Whippersnapper Comes of Age
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Whippersnapper Comes of Age

Whippersnapper Gallery has been breaking all of the rules for the past five years. Within the walls of their unconventional second-floor space located in the midst of the restaurants and bars of Little Italy, they have exhibited the work of over one thousand emerging artists through their tireless and unpaid efforts. This kind of irreverent ambition has established Whippersnapper as one of the most active and engaging art spaces in the city. They have become a beacon for young talent through a continuous roster of art exhibitions, cultural programming, and music events.
To the surprise of the arts community, the gallery ushered out 2009 with the announcement that their run on College Street was coming to a close. In a statement released on December 30, Whippersnapper wrote that they would be closing the doors of their current space as of June of this year. They plan to pursue a new direction that will shift their offering from at-cost rental space to a platform that provides more artistic direction and curatorial leadership as an artist-run centre.

Detail from Jannick Deslauriers’s What is Left installation in the “Emergence Exhibition Series (Part 2).”

While this may be a move of maturity for this labour-of-love gallery, it will be a noticeable artistic loss for the neighbourhood. The current show, part two of their “Emergence Exhibition Series,” is an unexpected spatial experience that exemplifies Whippersnapper’s full curatorial potential. The next five months are your last chance to visit or exhibit in the space. They are accepting applications for rental exhibitions and events to run before June, and February’s “Art for Chilled Hearts” group show is accepting submissions this month.
We spoke to Luke Correia-Damude, one of the co-founders and the director of the gallery, about the changes ahead.
Torontoist: Whippersnapper is looking to move towards an artist-run centre model. How will this affect the type of exhibitions and programming at Whippersnapper?

Luke Correia-Damude: The artist-run centre is our projected goal; it has not been secured. There are other directions we are also considering but artist-run centre seems to be at the top of our list. If this status was secured Whippersnapper’s programming and exhibitions will be elevated to an enriched and exciting new level. Having operations funding will allow us to focus on finding and presenting a diverse range of emerging artists. As an organization we will be able to spend the much-needed time on showcasing the best of what emerging art has to offer. At the moment much of our time is divided between administration as a rental gallery, programming our own shows, and working outside jobs so we can all pay our rent. Eliminating the rental gallery facet of Whippersnapper will funnel more time into creative and artistic programming. Operational funding will allow us to have at least one dedicated employee, which will make a world of difference.
If we do not become an artist-run centre, we will follow the pop-up model and organize a few month-long exhibitions and events throughout the year in different locations.

Amanda Nedham’s Generals Always Die in Bed with Jannick Deslauriers’s What is Left.

Is there a neighbourhood or area that you are considering (or see as an ideal location) for the new incarnation?
We are more focused on the task at hand, which is working out our game plan for the future. I do feel that a special space is more important than a location.
What has been the highlight of Whippersnapper’s time on College Street?

The major highlight for me has been meeting and working with so many incredible artists. Every month we get to see so much new and exciting work. I have had the privilege to be involved in some really amazing shows and even meet some of my favourite musicians. A constant rush for me is reflecting on Whippersnapper’s conception and seeing where we stand today. What was originally a pet project has blossomed into something very special. I am so happy to have embarked on this project; everything from tearing down walls to installing art shows has been formative for me. It has been one of the largest learning experiences of my life. At the end of the day the biggest highlight is realizing that we actually built something from nothing, that “We did it!” kind of feeling.
Do you have an estimate of the duration of the “down time” between the current physical gallery space and the new model/venue?
By next summer we should have a finite idea of where the gallery is headed. One thing we know for sure is that we are excited for the new platform.
Whippersnapper’s current exhibition, “Emergence Exhibition Series (Part 2),” runs until January 22.
Photos by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.