On Friday, Nov 15 Kensington Market's queer artistic incubator Videofag turns one, and co-founders Jordan Tannahill and Will Ellis couldn’t be more excited. Their experimental live/work storefront space on Augusta, just north of Dundas, has already shared its walls with videographers, dancers, visual artists, comedians, lecturers and actors – and this is just the beginning.
"We were really inspired by other friends and colleagues who had turned their homes into hubs for their communities and helped inspire great platforms for their friends,” says Tannahill. “There seemed to be examples of this happening in the music world and visual art world, but not as much in the performing arts community. We wanted to change that."
A former barber shop, Videofag's renovated front room is the bread and butter of the venue, which leaves relatively little living space behind the scenes. The living room/kitchen, for example, acts as a green room for guests before events and later a makeshift bar at intermission. The other night, 14 people occupied the tiny space, requiring Eillis to flip the couch up on its side and then on top of the stove to make room.
But Tannahill and Ellis are more than willing to share their home with a steady stream of local and international queer artists who might otherwise be rejected by a larger organization’s board of directors or not be able to afford such a central venue. And the accessibility seems to be working on both sides, drawing an ever-expanding audience far beyond what the two gents could have anticipated.
“We are always astounded by just how many new people discover the space. I mean, there are just so many members of the art-going, cultural-seeking crowd in Toronto,” explains Tannahill.
“Even now, a year out, we're seeing almost totally new faces at each event, but when we started I think we expected a lot of our friends would come, and we were kind of worried about exhausting our friends with all of our programming…now we'll throw events where we know basically only the artist that we programmed or maybe one or two people and otherwise it's all sort of fresh faces.”
What’s next for Videofag? Ellis would like to get the show on the road, speaking at lectures and presenting boundary-pushing work in different spaces as Videofag in cities like New York and Berlin.
“But Toronto will always be home,” Tannahill assured. “It's a ton of work, but it's a lot of fun.”
Expect more of the exciting, provocative and unpredictable from Videofag as they roll into year two. Friday's celebratory party will feature some local queer luminaries Igby Lizard, Judy Virago and Vivek Shraya, and an announcement of the next batch of programming, through to spring of 2014.