Creating Space to Create at Def Sup
By Amy Sellors
For an artist, space is everything. You need space to create, space to feel supported, and space to show your work. Just before the pandemic, Thunder Bay’s Definitely Superior Art Gallery began a journey to create more space. In 2019, this artist-run centre moved into their new home at the former Cumberland Cinema, and before they got a chance to show their new space to the world, COVID hit. Now, in their 2022/2023 season, Def Sup’s current theme is “Rebuilding”— rebuilding the cultural importance of art within their own gallery and throughout the community, and also rebuilding their physical space. “The spaces dictate what you can do,” says David Karasiewicz, executive/artistic director of Def Sup. “The wide-open spaces we have now are so different from where we were. We can provide more opportunities for artists, allowing them more access to develop their skills and evolve.” Over the past two years, the first phase of renovations has been in full swing, with phase two— renovating the old Cinema 3 space—starting in the fall. Def Sup celebrates and supports regional, national, and international artists, and runs programs within their gallery and throughout Thunder Bay with the support of community partners. Community engagement helps to educate the city in contemporary arts. “It’s about creating experiences,” says Renee Terpstra, Def Sup’s development administrator. “It’s more than what’s on the wall—it’s about the rooms and what you see, where you’re at, and the history of the building still being a part of it.” While Def Sup’s larger events were on hiatus over the past two years, the gallery was used by many artists in need of spaces to create their work. These residencies are a key focus for Def Sup, as emerging artists need a place to create, to show their work, and to gain the accreditation they need to advance in their careers. This fall, patrons can look forward to the return of favourite Def Sup events. YUGEN is the theme and title of the 34th annual juried exhibition, and refers to “a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe… and the sad beauty of human suffering.” With the gala opening on September 2, this exceptional offering of art, music, film, and performance will be on display until October 8, and introduces a new partnership with Vox Popular Media Arts. As part of that partnership, Def Sup will be hosting the 18th Annual Vox Popular Film Festival running from September 8–11, bringing film back to this historic former movie theatre. Running concurrently with YUGEN is Canadian Contemporary 12, the International Collection of Dr. Bob Chaudhuri. This stunning collection of works by acclaimed Canadian artists is not to be missed. The Hunger, one of Def Sup’s most popular events, is returning in October, marking its 15th anniversary. Taking place in eight venues across the downtown north core, The Hunger is Def Sup’s sensational fundraiser. This Halloweencentric, multi-disciplinary extravaganza takes place on Saturday, October 29, and features approximately 50 acts. “It’s the largest performing event of its kind in Northwestern Ontario. One year there were 4,000 people in attendance,” says Karasiewicz. At The Hunger, attendees are essentially part of the event, as so many people arrive in costumes. “People make their own stories based on their experiences. Everyone has a different story. It’s never the same.” As things return to “the new normal,” favourite annual events and exhibitions like Random Acts of Poetry and Derelicte are also scheduled to return. Def Sup is a testament to “the power of community,” says Terpstra. “People don’t necessarily know the difference between a commercial art gallery, a public art gallery, or an artist-run centre. We’re about artists at the core. We’re about creation, encouraging that new creation and also giving multidisciplinary artists space and platforms to present. We encourage public support, whether that is donating at a show or creating partnerships.” Def Sup’s events are for everyone, they’re unique, and their supporters “are helping to build that multigenerational creative future where artists can connect with audiences and generate those new forms of creativity,” Terpstra adds. “That culture comments and gives feedback on what is going on in society. With art and expression people get a reflection that they can contemplate, and it helps them navigate their world.” With phase two of Def Sup’s renovations poised to begin, the future is full of possibilities. New spaces bring new opportunities to create and present art in new and exciting ways. “Wherever your feet walk, flowers grow,” says Terpstra. And as Def Sup tills the soil of their new home, the garden they are creating is full of beauty and opportunity. For more information, visit definitelysuperior. com, or find them on Facebook or Instagram @defsup.