Office of Creative Space

A new model for community-owned, artist-stewarded creative spaces for communities to live, work, learn and thrive in a network across the City of Toronto.

We are convening partners for the Office of Creative Space collaborative. If you're a Toronto-based arts nonprofit, creative social enterprise, or supportive individual or business, we'd love to have you involved.

The Problem

Permanent space for small arts organizations has long been out of reach in Toronto. At the whims of a meteoric commercial market, and facing the extreme scarcity of affordable space managed by local government and through short-term rental programs, vital arts groups have been forced to cease operations for lack of secure space for decades.

Real estate development disproportionately displaces Black and other racialized communities, and projects that promise space for culture primarily benefit new, higher-income residents and investors rather than existing communities.

As the market escalates, community asset ownership and governance will keep our neighbourhoods vital and viable.


We envision a near future where every Toronto neighborhood with community-owned spaces where residents can create, experience and learn about visual and media art enjoys stabilized property values, thriving microeconomies, and strong connections between residents, artists and a constellation of community organizations.

Rather than mega-investments into risky, large central hubs, we see a decentralized network of smaller spaces that are contextually sensitive to the neighbourhoods in which they are situated – sized to make operating costs manageable by local community trusts working in partnership with artist stewards.

In an unrestrained commercial market, artists and creators will seek equitable and community-centred models for production and exhibition space that allow meaningful connection to local neighbourhoods – rather than relying on community benefit agreements to materialize years after big developments tear holes in the streetscape.

In the future, every artist in Toronto will be able to find adequate affordable workspace in their home neighbourhood, and have all the resources they need to thrive in their practice and in their communities. Arts organizations will be supported in fundraising and planning efforts as they seek space for their members and communities. Artists, community and arts organizations will leverage the financial and creative control they have to improve conditions for the whole community.

Artists and community members freely share their needs and feedback to improve spaces and the network for all, and feel a strong connection to the shared resources, assets and people in their communities.

We see a near future where a sustainable system has been established that reliably improves the ability of communities to increase asset ownership and ensure local social resilience.


Backbone organization the Toronto Media Arts Cluster (TMAC) was first conceptualized in 2003, after almost 15 years of organizing and theorizing solutions to the problem of affordable, permanent space for artists in the City of Toronto. The organization incorporated in 2011 and attained charitable status in 2013.

In 2014, with the support of the local community, City staff, neighbourhood advocacy groups and our local city councillor, TMAC, Urbancorp and the City of Toronto finalized an agreement that would provide the developer a density bonus in exchange for a turnkey, purpose-built, 38,000 sq. ft. facility for TMAC. However, the developer failed to complete construction of the space on time and eventually went bankrupt; TMAC was forced to engage in a lawsuit to operate the space on an interim basis. We moved into our facility in March 2018, and, unable to fundraise money required in a settlement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lost our lawsuit in November 2020. TMAC and its member orgs were forced to move out in July 2021. (Read the whole tale here.)

In its 2+ years of operation at the 32 Lisgar site, TMAC organically grew into an integrated collaborative organization supporting its members, the West Queen West community, and all of Toronto’s media artists and artist-run centres with a particular focus on queer, gender-marginalized, Black and racialized artists. As a community benefit, TMAC’s programming brought vital jobs, education, and stability to the neighbourhood; generated income for businesses in the area through regular public events; and brought all of the social benefits of engaging with the arts directly to the local community.

Our collaborators believe the collective impact approach is crucial to the success of the Office of Creative Space, as every aspect requires thoughtful collaboration with all stakeholders centred on equity. Having worked together for years on various programs and projects, including failures and successes, our vision for a network of community-owned, artist-stewarded spaces across the City is shared despite the varying needs and resources of each partner. Our goal is to develop a model replicable not only across the GTA, but across Canada.


Using social finance investment tools, we purchase real estate in the GTA to sell to community arts land trusts and co-ops on favourable terms, stabilizing space costs in an escalating market. We also plan to:

  • Provide training, mentorship, and HR support to arts nonprofits and collectives to support the development of sustainable financial and governance models
  • Develop and manage a community algorithmic trust.
  • Develop partnerships with social enterprises to anchor spaces and diversify revenue models for community-owned assets.
  • In collaboration with arts organizations and artists, collect data, measure results and publish reports on barriers (structural, ethical, financial) and solutions to permanent space for artists in Canada.
  • Advocate at all levels of government for increased direct supports to arts organizations operating community spaces.
  • Develop a coalition of smaller-scale, infill developers focused on meeting the affordable housing and economic development needs of communities.
  • Assist arts and community groups’ capitalization to acquire real estate.

Join Us

We are convening partners for the Office of Creative Space collaborative. If you're a Toronto-based arts nonprofit, creative social enterprise, or supportive individual or business, we'd love to have you involved.

Get in Touch