Harwood's Haven: The hidden creative hub that's breathing life into local art

Open Concepts T.O. brings together Toronto's creative community for a performance party every week.

A sign welcomes visitors to OBJX Studio.
📷: Aloysius Wong/The Green Line.

A sign welcomes visitors to OBJX Studio.
📷: Aloysius Wong/The Green Line.

Aloysius Wong


Toronto Metropolitan University Master of Journalism graduate. Lives in North York where he prays that the Eglinton Crosstown will eventually be completed.

Photo of Mahdis Habibinia, Elections Fellow for The Green Line

Mahdis Habibinia

Iranian-Canadian who immigrated to Toronto at age 4. Master of Journalism graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University. Avid true crime binger who wholeheartedly supports the Oxford comma.

December 2, 2022

In the industrial area of the Harwood neighbourhood lies a hidden gem which has provided an oasis for local musicians and other artists in Toronto’s west end.

Khary Safari, a 32-year-old dancer and photographer founded Open Concepts in 2018.

It’s an event that happens every Thursday night at the OBJX studio that works to bring together Toronto’s creative community.

From newbies, to seasoned vets, visual artists to singers, any performer is welcome to take the stage. It’s described as a half-networking event, half-artist showcase, but definitely all party.

“I find that it is all inspiring that they come to my event, and it seems to change people’s lives for the better,” said Safari. “They are either coming out of a depression or an artistic funk and somehow open concepts brings them out of that.”

“Meeting like-minded people or having a chance to perform in an inclusive space really does that for them.

This was especially true following the lockdowns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Local artist Mia Bella said she struggled to launch her music career during the pandemic.

Someone like me who has been with mental health, I was recently coming off of medication right when COVID hit so it was just a recipe for a disaster, said the 22-year-old singer and songwriter.

“I am going through withdrawal of the medications that I have been on for so long and on top of it, I have no access to the studio, I have no access to outside experience,” explained Bella. “You can’t really write much when you can’t experience anything, when you are not inspired.”

That’s where Open Concepts came in.

Seasoned artists like rapper Kemdilo Gold have also relied on the community for support and growth, something he couldn’t find anywhere else in Toronto.

He has been preforming at Open Concept for the last four years. “I feel like in Toronto there is not much of a community mindset, but at OBJX they help you grow that …They are very genuine people and it’s hard to find that in a city that has a business mentality,” said Gold.

Open Concepts has continuously changed the game for open mic events. Not only does this event constantly provide a weekly performance space, but it also saves artist thousands of dollars in fees that they could potentially spend on content.

The events are produced by Content Day which offers artists footage of their set, photographs and additional content.

If you want to check out an event, the doors open every Tuesday at 8 p.m. and the sets begin at 9:30 p.m.

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