In the storefront window of Bodega Thirteen on Dundas Street West, there’s an art gallery called Jr. Projects. Where you would usually find retail merchandise, there’s art. Since March 2014, founder Manden Murphy has exhibited everything from Mike Goldby’s illustration to Brad Tinmouth’s plant life.
Murphy, an emerging artist himself, founded Jr. Projects in hopes of making art visible to a broader public. “DIY spaces are popping up because people don’t want to wait for things to happen, they just want to get busy and organize cool shows with smart people,” he said.
“The people that come here, to the openings, make up an infinitely small percentage of people who see it. It’s people waiting for the bus who catch the reflection in the window. That’s what’s exciting about it. Maybe later when they’re sitting in their living room, they’ll think, What was that thing I saw today? That was weird.”
Artist-run centres have long existed as an alternative to arts institutions and commercial galleries. DIY exhibitions spaces like Jr. Projects are mutations of artist-run centres that pop up unexpectedly in shopping malls, abandoned buildings and personal apartments. Independent, non-commercial spaces are unbound by the market’s wavering demands which allows artists to explore weirder, riskier projects that wouldn’t necessarily be shown elsewhere.
Murphy says that there are no cultural or critical implications for the space.“I want it to be an autonomous space that doesn’t need to have a specific dialogue because it’s next to a store. In fact, none of the projects have had to do with the store.”
His choice of artists is based on his faith in their ability to work with the space. Jr. Projects doesn’t take submission but instead chooses artists through personal connections with a “Let’s see if this works” attitude.
The exhibitions run a month long at a time but that might not always be the case. “I think some projects could really benefit from a play of time,” Murphy said. “If it’s a project space, and I’m not bound by capital, then why not play with time? What if we do a show every week, or every day for a week? We could have something up for six months.”
Jr. Projects exhibits an impressive roster of artists while also confronting unsuspecting passerbys with art. By taking a storefront window, typically designated for advertisement in pursuit of capitalized gains, and converting it into an opportunity to engage the public in an artistic experience, it’s a space that we’re keeping our eye on.
Jr. Projects, located at 1446 Dundas St. West, is currently exhibiting Afloat by Anne Neukamp.