In June 2013, the 185 Augusta Collective initiated a process to establish a charity known as A.R.K. – Artists Renaissance Kensington. The SAVE ME Exhibition was the kick-off event for this charity, whose mission statement is the following:
With the on-set of corporate development in and around Kensington Market, one of the few vibrant, diverse and creative neighbourhoods remaining in Toronto, there is a sense of urgency surrounding how residents, business owners and cultural actors will respond.
Having established their own microcosm of sustainable living – a residence that can function as a studio and gallery for a collective of artists – the 185 Augusta Collective has offered to play a leading role in developing a strategy for how Kensington can make essential moves to resist the threat of an increased corporate presence.
The notion of ownership is key to the on-going debate – if property belongs to individuals whose interests lie in preserving the unique cultural expressions privvy to the market, then there is a tangible means of preventing corporate, big box organizations from establishing themselves within the fragile socio-economic system of “mom & pop’s” and “underground merchandising” storefronts.
Given this perspective to community resiliency, a group of individuals, made up of both members of the 185 Augusta Collective as well as community residents and stakeholders, are attempting to establish a charity dedicated to the acquisition of property in Kensington Market. The goal is to acquire property and then to transform the spaces there-in to affordable, fixed-rent live-work opportunities for artists and other creatives.
There are many ways that this overall vision can evolve over the course of time. For example, will the targeted property provide storefront visibility for artists? Will residences be separated from studios? Will the property house an institution or merely function as a private apartment? While we recognize the importance of these questions, we will ultimately let the Members and a new Board of Directors work towards resolving this picture for Kensington’s future. At this point in time, our focus is on taking the appropriate steps to ensure that we can establish this Charity and agree on its mission and vision for protecting the right to affordable housing and productive spaces for artists in Kensington Market.