Esther E Shipman, Curator of Architecture + Design | October 21, 2016
Something new has been brewing on Queen Street West at Dovercourt, in Toronto, and it is not soda. In the former location of the Pop Shoppe, Craft Ontario has just opened a big, bright, two-storey gallery, retail shop, and education centre.
Craft Ontario, AKA the Ontario Crafts Council, along with its new name, has made some radical changes to make the new location a reality. They have closed their historic Guild Shop in Yorkville (founded 1931), plus their smaller gallery/administrative offices down the street, and they have taken everything out of multiple storage spaces to consolidate and focus on the new venue.
More than a few fingers are crossed that shop patrons will make the journey south to Queen Street, but what awaits them will be worth it. The new location is considerably more spacious and open than recent incarnations, but straightforward in plan and not overly ambitious as a show piece. It is basically a white cube with high ceilings, a matte concrete floor, and a discreet stair to a mezzanine level that houses the administrative offices and education centre.
Currently, the entire main floor is geared up as a full-on retail space, with divided loyalties between the 2016 Cape Dorset Print Collection, the Guild Shop’s impressive array of Inuit sculpture, and shelves/drawers showcasing contemporary ceramics, textiles, wood, metal and glass from all across the province. The main floor is ultimately intended to be half gallery (rotating exhibitions are planned), and half retail shop, with a tucked away storage area in the back.
Interestingly, this corner of the city is evolving into a bit of a cultural hub. Just around the corner on Dovercourt is the David Kaye Gallery, the premiere private craft gallery in the city (as well as select drawing and painting exhibitions). I have confirmation from both sides that there have already been conversations that may lead to coordinated opening nights and other collaborations. In addition, earlier this year, the new Theatre Centre opened across the street in a wonderful renovation and re-purposing of a former Carnegie Library.
Craft Ontario should become a destination for anyone with an interest in high quality contemporary craft. On any given day, you will find outstanding work by both established and emerging Ontario craftspeople and one the best selection of Inuit artwork in the country.
Note: Craft Ontario was founded in 1976 through the merger of the Canadian Guild of Crafts (Ontario, 1931) and the Ontario Craft Foundation (1966), and is registered with Revenue Canada as a charitable organization under the corporate name Ontario Crafts Council.