Artist Wins Residency as Part of 2015 TOAE Prize

Coco Guzman TOAE booth 2015

On Saturday, Sept. 19, the 2nd annual Artscape Award was presented at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition (TOAE). Artscape is a proud sponsor of the TOAE, Toronto’s first and longest-running outdoor art fair.

Judged this year by Camilla Singh & Jonathan Smith, the Artscape Award presents one winner from among more than 300 artists with a week-long residency at our island artists’ retreat, Artscape Gibraltar Point, followed by a solo exhibition mounted at Artscape Youngplace.

We had a chance to catch up with this year’s talented winner, Coco Guzman.

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Walking through the TOAE that fall weekend, one booth stood out from the rest. A little less structured, a little more work-in-progress, Guzman’s booth was lined with craft paper and mounted haphazardly with quirky illustrations. Guzman used this as a backdrop for a piece created live on-site. Guests were also invited to take part in the art, adding their own comments and doodles to the walls of the booth using India ink and Sharpies.

“I prioritize interactivity over cleanliness and proper art installation,” says Guzman. “I decided to have a booth that was in part my studio and where people could come visit me and participate in the art.”


A poll on the wall asked visitors if they like to draw. The answer was a resounding “Yes!”

An ingenious and irreverent take on exhibitions echoes in Guzman’s artwork. Strange, colourful and uniquely disproportionate, the characters are yet highly relatable and familiar.

Growing up an artist in a family of scientists in Spain, Guzman was an outlier. Moving to France in youth and diving into the world of anarchist and queer movements in Europe, the artist found a milieu for a blossoming art career, beginning with creating queer zines. Using only comics in a portfolio, Guzman applied and was accepted to a prestigious French art school.

The comic zine background still shines through in Coco’s work. “I love drawing people,” Guzman says. “I am very much a storyteller, so there is a story behind each of them.”

Nap 1 and Nap 2, Waste of Time Series, Coco Guzman

Guzman plans to use the residency at Artscape Gibraltar Point to waste time.

“I think I need to waste my time so I can be healthier,” Guzman says, “and I want to draw people wasting time. Everything is a reflection on the capitalization of time and our overwhelming worry about productivity,” says Guzman, cheekily. “Art is a waste of time anyways, right? So why not take pride and fully waste time and show how good wasting time looks?”

We can’t wait to see what amazing works come out of Guzman’s wasted time on the island. A Waste of Time will be on exhibition at Artscape Youngplace from November 12 to 29. The opening reception will be held November 19 from 4 – 10 pm in conjunction with Artscape Youngplace’s popular Recess open house event. 

Fun Facts about Coco:

Coco missed the Artscape Award ceremony! Coco is an art teacher and had to leave the exhibition to run off and teach a class, but found out via text about the win and celebrated with the class. “I was very surprised and very happy and very surprised!”

Favourite comfort food – Spanish Ham + Tomato Toasts: grate the tomatoes and add excellent olive oil and a pinch of salt. Put this mix on very good warm bread. Add the Spanish Ham on top. “This is my most favourite Spanish breakfast and I can eat only this all day long!”