Rolly’s Garage Fo’ Life, Papa!
By Caitlyn Holroyd
Don’t let the name fool you. Rolly’s Garage, once a successful auto shop, is no longer housing cars and grease monkeys. Instead, Rolly’s own daughter, Robin Lacambra, has transformed it into a one-stop venue for everything artistic. Since dad handed her the keys in late 2008, Lacambra has been garnering lots of buzz through the garage’s parties, art exhibitions and film screenings, so we decided to get the lowdown on her innovative project.
How did you come up with the idea for the Garage?
I’ve been throwing art and culture events since high school and 2 years ago, I was growing really tired of unaffordable venues for starving artists. One day when I was at my dad’s garage, I looked around and saw the ‘coolness’ that could emerge out of the space and how awesome any event would look and feel in the garage. I asked my dad how he felt about me using the space after his operational hours, and he was down. He gave me a key and then I slept on the idea and did nothing because of how hectic school got for me.
THEN, in the fateful summer of 2008, my dad tells me that he was going to sell the garage. I was devastated and did everything in my power to not have that happen. At first, my dad said that if I wanted it, I’d have to buy it at the same rate that it was being sold for. So me, having no money myself, lined up a few potential investors and grudgingly went to my dad with a business plan in hand, money that wasn’t mine, and an idea for a venue that would potentially be taken out of my control because of the people with money involved. Luckily, at that moment, my dad realised how serious and dedicated I was. I didn’t want to see that property owned or managed by anyone outside of our family, especially since there are next to no Filipino owned business properties in the downtown core. Anyways, my dad said that as long as I could afford the overpriced rent, all the bills, and let him use the space every now and then, that I could run the garage. So I agreed to his conditions and said, “I’ll even keep the name. Rolly’s Garage fo life papa!”
So now I have this space that is like a blank canvas. My aim with it is to get as many different creative types in there and use it for as many different creative purposes as I can. I want the art scene, be it emerging or established, to have a non-pretentious space where they can play, create, and spread good vibes.
What’s the feedback been like so far?
The feedback has been hot hot hot and oh so cold. Most of our events—ranging from art exhibits, plays, film screenings, parties, all age concerts and our monthly night markets—have been well attended. Walker-bys will peek in with dumbfounded looks on their faces like “What is going on in there? What is this place? Whatever it is, it’s awesome!” The garage has been in the Globe, NOW, on E-talk Daily (thanks to Melanie Fiona), and blogs be they well read, like blogTO, or personal. The people that contact me about the garage have well surpassed my circle of friends and the 6 degrees of separation, meaning the power of word-of-mouth is quite strong seeing as I don’t do much advertising.
However, due to the rapid growth and demand for the garage, it’s been a challenge to keep up with the logistical/administrative side of things, resulting in the cold shoulder that I’ve been getting from my next-door neighbours—both business and residential. I don’t have enough funds at this moment to properly soundproof the place or get more bathrooms in, which have rubbed my neighbours the wrong way. Understandably so, but I’m trying! Sorry neighbours! Thanks for your patience! And to those who have done nothing but support—I LOVE YOU!
What is the event planning process like for you?
The event planning process is like a roller coaster that changes its route all the time: super fun but filled with surprising turns and loopdy-loops. It’s great because the garage transforms entirely with every new event and I love seeing how someone interprets the garage for their show. I learn something new each time and have been meeting some of the most inspiring, fun-loving, talented people in the city. Running Rolly’s Garage has definitely made my love for Toronto and its people grow exponentially.
The process is also made easier knowing that my associate-in-good-vibes-not-crime, Tiffany Naval, is as competent, talented, and strong as she is. We complement each other as a duo so effectively that every obstacle is like one of those obstacle courses you do at fun fairs, where yes—you will get wet and probably bruised a little, but you have a good time along the way.
How do artists go about submitting installations/art/ideas?
Artists can contact me or Tiff at firstname.lastname@example.org. All they have to do is send us a sample of their work or a proposal of their ideas. If it fits the bill, i.e. is progressive and awesome, then we’ll put it on the calendar.
What are some upcoming events you have planned?
Right now there’s a play called “The Art of Catching Pigeons by Torchlight” by the amazing Jordan Tannahill. Him and his crew converted the garage into a giant blanket fort! It looks awesome in there! It runs August 6 – 16 @ 8pm except August 15 @ 10pm. The last two weeks of August, the Art Club is putting on an exhibition of drawings, visuals, and other stimulating things. Then there’s our monthly night market of local vendors ranging from fashion to food every last Saturday of the month from 7-midnight.
September is going to be really fun also!
Sept 4 – Indian Electronic Music festival
Sept 5 – “Electric Butter” – a group art show of light installations
Sept 11 – “Back to Cool” – Optical Sounds Indie music showcase
Sept 12 – “Dead Indie” with Neon Factory & Commandeer, hosted by Sons of Cicero