Can performance artists save Kensington Market?
Activism and artistry came together this past Saturday when a group of artists assembled to protest recent threats to Kensington Market.
MARKIT, orchestrated by Kensington-based artists Jennifer H. Capraru and Coman Poon in collaboration with Videofag, was the first in a series of "micro performance interventions" directed towards raising awareness of the issues facing Kensington Market - most notably, the possible entry of a Loblaws nearby.
But it's not just the possibility of a major food retailer setting up shop that urged these artists into action. Rents are being hiked and family owned businesses are being forced to close after decades of operation.
"At Baldwin and Augusta there's a coffee shop, and they've been here for like 50 years," said Coman Poon referring to Casa Acoreana Cafe (also know as Louis Coffee Shop). "They're being driven out because their rent has been hiked to 10 thousand a month."
Poon said rent hikes like this are due to the greed of the landlords. He also suspects a particular retailer that previously tried to bring a Starbucks in to Kensington might have some part in it.
"Changes are community driven, bottom up and organic over a long period of time," said Poon, of the nature of Kensington Market. "Now the new changes that are happening are top down, corporate and profit driven."
Jennifer H. Capraru hopes that by creating awareness of these potential changes they will be able to preserve the market as it is. Capraru, the artistic director for Theatre Asylum, has lived in Kensington for over 20 years and wants the market to continue to develop in the organic fashion it has historically.
"It's a place where newcomers traditionally come," said Capraru. "It's a wave of people that they can always come here - these immigrant communities - and find a start here."
"We're worried that it might become sort of a, zombie condo land."
Videofag co-founders Jordan Tannahill and Will Ellis have noticed the slow trend of gentrification encroaching on the market and think independent artist spaces like Videofag act as a stop gap to the trend.
"It's about using the resources you have at your disposal to affect change," said Tannahill. "I think we as Canadians shouldn't take our politics passively and I think it starts at a grassroots level, it starts with your neighbourhood."
MARKIT is connected to the group Friends of Kensington. They plan to stage more interventions throughout the upcoming months.
Writing by Victoria Quiroz