Looking at Liberty Village’s old carpet factory business directory you may never have known that it was once an artistic hub. The old carpet factory was a glowing focal point in the neighbourhood that was used as a place where artists would come, connect, and share their art.
In the late 1970s, the old carpet factory went from being a borderline abandoned, dilapidated building to an ambitious art gallery known as Factory 77. It was artist-run and meant to be an alternative to the established Toronto art scene.
At the time, Factory 77 was acclaimed for being a more relaxed, informal, and approachable compared to other art venues in the city. Young artists seeking a place to work on different pieces, engage with other artists, and put their works on display in a professional environment finally had a place to do so. Everything from abstract art to sculpture and performance art was welcomed here.
Looking at the old carpet factory today, you won’t find artists swarming the space like they did decades ago. So what happened to Factory 77 and why isn’t it still there today? Well, the answer is more or less what you would expect.
Although Factory 77 was once a thriving collective, it was also a business leasing this space. As a business, it still comes down to the numbers and being able to generate enough financial support to justify remaining open. Today, the carpet factory is a thriving hub for diverse businesses: yoga studios, animation, film, marketing and much much more.
It was estimated that the gallery needed $70,000 a year to sustain itself. Factory 77 thought it could generate this sum from a mix of government grants, business supports, and a sympathetic west end Toronto general public. Although little records exist documenting those final days at Factory 77, unfortunately it doesn’t appear they fared well and were unable to find the money they needed to remain open. In early 1982, Factory 77 would close its doors.
Despite a short-lived history, the reputation of Factory 77 is mainly a positive one as it staged more than a dozen art exhibitions per year in its time. Upon Factory 77 opening, there were some big labels attached it. A CBC feature even called the space a potential location wherein a “future gallery of modern art in Canada” could be hosted. It’s a shame that never really became the case.
At Factory 77, many of Toronto’s alternative artists in the late 1970s and early 1980s would complete pieces here. Unfortunately, so much of these artists’ works and names have been lost to time.
Liberty Village today is a very different place than it was then. Prior to its revitalization, it was a neighborhood with a deep artistic background with many Toronto artists calling it home. Although Liberty Village today has improved so much, we can’t help but hold a little nostalgia for the old days when it was a place where artists had opportunities to collaborate.