A Place for Wholesome Amusement , 2018
Neon and Acrylic
12 x 50″ each

A Place for Wholesome Amusement reimagines marquee signage to represent two significant cultural institutions established by Chinese and Jewish newcomers to Toronto. The piece began from an invitation to mine the extensive holdings of the Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA) for intersections between Jewish and Chinese histories in Toronto. Research at the OJA led to the building on the north-east corner of Dundas and Spadina that functioned as a cultural destination for both communities. First known as the Standard Theatre, the venue opened as a Yiddish theatre in 1922 and five decades later hosted Chinese cinema as the Golden Harvest Theatre.

The installation considers how one building served as a hub for cultural expression and cohesion for two different communities. Separated by decades but both operating in their native languages, the venues fostered and celebrated these distinctive cultural identities whereas the aesthetics each theatre adopted – revealed in Zhang’s neon sculpture – reflect an impulse to keep pace with the latest mainstream trends. Accompanied by historic information detailing over 75 years of the building’s continuous operation together with reproductions of archival materials, the exhibition surfaces immigrant narratives embedded in the architecture of the Kensington Market-Chinatown neighbourhood, revealing little-known points of connection and breaking down siloed conversations about our city’s past.

Installation photos by Morris Lum.
Presented by FENTSTER and the Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre. Featured in Myseum Intersections.

This project was made possible with the support of the Ontario Arts Council.