Christopher Stones, “Ol Crazy Legs The Coyote,” wood/paint

A Catalyst for the Creation of Art in Northwestern Ontario

Story by Michelle McChristie, Photos by Kay Lee

“There is a lot to smile about with the new Definitely Superior Art Gallery space,” says David Karasiewicz, the executive and artistic director, days before their much- anticipated grand opening. “We wanted to honour the building without eviscerating or sanitizing it.” 

Last summer, the gallery moved from the basement of the former Eaton’s department store to the former movie theatre on Cumberland Street. After months of working tirelessly to transform the space and delays in opening due to the pandemic, they held their grand opening on August 28. 

Karasiewicz describes their new location as a “new, mid-century modern, industrial modular exhibition space.” With 5,270 square feet—almost double the area of their previous space—Karasiewicz says, “DefSup can be more flexible with its shows and activities while acting as an artistic hub to provide more opportunities and partnerships in launching a myriad of new experimental projects, events, workshops, and research spaces.”  

In transforming the original building, known as the Powell Equipment/Machinery Building and Cumberland Cinema, DefSup maintained the interior’s concrete and brick ruggedness. They also maintained the interior and exterior marquees for signage, the textured filmstrip embossing on the back walls of the lobby, and the large theatre numbers painted on the stairwell alcoves, all of which add character to the space and provide some nostalgia for former patrons of the Cineplex. With filtered light and 18-foot ceilings, the gallery is “a wondrous open space, repurposed factory/warehouse/theatre complex…something you would find in New York or Los Angeles,” according to Karasiewicz.

Looking forward, DefSup plans to explore new ways of thinking about emergent art trends while increasing public engagement. “We’ll be introducing changes that differentiate the organization by developing disruptive and transformational art to serve new artists and audiences, successfully spurring the centre’s development as an artistic incubator, creative hub, and a nexus for the art scene,” says Karasiewicz. In addition, DefSup will continue to provide comprehensive production and technical support and dedicated curatorial direction as part of their artist-focused framework. “In this way, we hope to advance our programming initiatives in new and exciting and positive directions so that we may continue to push the boundaries of contemporary art and spark critical dialogue through the diverse range of artworks…contributing to the contemporary arts in Canada,” says Karasiewicz.

As part of their grand opening, DefSup also kicked off their inaugural exhibition 20-20 Future Vision, showcasing over 40 contemporary regional, national, and international artists. Karasiewicz says the exhibition looks forward to a progressive future in which “DefSup will continue identifying and encouraging artists working in all media and engaging ourselves to identify our place and role as contributors in the future of the contemporary arts in Northwestern Ontario.” With their repurposed, multifunctional, and innovative space, DefSup poised to be a catalyst for a progressive new beginning for Northwestern Ontario’s arts scene.  

Sam Shahsahabi, “America First,” kinetic drawing machine/multimedia

20-20 Future Vision runs until October 10 at DefSup’s new location at 115 Cumberland Street North.