Toronto

Photography exhibit preserves memory of Galleria Mall as it undergoes transformation

One Toronto artist saw the beauty in the quirky and unkempt Galleria Mall, and captured that through photography in an attempt to preserve the landmark.

Memories of Galleria Mall runs May 3-5 at 360 Geary Ave.

Memories of Galleria Mall is part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. (Shari Kasman/Submitted)

Some may view an unkempt mall like the Galleria as an eyesore, but artist Shari Kasman sees it as a relic that needed to be preserved.

Her images of things like vintage arcade games and landline phones for sale look like they could be from decades ago — but they were mostly taken in 2013 and 2014. 

"I started going there and really thought the retro component and nostalgia was really charming," she said.

Memories of Galleria Mall invites Torontonians to step back in time and experience some nostalgia. The exhibit is part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival — a month long event that celebrates photography across the city. 

The photos from Kasman's exhibit are from a book the artist recently published called Galleria: The Mall That Time Forgot. She says it was that feeling of travelling back in time when she entered the mall at Dufferin and Dupont that drew her in.

Kasman says entering the mall felt like walking into a time capsule. (Shari Kasman/Submitted)

"You wouldn't know what year it was. Once you walk in there, it's a time capsule and so I thought that was fascinating and I took a lot of pictures."

Kasman says since the launch of her book, people have approached her to tell stories of their quirky hometown malls. Her aim is to preserve the mall through her book and the exhibit.

"I wanted to document it. I knew eventually it would be torn down."

Maintaining the community feeling

Ward 9 Coun. Ana Bailao visits Galleria Mall often. She says the exhibit is a great way to celebrate something that has been a part of the community for so long.

"People have a strange connection to the mall," Bailao said.

"It's not a big huge modern mall, but anyone who lives around the mall, uses it on a regular basis ... everything is just there."

Bailao says conversations about possible redevelopment for the land started in the early 2000s. Now, construction is well underway for the 10-15 year project.

Ana Bailao says the photos are a way to celebrate a place that's been part of the community for years. (Shari Kasman/Submitted)

The construction is happening in phases — part of the mall has already been shut down, with only some of the larger stores remaining. The new site will include a new community centre, an expanded park, retail, and residential units.

Bailao says when the new plans were made, the feeling of community and the convenience of the shops were kept in mind.

"We pushed really hard to have the community centre be the first thing built on site," she said. "The opportunity to have the community come together at this space, we want to protect that."

Kasman noted that feeling of community over the last decade when she visited the mall. She says it wasn't just a place to shop — it was also like a second home to some of the seniors that met there.

"I hope people realize the importance of these places, especially in Toronto, where things are turning into condos."

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