In 1968 we moved from 26 Spadina Road, where we had opened the forerunner of Aggregation Gallery, to the then downtrodden bottom of Jarvis Street just south of Adelaide Street . We were still students at the Ontario College of Art and living off odd and part time jobs as well as our student loans. We managed to put together $325.00 to renovate the storefront space at 71 Jarvis Street and opened Aggregation Gallery in November, 1968. We were a cooperative of four people for that first year. David Tuck and I initiated the cooperative and carried on as partners in Aggregation Gallery after the two others, fellow OCA student, John McDonald and artist, Roman Kowal, left the group. We lived in rooms on the second and third floors above 69 Jarvis, in the same building, with some of the others of the original 8 person cooperative from Spadina Road. To help pay the rent, and in return for some construction materials and the electrical work, we also worked for our landlords helping renovate some of the other spaces in their Jarvis Street building.
With hard manual labour and a lot of ingenuity we managed to build the first space. Not without a number of adventures along the way. Shortly after we arrived at Jarvis Street the original Toronto red brick buildings across Jarvis Street and east of St. James Cathedral were, unfortunately, under the wrecking hammer. David was not happy about the demolition and did what he could, writing letters to the papers, one of which was published in the Globe and Mail with a picture regarding the building at the S.E. corner of Church and King Streets. He felt it was vital to the rest of the block of 19th Century buildings –last time we noticed the lot was still being used for parking, but the rest of the block was eventually restored or infilled. We hoped to help raise the awareness of some of the architectural losses to the city.
However once the buildings were coming down (MacFeeters Creamery and adjacent buildings seen here), we scrounged for materials, old multi-nailed, timbers that could be recycled. Several of the new interior walls at 73 Jarvis, our second location, are the results of these efforts. We spent more time removing nails than driving them.
On one of our trips across the road to gather materials, early one evening, the night watchman recently arrived, stopped me while I was dragging a large beam out of the building. He was not aware that we had permission from the foreman, nor of our presence, and not pleased at the unexpected meeting. Neither was I. After some explanation he let me carry on. Needless to say we were somewhat rattled and discontinued our foraging for that evening.
The wood front of 73 Jarvis Street was rough-cut recycled Japanese mahogany from piano packing crates that David found in the old Gerard Street Village. Sculpture stands were found, old industrial barrels, cleaned and painted, and so on.
We were interested in having a space to show our work and that of our peers and did not consider ourselves entrepreneurs at the time. It was practical, we had a place to live and we met a lot of very unique people – a very exciting time.
We were the lone gallery among such existing long time neighbours as several machine tool outlets, the Toronto General Welding School , some second-hand shops and a very old seed company housed in brick building with a wraparound wooden porch, where the workers sat on their lunch hour with their feet up on the railings.
We felt that with the restoration of the St. Lawrence Hall in 1967 as a centennial project and the old St. Lawrence Market down the street, the area should have a bright future as more people became committed to its restoration.