A look at Kensington Market’s newest art space
It was early in the summer. The rains dampening Toronto had yet to make an appearance. I joined my friends on a bench outside the shop. The building next to the Vietnamese diner was unassuming. If not for the storefront window, I would have thought the gallery was an apartment. The notes of a newly formed jazz trio floated out 187 Augusta Avenue’s open door while two people wrote in chalk on the window—“Jazz Concert – Tonight. $5 only.” Inside The 187, there were a few chairs but, like most of the audience, we sat on the floor.
187 Augusta Avenue is home to, and the name of, an arts space, which has operated for about five months in the heart of Kensington Market. Despite their relative newness, an event there is unique compared to similar spaces. Toronto is home to many venues and galleries, from one-night pop-ups to the AGO. What sets 187 Augusta apart from other spaces is its sense of community. Community is a word that is often thrown around, but at The 187 it is almost tangible. The jazz night I went to was loosely-organized and relied on the musicians’ ability to ad-lib with one another. There was a set list that lasted half the night and the other half was either improvisation or audience suggestion. Maybe I had become too numb from the floor, but by the end of the concert I found that I had not only enjoyed the music, I also connected with the band and the audience around me. The Strand spoke to the owners of The 187 to discuss its origins and plans for the future.
The Strand: How did The 187 begin and why did you start it?
The 187: 187 Augusta is a community arts and event space operated by TAYO Collective. The TAYO Collective is a Filipino, multidisciplinary art squad that formed last August after having cultivated a creative relationship through the six-month Kapisanan Philippine Centre youth arts mentorship program. Tayo is the Tagalog word, which, depending on intonation, means an inclusive “we,” as well as “to build,” or “to stand.” TAYO expresses these values and achieves its mandate through various platforms, one of which is 187 Augusta. The 187 began initially as a home for TAYO Collective, but as time passed the definition of our collective moved with it, and The 187 became much more. Our mandate at The 187 is to offer transformative programming and spaces. We do this by curating and offering our space to events, workshops, art, music, and literary shows that invite and inspire change.
Is there any significance regarding your location in Kensington Market?
The building began as a family-owned Chinese barber shop and tailor. After its time as a barber shop, the space was used as a community arts and event space by a queer-run collective called Videofag. They operated out of The 187 from 2012 until recently, when the space was passed on to us. Apart from its history, the significance of 187 Augusta Avenue lies in the centrality of our location. Being across from Kensington Park makes us highly visible. We also have a lovely window that faces the street. Obviously this is a blessing, but it’s also a responsibility for us to care for and share wisely.
What sets 187 Augusta Avenue apart from other galleries or art spaces?
We’re relatively new to the landscape of art and event spaces in Toronto. However, there are three pieces of our identity we find distinctive. First is that we are a space led by young adults, persons of colour, women of colour, and those from the queer community. Second, is our atmosphere. Our space is not highly polished, but our friendly grassroots ambiance aids the feeling of community we are able to bring.
As a relatively new organization, what kind of events do you manage from The 187?
As fall comes, we’re looking to develop more events, however, we have a few events that run consistently on a weekly to monthly basis. These include our jazz nights, life drawing sessions, comedy nights, open studios, and the Halo-Halo Market. However, outside of these gems, our space gets booked at its own flow. We are in our first four months and it is hard to gauge what we can call our standard as it can be difficult at times to maintain steady timing for our showings. We strive to maximize our use of the space for such events, as it drives our outreach and desire to build a solid brand as a community organization.
At an eight-minute bike ride or 30-minute walk from campus, The 187 is worth the visit. As courses at the university begin again, it’s spaces like The 187 that can provide meaningful and fun experiences in Toronto, past the dorm room or apartment. Experiencing art, music, or entertainment can be fun, but it is made all the more significant when those creating and performing are of one’s own generation.
To stay up to date, follow The 187 on Instagram (@187augusta)
Illustration | Yilin Zhu