Vogue magazine declared Queen Street West in Toronto the second coolest neighborhood in the world
“Art and fresh air are a heady mix” says Jordan ahead of Culture+Travel’s taste of her walking tour, in which she promises to feature unique, local, artsy, funky, street-wise art, design and food.
Queen Street stretches some 5.6 kilometers and assumed its current name in honor of Queen Victoria in 1837. The original cartographical baseline of Toronto’s East-West streets, it saw waves of immigrants from Irish to Jewish, Polish to Portuguese through the 20th Century. But it’s the strip west of Bathurst that’s become known today as the Art & Design district, in part encouraged due to the relocation of the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MoCCA) to 952 QSW in 2005 (though MoCCA is now closed until 2017).
Jordan’s tour begins far out west though, at The Gladstone Hotel (1214 QSW), the oldest continuously operating hotel in Toronto, built in Romanesque Revival style by G M Miller in 1889. With 37 artist-designed rooms and space to hold 70 art exhibitions a year, it’s an obvious starting point from which to wander east towards Toronto’s downtown. “It’s a de facto club-house for the GTA arts community” says Jordan, as we consider artist Paula John’s statement “Art is My Therapy” woven in to her work titled “I Don’t Know Why This Happened, But it Did,” part of the Hard Twist 10: Memory exhibition on show until December 27.
Stop two is another iconic hotel, The Drake (1150 QSW), a former flophouse that is now home to an underground club, and 19 rooms dubbed Crash Pads, Dens, and Salons. The Drake’s in-house curator Mia Nielsen ensures its art exhibitions are at the cutting edge of Toronto’s contemporary art scene, including an remarkable sculpture “Back of Kelly, V.2” (2005), by hyper-realist Evan Penny.
After stops at the David Kaye Gallery (1092 QSW) featuring primarily ceramics and jewelry by leading Canadian as well as new artists, and Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects (1086 QSW) established in 1998 for emerging artists, Queen Street West begins to come alive with street art, beginning with the unmissable “You’ve Changed” mural at 1075 QSW. Painted on a wall-side of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, it was created by local artist Jesse Harris, whose work has been described as “a personal platform to discuss free expression and its limits within culture.”
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