Toronto: Pages Books to Close
Sad news this weekend from Pages Books owner Mark Glassman: the store will be closing August 31. Long known as a major supporter of the arts and letters scene in Toronto, Glassman an his store are victims of sky-rocketing rents and the transformation of Queen West.
The store, located at 256 Queen St W, was once at the cultural heart of Toronto and developed a wonderful art and cultural studies selection. Comics (including many local minicomics) were featured prominently and for many (including myself), the store may have been their first exposure to young artists like Nick Mandaag and Jason Kieffer. Most recently, cartoonist Michael Cho was hired to redesign the store's graphics. The store is seeking a new location.
Glassman has issued the following statement:
Pages books & magazines, in Toronto's Queen West neighbourhood, will close its doors on August 31st. Sky rocketing rent at the city-owned property is behind the move. "When we opened on the corner of Queen and John 30 years ago, it was where artists lived and worked," says proprietor Marc Glassman, who heads up the Queen West Business Improvement Association. "Now our neighbours are CTV, The Gap, and Club Monaco."
Glassman has conducted an exhaustive two-year search for an alternative location, but nothing appropriate has appeared on the market. "I am open to suggestions," he says. "But with the e-book revolution steaming ahead we need a space that accommodates more than just retail."
Pages specializes in literature, art, film, and photography, and is noted for its selection of Eastern Philosophy, the social sciences, and pop culture. It pioneered cultural theory and small press sections, and the store was an early supporter of 'zines and graphic novels. A meeting place for intellectuals, journalists, filmmakers, and designers, Pages has always been more than a bookstore. Glassman was honoured with a Toronto Arts Award for literature in 2000. "It acknowledged for me the store's impact on the cultural life of the city," he says.
Passionate for avant garde expression, Glassman was charged with obscenity in 1985, over a feminist art display in the store window. Thanks to community support and a vigorous defense, the Criminal Code's definition of obscenity was overturned. "We live in a more open society today because we fought for it then," says Glassman.
Called a "one man cultural industry" by Toronto Life Magazine, Glassman has always been more than a bookseller. He has programmed films for Harbourfront, Hot Docs, and the NFB, and is a founder of the Images Festival and the Moving Pictures Festival of Dance on Film. He edits both POV and Montage magazines, contributes weekly film reviews to Classical 96.3 FM, and has produced hundreds of events over the years featuring everyone from Graham Roumieu to Margaret Atwood.
Six years ago Glassman started a programme called This Is Not A Reading Series (TINARS), which features onstage performances and events (but no readings!) by writers and artists, hosted in various venues throughout the city. The public loves it and the shows will continue in the fall, produced by Glassman and a new non-profit organization, The Force for Cultural Events Production, Inc, and stylishly coordinated by Chris Reed. This year additional support has come from the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council. "We're thrilled to be recognized as an emerging force for arts presentations," say Glassman. "Support by the Councils reinforces our desire to make TINARS an even more amazing experience."
Glassman is unhappy the store will be closing because of the impact it will have on his staff, client base, and community. But he plans to build upon the success of TINARS as he moves into the future. "I have to see this as an opportunity," he says. Old business models are crumbling, but "new technologies will not eliminate books as objects. Beautifully produced books, art books, graphic novels, and books signed by authors will always have a place." He wants to find a location where both retail and events can occur. "That dream will be pursued and hopefully come to fruition in the near future," promises Glassman.
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