Wychwood Barns reborn as newest art space

Artist Jesus Mora finally has a place he can call home. Thanks to a city of Toronto initiative, now he can work and live at the Wychwood Barns.

“I like the area, the environment and neighbourhood,” Mora said.

Wychwood Barns, located at 76 Wychwood Ave had an open house on Nov. 20. Artscape, along with the city of Toronto created the project. It transformed the historic TTC streetcar repair barns, into a live-in work studio for up and coming artists. It’s taken nearly five years to complete the facility.

Wendy Campbell is the assistant manager of tenant services for Toronto.

“The project of Wychwood Barns has been in the works for nearly seven years,” she said. “They were thinking of doing two things to this area: one was to tear it down and the other was to sell it. Thankfully we were all able to come together and make a final decision that can benefit everyone.”

The Barns will house 12 not-for-profit organizations, 15 art studios and 26 live-in workspaces for spaces.

“Our rents are fairly affordable, especially since they’re below market level. Our goal is to provide permanent and affordable rent spaces to these artists,” she said.

Mayor David Miller was there representing the city, which contributed nearly $3 million to the Barns project.

The oldest car barn in the complex goes back to 1913. The former streetcar barns were originally built for the Toronto Civic Railways, which later became the TTC. The area is located on a 4.3-acre site, between Wychwood Avenue and Christie Street, just south of St. Clair Street West.

Susan Avisha, an artist who uses the studio space for her work, was present at the event.

“I moved into this space on Nov. 1 and it’s been pretty hectic since then,” Avisha said. “I’ve had a passion for painting since I was two-years old and an incident happened with my dad. My dad came to kiss me good-night and a pen fell out of his pocket. I ended up using and scribbling all over my clean sheet.”

Avisha has only being at the Barn for three weeks, but she’s already started working on her abstract art, which is something she always wanted to do.

Coun. Joe Mihevc explained how the members helped raise nearly $300,000 for the project.

“Artists not only present their work, but also live in the barns,” Mihevc said. “We’re not only keeping the heritage of the TTC’s history, but also building something new and different.”

The Barn comprised of four parts: Studio Barn, covered street barn, Community barn and Food’s centre’s green barn.

Jesus Mora has been painting for nearly 12 years now and loves it.

“I applied for this through Toronto Housing and Artscape” Mora said, “I find it to be fairly affordable.”