AKA is a centre for emergent practices for artists at any stage of their careers, providing space and support for critical, safe, and open exchange.
We are committed to creating space for experimentation, artist-led research, and self-determined direction. We aim to build connections between artists, local communities, and national and international audiences, posing questions without knowing the answers.
AKA’s artistic direction considers the intentionality behind our founding – led by a female cooperative making space for experimental work – and our role within the national ecology. We have a renewed belief that our relevance is tied to our ability to take risks, to be responsive and agile in our support of artists and their ideas. AKA values:
FLEXIBILITY, SUPPORT, AND SELF-DETERMINATION
AKA acknowledges that emergent practices can happen at any stage in a career. At the core of our work, we prioritize flexible relationships with artists, enabling them to propose their own direction, adapting to artists’ individual needs for support, education, and learned experiential knowledges.
VISIBILITY AND INCLUSIVITY
Throughout our history AKA has been informed by the cultural context of this land and the perspectives of the people who live here. This means that we program significantly more work by artists identifying as Indigenous, newcomers of diverse backgrounds and circumstances, and artists who experience marginalization for their beliefs, backgrounds, or identities.
COMMUNITY, KINSHIP, AND TRANSPARENCY
AKA defines community as joint ownership referencing the founding of artist-run centres, social responsibility, and the idea that a place can be created and given meaning through the actions of its users. This concept has been the core of AKA’s program since its origin as The Shoestring Gallery and is the foundation upon which we seek to build kinships with artists, local communities, and partners. AKA is dedicated to the ongoing education and transparency required to be an ally, committed to our location, Treaty Six Land and the Homeland of the Métis, and meaningful acts of reconciliation/conciliation.
Founded in 1971 by Dorothy Boerma, Lorna Russell, Ann Newdigate, Jo Claire, Betty Meyers and others, The Shoestring Gallery was among the first in Saskatchewan to prioritize exhibitions representative of the province’s Indigenous and Ukrainian communities. In 1982, the gallery was accepted as a member of the Association of National Non-Profit Artists’ Centres, changing its name to Also Known As (AKA) Gallery. In 1985, AKA moved to the Saskatoon Warehouse Artspace (SWA) where it resided for twenty years with The Photographer’s Gallery and Video Verite, (later to become PAVED Arts), Tribe Inc. and Blackflash Magazine. In 2005, when the warehouse building was sold; SWA was dismantled and 20 Above Holdings Inc. was formed as the centres began the search for new homes.
As equal shareholders in 20 Above, in 2008 AKA and Paved Arts purchased our current location at 424 20th Street West in the historic Riversdale district. The Riversdale neighbourhood has been dubbed part of the cultural corridor of Saskatoon, and it is a rapidly gentrifying area dividing new populations of young professionals and displaced core neighbourhood residents. AKA’s neighbours are largely food, health and family support services continuing to serve clients who can no longer afford to rent or own property within Riversdale. Throughout AKA’s ten years in the area our programming has expanded to build sincere relationships with core neighbourhood communities and local service organizations by seeking relevant intersections with local and visiting artist projects, residencies and partnerships. As a non-profit arts hub in Riversdale, through 20 Above Holdings, together AKA and Paved support local artists, multidisciplinary arts groups, and essential service organizations.
AKA is the only artist-run centre in Saskatoon, and one of two artist-run centres in Saskatchewan, that present all forms of contemporary artistic expression in the visual arts. We are committed to serving our membership, our public, and contributing to local, provincial, national and international arts discourse through presentation; dissemination and dialogue. Though geographically isolated, Saskatoon sustains a vigorous and diverse arts community.
In 2019/2020 attendance at AKA’s programming and events averaged 27,500 including exhibitions, school visits, workshops, professional development, artist talks, performances, screenings and off-site events.
Current Board of Directors, 2019-2020
Chair: Alexa Hainsworth
Vice Chair: Lisa Birke
Treasurer: Aurora Wolfe
Secretary: Lauren Warrington
Director: Ruth Cuthand