[URBAN NOTE] “Goodbye to the Mirvish Village people”
The Toronto Star‘s Sandro Contento looks at some of the people who flourished in the Honest Ed’s-subsidized artist’s neighbourhood of Mirvish Village, what they achieved and what they are now losing.
Gabor Mezei has been an artist on Markham St. for four decades. He marvels at making a go of it for so long and, at 83, takes nothing for granted. For afternoon naps in his gallery he hangs up a WILL RETURN sign, to which he has added, “Gabor hopes he . . .”
He survived the Holocaust in Hungary before moving to England, where he worked as a civil engineer. Once in Canada, at the age of 40, he decided with some trepidation to become a painter. He feared himself too old for the romanticized apprenticeship.
“If you look at art history,” he said, artists “all start in their 20s, struggling and starving and falling in love and getting bread for a painting.”
To his continuing amazement, he skipped all of that. In 1977, he landed studio space in the heart of Mirvish Village, the Markham St. block of mostly Victorian houses running south from Bloor St. W. to Lennox St.
It was a buzzing cultural enclave at the time, the vision of sculptor Anne Mirvish, whose husband Ed, of Honest Ed’s fame, owned all but one of the houses on the street. Considered an artist’s colony by the mid-1960s, it was sustained by commercial rents far below market value, which were also enjoyed by bookstores, restaurants and boutiques.