New nabe beck­ons with ground­break­ing art gallery and culi­nary des­ti­na­tions

Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art will trans­form Ster­ling Road ’hood

Richmond Hill Post - - Currents - By Ron Johnson

When look­ing for the next “it” neigh­bour­hood to ex­plore be­fore any­one else, it is a good strat­egy to fol­low the scent of oil paint, plas­ter and other artist ac­cou­trements. That’s where to find the cool. It worked on Queen West and in Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket. And if one were to ap­ply that for­mula to­day, it would lead to Ster­ling Road in the Junc­tion tri­an­gle, home of the soon-to-open Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art (MOCA).

The arts scene in Toronto is thriv­ing, with many gal­leries open­ing up in a range of neigh­bour­hoods, from Yorkville to Moss Park.

In short, Toronto seems to be hav­ing some­thing of an art mo­ment.

What will re­ally clinch the deal is this new and vi­brant large gallery. The city has long been lack­ing a ma­jor con­tem­po­rary gallery that fills the space be­tween the Art Gallery of On­tario and the smaller com­mer­cial gal­leries that are flour­ish­ing.

As ar­chi­tect Peter Clewes stated dur­ing a re­cent tour of the MOCA fa­cil­ity, which opens on Sept. 22, cities such as Lon­don and New York have many such spa­ces. It could be trans­for­ma­tive for the city. “I think it’s a very sig­nif­i­cant gallery for the city,” says Clewes, the team lead from ar­chi­tect­sAl­liance work­ing on MOCA. “It re­ally speaks to Toronto start­ing to grow up and lever­age all of the in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion that is hap­pen­ing. But I also think it’s an in­cu­ba­tor for this neigh­bour­hood.”

Clewes sees the city do­ing more and more de­vel­op­ment along old rail­way lines in the city, such as on Ster­ling Road.

“All of the fo­cus has been on fill­ing in the down­town, these empty spa­ces, and to a lesser ex­tent along on the av­enues,” he says. “What’s been for­got­ten are these rail­way seams that tran­sect across the city. They are re­ally al­most like rivers and present an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a very diver­gent and di­verse set of lin­ear neigh­bour­hoods.”

The new MOCA’s build­ing dates back to 1920 when it was home to the North­ern Alu­minum Com­pany, fol­lowed by Tower Au­to­mo­tive. What Clewes and team did in de­sign­ing the build­ing is what he calls “stealth ar­chi­tec­ture.”

“It is re­ally about the build­ing as the event as op­posed to the col­lec­tion,” he ex­plains. “Here we wanted to re­veal the bones of the build­ing in a very el­e­men­tal and hon­est way.”

In­side the gor­geous 10-storey brick struc­ture, once the tallest build­ing in Canada, the con­crete has been cleaned up and pol­ished, the gi­gan­tic wooden doors left al­most as is, and the im­pres­sive col­umns re­main, as do the large ware­house win­dows. The me­chan­i­cal and elec­tri­cal sys­tems were ex­posed as they snake through tall ceil­ings.

MOCA will oc­cupy floors one to five with the rest leased out as of­fice space. There will also be nu­mer­ous stu­dio spa­ces avail­able to lo­cal artists. A Sud Forno café sits on the ground floor.

The new gallery will open with a ma­jor group ex­hi­bi­tion, Be­lieve, on the sec­ond and third floors, that fea­tures the work of 16 artists from Toronto and abroad.

On the ground floor, the gallery presents its first com­mis­sion, Demos — A Re­con­struc­tion, by Greek artist An­dreas An­gel­i­dakis.

In ad­di­tion to MOCA, di­rectly across the street in fact, an­other re­pur­posed space was re­cently home to an ex­hibit fea­tur­ing the works of Bri­tish artist Banksy, which was sched­uled to close on Sept. 2 but has been ex­tended once again to Sept. 16.

So, art is hap­pen­ing, and it is adding some se­ri­ous ex­cite­ment to the neigh­bour­hood.

Al­ready on Ster­ling, craft brew­ery Hen­der­son opened up its brew­ing fa­cil­ity and tap room in 2016. In ad­di­tion to beer, Hen­der­son also hosts pop­u­lar events in­clud­ing lit­er­ary read­ings and a weeknight ded­i­cated to vinyl records.

Right next door to Hen­der­son is the new Drake Com­mis­sary, which opened ear­lier this year.

On St. He­lens Av­enue, One street to the east, sit nu­mer­ous small com­mer­cial gal­leries in­clud­ing Daniel Faria Gallery, Robert Kananaj Gallery and Gallery TPW.

Along the rail­way seam be­hind MOCA is the West Toronto Rail­path that stretches about four kilo­me­tres but could one day run all the way to Union Sta­tion.

This could be the be­gin­ning of some­thing spe­cial for Toronto, so get out and ex­plore this ex­cit­ing new neigh­bour­hood be­fore every­one else does.

Clock­wise from left: A work from MOCA’s open­ing ex­hi­bi­tion Be­lieve, the soon-to-open Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art and Drake Com­mis­sary

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