Empty Storefronts Now Showcase Art

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This figure is a central character in the window called "Art of the Deal." Image: John Kernaghan.
This figure is a central character in the window called “Art of the Deal.” Image: John Kernaghan.

There is a strip of vacant stores along Eglinton Ave. W. in Toronto.

The street in front of the stores is under construction.

The stores are vacant (there is no one using them) partly because of the construction, which makes it hard for people to visit the stores to shop. And if there are no shoppers, there’s no point in opening a store.

So the big windows in the stores along Eglinton Ave. between Allen Road and Dufferin St. were cluttered with junk: old boards and electrical cables and litter.

But Toronto businessman John Kernaghan looked at the vacant storefronts and saw possibilities.

Artists Sam Ovens, Rob Vajdec and Chantal Parent pose in their window, "Snow Day." Image: John Kernaghan.
Artists Sam Ovens, Rob Vajdec and Chantal Parent pose in their window, “Snow Day.” Image: John Kernaghan.

He thought the store windows could be filled with art. That way, the street would be brightened up and local artists would get a place to show off their art.

Kerhaghan contacted local artists and created what is now known as Gallery City.

Six windows, so far, have been filled with art.

What used to be an Internet Café now has a six-foot tall Jack Frost snow monster peering out of it.

The old dry cleaners window is filled with a sunny snow scene, including kids throwing snowballs in front of a happy-looking mountain.

This snowball throwing kid ended up in the window of an old dry cleaners. Image: John Kernaghan.
This snowball throwing kid ended up in the window of an old dry cleaners. Image: John Kernaghan.

And the old Flea Market window is filled with three-dimensional snowflakes.

Kernaghan’s own thriving business is Hogtown Mascots; they create mascot costumes used by sports teams and companies. His company teamed up with the York-Eglinton Business Improvement Area to make the art project happen.

Kernaghan said he was “sick of seeing all the empty storefronts in the neighbourhoods in the city of Toronto.”

“There are a lot of empty storefronts, some of them have been empty for a long time. It’s not nice to look it. It gives you a feeling of despair; in some sense, it actually makes you feel lonely,” he said.

He said he thought about what could make the strip of Eglinton nicer as it was going through the construction.

He was inspired by some of the windows his own company, Hogtown Mascots, has put together over the years.

“We have so much fun making our window, we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great to fill those windows with art?'”

Heeley's window, which he designed with Kathleen Ballos, is called "Art of the Deal." Image: John Kernaghan.
Heeley’s window, which he designed with Kathleen Ballos, is called “Art of the Deal.” Image: John Kernaghan.

The Gallery City project wraps up on Feb. 21. Kernaghan said they’re going to talk to the artists and the building owners and see if they want to run a new art project again in the Spring.

Related Links
Gallery City’s website includes more photos of the windows plus information on each of the artists.
Hogtown Mascot’s website.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Is there an area in your community that is filled with construction or underused? How could you change that space to make it more interesting and beautiful? Brainstorm ways to transform that space and make it more inviting to the community.

Reading Prompt: Text Features
This article contains many images that show how the stores on Eglinton Avenue transformed through art. How did the photographs help you to understand the article and the project?

Primary
Identify a variety of text features and explain how they help readers understand texts (OME, Reading: 2.3).

Junior
Identify a variety of text features and explain how they help readers understand texts (OME, Reading: 2.3).

Grammar Feature: Comparative Adjectives
Compare Eglinton Avenue before and after the transformation. Use comparative adjectives (e.g. taller, larger, brighter) to describe how Eglinton Avenue looked after the art was added to the stores.