By: Jimmy Kakish
The Gladstone Hotel’s Art Hut project will be coming to an end this April, and will soon become the home to another condo.
The six-month pop-up initiative looked to “animate the currently empty property” directly across from the hotel at Queen Street West and Gladstone.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Christina Zeidler, the president of The Gladstone Hotel. “We’ve had everything from artists using the space as residency space, or people having something that was just a pure installation and people could come and look at it.”
But come May, the art space will be replaced with a sales centre and then later on by a 16-storey condo.
Big shiny buildings replacing art spaces and galleries is a trend familiar to Queen West and some artists aren’t happy.
“If our community is claiming to be the third largest creative hub in North America, there needs to be more efforts to protecting these spaces and keeping them functioning,” said John Samuel, the co-owner of Toronto’s Blank Canvas Gallery. “Art and culture is what makes a city attractive and can help a city thrive. We can’t make everything into a condo.”
Zeidler urges developers to work with artists on these projects as a solution, as creatives have something condo developers are less likely to have: vision.
“Artists can see a raw space and imagine something that no one else can imagine,” said Zeidler. “A lot of people would look at a derelict space and say, ‘forget it, this is terrible’, [but] artists see an opportunity.”
From the outside, Queen Street West seems like it’s dying. Its art scene is starting to migrate to The Junction in the north-west DuPont Avenue and St. Clair West Avenue areas. But above all, believes Zeidler, the creative hub will survive.
“Queen West has some very important artist institutions that luckily own their buildings so they will be staying on Queen West,” said Zeidler. “Ten years ago, people [said] Queen West [was] over, then two years ago, Vogue called it the second coolest neighbourhood in the world… Queen West has artist stakeholders in the neighbourhood who are not leaving and who are going to continue to do interesting things.”