Industrial Strength is an art project with a purpose. Its focus is the abandoned Wychwood TTC streetcar barns, grand old structures whose fate hangs in the balance. The barns are nestled in a park just south of St. Clair on a street with well-tended little red brick houses where greenery abounds and lush gardens burst with colour.
The politics of the fight for the barns is complex (see NOW, March 7-13, 2002), but basically it boils down to two antagonists -- people in the neighbourhood who want to tear down the barns and get 100-per-cent park, and others who want to save the buildings and get 80-per-cent park and 20-per-cent artists.
This latter group wants to see the barns transformed into an artistic community like the one that helped create the Queen West gallery district and the subsequent urban renewal of that formerly rundown area.
Industrial Strength wants to show what art can bring to a community that itself is in the midst of rejuvenation. The neighbourhood is diverse in terms of incomes and backgrounds -- the kind that naturally attracts artists anyway.
Some 50 students were invited to interpret the barns though the lenses of their cameras. Standouts include Ronit Novak's self-portrait work (781 St. Clair West) and Crystal Liu's photos, in which the barns have been obscured by a hardened white substance as if erased from memory (572 St. Clair West).
Proprietors in the area, from candy shops to cobblers, have embraced the art, displaying it proudly in their windows. Hopefully, that signals a victory for art in the Wychwood barns.
Industrial Strength (518 St. Clair West) with art displayed in storefronts along St. Clair between Bathurst and Oakwood, to October 6. 416-651-0520, www.anewpark.ca. Rating: NNN