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Exhibition Spaces: Brooke Rutner and her Glass Door Gallery

by Ann Cernek

Located on the second floor of a building on the busy Boulevard St. Laurent, Glass Door Gallery is dedicated to engaging Montréalers in the support of emerging artists. This Friday, The Fridge Door Gallery will host a vernissage for their show Process(ed) at Glass Door, hoping to attract both McGill students and Montréalers. 

A few days ago I sat down with Glass Door Gallery owner and manager Brooke Rutner. The room was as it most often is: empty with bare, white walls. Brooke and I sat on a red couch, one of the few pieces of furniture in the room, as we discussed the founding and mission of Glass Door Gallery. 

“This is a DIY art venue,” she began. “Our focus is on experimental avant-garde and emerging artists. It’s different than the traditional commercial gallery space.” This is true in more ways than one. First, the exhibition space remains as empty as I saw it most of the year. The gallery hosts shows about two to three times per month. The rest of the time it remains cleared out and serves as Brooke’s photography studio. 

During those few times each month, however, Glass Door’s mission is to make itself available to local artists. This accessibility is primarily a financial one. Instead of charging commission and seeking out artists they know will sell, the gallery asks for a small fee or exhibition donation. Brooke is working towards changing what she refers to as the “business.” of traditional galleries. “We are trying to create a new structure where we don’t just take people who we know will sell. We take people that will create a dialogue, contribute to the community,” she explained. 

Glass Door’s no-commission policy is crucial to this effort. Not only is it nearly impossible for artists without an already established reputation to convince galleries that they will bring in money, but this type of transaction devalues the artist, the art and the viewing community.

Glass Door offers more than an easy start for emerging artists. Without a financial interest in their exhibits, “there is a more relaxed atmosphere for the spectator and the person who participates in the art show as a viewer.” Brooke speaks of her vernissages’ as having a “house party vibe.” She wants guests to feel comfortable enough to engage with the art, to become frequent visitors and gather around visual art as they would around music. 

When Brooke moved to Montréal from Winnipeg three years ago, she almost instantly felt that the city was in need of a venue like Glass Door. Raised by a family of artists, Brooke has worked with paint, design and now primarily with photography. Still, it is Montréal that she feels “has so much potential for creative endeavors. I think Montréal is a really important place for artists, especially emerging artists. The city really supports it. With government funding going towards public art projects and cheap rent, it is a good place to get started.” 

Brooke with caption: Brooke Rutner in Glass Door Gallery

Brooke looks to attract all types of audiences, and does so through by hosting as many different types of exhibitions as possible. “My ideal show would have painting, performance, video, music, installation art,” she said. Brooke is looking forward to working with The Fridge Door Gallery for the third time this Friday. She appreciates the array of artistic backgrounds involved with this student group, despite originating in a university lacking a fine arts program. 

The final difference between Glass Door and traditional gallery spaces is that the second-floor space is revealed to be – in Brooke’s words – a “live-in creative space”. At the end of the long, main room is a heavy white drape, behind which lays the owner’s home. This isn’t our first encounter with such a model. As you will recall, Bad Lunch is also both a home and public creative space. In addition to being a more viable option for young creatives looking to offer affordable opportunities for their peers, living in such a creative space allows for a certain lifestyle. 

Brooke, whose focus is now on portraiture and music, invites clients – of whom she is often a fan herself – into her home for sessions. When Glass Door is booked for a vernissage or show, she works with the artists to get the word out and set up for the events. Brooke’s dedication is indisputable. She safeguards this white, empty canvas of a home in order to make it available to the creation of local artistic communities. 

On Friday, November 18, the space will take on the look of The Fridge Door Gallery. Works by dozens of student artists will fill the room. I strongly encourage you to attend and become a part of the dynamic community that Glass Door Gallery is working to build. 

The vernissage for Process(ed) will take place Friday, November 18 from 6-9 p.m. at Glass Door Gallery. 

Check out Glass Door Gallery on Facebook

Check out Brooke’s personal page

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