West Queen West = YAY WOW FUN ! (and…gentrification?!)

I am sitting here at my computer desk melting because it’s about a hundred thousand million degrees in Toronto. I am eating large amounts of ice cream in the hopes that it will help (it won’t help my waistline though).

Today I went to West Queen West. Why is west repeated twice? Because West Queen West (also known as the Art and Design District) is the more westerly portion of Queen Street West. I would say anything past the 500s would be considered West Queen West (the official boundaries are Bathurst to Gladstone).

West Queen West is known for its art galleries and unique small businesses including (non-chain store and non-franchise) vintage and unique clothing shops, bookstores, specialty paper/stationery stores, restaurants, bars, and bakeries/cafes.

Some people think it’s the second-hippest district in the world! You can read more about that claim here:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/top-business-stories/vogue-names-torontos-queen-street-west-worlds-second-hippest-district/article20488696/

The purpose of this blog is not to show you photos of me wearing cool dresses, but…but….

Ok, so I won the costume contest at the Gatsby Garden Party this year, and my prize was a $225 gift certificate from Cabaret Vintage at 672 Queen West.

I not only got a T-shirt that says “I love West Queen West”, but a fabulous new 1950s style ivory dot swing dress!

Here is a totally vain, self-indulgent photo of me wearing it:

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Ok, now on to other things…

The second place I went to on West Queen West was the Stephen Bulger Gallery, located at #1026. They currently have an exhibit of Canadian photographs from the 1920s to the late 1950s. This was back when photography was still not considered an art form on the same level as painting or sculpture. The photographs therefore tend to follow the painterly aesthetic of the time. “The human figure retreats; rigorous composition comes to the fore….[with] large shapes and bold lines….composition matters most.” (NOW, Sept 3-10, 2015).

Harry Waddle, Stranger, 1954.

To view more of the photographs, click here (I am not allowed to re-post the images):

http://bulgergallery.com/dynamic/fr_exhibit_artist.asp?ExhibitID=272

The exhibit runs until September 12th.

West Queen West is home to numerous outstanding cafes/bakeries. I ate lunch at a little place called “Clafouti Patisserie” where I had a chicken curry sandwich with apricots and walnuts. I would have to say that it was one of the best sandwiches of all time.

Clafouti Toronto

Photo credit: http://www.blogto.com/cafes/clafouti

They are also famous for their croissants, so I bought one to see what the big deal was. The big deal was melt-in-your-mouth buttery goodness.

Clafouti Patisserie can be found at 915 Queen St W, right across from Trinity Belwoods Park.

Next I went to a place called JESSGO Pop-Up Gallery at 944 Queen Street West.

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Click on any photo for a larger image!

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Pop culture has been skewered!

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I met the artist herself, Jessica Gorlicky. She was super friendly and welcoming. She encourages people to take photos of her work and post it all over the place.

She even has this “selfie” station (yes, another selfie, I’m sorry)…

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…and arguably the coolest staircase in town.

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The gallery also contains what might be the most interesting bathroom in town.

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Here are a few more examples of her colourful, dynamic work:

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She then informed me that her gallery would be CLOSING in a few weeks! Why? Because CONDOS are going up from her location to the end of the block. I said that Toronto doesn’t need any more condos…especially in this neighbourhood. She agreed, saying that West Queen West has a lot of unique shops and galleries that you can’t find anywhere else.

Here is the condo advertisement, right above her gallery:

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The condo building will also take over JESSGO’s next-door neighbour, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA).  MOCCA is already closed and will be moving to a new location in the near future.

JESSGO’s gallery will also be moving, to a location (in my neighbourhood, actually) at Castlefield and Caledonia Road.

Here is a photograph of (the former) MOCCA building as it looks today:

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Underneath the picnic table, someone has scrawled:

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There has been a lot of concern lately over the gentrification of West Queen West (and before that, Queen West). Wikipedia gives a pretty good summary of the issue:

“Between Bathurst Street and Gladstone Avenue is West Queen Street West, also known as the Art and Design District. For this two kilometre stretch, nearly every storefront on the north side is either a gallery, bar, or nightclub (the south side of the street is largely taken up by the buildings and grounds of the former Queen Street Mental Health Centre, now part of CAMH.) The Stephen Bulger Gallery, founded in 1994, is also located on Queen West, as is the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA), which relocated to the area in 2005. The future of the MOCCA in this area is uncertain: in 2013, the developer Urbancorp applied to demolish the MOCCA and the adjacent buildings housing the Edward Day and Clint Roenisch gallery and replace them with the nine storey “MOCCA Condo”.[9]

Another cause of this gallery conglomeration was the conversion of a former police building (Art-Deco building was a police station last used as Metro Toronto Police 6 Division built in 1931 and closed in the 1990s) into Gallery 1313, with extensive financial assistance by the city. The large amount of gallery space, including such galleries as Loop and Fly, allowed Toronto artists of all levels of ability to show their work at a low cost. Unlike the boutique-oriented storefronts of the eastern portion of the street, the Gallery District contains an abundance of space available for special events. The Camera Bar—originally established by film director and producer Atom Egoyan—is now operated by the Stephen Bulger Gallery as a rental space that offers a bar and film/video screening venue.[10]

West Queen Street West has undergone rapid transformation in the past couple of years. Rents have increased dramatically and many galleries have left. Recent departures include Sis Boom Bah, Luft Gallery, Burston Gallery and Brackett Gallery. At the same time as galleries have closed, many new bars have opened. Many attribute this sudden shift to the development spearheaded by the Drake Hotel, a former flophouse recently renovated and converted to a boutique hotel at a cost of $6 million.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Street_West)

What are your thoughts on gentrification? Time to visit West Queen West before its character changes?!

Stay tuned!

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