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A 'vital' Toronto printmaking studio says it risks permanent closure without financial help

Open Studio, located at 401 Richmond St. W, allows artists to access a variety of printmaking resources. The studio will temporarily shutdown from June 28 until next January due to financial pressures.  (Igor Petrov/CBC - image credit)
Open Studio, located at 401 Richmond St. W, allows artists to access a variety of printmaking resources. The studio will temporarily shutdown from June 28 until next January due to financial pressures. (Igor Petrov/CBC - image credit)

A downtown Toronto printmaking studio that has been open for more than 50 years could permanently shut down without more funding, its executive director said.

Located at 401 Richmond St. W., Open Studio's facilities include a range of printmaking techniques, such as screen printing and lithography, according to the studio website.

However, the artist-run studio is relying on community support after seeing a downturn in revenue since the COVID-19 pandemic, said executive director Pat Macaulay.

The studio announced in an open letter last Monday that it would temporarily close beginning June 28. A pause is necessary to gain more financial support, Macaulay said.

"We hope to relaunch in January 2025 for Open Studio's 55th anniversary," the letter reads. "This can only happen with your help."

Since Open Studio published a call for support last Monday, executive director Pat Macaulay says the community response has been amazing, with people providing both donations and advice for the studio as it plans to change its business model.
Since Open Studio published a call for support last Monday, executive director Pat Macaulay says the community response has been amazing, with people providing both donations and advice for the studio as it plans to change its business model.

Since Open Studio published a call for support a week ago, executive director Pat Macaulay says the community response has been amazing, with people providing donations and advice for the studio as it looks to change its business model. (Igor Petrov/CBC)

Macaulay said government funding has either been cut or plateaued, meaning funding has not risen with the cost of inflation.

Funding from the Ontario Arts Council was cut by 15 per cent, he said.

He said he has contacted all three levels of government about the studio's funding crisis.

"My problem is that nobody is really listening, and culture is suffering for that," Macaulay said.

In an email to CBC News, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Support said Open Studio has received $235,807 from the Ontario Arts Council since 2019.

The studio received $57,000 from a provincial pandemic recovery fund from 2021 to 2022, the ministry said.

"It is our hope that Open Studio will explore all options available to resume its operations in the future," the statement read.

The Toronto Arts Council has provided grants to the studio for the last 30 years, said Kelly Langgard, the council's director and CEO.

Open Studio also sells prints, but these sales have declined after the pandemic, said Pat Macaulay, executive director of the studio.
Open Studio also sells prints, but these sales have declined after the pandemic, said Pat Macaulay, executive director of the studio.

Open Studio also sells prints, but these sales have declined after the pandemic, said Pat Macaulay, executive director of the studio. (Igor Petrov/CBC)

Langgard said that the studio reached out to the council in February "to let us know of their cash flow situation and mitigation plans." The council extended them a bridge loan against their 2024 operating grant, she said.

In an email, the Canada Council for the Arts said the studio receives an annual grant of $75,000.

"The Council is in close communication with Open Studio and continues to engage in dialogue with their representatives," the email reads.

Open Studio is planning on downsizing its existing space to meet artists' needs while being "fiscally responsible," Macaulay said.

"There's a lot of things we have to change."

'We do not want a city without arts': MPP 

Glover said he was surprised to hear that no other level of government responded to Open Studio. He said the studio provides a valuable service to artists in the community, allowing them to create in "new and innovative" ways.

"We need to make sure that coming out of the pandemic, we don't lose our arts organizations," he said.

Glover said he will ask the province to reverse the cut to funds that Open Studio receives from the Ontario Arts Council.

Chris Glover, MPP FOR the Spadina-Fort York riding, where Open Studio is located, said he was surprised to hear that no level of government responded to the studio's emails, apart from his office.
Chris Glover, MPP FOR the Spadina-Fort York riding, where Open Studio is located, said he was surprised to hear that no level of government responded to the studio's emails, apart from his office.

Chris Glover, MPP FOR the Spadina-Fort York riding, where Open Studio is located, said he was surprised to hear that no level of government responded to the studio's emails, apart from his office. (Zoom)

Other arts organizations in his district have also struggled to bounce back from the pandemic, Glover said.

"It's taking a long time to build back the community coming out and expressing the interest and financial support that they did before," he said.

Glover described 401 Richmond, the building where Open Studio is located, as "one of the greatest buildings in the city."

The heritage-designated building houses an arts and culture centre located in what was previously a manufacturing building, according to its website.

"As the cost of housing and real estate have continued to grow, artists have been squeezed out of our city," Glover said.

"We do not want a city without arts."

Studio provides resources artists can't use at home

Around 163 artists access Open Studio's resources, Macaulay said.

The studio's annual membership fee costs $125, according to its website, but he said people have been hesitant to return to the studio after the pandemic.

Open Studio sells prints as well, but these sales have also declined, Macaulay said.

Artist Meggan Winsley has been teaching at Open Studio since 2006. She described the studio as "vital," providing artists the space to work with resources that cannot be accessed from home.

"There's going to be people who aren't going to have a place to print, who aren't going to have a place to express themselves and make their art," she said.

Artist Meggan Winsley, who has been teaching at Open Studio since 2006, said the studio is a vital space for artists to access resources that they do not have access to at home.
Artist Meggan Winsley, who has been teaching at Open Studio since 2006, said the studio is a vital space for artists to access resources that they do not have access to at home.

Artist Meggan Winsley, who has been teaching at Open Studio since 2006, said the studio is a vital space for artists to access resources that they do not have access to at home. (Igor Petrov/CBC)

Since the studio made its public appeal for support, however, Macaulay said the community response has been "amazing."

As of Monday, Open Studio has reached 38 per cent of its $75,000 funding goal, according to its website.

Community members are also reaching out with ideas for the studio as it transitions toward a more sustainable business model, Macaulay said.

Though the studio plans to reopen next year, a permanent closure could have impacts across the country, particularly in university and college programs, Macaulay said.

If graduates have few accessible resources to facilitate their printmaking work, Macaulay said universities and colleges will have no reason to continue providing printmaking programs

"It is a national crisis in terms of culture," Macaulay said.