June 15th 2012
I’ve been pondering the Junction for a few weeks now. Mainly because there is this fascinating myriad of the arts which all come together here, this street art installation of locomotive wheels caught my eye. It sits nonchalantly, on the sidewalk, just “being.” But being what?
In trying to define what impression it leaves me with, I went to my favourite dictionary and started looking up various words that came to mind when I thought of “The Junction.”
My two favourite words to describe this neighbourhood are “eclectic” and “artistic”. Let’s look at those — “eclectic” means: “Deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources.” And “artistic” is defined as: “Having or revealing natural creative skill” or “of, relating to, or characteristic of art or artistry.” If you’ve ever explored the Junction, I think you’ll agree that these words are synonymous with the spirit of this Toronto West end nook. It’s like all the arts and history and cultures of Toronto seem to coalesce here…
Then it dawned on me – The Junction is perfectly described by what everybody else is already calling it… The word “junction” literally means a point where two or more things are joined and/or a place where two or more roads or railroad lines meet.
The history of this area is incredibly varied – from holding the first Queen’s Plate on William Conway Keele’s privately owned racetrack to being deemed a full official Port of Entry to being one of the longest standing ‘dry’ neighbourhoods in Toronto. From bicycles to textiles to pianos to livestock, the manufacturing history of this area is equally colourful. Italian, Polish, Macedonian, Croatian, Maltese, Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese – the Junction is a true global village.
From booms to busts, it’s no wonder that the art and style of this neighbourhood has such an incredible feel. The Junction’s annual art festival is a testament to both its history and diversity. New, chic restaurants are popping up all over (now that that Prohibition thing has finally passed) and manufacturing warehouses are being converted to true loft style living. Antique shops and edgy art galleries are side by side.
Dave LeBlanc (The Architourist) of the Globe and Mail writing an article in October, 2009, toured the area with local history expert David Wencer. He wrote “Once a gritty railroad town, it was annexed by the City of Toronto in 1909 and remained under the real estate radar for nine decades as a place with “a fierce, independent spirit,” says Mr. Wencer. Since the late 1990s, however, the secret’s been out as artists looking for cheap studio space and bargain-hunting hipster couples discover its rough charm.” Now some 14 odd years later, those artists and hipster couples have rejuvenated this forgotten gem, polishing it into a truly unique, wonderful area.
Every generation of artists, usually respond to the generation before. For example, Romanticism was answered with Modern Art; Realism was answered by Impressionism, and so on. The Junction’s rather subdued, transient phase is being answered by a fresh, individualistic style which embraces is varied history and cherishes it. This is where my photo of the locomotive wheels comes in – it’s easy to romanticize the history of this marvellous neighbourhood and only look at the rosy moments, but true artistry accepts the harder parts of life as well. To see a set of locomotive wheels in a street art installation is a nod to the past and all that it has contributed to this junction, making The Junction a true living work of art.