When Sandy Pandya reflects on her time running a live music club at a communal cafe in Regina, Sask, she remembers the incredible energy. To be able to feel it, see it, hear it.
Decades later, he admits that he has always thrived on the excitement that comes from artists coming together for one purpose: to create. For Pandya, a music industry veteran and award-winning artist manager, that same energy inspired the release of ArteHaus, a multipurpose live workspace and record label in downtown Toronto where musicians and other creative professionals can connect and collaborate.
Pandya was born in Kenya before her family moved to Saskatchewan. Her career eventually took her to Toronto, where she worked for record labels and recruiting agencies. As a manager, Pandya has represented big names like Hayden, Hawksley Workman, Jully Black, and Serena Ryder.
“Ryder and I started talking about the idea for real about five years ago,” Pandya says of ArtHaus. But the idea started 20 years earlier, when the couple started working together. “Creating a space for artists to have a real community and culture to flourish has always been a dream of ours,” says Ryder.
In 2017, the couple began analyzing possible properties to buy. That fall, Pandya entered a three-story corner house near Dufferin and College. She says the hairs on her arms stood on end when she discovered that the house had for years been a place where artists lived and met, one that neighbors called “the house of the arts.” “We knew it was a sign,” says Ryder.
Following renovations, the space now includes a co-working area, kitchen, bathroom, backyard common area, and four apartments. The property also has a professional recording studio in the garage. Pandya wanted to offer affordable housing after seeing many artists forced to leave the city, so those who live in ArtHaus pay a reduced rent. Otherwise, it is funded through Pandya’s record label and artist management company.
By 2019, Pandya and Ryder were ready to launch ArtHaus. Pandya calls the initial reception “phenomenal and overwhelming.” Dozens of artists came to produce work, including Cadence Weapon, who recorded a track with DNNY PHNTM for the Polaris Music Prize winning album “Parallel World.”
Then came the pandemic. “That was a wrap,” says Pandya.
“We were devastated,” he adds. “At first, the feeling was shock, as it was for everyone. But our industry has been the hardest hit. “
While much of the in-person collaboration may have been discontinued, ArtHaus continued to be a resource center for the community. Ryder, who was recently announced as a recipient of the Allan Slaight Music Impact Honor for her positive contributions to the industry, runs a wellness program (virtual sessions hosted by mental health professionals) to help artists develop tools and practices to control stress. ArtHaus also offers mentoring programs and has partnered with Propeller Coffee Co. to support Unison Charitable Fund, a non-profit organization that provides counseling and emergency relief services to musicians.
As the pandemic restrictions began to disappear, the artists began to meet again. “I feel like we’ve been able to create an even closer community since the pandemic,” says Ryder. “It has given us the opportunity to meet in small groups and to be able to connect in a super concentrated way.”
And the energy is recovering. In September, ArtHaus hosted Domanique Grant’s Backyard Imagine Summit to help artists and other creators find innovative ways to fund and promote their projects. Ryder is currently producing iskwē and Tom Wilson’s new album there. Platinum producer Joel Stouffer has been a frequent visitor. And Pandya recently helped coordinate video interviews in space for an upcoming project by Josh Ramsay of Marianas Trench.
“I feel like there is a movement in our industry for more spaces like this,” says Pandya. “Maybe we are like the guinea pigs in this experiment. But it’s working and it’s working perfectly. “