Her name may not appear on the prints and photographs lining the walls, but the vibrant collection of local art spanning the first floor of the Hotel Victoria owes a credit to Rebecca Travis.
Travis is the Curator and Collections Manager of Open Studio, a singular space in the Toronto art world. The latest achievement in her curatorial career: Choosing the unique mix of art that graces the public spaces within the hotel, including Mossop’s Social House, an eatery, cafe, bar and social hub.
Art plays a significant part in the hotel’s connection to the city’s thriving cultural scene, with specially commissioned work from local printmaker Phoebe Todd-Parrish found in each room, and a new Artist-In-Residence program kicking off in tandem with the hotel’s revitalization. Travis’s chosen pieces—which greet the viewer the moment they step into the historic hotel—are what set the scene for each guest’s journey of local discovery.
Travis began her career in Newcastle, U.K., completing her art degree and working as a Gallery Assistant with large-scale exhibitions at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. She also began writing and editing for art magazines, which continued after her move to Toronto in 2014. Her introduction to the Toronto art scene came through her role at one of the city’s commercial galleries, Birch Contemporary, working with an exciting roster of Canadian contemporary artists.
“Curating kind of naturally grew out of all of those things—experiencing the process of making as an art student, supporting the creation of work at galleries, and exploring and communicating concepts of artwork through writing,” she says.
This work led her to eventually join Open Studio, an artist-run non-profit space with a 50-plus-year history of fostering printmaking artists in the Toronto scene.
While Open Studio is home to studio facilities, two galleries, and a shop, “it’s the focus specifically on the printmaking medium that sets us apart from other organizations in the city,” Travis says.
“Printmaking requires a lot of space and specific equipment, so our studio provides access for artists and the public to practice screen printing, etching, lithography, and letterpress—whether for the first time through workshops and classes or as a continuation of their practice,” she says.
Meanwhile, the space’s exhibitions show off the breadth and experimental possibilities of print.
“There is nowhere else quite like Open Studio in Toronto, and it is evolving all the time.”
Thanks to this unique focus, the establishment has played host to countless notable artists over its 50-year history: In the archive, Major figures in Canadian art, like Michael Snow, sit alongside print legends like Otis Tamasauskas, while the studio continues to support a host of new exciting new voices.
At Hotel Victoria, Travis’s goal was to reflect the hotel’s historic soul and the pulse of the modern city that surrounds it.
“There was a vision to combine contemporary artwork with historical items from the hotel, and have those two time periods work together,” Travis explains.
The result was a selection that includes both emerging and established artists, plus Inuit art sourced through Dorset Fine Arts. That selection was then whittled down—with the help of design firm Westgrove, who oversaw the hotel revitalization project—to create a collection of prints that would complement the historical items and the aesthetic of the renovated hotel. Selected artists include: Helena Rakic, Tammy Ratcliff, Aiko Suzuki, Shogo Okada, Walter Procska, and Saimaiyu Akesuk.
The project was a natural fit, given that Travis has a soft spot for hotels: “They feel like a real treat! There is something so lovely about being looked after in that way and having a boutique space that becomes your world for a temporary amount of time,” she says.
“They also often help to direct you around a certain neighbourhood in a city to see and experience a place in a certain way.”
So, where should an art lover head in Toronto once they’ve become acquainted with the collection at the Hotel Victoria? “Tough question! Toronto is a great city for art,” Travis says.
“One of the great joys is the pockets of galleries all across the city. The 401 Richmond Street building, where Open Studio is located, contains many public gallery spaces that focus on everything from video to photography, print, and Toronto-specific programming. There are some great commercial gallery spaces clustered in the west end, on Tecumseth Street, St. Helen’s Avenue, and up in the Junction, where you can build in visits to three or four galleries in the same area.”
Ready to start your Toronto art crawl? Think of Hotel Victoria as the perfect first stop. Extend your creative exploration with Open Studio’s diverse artwork and public print courses available online at openstudioshop.ca.