“I cannot afford to act the charity when I’m not a charity,” lamented Shermine Sawalha, Ctrllab founder and creative director.
She was referring to what made the gallery so unique, which was its goal to help up-and-coming artists in any possible way, offering them an open space to exhibit their works.
“We started this company to try to support emerging artists to give them a chance to show their work without any discrimination towards their work or any judging of what their work is,” Sawalha said, adding that there was no submission process. Artists who wanted to exhibit just had to rent the space.
“The reason we chose that â€“ and we’re not government or publicly funded â€“ is to give people the chance to show their stuff and get grants from the government to produce work,” she continued. “And no one actually does that in the city.”
While the space may be closing, Sawalha still has plans to keep helping artists through other projects. These include a book that will feature all the artists who have shown their work in the gallery’s history and a Montreal map of galleries and other arts spots to hit around the city.
And of course, as with any ending, there are always the great memories. Sawalha recalled hers: “When people smile â€“ and when they come back again and when they appreciate all the work that we do.”
To keep up to date with Ctrllab, visit their website at www.ctrllab.com.
More than 150 exhibits have been shown, but over 200 artists have shown in the gallery.
The back office was turned into a residence, where artists from all over the world would live for a month at a time, creating and exhibiting their work in the gallery.
Some of the festivals it has participated in include Art Matters, Nuit Blanche and JournÃ©es de la Culture.
Ctrllab relied on many hard-working volunteers, and there was no hierarchical structure