Finding G Gallery might involve a little serendipity: the art gallery’s entrance is in a back alley in the west end of downtown Toronto (behind 134 Ossington St., entrance on Foxley Place). The building itself is a long rectangle, about 4.5-metres wide by 12-metres long, with an open gallery space that can be divided up or partitioned as desired. And it belongs to the University of Guelph.
Actually, says the gallery’s director, Aryen Hoekstra, it belongs to fine arts professor Jean Maddison and is rented by the University. G Gallery has been in operation for five years and in its current location for three.
“There was a desire for the University to have some real estate in the Toronto art community,” says Hoekstra, who completed his MFA at U of G in 2013. “It increases the visibility of the SOFAM program, and when art graduates move to Toronto, as they often do because of the larger arts community, it helps with that transition. At G Gallery, they are not only welcome but expected.”
The gallery is run entirely by volunteers, including Hoekstra, who oversees the day-to-day operations. Board members are all Guelph grads and practicing artists.
“Our programming doesn’t typically include unsolicited submissions, but is instead initiated by the board members,” Hoekstra explains. “A board member will approach an artist of interest and ask for a proposal, which is then presented to the board. Members then vote on which proposals to accept. They also reserve space for MFA students to exhibit as part of the gallery’s mandate.” Hoekstra had his own MFA exhibition in 2013; his work has also recently been shown at Mercer Union in Toronto and the Art Gallery of Alberta.
Open Thursdays through Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m., the gallery is free for visitors. Shows change frequently. “The quality of the projects has always been really strong,” says Hoekstra. “It’s great to be able to bring high-calibre projects into the gallery, as it gives current and alumni SOFAM students a unique opportunity to interact with these artists and talk about their work. To foster this, the gallery is committed to openness and experimentation.”
G Gallery also has a writer-in-residence, Daniella Sanader, who currently helps with written material produced by the gallery. She hopes to initiate a reading group in the gallery that will offer group readings related to the exhibitions.
In April, the gallery will host artist Faith Larocque, who will use the gallery as a work space, while continuing an ongoing collaboration with Denver-based artist Jaimie Henthorn over three days. After that, a “pop-up” shop will feature a variety of small publishers who produce work for several artists. This will be followed by two one-week shows by U of G MFA students.
Despite its small size, G Gallery exhibitions are frequently reviewed in local and national art publications, and the gallery has a strong reputation in Toronto and across Canada. “There is some very exciting work being shown here,” says Hoekstra.