Stories and Storefronts

Image: Flo Leung

Stories and Storefronts: Danforth East Exhibition Explores the Changing Neighbourhood and its Diasporas

June 23 – July 24, 2022

Mani Mazinani, Mobile Melody
Hirut Cafe and Restaurant, 2050 Danforth Ave.

Sarindar Dhaliwal, George and Vernon
Danforth Mosaic BIA, 1432 Danforth Ave.

Shellie Zhang, Bigger and Better Than Ever
Vincenzo Supermarket, 2406 Danforth Ave.

Waard Ward, Flowers for East Danforth
Holrds Convenience, 1425 Danforth Ave. (delivery of floral arrangements June 23 + 30, July 7)

Curated by Charlene K. Lau and Negin Zebarjad

Stories and Storefronts explores brick-and-mortar stores as records of movement of cultural communities across Toronto. The exhibition focuses on the changing neighbourhood of Danforth East and its diasporas, inviting artists with immigrant backgrounds—Sarindar Dhaliwal, Mani Mazinani, Waard Ward, and Shellie Zhang—to animate immigrant-owned shop windows and storefronts in the community through sculptural and sound installations. The project brings personal and family stories to life, connecting places with the experiences that have shaped the city and generating new, cross-cultural alliances between businesses, artists, and residents.

Stories and Storefronts animates the history of cultural change by way of refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and immigrants, enabling passersby to encounter the spaces in their community in new ways. The artworks will serve as windows into the many lived diasporic experiences in Toronto and provide a barrier-free arts experience outside of gallery walls.

Mani Mazinani has designed a musical instrument, Mobile Melody, that transforms the façade of Hirut Cafe and Restaurant. In the artist’s words, this “tonal sound field generator” is tuned to scales used in Ethiopian music. Pedestrians become listeners while also “playing” the work by moving their bodies through aural space and revealing a melody. Each listener’s body shapes what they hear to create a unique musical experience.

Building upon her series of neon light window installations centred on Toronto’s cultural histories, Shellie Zhang has designed a custom neon entitled Bigger and Better Than Ever in the shape of a fruit basket for Vincenzo Supermarket and in honour of immigrant-owned fruit shops along the Danforth. Galvanized by 1934 protests on the Danforth against shopkeepers selling their fruit and wares on sidewalks, the light lasts into the night like a beacon in acknowledgement and memorial of fruit stores past, present, and future.

Beginning June 23, Waard Ward will present the project Flowers for East Danforth, delivering flower arrangements by florist Abd Al-Mounim in ceramic vessels by artist Anne Campbell to Arabic-speaking businesses. As a gesture of thanks and celebration, the flowers speak to community growth, resiliency, and alliances across cultures and generations, all connected through language.

Sarindar Dhaliwal repurposes a curtain from a former apartment into a backdrop for embroidery in her work George and Vernon. Using text from a story she wrote about arriving in her neighbourhood of New Toronto, Dhaliwal layers her own lived experience of searching for comforting foods upon the diverse food and merchant histories of Danforth East.


SARINDAR DHALIWAL (b. 1953, Punjab, India) is a Toronto-based artist whose work focuses on childhood memories and experiences of migration. Her work was included in the exhibition Vision Exchange: Perspectives from India to Canada which toured across Canada. Other recent exhibitions include Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre, Medicine Hat (2019), FotoFest Biennial, Houston (2018), Art Museum at the University of Toronto (2018), Koffler Gallery, Toronto (2016) and Varley Art Gallery, Markham (2016).

MANI MAZINANI (b. 1984, Tehran, Iran) is a Toronto-based artist making installation, video, film, sculpture, photographs, multiples, sound and music. His practice evolved from an early interest in sound recording, and he is currently researching origins of ancient thought, perceptual limitations of humans, and improvisation. Recent exhibitions/performances include Tate Modern (2019), The Bentway, Toronto (2018), Tehran International Electronic Music Festival (2017), SIP Culture Centre, Suzhou (2016), Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (2015), CAB Art Centre, Brussels (2013).

WAARD WARD creates floral arrangements, builds community gardens, and invites newcomers to train as florists and imagine social-entrepreneurial futures. Collectively led by Syrian florist ABD AL-MOUNIM, community organizers/newcomers HANEN NANAA and SHORUK ALSAKNI, educator LAURA RITACCA, curator/educator PATRICIA RITACCA, and artist PETRINA NG, Waard Ward collaborates in floristry, decolonial research, and newcomer support. Waard Ward’s name proposes the idea of a diasporic flower district; “waard” is a romanization of the Arabic word for flower. Current projects include public artwork/community rose garden commissions by ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art and the Doris McCarthy Gallery, University of Toronto Scarborough.

SHELLIE ZHANG (b. 1991, Beijing, China) is a multidisciplinary artist based in Toronto who explores cultural integration, diversity, assimilation and lived experience. She has exhibited at venues including WORKJAM (Beijing), Asian Art Initiative (Philadelphia) and Gallery 44 (Toronto). Zhang was an Artist-in-Residence at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2017, and a recipient of the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts Artist Award in 2021. Her work has been published in Canadian Art, the Toronto Star, Blackflash Magazine, CBC Arts, and C Magazine. Recent and upcoming projects include exhibitions at Mercer Union (Toronto), Capture Photography Festival (Vancouver) the Institute of Contemporary Art San Diego. Zhang works with Patel Brown Gallery.

Stories and Storefronts is generously funded by the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, and Canada Council for the Arts.

Instagram: @storiesandstorefronts