High cul­ture meets the low­est of the low

Toronto’s long his­tory of arts and cul­ture in off­beat lo­cales con­tin­ues with Art Hut

North York Post - - News - by Bron­wen Keyes-Be­van

Toronto has a fine tra­di­tion of arts and cul­ture in all the wrong places, from base­ment movie houses to spo­ken word events such as Tram­po­line Hall in the backs of bars. And even in peo­ple’s front yards like the won­der­ful tiny lit­tle art gal­leries from Open Field Col­lec­tive or the giant white ele­phant at 77 Yar­mouth. It’s every­where in this city, so why not a dough­nut shop?

Al­though a crum­bling pas­try shop might not strike most peo­ple as an ideal place for an art exhibition, the artis­tic di­rec­tors at the Gladstone Ho­tel jumped at the op­por­tu­nity to tem­po­rar­ily take over the re­cently va­cated spot at 1181 Queen St. W., formerly home of the Gladstone Cafe. The time-worn spot — and the land it sits on — was re­cently pur­chased by a de­vel­oper, and in May 2017 it will be turned into a condominium sales of­fice and will even­tu­ally be re­placed with yet an­other high­rise condo. The Art Hut, an ad hoc gallery space, will in­habit the space in be­tween these two phases.

“Art Hut is a way to en­gage the neigh­bour­hood as it’s trans­form­ing,” said Chris Mitchell, cre­ative part­ner­ships and spe­cial projects man­ager at the Gladstone Ho­tel.

The condo planned for the Art Hut site is just the lat­est in a rash of high­rise de­vel­op­ments in the Queen Street West and Duf­ferin Street area. Lo­cal artists and arts or­ga­ni­za­tions are in­creas­ingly being pushed out of this neigh­bour­hood as stu­dio space be­comes more scarce and hous­ing less af­ford­able.

Art Hut, Mitchell said, is the Gladstone’s way of tem­po­rar­ily re­claim­ing space for artists and their work. Lo­cal artist Justin De Lima — whose par­ents, both im­mi­grants from the Por­tuguese is­land group the Azores, grew up in the neigh­bour­hood — will kick off the project with an in­stal­la­tion of sculp­tures cre­ated from lo­cal re­claimed ma­te­ri­als and in­spired by the in­ter­sec­tion of gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, im­mi­gra­tion and his own first-gen­er­a­tion iden­tity.

De Lima’s work will be fol­lowed by that of 12 ad­di­tional Toronto-based artists and col­lec­tives. The in­stal­la­tions will range from sculp­ture to screen prints to per­for­mance art and even wrestling. Many of the fea­tured artists have found in­spi­ra­tion for their work in themes such as gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, the ur­ban land­scape and artist dis­place­ment.

“We’re try­ing to spark con­ver­sa­tions about how to cre­ate neigh­bour­hoods in these new ver­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ties,” said Mitchell.

L-R: Art Hut will fea­ture works from Out­side the Box this month and one of the city’s splen­did tiny art gal­leries

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