By Amanda Labelle
The taste for fair-trade organic coffee coupled with a palate for culture gives rise to the coffee culture gallery. This is a return to the local; a sort of hipster, anti-bourgeoisies social commentary on formal art galleries and the hierarchical classifications of art. By reclaiming art in an intimate-public sphere, the coffee culture gallery changes the way that art is thought of and consumed.
After visiting many café galleries in Toronto, three really stuck out in my mind. Manic Coffee (426 College St.) is a lively place of simplistic design. Wooden tables and chairs blend in to the wood floor, drawing attention to the clean white walls and the art on display. During my visit this was a collection of photography by Eric H. Parker capturing real people in real moments (www.thestreetzine.blogspot.ca). There were never more than two photos to a wall, ensuring that the viewer wasn’t overwhelmed and that proper attention was given to each one. Ultimately the café is intimate, friendly, and warm and its simple décor allows the beauty of the artwork to resonate throughout the space.
Art Square Café (334 Dundas St. W.) is clearly a gallery first and a café second; you have to first pass through the gallery to get to the café in the back. On display was Imaginasian: a collection of work from artists Lim Khim Katy and Vu Thu Hien (Vietnam) and Yim Maline (Cambodia) collectively questioning authenticity and idealistic projection. Artwork does bleed from the gallery into the café combining the spaces; however, the mood completely changes: masked faces stare down at you from the ceiling, colourful green and brown hues on the walls arrest your eyes and the focus is drawn away from the art and toward the yummy treats available. Despite the separation between the two spaces, the sweet aroma wafting from the café and the constant foot traffic make the cooler open space of the gallery feel warm, inviting, and full of life.
Unlike Manic which is primarily café or Art Square which is primarily gallery, Seven Grams (131 Avenue Rd.) is constantly drawing attention to both elements simultaneously. It’s impossible to miss a single painting, all prominently displayed and emphasized by accent lighting, and you don’t have to walk the length of a gallery first before indulging your appetite. On display were mixed media collages on canvas by Otilia Gruneantu Scriuba (www.otiliarts.info) – stunning work in a perfect space. Ultimately the café is bright and fun with a lot of textures and colour, appearing very warm and lively without looking over-the-top. The atmosphere is one of pure enjoyment, especially the downstairs with its many pillows and fireplace. This space radiates comfort and culture and makes you want to stay for hours.
These café galleries offer a medium for all artistic expression to contribute to the art scene and be documented, they offer local artists the chance to display their work, prompting recognition and a following, and they offer local patrons a little taste of culture with their cappuccinos.
Photos for Seven Grams were sent in a zip file from Manager Neil Goddard