Surviving in the highly competitive art world as a working artist is a daunting experience. It is a challenge just to find employment as an artist, and this becomes equally as challenging within the art community. Fortunately, there are places like Y+ Contemporary that seem to be positively impacting the local art scene, and the lives of local Scarborough artists, including those that are currently students at UTSC.
Y+ Contemporary is an artist-run space located on Morningside Ave. According to their website, “Y+ seeks to explore the realm of contemporary art by engaging critically with both our surroundings and the art world.” It was co-founded in 2015, by four former UTSC students with the intention of providing a place for artists to develop their skills, and gain a sense of community amongst themselves.
Despite only being founded in 2015, Y+ Contemporary has already managed to do incredible things. They’ve created innovative and useful programs such as Crits+Chill, which is a group critique night, and Photo-Synthesis, a youth residency program allowing young artists to learn from more experienced mentors. In just under a year, they’ve managed to host 13 different exhibits, all of which include very creative content.
Perhaps one of the most notable things Y+ Contemporary has done is to create the Y+ Award, as part of the Annual Juried Show held by UTSC. The award is given to a talented senior student, and provides him or her with an exhibition opportunity at Y+ Contemporary. The chance to showcase their art on such a professional level is an opportunity the student may have otherwise never had.
Maria Patricia Abuel, a fourth-year studio specialist, and past recipient of the Y+ Award says, “They were very accommodating and understanding…I’ve been a participant in shows in other art galleries, but to have your own solo show; it’s not an easy thing to do. They give you a lot of advice so they definitely gave me confidence.”
The work at Y+ Contemporary is indeed admirable, in the fact that they’ve chosen to provide a safe space for artists, like those attending UTSC, to nurture and grow their talents. As Y+ Contemporary describes, it works “to develop, produce, engage, and experiment.” In such a short time, they’ve already managed to make a difference in the Scarborough art community.
When asked what makes Y+ Contemporary an asset to students attending UTSC, Abuel says, “At Y+ Contemporary, they understand because they’re around your age. It’s just always good to have that community where you’re not afraid to make mistakes, whereas in a very formal setting, like a classroom, you feel more limited.” She adds, “They’re really into advocating for youth, and the Scarborough arts scene.”
It is this mix of advocacy, opportunity, and youth involvement at Y+ Contemporary, that artists like Abuel are counting on to keep Scarborough art flourishing.