Artscape creative hubs allow Toronto artists to flourish through creative expression

By Serena Lopez

If you’re not an up and coming artist in the Toronto area, you probably haven’t heard of or used a space in the city called a creative hub. Creative hubs, also known as cultural hubs, are on the rise in the arts community in Toronto and have become staple additions to the city’s established art scene.

A creative hub is a facility that is specifically dedicated to providing space and support for networking, business, development and community engagement for individuals within the creative, cultural and tech industries.

Many of the creative hubs that currently exist in the city are built under the Toronto Artscape Foundation. According to the Artscape Foundation’s mission statement, they are made up “of a group of not-for-profit organizations dedicated to creating spaces for creatives and expanding arts development in communities.” They currently have 15 developments in multiple locations in downtown Toronto.

Here’s a breakdown of some of Artscape cultural hubs that are already supporting local artists in the community:

Artscape Youngplace (180 Shaw St.)

Courtesy of Artscape Youngplace/ Jeff Hitchcock /Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Artscape Youngplace/Jeff Hitchcock/Wikimedia Commons

Opened in 2013, Artscape Youngplace is located in the West Queen West neighbourhood. It offers studio spaces for both artists and organizations for rent and hosts artistics programs and events for all ages. They offer various opportunities for artists to show off their work in their space whilst collaborating and networking with other artists both big and small.The facility also features a centre for Indigenous theatre and exhibitions that showcase underground artists’ works that are free and open to the public right in Toronto’s strongest artistic community.

Artscape Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas Street East)

CanCulture/Serena Lopez

CanCulture/Serena Lopez

While most creative hubs in the city require membership, this Regent Park facility is completely open to the public and hosts a number of arts programs for youth. This facility hosts a wide range of arts related programs including dancing, art-making, singing and music with various cultural spaces open to the public and organizations. Artscape Daniels Spectrum encourages not only creative expression but to promote community building and a greater appreciation for the arts in the neighbourhood.

Artscape Daniels Launchpad (130 Queens Quay East, East Wing; 4th Floor)

Courtesy of Artscape (artscapeto) via Instagram

This 30,000 square-foot facility opened last fall on Toronto’s Waterfront and specializes in providing programs and entrepreneurial opportunities for artists. With co-working spaces, workshops and innovative creative studios equipped with the latest technology, Artscape Daniels Launchpad inspires and gives artists a way to expand on their work.

Toronto-based filmmaker, Qais Pasha, got a first-hand experience of what Daniels Launchpad had to offer through a program the hub launched in the summer of 2017 before it opened.

“I hadn’t even thought about a plan to make profit off of my work before starting the program at Daniels Launchpad,” said Pasha.

Having no prior professional experience through Daniels Launchpad, Pasha said he was given a grant to support the funding of his feature film project. In addition, he was also provided the tools to expand his skills and teach him how to sustain himself as an upcoming artist. Memberships are required in order to access the space and range from $50-125 per month. Artscape Daniels Launchpad also shares a joint talent space within their facilities called HXOUSE x Launchpad (a Toronto-based creative hub started by The Weeknd and his team), which also commits itself to providing creatives with the resources they need to successfully develop their ideas.

Inkdigenous Tattoo studio: Embracing Indigenous art and culture through tattoos

By Bree Duwyn

Inkdigenous Tattoo studio offers a safe place for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike to share their passion for art.

Métis activist and tattoo artist, Toby Sicks, created the Toronto-based studio in 2017 with the aim to promote Indigenous artists while raising awareness and breaking down the stigmas that surround their communities.

“We have a beautiful place where people can come in, get together and share stories,” said Sicks.

Sicks felt like he never got the opportunity to fully express himself while working for other people or while completing apprenticeships. This kick-started his motivation to pursue a different path.

The path led Sicks to attending George Brown College where he enrolled in a community worker program in order to gain experience working with the community, as well as learn more about his culture and traditions, including anti-oppressive practices.

After getting in touch with his roots and involving himself with community events to fight against the inequality of Indigenous people, Sicks took up tattooing professionally.

A  custom chest piece  designed by Toby Sicks that was made to symbolize spirituality and ceremony for a customer undergoing a healing journey. According to Sicks, the piece symbolizes the customer’s cultural identity of the Kanyen’kehà:ka Mohawk nation. Learn more about this custom tattoo in this  video  by APTN. (Photo courtesy of   Toby Sicks   via Instagram)

A custom chest piece designed by Toby Sicks that was made to symbolize spirituality and ceremony for a customer undergoing a healing journey. According to Sicks, the piece symbolizes the customer’s cultural identity of the Kanyen’kehà:ka Mohawk nation. Learn more about this custom tattoo in this video by APTN. (Photo courtesy of Toby Sicks via Instagram)

In addition, he participates in charity events to raise awareness for Indigenous issues such as  fundraising events to raise awareness of youth suicide prevention in Indigenous communities, as well as missing and murdered Indigenous women and The Pipeline Project.

Sicks explained there is a lack of Indigenous tattoo studios and that by opening up his own, he could promote culture as he was influenced by his community work and the time he spent dabbling in tattoos.

“It's not just for myself per se, it's also for other Indigenous artists,” said Sicks. “I’m looking for different mediums, different designs that I’m able to put in my studio. So, I could be looking for designs from different nations across Canada, not just a specific style or person.”

Sicks exhibits a variety of Indigenous art styles inside his studio to promote diversity of culture. He displays art pieces such as paintings, handmade jewelry, custom-made merchandise and even plays Indigenous music in the studio to encourage others to appreciate different forms of Indigenous culture and art.

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(CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

Sicks also explained the importance of giving homage to art or artists that inspire him to create tattoos and through this, gaining the appreciation for the artwork and acknowledging its origin.

“This is a way of crossing out the cultural appropriation factor, to show the appreciation for the different arts out there,” said Sicks.

There is also a chance to be educated on the origin of the tattoo, in order to put more value into the significance of tattoos as art.

“It’s a little more than just getting an Indigenous art piece on you … you’re also getting an education behind it, stories and meaning,” said Sicks. “It is very important not to lose concept of who you are as a person, the loss of identity is like forgetting who you are. You lose place in society. Once you do know your traditions, culture and place in society it's easier for you to build within your community and help the members within the community.”

Sicks believes in discovering yourself and your culture to find yourself in a positive manner within society.

A Unique Experience

While in Inkdigenous Tattoo, I found myself admiring the room with its compelling art pieces and welcoming atmosphere, making it easy to start a conversation. You can find an abundance of snacks and a comfortable waiting area within the studio which gives off a homey vibe.

Sicks enthusiasm about tattooing is contagious as he feels passion and pride in his work while exuding confidence. Sicks was also very humorous and charismatic in nature, which is excellent for making his clients feel at ease.

When a client came into the studio I found myself having the opportunity to watch Sicks, for an entire afternoon, do a cover up tattoo.

Not having seen a tattoo been done before, I took up the offer in order to benefit from the learning experience and see Sicks’ art come to life.

After deciding on a design of a three-eyed raven, inspired by Game of Thrones, Sicks drew up the piece and began the transformation.

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(CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

I was also able to aid in small things such as folding paper towels or helping him to use a numbing spray on the tattoo. Getting a chance to be involved and watch the process of the creation of art was a great learning experience and I felt very welcomed. I quickly came to understand Sicks’ meaning of a safe place for community to come together and share stories.

After the day was done, I felt a genuine appreciation for the patience, skill and positivity that tattooing requires.

Inkdigenous Tattoo studio is located at 124 Jarvis Street in Toronto and is open 7 days a week.