If Toronto has a Museum subway station, a similar art-themed venture should be doable.
Thanks to Jess Dobkins and a collective of local artists, it now is.
The group has taken over an abandoned Gateway newsstand inside Chester station, and with Gateway’s blessing and funds raised from the team’s successful Kickstarter campaign (which surpassed its initial goal of $4,000, raising $4,931 in under a week), converted the newsstand into a hybrid kiosk that serves as both a commuter’s hub and a community arts space.
“People in the neighbourhood are excited to see this empty, forlorn space be filled,” says Dobkin, explaining how the kiosk has been vacant for seven years.
“Art doesn’t exist only in galleries,” she adds. “We wanted to insert something creative and unexpected in the chore of commuting.”
Alongside newsstand staples, the kiosk offers TTC riders an inventory of locally produced, artisanal alternatives to standard commuting fare.
While you can still purchase the latest copy of Cosmopolitan and People magazine, the shelves are stocked with literary, small print, and artist-made publications and zines like Art Metropole, Canadian Art, and CNQ.
There’s even a small library of books you can borrow, read, and return (the current selection ranges from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins to Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges).
For those who skipped breakfast to make the train, there are the standard mass-produced chocolate bars, candies, and packets of chips, but you can also get your hands on handmade, TTC-themed cookies by Karen Frostitution a salted, cinnamon and pepitas cinder toffee called “the Chester Crunch” made exclusively for the kiosk by The Commuters and imported peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s.
Those who want to rep the Danforth area and their local subway stop can also purchase some merch, like neighbourhood toques from Tuck Shop Trading Co. and buttons from Spacing.
Dobkin says there will also be opportunities for local artists to share and “take over the space,” alluding to plans to serve as a pop-up location for local jewellers and a booth for an upcoming radio broadcast.
Although the newsstand was set to launch May 1, an ongoing robbery investigation at Chester station has momentarily postponed the grand opening to tomorrow (May 13).
The group have the space for one year, but when asked what their plans are when the lease expires, Dobkins says it’s not about the money.
“We don’t really see this as a business venture,” explains Dobkin. “It’s more of an arts initiative or proposal.”
“There are a lot of vacant spaces in the city, and a lot of artists looking for places to show their work,” she adds. “We want to inspire something else like this to happens elsewhere in Toronto.”
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