Fundraiser launched for Walnut Studios artists devastated by fire

A GoFundMe campaign is supporting 22 Toronto artists who lost all of their work and supplies in a fire over the weekend



Artists are scrambling to get back on their feet after a fire ripped through their studios over the long weekend. In the early hours of May 19, Walnut Studios in King West Village was engulfed in flames. The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

“It’s overwhelming right now to grasp what everyone has lost in this fire,” says Katrina Schaman, one of the 22 artists affected. “Not only have we lost our space to work, but personally, I’ve lost over six months of work as well as just random pieces from old series.”

A full-time painter, Schaman began renting a space at Walnut Studios in 2015 after feeling isolated working alone in her basement. What she gained was a tight knit community of 45 artists including painters, sculptors, fashion designers, jewellery makers, photographers and installation artists.

Now, at least half those artists have been displaced by the fire. The remaining artists, whose studios were located in the south end of the building, suffered smoke damage to some of their art and supplies. Schaman believes that most artists did not have insurance since it’s difficult and expensive to insure work that’s being created on an ongoing basis.

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Toronto painter Katrina Schaman is one of 22 artists whose work and supplies were completely destroyed by a fire at Walnut Studios.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to support the artists directly affected buy new supplies and find temporary studio space. Currently, it’s raised just over $12,000 of the $15,000 goal.

The artists are meeting later this week to discuss next steps, including additional fundraising avenues, like summer shows and outdoor markets. As it stands, even if initial fundraising goals are met, each artist would only get around $600 to rebuild their careers. Part of the reason many artists appreciated Walnut Studios was its affordable rent. Schaman says studio space ranged from $200 to $600, which isn’t the case for most artist spaces downtown.

“The owner made it very clear that that he plans to rebuild and continue operating Walnut as he always has,” Schaman says, although there’s no information on when that might happen.

michelled@nowtoronto.com | @michdas

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