The Value of Community Art

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an Oshawa native, art enthusiast and second-year Print Journalism student at Durham College.

As you walk into Gallery A, the new community art space at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, you are greeted by the scent of fresh paint as your eyes wander across the brightly colours where paint is not only on the canvas but spilled off and onto the walls.

A concept carried out by artist Pete Smith and a literal out-of-the-box interpretation of what this new space hopes to bring Oshawa.

In the last two years, community art studios or “art hives” have been emerging across Oshawa. The concept of public-based art is reinforced by city initiatives such as Culture Counts, an arts, culture and heritage plan introduced last year.

On a larger scale, the RMG has recently hopped on the community art studio bandwagon.

Elizabeth Sweeny is the manager of public programs and art reach at the RMG. She says the RMG surveyed more than 100 people in the Durham Region regarding art-based community development and found a high demand for a professional space to display art.

Gallery A is the answer to that call.

Opened early this year, Gallery A is a professional exhibition and studio space in the lower level of RMG intended to offer opportunities for artists in the community to share their work. The space also plans to provide educational opportunities to community members including information sessions and technique classes.

“Durham Region is full of culture and we are certainly building on that. We know that artists need more spaces to exhibit, so absolutely it’s helping to address that void,” says Sweeney.

Among these spaces is The Vault, or the V3 Collective, located in downtown Oshawa.

The Vault is a volunteer run space where artists and community members can make, display, and buy art. The owner of the space, Zal Press, believes in the concept of local art and as an economic catalyst.

“If you look back, economic growth and prosperity is grown by the creative class,” he says. “It’s not only the growth but it’s resilience, the capacity to change with time.”
Press considers Queen Street West in Toronto, where he resides, as a respectable model for Oshawa to follow.

He credits Toronto artists for the popularization and economic drive in the area. They were able to draw attention to areas with local art, creating a buzz loud enough to capture the attention of city. Wherever the artists were, development came.

According to Press, development occurred along Queen Street West wherever artists such as visual, performers and musicians occupied. For example in the 80’s, Spadina and Queen used to be an area populated by artists until it was developed into a shopping hub.

“Follow the artists and you’ll find the money,” says Press.

This economic model and new wave of thinking can be rooted to The Rise Of The Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community And Everyday Life written by Richard Florida. It promotes the vitality of out-of-the-box thinkers to create a sustainable economic environment, specifically in cities.

In Oshawa, art and art studios are being used as a both a tourist attraction and a reason to bring residents downtown.

Steven Frank put this idea into action in 2012 when he created Oshawa Space Invaders (OSI), an art crawl that occupies vacant buildings in the downtown area.

“It helps show the potential in individual spaces that may end up being leased as a direct result of our exposure,” says Frank.

Not only does this idea engage local artists, 200 participants in 2014, to display their work as well as art appreciation from community members, it serves as an economic driver for downtown businesses. The foot traffic during OSI last year brought more than 5,000 visitors downtown.

“By creating an event that brings together the creative community in an innovative way we help people envision the downtown as a place of vitality, worthy of investing in,” says Frank.

In the last year, even more community art hives have developed in Oshawa’s downtown.

The Livingroom Community Art Studio began as an idea in the head of Mary Kronhert in 2007 while she was studying to be an art therapist in Toronto. Derived from an article from Concordia professor and owner of La Ruche D’Art in Montreal, Janis Timm Bottos, Krohnert was introduced to the concept of a free, community space where members of the public could walk in and make art.

“Art spaces like this tend to revitalize neighbourhoods and make the areas around them more colourful,” says Krohnert.

A $38,000 Ontario Trillium Grant was used to pay for rent, materials and one part-time staff member, made the Livingroom studio possible. Krohnert also relies on community donations to keep the studio afloat, a call well received by the public that has filled the studio with paint, fabric and even some musical instruments. The walls of the studio are lined with buttons, paper, pipe cleaners, the epitome of any crafter’s heaven.

Despite only being open for a couple of months, the studio has been well received by the community. According to Krohnert, studio attendance has been high with new and returning walking through the door every day.

“There’s nowhere else like it,” says Krohnert. “This is something Oshawa needs.”

Together the creative class is helping to evolve Oshawa to create a more viable, economically strong city – one art hive at a time.


Image- Postscript, Pete Smith, 2015.

Hot Topics: One Weekend in June

Hot Topics come from the desk of Jacquie Severs, the RMG’s Manager, Communications & Social Media

Oshawa’s Downtown revitalization project is an ongoing venture, one that has some starts and stops (as do most worthwhile projects) but it is exciting to watch. In the past three years I’ve worked at the RMG, I’ve seen dramatic change. In this post, I thought I’d share a to-do list for events this coming weekend in the downtown area, all free to attend, all artsy, and all incredible opportunities to participate in the transition of this community.


