Art: ALFEW (Artists Looking For Empty Walls) — 2
Between 1998 and 2004 I was really busy with a number of things, music promotions, recording, Garden design, and writing.
In 2004, as a result of the music promotions, I found out about placing art at Gate 403, a cute little music venue and restaurant on Roncesvalles Ave in Toronto.
Around that time, an artist friend, Phillip di Gregorio, a long time member of ALFEW, had recently passed away, and his wife was hoping we could hold a memorial show.
The Neilson Park Creative Centre had become very expensive and were not particularly interested in us holding a memorial show there, so I suggested that perhaps we could do something at Gate 403. We would have to show some other art as well, because we didn’t have enough paintings of Phillips’ for an entire show.
So, I organized the show featuring the work of three artists: the late Phillip De Gregorio
a newly met young artist called Feven Tewolde,
That was an interesting experience!
Gate 403 had just been redecorated, and the owners had decided that instead of using nails in the wall to hang the paintings, they would instead install a rail near the ceiling from which we would suspend fishing line, which stretches. Let me tell you, that was the biggest hanging nightmare I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED!!
You just TRY to get pictures to hang even using fishing line. Feven was kind enough to come and help, and without her I don’t think the job would have ever been finished. Anyway, many hours and many curses later the show was ready and we prepared for the big opening the following evening.
We decided to make the opening a live music event and had some musician friends come out to play as well as inviting a ton of our friends to attend…
Lots of people came out, everyone sold something and we had a great time. However, not an experience I would care to repeat — way too complicated. And that doesn’t even take into account the parking nightmare that is Roncesvalles!
In 2005 I ran into my friend George Rondina who runs Studio Number 9, and he told me that the studio had moved to this gorgeous old house in Toronto, which had been an art gallery and they were hoping to attract some local artists to display work through out the house. He wondered if I knew anyone and so, here I was, off again with empty walls, looking for artists.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to go very far — there was and extremely talented lady who lived two houses away from us, Marie Manger-Beamish
Marie was happy to do a combined show, half her work and half mine.
It was a lovely place to hang. Lots of light and some very cool little spaces to fit our work in. We were supposed to have the work in there for 2 months, but they asked us to leave it there for another 2 months.
Because Number 9 is a working recording studio, the work would be seen by a lot of different people. Honestly though, we were not hopeful of selling much — musicians rarely have money — but we liked the idea of the exposure. That never hurts. Unfortunately we never got much feedback, except from the studio owners.
After that, between 2006 and 2009, I got really busy again with music projects, and art had to take a back seat. Additionally, we had decided to move out of the city — Toronto, and into the burbs — Mississauga, so my area was new and different — finding art hanging spaces was challenging.
In late 2008, I had become a member of the Mississauga Art Council, affectionately known as MAC. In 2009, through this group, I found out about a space for hanging art at The Novahotel in Mississauga. Administered and curated by MAC, they were hoping to get another artist or art group to take possession of the space and deal with the art, which had become way too much for them. They suggested that ALFEW would be a great candidate.
I had discovered that in our new neighbourhood, there were three neighbours within a couple of houses, who were artists. There was also the photography of my husband, Bruce Walker, who was interested in having some of his more interesting pieces framed and hung.
Our first show at the Novahotel consisted of works by Edith Citrullo, John Doherty, Julie LoTauro, Bruce Walker and myself.
I’ll say this for the Novahotel: the space was really nice. Large expanses of wall and a fairly safe place for the art to hang. Although I was somewhat concerned about drunken hotel guests crashing into the art hanging in the hallway.
Here, again, hanging was a challenge. We were to hang the work in a busy corridor, with guests rushing up and down, and in an equally busy hotel side entrance. And getting the artwork physically installed in the side entrance was a big pain. One had to remove large, plexiglass protectors in order to remove/install art. Great to have the art encased like this, since it kept the artwork safe from damage, but really challenging for us.
Julie Lo Tauro, and John Doherty were both there to help, and if not for them, it would have been much worse.
While it’s true that there was a lot of foot traffic past the art, this were mostly from hotel guests who would be on their way to another destination and unlikely to be in a position to lug large art pieces with them. So once again, yes, empty walls, but not incredibly useful as means to sell our artwork.
We put two shows in that location, but finally it was concluded that it was way too much work and with a lot of construction around the surrounding roads, access to cars was almost impossible and parking was restricted, so much to their chagrin, we notified the nice folk at MAC that we were going to relinquish the space.
ALFEW once again went dormant.