Local gay man Neville Austin has made a major donation to help equip the Toronto Fringe Festival’s new Creation Lab initiative. Part of the lab will be called Neville’s Nook – officially the Neville Austin Studio – to acknowledge Austin’s $7,000 gift.
The Creation Lab is a new $100,000 program launched to help emerging theatre artists access space for rehearsals, workshops and fundraisers at steeply discounted rates. It’s housed in a 3,500-square-foot space in the Centre for Social Innovation at Bathurst and Bloor streets.
Fringe director of development Adam Kirkham says that Austin’s gift will help equip the studio with basic light and sound so that artists can achieve “the greatest potential in their creations.”
“We think it’ll strengthen the entire theatre community,” Kirkham says. “We find a rising tide lifts all ships.”
Austin, a lawyer who lives in the Annex neighbourhood, says he wanted to give back to a festival that he has enjoyed as a patron for nearly 20 years.
“I must have seen 300 to 400 shows at the Fringe,” Austin says. “I actually take my vacations to coincide with the Fringe Festival each year. I just think it’s a great local artistic festival for encouraging new, young, eager, creative artists.”
He was motivated to make a donation after sensing a worsening climate for the arts in Canada.
“I’m doing what I can,” he says. “I see things changing around me, and I get concerned that the arts may get forgotten, will not be on people’s top agenda. That’s why I believed in supporting this particular cause. It’s brought together many of the things I care about: my neighbourhood, my city, the arts and nurturing new artists.”
Asked what Austin is planning to catch at this year’s festival, he was circumspect. He says he’s circled 25 shows in this year’s program that he’s planning to see and says that he likes musicals and comedies.
At the Fringe opening party on July 6, former mayor David Miller also announced a matching gift program called Time in Space, in which he will match any donation that comes into the Creation Lab program up to a total of $10,000.
Theatre and arts lovers can participate by making donations at fringetoronto.com or at any of the venue box offices during the Fringe Festival.