Our Origins and Archives

Critical Distance is a multi-arts organization with a history of providing a platform for critically engaged, collaborative, and cross-disciplinary practices. Now in our seventh year, CDCC has produced 40+ exhibitions featuring 200+ local, national, and international artists and curators within our intimate gallery space and multiple public-facing sites across Toronto.

Launched in 2013 by independent curator and exhibition designer Shani K Parsons, Critical Distance was born of a desire for more inclusive, critical, collegial, and sustainable practices in curating and exhibition-making. New to both Canada and curating at the time, Parsons became interested in how a hybrid organization might be able to address increasing precarity, inequity, and inaccessibility within, and to, the arts. Taking primary inspiration from the histories and legacies of institutional critique advanced within New York’s alternative art scene, Parsons also recognizes the significant achievements and continuing impact of Canada’s ARCs (artist-run centres), and the crucial advocacy and community-building initiatives of its ASOs (arts service organizations). Thus bringing aspects from each model to bear upon questions pertaining specifically to curating’s histories, trajectories, and potentials, Critical Distance pursues multiple interrelated objectives through our programming to advance more relational, critical, and collaborative ways of working.

Eschewing prescribed themes, disciplines, credentials, and other explicit or implicit barriers to participation, Critical Distance has established a strong track record for eclectic, inclusive, experimental, and interdisciplinary programming. In 2019 Critical Distance received an Honourable Mention from the National Gallery of Canada/Lacey Prize jury recognizing standout artist-run centres across Canada.

See our Archives page for more background and information.