At 402 College Street in Toronto, an art gallery lies in a storefront window.
FENTSTER—which means window in Yiddish—is currently showcasing an installation by Toronto-based artist Robert Davidovitz. What Will Remain, is a stained glass sculpture paying homage to his grandfather, Motel, who repaired broken windows in post-war Vilna to support his family. This line of work continued with Davidovitz’s father, Meir, who opened a window business upon immigrating to Israel in the 1970s, often restoring stained glass from synagogues.
When illuminated at night, Davidovitz’s stained glass creation casts a colourful fractured light on the downtown street, making it hard to miss during the eerily quiet pandemic months.
But having the display standout is exactly what curator, Evelyn Tauben, wants. In an interview with Niv, she discussed the cultural importance of FENTSTER and the significance of the art she chooses to showcase.
How did FENTSTER get started?
We currently occupy the storefront window of the grassroots Jewish community, Makom. The space used to house artist Rochelle Rubensten’s studio, displaying funky art installations in the window, becoming a known contemporary art space. But when Rubensten left, I knew we had to keep this artistic setting.
Why was FENTSTER started?
Logistically we wanted to keep the window space as a known place for contemporary art, so it made sense to set up FENTSTER as its own entity. And while it’s in the same space as Makom, we run it separately with a group of artists as an advisory committee.
But in the larger sense, I’m interested in the intersection of art in private and public spaces. We have this storefront, attached to a community Jewish hub on a very public street. It’s a way to keep Jewish culture as part of the conversation when discussing culture in Toronto.
And why is this important?
Inside the community, many have a self-conscious attitude that Jewish culture could not be of interest to anyone besides Jews. And, presenters outside the Jewish community aren’t necessarily thinking about featuring expressions of Jewish culture in their programming as a reflection of Toronto’s multiculturalism. So FENTSTER is keeping the Jewish community on the map and saying that this is for everyone, it’s on the street and very accessible.
The interview has been condensed for the purpose of this article.
You can still catch What Will Remain for a few more days. The installation will be up until September 21.
Starting September 25, the gallery will debut work by Toronto-based photo-video artist Ella Cooper in a new work called,Witness. The site-specific installation features a self-portrait series, presenting faces of grief and sorrow through the lens of a mixed race artist of Jewish heritage. It will run until January 21, 2021, with a sidewalk soiree on October 13.
This article is part of an ongoing Community Partnership series on FENTSTER. Niv regularly features the work of the gallery and its exhibiting artists, and FENTSTER promotes Niv to their network in-kind.
Feature image courtesy of FENTSTER.
Clarrie Feinstein is a journalist based in Toronto where she is currently a reporter for Toronto Star. She previously was a reporter for Metroland Media where she covered education in Peel Region. Her other work can be seen in Daily Hive, Business Insider, Salon, and Bedford + Bowery. Clarrie earned her M.A. in journalism from New York University.