It’s clear that Toronto has become a cultural and creative hub for the entrepreneurial eclectics of Canada. Not only do we see a skyrocket in larger, more traditional companies actively seeking creatives to join their team (whether that be in-house or freelance), but we’re also witnessing a booming era of creatives pursuing their own small businesses.
While the internet continues to be one of the most effective ways of promoting small businesses, creatives are also beginning to work with more Toronto-based venue spaces to elevate their careers. Not only has this relationship offered local creatives more opportunities to share their work with broader audiences, but it’s also enabled a deeper sense of community for many Torontonian groups.
This blog will explore a few Toronto venue spaces that are functioning as assets for many creatives, ultimately helping to bridge a gap between local entrepreneurs and the communities that want to indulge in it all. With that said, let’s get into it!
Messy House TO
Messy House TO has become a Toronto favourite for hosting events—from art shows to intimate concerts to workshops and vendor markets, they’ve made a big splash in the creative community. With three locations, BrickBox, Woolfitt’s and Abell, Messy House has transformed into a well-known and reliable option for creatives to host their events ranging from big to small.
Fun fact, their Woolfitt’s location is a newer space in their roster, one that used to belong to Curry’s Artists’ Materials (another Toronto favourite) for years. The shutdown of the Curry’s Queen West location was a sorrowful one for many in the city, however, Messy House’s take-over is simply another creative-based outlet and asset—a more exciting replacement than any chain store, in our opinion!
Messy House has also recently announced its expansion into the United States in arguably one of the most creative cities in the world, New York City. In a recent Instagram post, Messy House announced that this expansion will be more than just a new event space as they’re also planning to work with Toronto creators to help them navigate their events, projects and talents to the big apple—a huge collaborative opportunity for Canadian entrepreneurs to expose their work to an entirely new audience.
Messy House’s new Woolfitt’s location, replacing Curry’s.
Photo credits: messyhouseto Instagram
The Bentway is a non-profit organization known for its innovative and transformative public trail that lies directly beneath the Gardiner Expressway. Over recent years, Bentway has gained attraction for its vastly growing community initiatives, including the ways they’ve reimagined opportunities within Toronto’s urban spaces. They’re a great example of an organization taking underutilized spaces (indoor and outdoor) and not only renting them out for events like vendor markets but also working with local artists, designers, and other organizations to execute their own creative projects!
For example, last summer they worked with eight different artists (four of them being Toronto-based) to help city folks reimagine the meaning of “playing in public” through a series of installations and experiences, each telling a unique story. For example, Double Dribble by Toronto artist Esmaa Mohamoud created a basketball court of varying sizes for this project to challenge the accessibility of “play” and how public spaces are not always inclusively designed.
As another example, Bentway also recently worked with Small World Music, a Canadian company working to support local musicians, to transform the Bentway Studio into an intimate concert featuring newcomer musicians. As they strive to make their creative mark here as newer residents of Toronto, they’ve become one step closer to reaching that goal through event spaces like Bentway.
Midwinter Concert at The Bentway Studio.
Photo credits: smallworldnotes Instagram
The Drake Hotel
Just a block from Messy House’s BrickBox location lies another popular space amongst Toronto creatives—The Drake Hotel. Other than being one of the most popular hotels and concert venues in the city, The Drake is, as they call it, “a neighbourhood hub rooted in art, culture, community and genuine hospitality,” and it’s a fact they live up to that precedent.
Directly underneath the Drake Hotel lies a performance venue that draws in musical artists from around the world and is a favourite among artists in Toronto. For example, The Drake did an interview with local self-produced artist Clairmont the Second in 2022 on how he has grown as an artist since headlining the venue back in 2016. Again, further utilizing their platform and resources to amplify artists in the city. Fun fact, Billie Eilish headlined at this venue when she was first starting out back in 2016!
