The Koffler Gallery has a strong history of excellence and innovation in contemporary visual art. It emerged out of the program of the Koffler Centre of the Arts, which was founded in 1977 as part of the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre to enrich the cultural life of the city through arts education and exhibitions and grew to inspire and enlighten the Jewish community as well as the broader public of Toronto and beyond. Officially established in 1980, the Koffler Gallery initially developed successful exhibitions on contemporary crafts and shifted its mandate in 1994 to focus exclusively on contemporary Canadian art.
Over the years, the Koffler Gallery has provided a vibrant platform to local as well as international artists, often organizing their first presentations or supporting the production of new works specifically developed for its context. In 2009, the Gallery relinquished its space on Sherman Campus (4588 Bathurst Street) as part of a major community redevelopment and effectively implemented a citywide program of Off-Site exhibitions. Necessity was turned into an opportunity for innovation and reinvention. The series offered tremendous opportunities to engage new audiences and met with significant critical and public success, establishing mutually enriching partnerships with diverse cultural and community organizations. Building on the meaningful impact of the Off-Site series on the evolution of its mission and vision, the Koffler Gallery decided to establish a primary downtown location in the cultural core of the city, aiming to consolidate its role as a key player on the local and national artistic scene.
In November 2013, the Koffler Gallery launched its new downtown location at Artscape Youngplace, at 180 Shaw Street. The historic building of the former Shaw School repurposed by Artscape, Canada’s leading practitioner in multi-tenant space development for the arts and culture sector now houses a diverse mix of creators as well as arts, community and social mission organizations. Establishing fresh roots at Artscape Youngplace, in the vibrant West Queen West neighbourhood among diverse organizations with complementary mandates, the Koffler Gallery is poised to become integral to the cultural fabric of downtown Toronto. In recent years, the area underwent major redevelopment and rental cost increase, which led to the displacement of many artists and cultural organizations. The Artscape redevelopment of the historic Shaw School into a vibrant new centre for artistic production, presentation and education will have a major impact on the local community as well as the city as a whole. With its established reputation and experience as an arts and education provider, the Koffler Gallery will play a key role in the revitalization of cultural life in this area and beyond. The Gallery’s role as an essential partner and cultural producer will expand within this vibrant, multidisciplinary artistic community, further enhancing the contribution of its distinctive voice.