With a recent poll indicating 60% of Torontonians are opposed to Walmart setting up shop near Kensinton Market, “Save Me” couldn’t have come at a better time. The maverick crew at 185 Augusta teamed up with a slew of local artists on June 27th to raise funds for a live-work space within the vicinity. It’s a good ol’ thumb in the nose at big box bitches intent on transforming this hub of independent commerce into Hipsterville. 185 was jampacked with supporters and filled with amazing art by the likes of Virgil Baruchel, Lemur, Moses Kofi, Javid, Jimmy Chiale, Sandra Brewster and more. The pics say it all. Conscious hip-hop by Progress along with the smooth, seductive sounds of Allie, Mia-Skye and other performers rounded things off beautifully. This was not your typical wine and cheese soiree – non. 185 Augusta is all about keeping it real, with a smashing palette of multicultural talent and patrons alike. I’ve had my share of waspy galas but this was one of the most progressive by far. A refreshing change of pace from snooty aficionados rocking botched Botox and plastic smiles. I caught up with Moses Kofi, the man behind the mission at 185 Augusta to find out more about the collective’s ambitious endeavour.
F: I’m speaking with Moses Kofi, one of the artists that’s part of the collective at 185 Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market. I would like to ask you about the inspiration behind your latest effort, “Save Me.”
M: I think this manifestation is probably the most solid version of collective inspiration, so really put simply, we want to start a charity to raise funds to be able to purchase property and have rent controlled live and work space as a response to the issue of Walmart moving in and the gentrification that’s happening. So instead of just standing around talking about it and bitching about it we decided to be proactive; if it’s good enough for the corporation, it’s good enough for the individual. I mean, when it comes to sustainability and controlling your own destiny and you know, controlling spaces and creating a culture that’s going to be sustainable beyond your reign, then ownership is a great route to do it.
F: Is a lack of affordable housing an issue that many artists in Toronto have to grapple with at this time?
M: I don’t think it’s just necessarily about affordable housing, but it’s about more than a space because a house is not a home kind of idea, so if you think of that in the context of an artist, and I speak for myself and my associates predominately, you need a space that you can create and produce in. Traditional living spaces don’t work like that. You have your landlords breathing down your neck if you put paint on the walls, simple things like space and resources is what it comes down to. You need an exhaust fan for certain chemicals, there are noise issues, all these kinds of things. To develop a space to actually work and live, it just provides people the opportunity that they wouldn’t already have had or otherwise had. So instead of following the traditional format that already exists, which I feel aren’t working as well as they should, why not design not a new platform but create something that is more encompassing. If art is living, then you should live well, do you know what I mean? So why not have that ability, why not create the spaces.
F: How did the space at 185 Augusta come about?
M: I found this space about four and a half or five years ago, and I found it on Craigslist actually. And I was lucky because it came up a couple of days just before I found it. I moved in here with a roommate. Javid’s the fourth roommate I’ve had and I think it’s really attributable to the landlord and the freedom that they give us. I mean conversely, I handle the space; I don’t call them if something needs to be fixed,. but they’re going to give me the freedom to be creative and do what I want to do. Granted, the people who lived here before me were crack dealers so I don’t think I can do much worse than that but still, it’s a step up for the neighbourhood and a step up for me as well. As long as you maintain the space and are respectful, people allow you to flourish.
F: On a final note, what sort of direction do you see art going in with regards to Toronto?
M: I don’t know, I see art as going in the same direction. If you have amazing talent and it all exports because that’s the only way to profit, I don’t think that’s necessarily a problem but I would like to see more Toronto money be invested back. There’s so much money in the city it’s insane. Toronto is a filthy rich town. I think it’s really just about creating more spaces that allow people to do that, you know what I mean? Communities develop themselves. It’s like a plant. As long as you give it water and sun and soil, it will grow, it will do what a plant needs to do, providing that space for that plant to grow. What it does? I don’t know. That’s for that to figure out. I’m just here to plant the fucking garden.
F: Wonderful. Thank you Moses.
“Save Me” is currently on display at 185 Augusta Avenue, Kensington Market. If you’re in the neighbourhood, swing by and check it out.
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