How Gallery Parfois is changing the way we think about exhibition spaces

Redefining the white cube through a participatory approach

Walking into the space at Gallery Parfois, an immediate sense of welcomeness is harboured. A plastic rose and a mannequin bust are haphazardly placed on a table, a studio light shining down on them and casting their shadow across the bare wall. Chill, lo-fi music plays in the background, and a lean black cat moseys around the room. Despite how often one may be in gallery spaces, this one does not prompt the frigidity that almost always instantly arises when stepping into the white cube.

Gallery Parfois, an artist-run, do-it-yourself space on St-Laurent Blvd. and Duluth Ave., aims to offer an environment for engagement with art. In this context, do-it-yourself refers to a community-driven initiative that differs from most conventional and commercially-based institutions.

Their Tuesday Night Life Drawing sessions were created to fill a space within the industry.

“Outside of an institutional art school setting, the opportunity to draw a model from life is a rarity,” said Brooke Rutner, the director of Gallery Parfois, which also doubles as her photo studio. “Although there is no instruction during our session, practicing drawing from life is said to be the best way to improve one’s drawing.”

Sessions are held Tuesday evenings, in order to accommodate the large majority of people who hold day jobs, and only cost a small participation fee of $5. However, Rutner disclosed that no one would be turned away for lack of funds.

The sessions, which last approximately two and a half hours, consist of a variety of timed intervals wherein the model changes and holds various poses. First two minutes, then five, then 10, and finally 22 minute intervals. While this is how most life drawing sessions occur in both the educational and artistic milieu, the vibe at Gallery Parfois is much more laid back, and emphasizes the idea of art for pleasure. Some participants use pencils, charcoal, pastels, and even electronic tablets. People join halfway through, and others leave.

The ease and comfort of the space reforms the conventional gallery. The traditional white cube is almost always commercially-based and reliant on exhibiting and, oftentimes, selling art.

“The art that is exhibited in these galleries is art that will most likely appeal to the taste of collectors, aka art that will sell,” said Rutner. Gallery Parfois, on the other hand, focuses on creating an alternative environment for artistic engagement. Exhibitions feature experimental and emerging artists; work that fosters a dialogue or addresses social issues.

“The overall goal of the space is to foster a community of like-minded creatives,” said Rutner.

Gallery Parfois’ approach towards engaging and participating with art redefines who gets to be an artist.

“[There is] an interesting diversity among the regular life drawing participants,” said Rutner. “[They] range from absolute beginners to animation industry professionals.”

The different mediums used by participants and the various levels of their talent remind the artist that there is not one ‘type’ of making, and that the commercialization of art is not the ultimate goal, but rather to foster a sense of community around art-making.

“I do not perceive commercial spaces as being inherently lacking or flawed,” said Rutner. “Despite the obvious barriers to entry, they often achieve what they set out to do. [Being] aligned with such institutions can be an amazing opportunity for an artist. I think it’s important to have many different channels for engaging with and pursuing art.

While traditional gallery spaces aid artists in promoting and commercializing their art, Gallery Parfois aims to offer artists a different experience. This is not to undermine the importance of galleries, but rather to provide different types of opportunities for a greater majority of people with an interest in art-making, and to provide representation for a wider group of artists.

In line with their approach of offering a space for artistic engagement and a sense of community within the industry, Gallery Parfois will be launching a new educational initiative this fall, offering affordable workshops on various topics ranging from grant-writing to bookbinding. Upcoming event info will be posted to the space’s official Facebook page, at Gallery Parfois.

Tuesday night life drawing sessions are held every Tuesday, from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Gallery Parfois, at 4064 St-Laurent Blvd. 


Graphic by @sundaeghost

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