Core21 Oshawa

Core21 Oshawa

Friday evening from 5:30-7pm, drop into CORE21. This new co-working space is the result of many years of discussions around arts incubators and collaborative work spaces, with participation from many community stakeholders and the City of Oshawa economic developers. After an extensive renovation to the former Honest Way department store, CORE21 is opening its doors for guided tours to the facility on Friday. While there you can enter to win a 25 Hour, One Month Co-working Membership.

Check out the facebook event for CORE21.
Visit CORE21 online.

The Coachlites

The Coachlites

The draw for the CORE21 membership will happen at RMG Fridays, our monthly event held here at the RMG from 7-10pm. This event is themed “Welcome Summer”. It will feature live musical performances by Tim Watson and The Coachlites. I realized just today that The Coachlites are named after the Coachlite Roller Gardens, a roller skating rink downtown Oshawa. Have a listen to their debut performance this week and decide for yourself if the name fits! This event also celebrates the opening of two new art exhibitions, we’ll have interactive augmented reality posters from the War of 1812 Oshawa Project, and we’ll be talking about our Vintage Oshawa: Summer in the City project as well.  It will be a busy and diverse night with an incredibly fun crowd. Remember, there’s a cash bar!

Check out the facebook event for RMG Fridays.
Check out the webpage for RMG Fridays.

Wasted Space logo

After RMG Fridays, if you’re interested in seeing more art happening in the community, visit Wasted Space. It is a new art cafe and lounge located just a short walk from the RMG at 74 Celina Street. This comfortable venue is decorated with art by local artists, a plethora of lava lamps, and comfortable sofas. Chantelle Lacoursiere is showing her artwork there on Friday, and they’ll have live music, a DJ, and finger foods to keep your energy up. This is a licensed venue.

Check out the facebook event for this opening.
Become a fan of Wasted Space on facebook.


Saturday is the start of the Oshawa Valley Botanical Garden’s Annual Peony Festival! I’ve been told the peonies are perfectly timed this year and will be spectacular on the weekend. With over 300 varieties to view, this is the 9th Annual event, and it runs 10am to 4pm both Saturday and Sunday at 155 Arena Street. This festival was voted one of Ontario’s Top 100 Festivals and Events!

Peony Festival Logo

Learn more about the Oshawa Peony Festival.
There is also a Bomb Girls Garden Party at Parkwood Estate as part of the festival!

 Sneak peek of Foreclosure at The Vault. Photo by Will McGuirk.

Sneak peek of Foreclosure at The Vault. Photo by Will McGuirk.

After a stroll in the gardens, stop by a new collaborative art space downtown Oshawa called The Vault. Located on the site of a former bank, the space became available to the Oshawa arts community when landlord Zal Press contacted City Hall to inform them he wanted to open the space to local artists. Opening at 1pm on Saturday, Transition Saturday will have a featured exhibition titled Foreclosure by Mike Berube, a photojournalist. Other artists participating in the show are Jay Dart, Dani Crosby, Grant Cole, Tammy Gay, Shannon Sosoon, Brian Vince, Steven Brown, Erica Podlowski, and Janice McHaffie. The event is at 19 Simcoe Street North and is a fundraiser for Feed The Need. Non-perishable food items will also be collected at the door. 

Read more about Zal Press and his desire to ReNew Oshawa.
Check out the facebook event page for Transition Saturday.


OPG Second Sundays

Sunday the RMG hosts OPG Second Sundays. This is a monthly event for families of all kinds and sizes. Drop into the gallery from 1-3pm, explore our exhibitions, and try a hands-on art making activity! This month, inspired by the exhibition Falling in Place and the Oshawa Peony Festival guests can build their own cities and imaginary worlds in full bloom while making big beautiful paper peonies. This monthly series is generously sponsored by Ontario Power Generation.

Learn more about upcoming OPG Second Sundays.
Sunday will be a busy day downtown Oshawa as the Peony Festival continues.
Parkwood Estate’s Bomb Girls Garden Party continues to rage throughout the weekend!

Pride Logo

Pride Durham is a non-profit organization that hosts Pride and social events in Durham Region. Sunday 9 of June is the final event in Pride Week, which includes the 3rd Annual Durham Pride Parade. The parade travels through the downtown area travelling on Centre Street starting at 2:30pm.

Get more details about this year’s Pride festivities at the website.
Become a fan of Pride Durham on facebook.