Speculative Histories and Possible Futures of an Artist-run Centre: celebrating 45 years of Artspace

Daniela Leal

Many from the centre’s past and present gathered at Market Hall on the 18th of October to remember and reflect on what has been. As a newcomer to Artspace, I felt I was a distant witness to a family reunion. Melancholy and prospective at once. My experience was one of recognizing. I watched the slideshow recognizing Market Hall, El Camino’s, the galleries on Hunter St, and Artspace now. I recognized some songs that were spun, some of the musicians, some of the guests, some of the goals, past exhibitions. My experience was also one of learning of and developing a closer understanding of this artist-run centre.

Jon Lockyer, who mediated the panel, prompted questions that resulted in a chronology of the trajectory of Artspace, as narrated by some of those who have been part of its history. He ended the panel discussion with a pivotal question that aimed to discuss the role of a place’s history in projecting its future. The answer took the form of collage as it came together in a compilation of all answers from panelists; from different generations of people involved with Artspace in one way or another and sitting on the same historical grounds.

Many answers but only one:

To know the history of a place allows us to know what is possible, what has been done informs what can be done.

To know the history of a place allows us to see what went wrong, of what has been failed we can learn and grow from.

A place with history is an institution—but “there’s institutionalized and then there’s institutionalized” says Fynn Leitch, contrasting their perspective of Artspace and Art Gallery of Peterborough.

A place with a past is a place with a future. Whether it remains in its form or it disintegrates absolutely, Artspace remains because its history is carried in the bodies and minds of those who have experienced and produced it. Take the examples of City Stage, The Union Theatre, Theatre on King, other local grassroots arts establishments in which the essence of Artspace has resided.

___space. This artist run centre stands on its own. Artspace proves to be separate from its physical existence not only through its evidence in other incarnations as mentioned above, but more so in its mobility. Although perpetually unpredictable, Artspace has proved to be a stable institution that can be dismantled and rebuilt dismantled and rebuilt dismantled and rebuilt dismantled and rebuilt dismantled and rebuilt dismantled and rebuilt dismantled and rebuilt dismantled and rebuilt (read disembodied, reimbodied) in 8 different locations and to not say it was the always same, it did become Artspace each and every time.

“I will not grow old in Peterborough because old Peterborough is a pain in the ass,” Lockyer quoted, explaining that it refers less to aging and speaks more so of refusing to stagnate and refusing to conform. Artspace stays faithful to this goal as it changes and it grows or it doesn’t but it continues.