Charitable Choices: Akin, Creative Space/Arts Programming Organisation

Akin Projects is a registered nonprofit that provides artists and creatives with the support they need for creative production and development of their careers to benefit and enhance the communities where they work and live. We spoke with Emily Gong, Senior Development Associate at Akin Projects, to find out more.

Akin, Zine Dream 2019
– Akin, Zine Dream 2019.

Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.

Akin, founded in 2008, is a provider of creative space in Toronto as well as an arts programming organization and registered nonprofit (as of 2015) with the mandate of providing affordable studio space as well as creative and professional development opportunities to members of Toronto’s artistic and cultural communities and the public at large.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Initially set up as a small studio for a group of friends, the organization soon moved to a larger space as it became clear that there was a great need for affordable creative workspaces in Toronto. Currently with six locations across the city, Akin provides rental space to over 200 artists, focused on affordability and building social connections. Akin is proud to be an artist-run and operated organization.

When did you start/join it?

Akin was founded by Oliver Pauk and Michael Dellios in 2008. I joined the Akin team as the Senior Development Associate last December.

What made you want to get involved?

I’ve been following Akin’s work that fills a real need for artists and creatives in Toronto for almost a decade now. I first found out about Akin when a friend had a studio at their Lansdowne location (no longer an Akin location, but the building is still there) and went to an Akin gallery crawl with her, this is when I was still an art student myself. Last year, when I moved back to Toronto, I wanted to get more involved in the local art scene and couldn’t think of a better way to do so than through joining Akin.

What was the situation like when you started?

When I joined Akin, Covid-19 had already greatly impacted the organization financially, however, admirably, Akin’s focus remained on supporting artists and creatives. On the same day that Ontario went into a state of emergency, Akin launched its Rent Relief Fund to provide studio members with short term financial aid in times of financial instability – with priority given to artists that self identify as a member of an equity priority group in Toronto. Transitioning Akin’s programming online also helped communities to maintain a vital connection through virtual arts events that are free and open to the public.

How has it changed since?

We are still working to creatively problem solve and adapt to the unique and collective challenges artists in Toronto face in Covid-19. A big part of it is listening, learning and unlearning, showing up and being there for community members, while recognizing and acting on where changes/improvements are needed. We are still learning to grapple with these uncertain times but certainly it brought us closer with our community of artists and supporters. From 17 March to now, support from the broader community through the Akin Rent Relief Fund has been incredibly moving. 108 supporters from generous individuals and the private sector have enabled us to support 99 artists, over 55% of funds were given to artists that identify as a member of an equity priority group in Toronto. I am quite proud to be part of a team that really cares deeply about what we do because at the end of the day, it’s the people (the team, community members, supporters, advocates, and friends) that makes the difference.

What more needs to be done?

We are still learning to better support the communities within which we exist through learning-unlearning, knowledge and experience sharing. Anti-oppression, equity, inclusion, and access are at the forefront of Akin’s work and increasingly so in recent years. The Akin member demographic survey conducted in 2018 found that over 40% of Akin members lived at or below the poverty line, 30% self identified as BIPOC, 35% self identified as LGBTQ2S. There is the need, not just exclusive to Toronto, to increase representation of diverse artistic voices and increase public access to art and programming.

Another area of need is rebuilding together post-Covid and developing sustainable relationships with organizations and businesses in the local community that share a common dedication for sustaining and improving the arts ecosystem for the next generation of artists and communities in Toronto.

How can our readers help?

We welcome friends of Akin and community partners! Support through the Akin Rent Relief Fund, become a Friend of Akin, share Akin Projects with friends and family. We are always open to collaborating with like minded individuals and organizations that share a common mission. You can also support Akin by becoming an Akin member! Studio rent is month-to-month and starts as low as $70/month for a shared (communal space) membership. You can view our Currently Available Listings online and email for more information.

Do you have any events coming up?

We recently had a Taxes for Artists Workshop, Virtual craft nights, and an Indigenous community consultation with Akin’s Indigenous Studio Space Advisor, Tannis Nielsen.

Coming up in the spring and summer months, we have a virtual Artist Show & Tell, Honouring The Artist’s Voice wellness session, Zine making workshop, and a botanical drawing event among many others. Stay tuned by following us on social media or sign up for our community newsletter. Coming up in the spring and summer months we have a virtual Artist Show & Tell, ‘Honouring The Artist’s Voice’ wellness session, a Zine making workshop, self-guided Art Walks, and a botanical drawing event among many others. Stay tuned by following us on social media or sign up for our community newsletter.

Where can we follow you?

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

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Emily Gong (she/her/they) is the . Emily is the co-founder of Asian Arts and Culture Trust (AACT) a non-profit that aims to increase empathy, understanding, and representation of Asian arts, culture, and heritage in Canada. Emily is also the co-founder of Art Focus, an organisation which aims to increase international mobility for emerging artists. She completed her BFA at Queen’s University and masters at the University of Oxford. Emily has worked in External Relations for the University of Oxford and Public Engagement for the Ashmolean Museum. She has published in the Barbican Centre’s exhibition catalogue AI:More than Human and exhibited at the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism.