Rats 9: Jessica Roy, Carly Higgins, Val Polychuck and Marie-Maude Polychuck
The pressure was on for local art collective Rats 9 last Saturday night, as they invited friends, family and fellow artists to explore their gallery/atelier space for the very first time. Having already scheduled a year’s worth of exhibitions in mere months, the group acknowledges the risk they’ve taken launching a DIY, queer-run project in Downtown’s pricey Belgo building alongside rows of established gallery spaces.
“It was very risky because the rent is quite high,” explains Val Polychuck, one of the collective’s founding members. “Either we crash, or we make it.”
The evening unfolded like an art-school fairy tale. Within 10 minutes of opening its doors to the public, Rats 9 sold two paintings by the evening’s featured artist, Carly Higgins, to a very enthusiastic creative type who will be keeping a close eye on the collective from now on.
Although this was Higgins’ very first show, no one was the wiser; the artist, along with fellow founders Polychuck, her sister Marie-Maude and Jessica Roy, curated an impressive and engaging space for their grand opening, leaving a lasting impression on those in attendance. The celebration also featured a variety of weirdo musical acts, including an improvisational set by Ivvl and Sierra Komar, explosions of sound by Interracial Love Triangle and a dance party finale courtesy of DJ Maki.
Despite the success of their debut vernissage, things haven’t always run so smoothly for these four young artists. “Our experience in the world as being queer and feeling like outsiders in many places, even when you don’t think you are at first, is a reality,” says Higgins, referring to the group’s manifesto of acceptance and embracing artists who don’t adhere to societal norms.
Rats 9 hope to provide a space for amateur and established artists to experiment, make mistakes, hone their skills and exhibit their work. “It’s basically a place [of] expression for outsiders,” says Roy. “Most galleries are very formal, and this is more carte blanche.”
Rats 9 has a bright and busy year on the horizon. Opening a new show every three weeks, the artists have little time to rest, let alone concentrate on their individual creative pursuits. For the moment, Rats 9 is their absolute passion and takes up most of their waking hours.
The gallery’s upcoming events calendar is impressive, showcasing new work by J.J. Levine, Jenna Meyers and Richard Suicide. Higgins’ current exhibit of paintings, charmingly titled Ima Poop Ima Poop Ima Poop Ima Poop, will be showing until September 15th. Néofolk, an exhibition featuring a slew of multimedia artists channeling kitsch, nostalgia and general oddity, begins Sept. 21 with a vernissage from 5-10 p.m. ■
Rats 9 is open Tuesday-Friday, 12-5 p.m., 372 Ste-Catherine West, Suite 530.