Author | Photo GIORDANO CIAMPINI

How Tazeen Qayyum and Faisal Anwar Are Changing The Way We Experience Art

Tazeen Qayyum and Faisal Anwar are the Oakville-based couple behind the new art series: Art Address.

A few days each month, they open their home up to other artists, art students, and art lovers, transforming it into a dynamic space where people can interact, share ideas, create new art, inspire, and be inspired. On Dec. 1st, artist Tonia Di Risio will lead a handmade pasta workshop followed by an artist talk and pasta lunch. An enlightening exchange paired with delicious food–yes, please!

We asked Tazeen about the series this week.

SDTC: Where did the impetus to start Art Address come from?

TQ: Art Address is born out of a number of observations, concerns and wishes coming together.

My husband and I are both practicing artists, consistently developing ideas and producing work for over two decades now. We often question and talk about the role of contemporary art and artists today, questioning the role of galleries and arts organizations. It all started as exciting conversations with many of our artist friends over years, feeling the need to do things differently, coming together and building a community of like minded people and to further connect our community to the arts.

I guess, we can look back when we were young artists ourselves, back in 1997, along with four other artist friends, and the support of many, we opened up a gallery in our house in Islamabad, Pakistan. It was more of a platform for young artists, designers and writers to inspire each other, making it a creative hang out place. We ran that space for 5 years, until we all went different ways to pursue our careers and studies. I feel that amazing learning experience at that age left a strong impression on us and its the same high that is still inspiring us today.

Every time we host an activity at Art Address the buzz in our house remains for many days following! Inspiring us both to learn and grow every time.

How many events have you hosted?

We have hosted 6 diverse artists so far, in 4 events.

What happens at a typical Art Address event?

Each of the event so far has evolved organically, and we are open to work with different models. Between Faisal and myself, we often identify artists that we feel are fantastic and [would be] great to learn about, and share with others, we then invite them to speak (or perform or workshop or however they wish to interact) with a small group in an intimate setting. They often bring and install their works as well. We promote and invite on our mailing list and social media, and people reserve a spot. I also invite individuals who I feel the artist may benefit meeting, or vice versa. Based on the artist’s preference and the number of guests, we choose a space in the house and set it up accordingly. There’s always some food and tea. We’ve hosted a group as large as 25 people and our smallest was 6.

We once hosted an artist traveling from Pakistan, and she stayed at our place as well–which was wonderful–as we were able to engage in several small sessions, and creative talks over breakfast and evening tea. We would like to turn it into a regular international residency offer.

What were you hoping to do with this series?

The most immediate desire is to build a community of creative people coming together not only to inspire each other, but to also work collectively, share ideas and share resources.

We want to provide a comfortable space to the artists as well as others interested to learn, where they share their creative process, speak their concerns, and in many cases get constructive feedback.

We like the fact that ours is a grassroots initiative, and we feel its at an experimental or ideation phase. We have big dreams and ideas but would like to see how it grows with the input of many others like us.

Although situated in a small town close to large cities, we envision Art Address not limited to, or by, where we are situated. We invite artists and guests from around town, the country and globally.
We are in conversations with artists who have artist-led initiatives in other countries, and are exploring possible collaborations. At the same time there is exciting interest from some galleries to partner with us.

From our very first activity, we have invested in documenting each event, and are keen on building an archive of interviews and talks leading to a series of publications beneficial for the artists.

Why is it important that artists gather to share ideas in a more intimate setting?

Galleries, museums and other arts organizations play a great role in promoting, exhibiting and presenting the works, but they have a formal setting with protocols to follow and set out methods of engagement and expectations, due to which, we feel, there is often an absence of dialogue especially around the process and the concerns of the artists. Also generally, formal talks are not accessible for all.

We often noted that when we ourselves get invited to do an artist talk or present our work in a gallery setting, the engagement with the audience is very different as compared to when we get together with other artists in an informal setting. The conversations are creative, charged, meaningful and candid with a mutual desire to learn, do something new and exciting; and we leave the room energized.

At our informal setting there is a real sense of palpable connection with the people around you, a sense of collective energy of inspiring one another and a great sense of supporting each other–because as artists, we all share the same struggles, needs, and desires.

See past Art Address events and find out about upcoming ones here

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