Noa Bronstein | Gladstone Hotel, Toronto, Canada; Darren O’Donnell | University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada; Britt Welter-Nolan | Independent curator and design educator, Toronto, Canada

Permission Granted: The Power of Saying Yes!

How do we create the conditions for emergence within a cultural institution? When we cannot define a project from the outset, can we collectively create parameters for communities to perform their own narratives in an inclusive and dynamic way? What is the foundation for inclusive creative programming? This panel explores alternate models of exhibition and programming within the milieu of the Gladstone Hotel. Uniquely situated as a multi-purpose space, the Gladstone produces and hosts a myriad of exhibitions, arts and culture programming, part community centre, part bar and part art space, the hotel’s hybrid nature embraces experimentation and fosters emergence.

Yes to Unknowns, Hybrids, Monsters and Failures

What is art? What is design? What is craft and where does it all belong? Many museums and galleries define themselves by their collection areas and create boundaries of what is ‘in’ and what is ‘out’; by not having a mandate focused around a collection and by encouraging hybrids, the Gladstone’s project-based model spends little time distinguishing between mediums, and rather the focus is on ideas and engagement. This model also allows for experts and non-experts to intermingle and ‘jam’ via exhibitions, performance and other media. While some projects are excellent there are also significant failures, which are accommodated, allowing space for growth and learning.

Yes to Performing Issues

Within a historical context of a turn of the century building, the trope of the museum is performed and re-performed on a daily basis, through exhibits that demonstrate living history and artwork in the making. A queer positive, collectivist, pluralist, inclusive space, permission is granted to those who choose to participate in order to explore and grapple with the ideas of our time, on a personal level. Acting as a living studio/lab for these histories and works, the Gladstone also has the ability to perform difficult knowledge, hosting narratives about gender, migration, environmental conservation, local and global politics, HIV/AIDS, mental health; it invites emotional interpretation.

 

Yes to Playing with Strangers

Traditional museums are sites of surveillance (security guards, video cameras, gallery guides, ticket tables, etc.), behaviour is therefore observed and performed. The desire forconsistency and correctness limits what can be said, where and how people can interact with ideas and objects. The Gladstone reverses this model; it is not a dictated model in regards to speech, but a carefully facilitated, slightly unpredictable, cultural space. While there are basic rules, which outline a respect for the building, community and the individual, open communication of the framework and careful moderation by staff encourage participation and intervention by the public.

Case Study: Young Mammalians – A Meta Collaboration

The Torontonians Residency project allowed for several levels of interaction with staff and community cultural leaders. The Torontonians, are a performance company and part of Mammalian Diving Reflex’s collective of teen artists from Parkdale. This year-long residency saw youth work alongside Gladstone staff through short, focused mentorships on all aspects of event production, as well as workshops with some of the city’s cultural leaders. The event culminated in Dare Night Lockdown, a teen sleepover in the ballroom of the hotel attended by over sixty teens (and some adults) from around the city. The Mammalians now call the Gladstone home and continue to operate their practice from a studio within the hotel, The Torontonians acquiring the official status of Teenagers in Residence. This initiative will see the Gladstone, Mammalian Diving Reflex and The Torontonians extend their remit into the realms of community, economic development and education.