@gmail.com. It has posted a Call for Proposals, due by year end, for artists who would like to use the space in coming months.




© University of Toronto Scarborough