Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards

How This ‘Local Gallery’ Is Shouting From the Rooftops of Toronto for Local Artists

Advertising Agency
Toronto, Canada
The Local Collective’s founder, managing director Kaitlin Doherty and partner, curator Pepe Bratanov speak with LBB’s Ben Conway about opening a ‘Local Gallery’ to revitalise the “creative superpower” of Toronto’s local artists

Toronto-based agency The Local Collective recently announced the opening of ‘The Local Gallery’ - a project driven by the agency’s desire to give back to the local creative community which the advertising industry benefits from and to support artists following the pandemic.

Describing the relationship between artists and creative agencies as a “two-way street”, The Local Collective’s founder Kaitlin Doherty believes that the Local Gallery is their opportunity to ‘“shout from the rooftops” about local talent that contribute so much to their industry through their bodies of work and skillsets. 

The gallery features pieces from the curator’s own body of work, as well as a wide range of styles and mediums, all engrained in the local culture and identity of Toronto’s creative scene. From paintings to sculptures, the gallery’s colourful and modern collection so far sits “at the intersection of pop and street art” - but most importantly, gives artists from the area an opportunity to earn a living from their work.

Discussing how the Local Gallery came about, The Local Collective’s ethos for supporting the artistic community and their future plans for the gallery, Kaitlin and the gallery’s curator Pepe Bratanov brought LBB’s Ben Conway behind the scenes of this ambitious project to create an accessible creative space for Toronto creatives after a global pandemic. 

LBB> You say TLC believes in giving back - could you elaborate on this ethos and the reasons why you set up the gallery?

Kaitlin> As an industry we get a lot of inspiration from other cultural and creative industries and bodies of work. Some of which don’t always have the benefit of a big budget or big brand behind them. The gallery gives us a place where local artists can showcase and sell their work. It’s a two-way street, we love the perspective they bring, we love looking at it, we love the technique they consider. And what we give back to them is an opportunity to pursue their own dreams, their own passions in a way they can live on. If we’re going to gain inspiration from their work, it’s also nice if, in our own way, we can support the art community to continue to be able to create it. 

LBB> Why was now the right time to do this? Has this been a long-time ambition and has the pandemic affected this?

Kaitlin> This was a part of the plan from day one. When we wrote down our ten big things we wanted when we started, this was always high on the list. But we also wanted to do it properly. The pandemic absolutely impacted it, we started construction on the gallery the Monday before the first lockdown. So, it really slowed down the ability to have this piece come to life. But it was important to us, so we just kept going, and we couldn’t be happier to have this space today.  

LBB> How did the pandemic affect the local creative scene?

Kaitlin> I think it did two things, it massively highlighted how important of a role it plays in our lives. From the art we look at on our walls, to the content (films, stories and music) we grasped so desperately on to, it showed us this essential need we have for creative stimulation. And then secondly, the creators themselves have created a lot of work through the pandemic, so there is a huge amount of work produced that these artists and creators are just waiting to share with the world. 

LBB> How can The Local Gallery give back to the community and help support a post-pandemic revitalisation?

Kaitlin> The hope is to have a place that feels special to the neighbourhood and community we are in. We want a destination that people feel they can access when they need some visual stimulation and fun. This is just the start of the gallery, so as the world opens back up, we’ll be able to have different types of experiences, shows and exhibits in the space that can speak to different issues, causes, experiences that we are really excited for, or that our artist friends want to express.

LBB> How can The Local Gallery be used to support initiatives you are already involved with> And how can you directly help local artists?

Kaitlin> One thing we want for the gallery is for it to be accessible, so if you have art you want to showcase, we want to hear from you. And it doesn’t mean we can guarantee to show it. But we will absolutely talk with you about it, and hopefully provide some valuable guidance, support, or encouragement to get your art out there. 

And for all of us as private citizens to engage with artists. If you can’t buy art to support local artists, you can support their social channels, like, comment and share their work. We all know the algorithms are more aggressively pushing down organic posts and accounts in preference for brands and paying posts. And engaging with an artist’s account helps them and it costs all of us nothing.

LBB> Pepe, how did you organise the first roster of talent featured in the gallery? Were they people TLC has worked with before? Were you looking for a variety of artistic forms?

Pepe> Prior to opening the gallery doors, we had never worked with the artists before. It wasn’t about a sense of comfort and familiarity, but more so about finding the right artists that would help us set the mood and tone for the gallery moving forward. That first impression we stamp on the Toronto arts community was always going to be so important.

The works we look to represent are modern, playful and colourful. Works that sit at the intersection of pop and street art. Works that are fun, witty and experimental and don’t necessarily hang on the wall, but could be suspended from the ceiling, rest on the floor or a plinth or interact with each other. The work covers a variety of mediums. From traditional acrylic and oil paintings to resin, neon, repurposed everyday objects and experimental works made with vibrators.

LBB> Why did you choose the artists and styles that you did? And why are they representative of local talent and culture? 

Pepe> Toronto is a creative superpower. Not only when it comes to traditional art, but music, performance, design, you name it. A lot of that rich creative culture shows in the work we bring in and we hope that by supporting and nurturing creativity on a local level we can contribute to the ever-growing creative scene in the city.

So far, the feedback from the arts community has been incredibly positive, especially with the type of work we’re showing. So, we’ll continue doing so, while trying to put the spotlight on as many different local artists as we can. We don’t necessarily operate as a traditional gallery with a fixed number of artists on their roster.

LBB> What makes Toronto creatives and artists unique? How do you want to express a sense of local pride with the gallery?

Kaitlin> I think something we are seeing confirmed clearly is that Toronto is a city filled with exceptionally talented artists and creatives. The work we show really feels like how you feel when you walk through the neighbourhoods and cultures of Toronto. It’s fun, a little unexpected. The longer you look and experience a piece, the more you’ll discover inside it. There are layers and not necessarily in ways you’d expect. Toronto and its artists will not be held to one thing, and the talent is here to prove it. 

And we are here to shout it from the rooftops. 

LBB> How does TLC and Pepe’s experience in the advertising industry influence how you organise, promote and generally run the gallery? What aspects of this industry crossover?

Kaitlin> I think it’s helped us keep calm - we didn’t rush the foundation of the gallery. We spent time finding and building relationships with artists. We’ve all tried to solve briefs or challenges that were see-through and light on substance, and so we didn’t want to skip that step for this piece of our brand. It felt like there wasn’t an opportunity to do it “half-assed”. 

I think the piece that provides the most cross over between art and advertising is the vulnerability you must have in order to work in the creative space. You end up putting a lot on the line and there is a lot more emotion that goes into it. With the best advertising you can always feel the level of passion and fight that comes out of the craft and I think that is where the two worlds connect. 

LBB> So, what’s next for TLC and The Local Gallery?

Kaitlin> Oh lots! Like I said, this is just the start. The roster is constantly expanding and rotating and it will continue to. You’ll have to keep an eye out for what comes next…

Work from The Local Collective
Girls E-Mentorship
Haunted Mailbox
Scary Debit