One of the most notable opportunities they run for local creatives is their Drake Art program, an initiative dedicated to collaborating with local artists to host on-site installations and galleries. They work with many different curators and organizations to help amplify artists with a focus on marginalized voices, encouraging people to learn more about not just the artist’s work but the artists themselves.
Check out the Instagram post by local artist Kelcy Timmons Chan to get a glimpse into how artists utilize The Drake Hotel to amplify their own work:
MiXT CHOPSTiX Solo Exhibition at The Drake Hotel.
Photo credits: mixt.chopstix Instagram
Here are some more examples of how The Drake promotes artists like Kelcy:
Where to begin with Artscape? Well, their journey began back in 1986 when real-estate prices were high and artists were using urban spaces to illegally live and work due to the economic issues present at the time. Artists were being pushed from the city, so Artscape was formed to protect them.
Since then, Artscape has become the ultimate organization for providing artists with opportunities to work, share their experiences and talents with like-minded individuals, and simply exist as creatives in a world that oftentimes wants to push the arts to the side. Artscape currently houses seven different venue spaces, and their services offer artists the opportunity to work with other creatives to ensure they can smoothly execute their events.
The Artscape Wychwood Barns location has become an iconic cultural hub over the last decade, housing over 40 live/work studios for artists as well as ginormous event spaces that are constantly being booked out for artistic endeavours. Check out their events page here to get a glimpse into past and upcoming events being hosted here!
The opportunities they provide artists go beyond their event spaces, they’re also a catalyst for creating space for artists to build on their talents via creative programs. For example, Artscape Daniels Launchpad is a space that consists of five creative, co-working spaces designed for artists from all different mediums to book out and work towards “launching” their small businesses. And get this, Artscape offers even more programs dedicated to mentoring and networking, teaching artists to live and work in the industry with support from experienced individuals.
Community Cultural Hubs event at Artscape Wychwood Barns.
Photo credits: wychwoodbarnsto Instagram
Centre for Social Innovation
Known for starting up as one of the world’s first co-working spaces in 2004, The Centre for Social Innovation has a passion for people and the planet, focusing primarily on working with creative communities to provide them with the tools needed to work, address issues they deeply care about and inevitably foster real social change.
CSI has developed three different locations around the city of Toronto; Annex, Spadina and Wassan Island; each used for community gatherings, coworking spaces, exhibitions, workshops and so much more. To give an example, last Spring Fashion Revolution Toronto worked with a group of local creators and hosted the Shirt Project in a CSI space, a wearable art exhibition that explored the environmental and social issues present in the fashion industry. Also, an opportunity to celebrate the unique artists involved!
Not to mention, this innovative organization also offers diverse programs and memberships to encourage people to join a vibrant community of fellow artists, activists, and entrepreneurs. Becoming a CSI member means getting access to more than just their space, but also the organization’s resources, events and networks to uplift one’s own work. For example, in this article, CSI dives into how they hosted an event dedicated to discussing member Alessandra Naccarato’s latest book on society’s relationship with nature, along with her experience writing the book primarily at CSI.
Their community members and programs are truly the heart of CSI, and according to their website, members alone have generated over 300 job opportunities per year further serving and inspiring thousands of folks in Toronto with their impactful initiatives.
Instagram post promoting a book event for CSI member Alessandra Naccarato.
Photo credits: csitoronto Instagram
Toronto is obviously very rich in culture and creativity, and its event spaces like these that offer its residents a unique perspective on reimagining urban spaces in a way that uplifts and supports creativity. In recognizing the importance of creatives and how art drives this authentic sense of community, it’s clear that organizations like these are more than just event spaces but drivers of rich opportunity.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of the kinds of opportunities that arise from the spaces listed, so make sure you check out their websites and social media to get an even better understanding of the kind of work they do for local creatives.
Duuo is very proud to be a preferred event insurance partner for a few of the event spaces listed and we’re delighted to be just a small part of their journeys. For more information on how Duuo partners with event spaces, click here!