Between the effects of the pandemic and the surging cost of doing business in Toronto, the past few years have not been kind to the city’s arts community. Against that backdrop, Artscape has become something of a cautionary tale.

After more than 30 years in Toronto, the not-for-profit affordable artist studio provider lost its financial footing and formally entered into receivership earlier this month. According to a receivership order issued on January 11, 2024, msi Spergel inc. has been appointed as receiver of certain — but notably, not all — of Artscape’s assets.

Another court document reveals that Artscape was over $21M in debt to TD Bank, and failed to repay $4M that was due on the operating loan by June 30, 2023. Those factors led TD to issue a receivership demand on August 8, 2023.

There were efforts to salvage Artscape’s deteriorating situation before the receivership demand was made. The organization said back in August that it had attempted to offload its Artscape Daniels Launchpad property at 130 Queens Quay East in an attempt to repay debt owed to its primary lender, but failed to secure a sale before the receivership demand came to a head. (The Launchpad property was listed at $22.5M, according to recent reporting by The Globe and Mail, so it presumably could have helped Artscape stave off the receivership order entirely.)

In addition, the City of Toronto stepped in in early September to delay the receivership by 30 days, but evidentially, that wasn’t enough time to get the organization back on track.

Artscape's Parkdale Arts and Cultural Centre at 1313 Queen Street West. (Garrison McArthur Photographers)

According to the court filings from earlier this month, the receivership order extends to Artscape’s Launchpad property, Artscape Triangle Lofts, Artscape Youngplace, and Artscape Lofts at 210 Simcoe.

With that said, a number of properties have been excluded from the receivership order, including affordable rental housing and commercial studios at three Artscape-owned sites: Parkdale Arts and Cultural Centre, Artscape Bayside Lofts, and Artscape Weston Common. Those assets have been turned over to a newly formed non-profit housing provider known as ANPHI Affordable Homes Inc.

Its longer-standing sister organization, Artscape Non-Profit Homes Inc., will continue to operate Artscape West Queen West, as it has since 1995.

An update posted to Artscape’s website shortly after the receivership order was issued notes that ANPHI and ANPHI Affordable Homes Inc. have retained WoodGreen Community Services to provide management services.

In addition, the court filings show that another new non-profit entity known as ArtHubs Toronto Inc. has assumed operations of all Toronto Artscape Inc.-operated community cultural hubs. ArtHubs is reportedly working with the City of Toronto and OCAD University to establish a financing solution for the new non-profit’s first year of operation.

Artscape’s January update also reveals that “new operating models” are in the works for Artscape Sandbox, as well as the community cultural hub at Weston Common.

More specifically, the City of Toronto has purchased the Sandbox space “for a nominal price,” and will work with community partners in the coming months to keep the venue afloat in the long-term. Meanwhile, Dream — the real estate company acquired the Weston Common property in August 2021 — will “assume operating responsibility and costs for the community cultural hub and management of the current tenancy agreements” until a long-term operating model is established.

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