In this local business spotlight we take a look at how two creative people found each other, fell in love and started a business.
It was 1982. Smart phones did not exist and all forms of photography involved an actual camera. Sonja picked up a friend’s point and shoot camera and started experimenting. Almost instantly she became addicted. Her passion grew and Sonja eventually found herself becoming a fashion photographer, before later transitioning into fine art photography.
Kelly, as many youth do, picked up a cashier position at AP&P in her hometown of Welland Ontario. There, customers marveled over her brightly dyed hair and would often stop in just to see the latest chosen hue. Having learned the eating habits of the local residents, she hung up her cashier’s apron and studied at NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design), focusing on art history and photography. Adding to her knowledge and skills, Kelly also studied at the International Picture Framers School in Kingston, Ontario.
Some time later, Sonja was preparing for her first solo gallery show. As it grew near, she was working closer and closer with the lab where she was having her photographs printed and finally framed. Sonja went into the lab to meet with the framer who would ensure her freshly printed images were meticulously framed. The framer was, of course, Kelly. The two say sparks flew the moment they met and there was no looking back.
Flash forward to today and Sonja and Kelly own and operate a business that brings everything they love together into one space, (including working with each other every day.) Originally started in Toronto’s Church Wellesley area on a second floor, Akasha Art Projects has grown and now boasts a street front gallery space in Cabbagetown, curated by Sonja.
Above the gallery are offices and technical workshops where a small but bustling team work to offer framing of traditional 2D fine art as well as more tactile items, fine art printing, restoration, touch ups, installation, shipping and delivery. (There are over 450 options of frames!)
The two live above Akasha Art Projects and say the hardest part of living above their business and working together, is leaving work at work. They have had to agree to strict rules. When at home, neither are allowed to talk about work until after 9am, and Sundays are for family. Sonja admits she often thinks of a question for Kelly before 9am, but forces herself to jot a note down and wait until 9am, and for the first round of coffees to have been consumed.
Their projects range from residential, to commercial, such as hotels or other corporate clients. Locally, should you be lucky enough to walk the Media Corridor at the Scotia Bank Arena, you will find a series of historical photos owned by the Toronto Maple Leafs on display that required some special framing work.
Formerly in charge of security, their adorable dog Otto changed job titles and is listed on their website as “Social Director/Director of Cuteness.” While he is extremely proud of the work the team does, he could not stop talking about how his “employers” give back.
Akasha Art Projects supports such causes and organizations as the Baby Tree Project which builds schools in rural Cambodia, Art Attack, which supports Buddies In Bad Times, (a local Toronto Theatre), and Inside Out Film Festival, (Toronto’s LGBTQ Film Festival.) Among other causes (the list is long) Akasha Art Projects also awards a solo show in their gallery space to a Ryerson Student every year. Watch for Jason Perrault, a new grad, to show in the gallery in early summer 2019.
Over the years, one thing has always stayed the same. This artistic duo recognize that every piece of art is like a fingerprint. Each is beautiful and comes from one unique person. They consider it their honour to preserve and present art.
Stop into Akasha Art Projects’ gallery space at 204D Carlton (near Ontario Street) to see the latest exhibition. While there, feel free to ask Otto any questions you may have about your own printing and framing needs. Just don’t be surprised if he tilts his head to the side before running over to get Kelly, Sonja or another team member. (He’s a busy dog.)
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