For over 30 years, Toronto Artscape Inc. has provided space for arts, culture and community in Toronto. In late August, Artscape announced that its primary lender was taking steps to place the organization into receivership following a challenging financial restructuring period. On January 11, 2024, Artscape formally entered receivership.
As previously shared, Artscape staff have been actively collaborating with key stakeholders to find operating solutions for Artscape’s portfolio of live/work spaces and community cultural hubs. With the support of the City, TD Bank, First Ontario Credit Union, Community Forward Fund and Vancity Community Investment Bank, we were able to continue to work over the past four months toward a restructuring, maintaining a skeleton crew of staff to ensure operations continued while this important work was underway. In particular, we would like to thank the following organizations for their generous financial support throughout this process, and for ensuring a secure future for creative spaces in our city: RBC Foundation, The Daniels Corporation, The Michael Young Family Foundation, The Young Fund at the Hamilton Community Foundation, The Lang Family Foundation, The City of Toronto, and other anonymous donors.
This additional operating time was used to support transition planning and to ensure continuity of service – limiting disruption to our communities. Significant progress was made in the identification of successor operators, and the development of clear operating plans that will support the communities that Artscape helped to build. In November, two operating pathways were publicly identified which will ensure continuity of operations at the impacted sites.
ANPHI Affordable Homes Inc., a new non-profit housing provider and sister organization to Artscape Non-Profit Homes Inc. (ANPHI), will assume operation of affordable rental housing and commercial studios at three Toronto Artscape Inc.-operated sites: Bayside Lofts, Weston Common and Parkdale Arts & Cultural Centre. ANPHI, which has operated Artscape West Queen West since 1995 and affordable housing at Wychwood Barns since 2008, will continue to operate those properties. Both ANPHI and ANPHI Affordable Homes Inc. will engage WoodGreen Community Services to provide management services on their behalf, a service formerly provided by Toronto Artscape Inc.
Warren Cass, Chair of both ANPHI and ANPHI Affordable Homes Inc. states, “We look forward to continuing Artscape’s important mission of providing affordable homes to Toronto’s arts community. We wish to reassure the artist-led families that reside in these spaces that their tenancies will not be interrupted by these changes, and that we, WoodGreen, and Artscape are working hard to ensure a smooth transition. We are confident that tenants will benefit from WoodGreen’s high-quality, experienced property management.”
ArtHubs Toronto Inc., a new non-profit entity, will assume operations of all Toronto Artscape Inc.-operated community cultural hubs. ArtHubs has arranged for a financing solution, along with funds provided by the City of Toronto and private philanthropy, to ensure necessary working capital for the new non-profit’s first year of operations, focused on continuity of hub services and tenancy arrangements for Gibraltar Point, Wychwood Barns, Daniels Spectrum and Youngplace.
Securing start-up funds and establishing a Board of Directors was critical to the establishment of ArtHubs Toronto Inc. and we are pleased to announce that OCAD University will serve as a strategic partner, providing a financing solution over a one-year period. OCAD U will hold one seat on the new governing Board, to be assigned to President and Vice-Chancellor, Ana Serrano. Joining Ana on the Board of Directors will be Patrick Tobin, General Manager of Economic Development and Culture at the City of Toronto, and past Chair of the Toronto Arts Council, Dina Graser.
“Having hubs devoted to arts and culture in different neighborhoods across the city is incredibly important for a vibrant Toronto. OCAD University is happy to be a key contributor to keeping these spaces open where Toronto’s arts community can commune and work with civil society and the public,” says Ana Serrano, President and Vice-Chancellor. “We look forward to working with ArtHubs over the next year to create a sustainable model for these centres.”
The City of Toronto has been instrumental in developing these solutions to ensure the continuity of service to tenants and the broader arts community. We are deeply indebted to them for their leadership and support throughout this process.
“The City was proud to partner with staff from Artscape and a committed group of city-builders spanning philanthropy, advanced education and the development industry, among others, to find a set of solutions that minimized the impacts of Artscape’s financial challenges on artists, tenants and the broader arts community served by Artscape’s facilities,” says Patrick Tobin, General Manager of Economic Development & Culture at the City of Toronto. “As a partner in ArtHubs Toronto, we look forward to seeing how this network of important community and cultural hubs can continue to serve Toronto’s vibrant arts sector.”
While this is a good news story for our communities, we must acknowledge that not all of Toronto Artscape Inc.’s assets will carry on under these new operating models. Toronto Artscape Inc.-owned units at Launchpad, Triangle Lofts, Youngplace and 210 Simcoe will be acquired by the court-appointed receiver. Efforts continue to ensure these units remain affordable for the communities they serve. A new administrator for the shared appreciation mortgages on affordable home ownership units at PACE, 210 Simcoe, WaterWorks and Triangle Lofts will also be identified in the weeks ahead.
Additionally, new operating models are being developed for Sandbox and the community cultural hub at Weston Common. Dream, the property owner in Weston, will temporarily assume operating responsibility and costs for the community cultural hub and management of the current tenancy agreements. During a transitional period, the City of Toronto and Dream will work with existing tenants and the community to develop a long-term operating model for this community hub. The City of Toronto has also exercised its option to buy back Sandbox for a nominal price, per the terms of the original agreement conveying ownership of the property to Artscape. In the coming months, the City will work with community partners to develop a long-term operating plan for this venue, in keeping with the original vision for the site as a community performance space.
As this door closes and the next one opens, we would like to acknowledge the support and dedication of our talented staff, tenants, funders and lenders, sponsors, government, community and industry partners who have tirelessly contributed to our mission over the years and specifically over these past few months. Your passion has been central to Artscape’s creative placemaking journey and remains a true inspiration.