“Blueprint” from Toronto’s past gave Katharine Harvey something to build on, Toronto Star, September 12, 2020.
Article by Deborah Dundas, Books Editor, Discovery section of the Toronto Star.
When we look below the surface of our city, what do we find? One city built upon another? A future built on past intentions? What lives did they lead, those earlier city dwellers? What did they want this city to be?
Toronto artist Katharine Harvey made a discovery while doing research for a public art commission being installed at the Great Gulf condominium development at 25 Richmond St. E. in Toronto: historical blueprints for the original structure on the site, Shea’s Victoria Theatre, which was designed in 1908 by Charles James Reid.
“Blueprint” is Harvey’s latest body of work with “Shea’s Victoria XVIII,” seen above, one of the later (and the largest) works in the series.
Shea’s relatively modest exterior was contrasted by its ornate interior decor, done in a Beaux-Arts style and adorned with curved lines and musically shaped motifs.
In an article done in collaboration with Heritage Toronto, Urbantoronto.ca noted that “when the theatre opened in 1910, Shea’s Victoria was touted ‘Toronto’s handsomest playhouse’ with about 2,000 seats, making it, for a time, one of the largest vaudeville theatres in North America. The grand opera house style auditorium was decorated in gold with ornate box seats, oak wainscotting and a mural above the proscenium arch that read ‘The Triumph of Youth.’”
Yet, everything has its time. Shea’s Victoria was demolished in the 1950s; in its place was put up a parking lot.
For her work, according to the gallery, “Harvey has applied her signature layering process to describe the distinctive patterns and shapes she discovered in the blueprints. While abstract, the works recall another era, reinterpreted with her luminous colour and expressive mark-making.”
Underneath the facade of the present we can discern the shadow of our forebears’ hopes, an echo of their grand design. Our own intentions, too, might disappear under the urgent needs of the next generation; they’ll build on the blueprints we leave behind.
Her large-scale glass installation at 25 Richmond St. E. is being installed this month.
Deborah Dundas is the Star’s Books editor. She is based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @debdundas