Sunday, June 30, 2013

West Queen West... an education

Yesterday, my husband and I played tourist in Toronto, and did the West Queen West Art tour with art writer and guide, Betty Ann Jordan. I worked at a graphics place in Parkdale many years ago... anyone familiar with Toronto will remember when that area was mostly low income rentals and filled with newcomers to the city. Not so anymore. From Liberty Village to West Queen West the area is being upscaled in a big way. Condos everywhere, cool little galleries and shops, trendy restaurants line the streets. As we drove to our designated meeting spot (I would normally have taken the TTC, but we were late and had to be home shortly after the tour was over) I wondered aloud how long this area would last as the city's artist haven... those condos would undoubtably cost way more than most artists could afford. And rents for the store fronts were surely climbing as the area gentrified... those small, independent boutiques and galleries would have their work cut out for them to stay afloat.

The Drake Hotel
Our first stop was the Gladstone Hotel, housed in a great old building from 1889 and features rotating exhibitions in the public spaces, along with artist designed rooms (which can be viewed on the website). Then it was down the road to the Drake, which I know as a live music venue and didn't realize that it was still functioning as a hotel. There was lots of interesting art here as well, including a mural on the rooftop patio that apparently changes every few months.

Sculptures in the stairway going up
to the patio
Out on the street we headed west, popping into a few smaller galleries close by. Katherine Mulherin has a couple galleries here, each featuring a different up and coming artist, one of which is "copy-cat" artist, Eric Doeringer. My husband was completely baffled by this work... basically he recreates projects by other artists and presents them as his "recreation". He had a wall of small sized canvases, basically knock-offs of well known works, like you would find knock-offs of designer handbags on a street corner in NY. This sparked a debate between the two of us on the nature of creativity, and what constitutes a creation... but nobody else on the tour seemed the slightest bit interested in participating.  We decided to hold off the discussion until we were done. 

Working west we hopped up Ossington a few blocks, noting that a couple stops on our tour were actually closed for the day. We did, however, stop in a fantastic shoe store, Gravity Pope, where I went back afterwards to buy a pair of brilliant orange sneakers. I'll take a picture of those later.  :)

Apparently there is an "artist flea market" in the area... it was on our list as a place we would visit, but we didn't actually stop and I don't even remember seeing it. At this point we were running pretty late... we had someone with mobility issues on the tour, which while easily accommodated, but meant we had to skip a few stops to meet our time deadline. 

Outside the gallery, Hubs spotted this
overlooking the courtyard. Can you see
him? Here's an enlargement...
Our final stop was at the MOCCA, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, where they are hosting an exhibit by Louise Bourgeois. Here's where things got a bit... interesting. My husband asked what I saw as a reasonable question... why was the Museum of Contemporary CANADIAN Art hosting an exhibit by a french woman who spent much of her life in the US, and what was her connection to Canada (there is none). The young man in the gallery got a bit defensive (hubs says more like snippy), stating we should be happy to have this exhibit ANYWHERE. While I enjoyed the art and can appreciate Ms. Bourgeois' place in art history, the conversation was a bit off-putting. 

overlooking the MOCCA... are they trying to say something?


  1. I think that he had a valid question for the gallery, one which deserved a thoughtful and honest answer. Unfortunately, many people view questions such as these in a hostile fashion....

    I'm sure it was an interesting tour. One which you can share with me sometime. I can't say that I know the area. It was seedy when I lived in TO, oh so many years ago, a place to avoid.

  2. Speculation on the reasons why your husband's question was not proerly answered would fill an interesting blog all on it's own. But that incident reminds me(especially this weekend)of stopping for gas at a Petro Canada station many years ago on another Canada Day long weekend.
    It was small town Ontario, Canada's birthday, at "Canada's gas staion" if you will. And I counted about 20 small American flags being displayed at that station.......and one large fairly weathered Canadian flag.
    Being good neighbours and/or business partners should never necessitate taking a back seat to any country in showcasing our individual and collective achievements and pride; whether the stage be on Queen St or out back of beyond.
    Sorry for the rant......feel better