The Toronto Photographers Workshop was founded in 1977 when a group of fifty artists came together to address the lack of support for photography as an art form in Canada. Since that time, Gallery TPW has become an important focal point for a growing community of professional artists who are instrumental in the development and recognition of photo-based art. Over the past 10 years, TPW has expanded its media-specific mandate to address the vital role that images play in contemporary culture and to explore the exchange between photography, new technologies and time-based media.
TPW began its program of continuous exhibitions in 1980 when it opened the Photography Gallery at Harbourfront. By negotiating a rent-free agreement, TPW not only created a unique public venue with an extremely large audience — it also enabled the payment of artist fees in accordance with the CARFAC fee schedule beginning with the very first exhibition.
In 1986, TPW recognized the need to establish a more dynamic venue for exploring the broadening definition of photo-based art. Gallery TPW was opened at 80 Spadina Ave, the first building in Toronto to bring together numerous galleries within one renovated warehouse. At this location, Gallery TPW launched the careers of many significant Canadian artists and developed a national reputation by collaborating with other artist-run centres, as well as public galleries and educational institutions.
In 2006, Gallery TPW relocated to 56 Ossington Ave in order to increase the visibility and accessibility of the gallery and its programs. This move was timely, necessary and strategically successful. At this location we dramatically raised the profile of the gallery, enabling us to reach new audiences.
On September 21, 2012, we launched TPW R&D, a transitional and flexible storefront space for shared research and the development of critical discourse. Through educational and discursive programming — writing, screenings, discussions, workshops, fluid exhibition strategies — we were able to experiment with and test our methodologies for showing and looking at images, as much as we continued to directly experience the force of images through diverse presentation projects. TPW remains committed to the space of the gallery as one of productive, sustained engagement with images. However, the R&D period allowed us to step away from a structured exhibition model and broadly consider what research can look like, what its goals are for artists and institutions, and how we can perform it in and with a public. Our R&D programming met with great success and helped us connect and engage in new ways with our expanding audience.
In September 2014, Gallery TPW signed a ten-year lease on a 3,300 square-foot space at 170 St Helens Ave. We transformed the former warehouse into a modern, accessible facility dedicated to the exhibition and public engagement of lens and screen-based art, which we launched on April 30, 2015. This space combines the flexible and incubator-like elements of TPW R&D with a strong exhibition space to accommodate a range of exhibition platforms and media, as well as performances and screenings.