Art

A look inside the magical private studios of five Long Winter artists

A look inside the magical private studios of five Long Winter artists

Long Winter is Toronto’s most eclectic indoor arts festival. The next edition of the five-year-old nomadic series pops up at the Theatre Centre on February 4, featuring experimental music and sculptural installations. Like previous Long Winter events—at venues like the Great Hall, Gladstone Hotel and Galleria Mall—the all-ages, parka-clad crowds disprove the notion that winter is a time for hibernation. To get more insight into the creative spaces and habits of Long Winter’s artists, we visited five studios and asked the artists how they stay productive during the freezing, dark months.

Long-Winter-MI-Blue-1

M.I. Blue
Islington & Bloor

What do you do for Long Winter?
I’m a musician. My music is inspired by visual art—that’s how I figure out melodies. The first step in my creative process is always creating a moodboard of images or collecting clips from interesting films.

What’s the most prized possession in your studio?
I have a golden kettle that I’ve had since high school. I really like tea.

How do you keep your creativity flowing in the winter?
I’m a winter person. My creativity is so much better in the winter months. It flows naturally. When it’s foggy and cloudy outside, it makes me want to create.

What’s essential for anyone attending Long Winter?
Good energy. I noticed that everyone at the last Long Winter had a great attitude and was ready for a party. Get into the artist vibe and tune in.

What is your favourite winter activity in Toronto?
The Gladstone Hotel is great. They always have events worth checking out. I also like walking around Kensington Market and High Park in the winter.

 

Long-Winter-Morris-Fox-2

Morris Fox
Bathurst & St. Clair

What do you do for Long Winter?
For this edition, I made sculptures for a tableau installation. They’re block masses of foam with kitschy Dollarama objects embedded in them.

Tell us about your studio.
I’m currently pursuing my MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s a low-residency program, so I go to Chicago in the summer, but I’m in Toronto for the rest of the year. When I started the program, I moved my studio to an extra room in my mom’s apartment.

How do you keep your creativity flowing in the winter?
My work in the winter is a bit gloomier; it has a more somber tone. I’m slightly more productive in the cold weather because there’s less to do outside. I spend more time in my studio, but I miss the energy I get in the summer when there’s more light.

What’s essential for anyone attending Long Winter?
Bring your posse with you. If you’re outside in line, waiting in the cold, you’ll want your friends around to cheer you up and keep you warm. Be a social as possible and fight being a hermit—it’s worth it.

What is your favourite winter activity in Toronto?
I really like Allan Gardens. They have benches all throughout the greenhouses and I go with a sketchbook and a coffee. I can sit for hours in the warmth. Being among the plants is awesome. It’s free and open until 5 p.m. every day.

 

Long-Winter-Jenn-Kitagawa-3

Jenn Kitagawa
Ossington & Dupont

What do you do for Long Winter?
I’m making an art installation for the upcoming Long Winter. It’s a hanging piece made with yarn that people can go inside.

What’s the most prized possession in your studio?
I have a shelf full of cassette tapes that I’ve been collecting over time from thrift stores. It’s the cheap version of collecting records. For the last while, I’ve been listening to a tape from the band Jons from Victoria, B.C.

How do you keep your creativity flowing in the winter?
I started running indoors. I find it’s the best way to clear my mind. It’s a different space to be in.

Does the tone of your work change in the winter?
Yeah, I’ve noticed that the colours I use are more subdued. My work is still vibrant, but my installation for Long Winter has a lot of cooler colours.

 

Long-Winter-Vish-Khanna-4

Vish Khanna
Guelph

What do you do for Long Winter?
I run a talk show called Long Night with Vish Khanna. It’s a live late-night TV talk show with a band and everything. We do bits and interviews. The guests are a combination of well-established talent [like Shad, Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham and the Sadies] mixed with more obscure people that I just think are interesting.

What’s the most prized possession in your studio?
On my desk, I have a framed photo of The Beatles—all four of them stare at me while I do my work. I’ve had it since Grade 8. My friend stole it from our school and gave it to me.

How does winter affect your creativity?
Winter manifests itself in both obvious and subtle ways. When it’s snowy and cold outside, there’s an element of danger. The surfaces are slippery and you’re a hair away from peril every time you go outside. The weather influences the way I interview guests on Long Night and the jokes I write.

What’s your favourite winter activity?
I’ve been taking my kids to the ROM. There’s always something interesting there—not bored of it yet.

 

Long-Winter-Ben-Kamino-5

Benjamin Kamino
Dovercourt & Dundas

What do you do for Long Winter?
I’m a dancer. I like challenging the human-centric idea of dance. When I pick up a piece of paper and move it, I’m trying to give it life and agency as an object.

What’s the most prized possession in your studio?
My father is a painter, and I have his piece in my studio. I sit with them a lot—for comfort and inspiration.

How does the winter affect your creativity?
As a dancer in Toronto, winter is when I prepare for the summer festival season when it’s time to perform. I usually arrive at the studio in comfy clothes, make a cup of tea and get together with collaborators. In the summer, we’re too high energy, bouncing around. It’s hard to get anything done.

What is your favourite winter activity in Toronto?
Tobogganing—GT racing, specifically. My friend has a property near Caledon with a really long slope. It takes five minutes to go down because it’s made for snowmobiles. We call it “The GT World Summit.” If you’re in Toronto, go to Riverdale. Christie Pits is good too, but Riverdale hills are the finest.