The Drake Hotel in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto was originally opened in 1890 as the Small’s Hotel and was reopened after World War II as the Drake. The hotel declined along with the Parkdale neighbourhood, particularly through the 1970’s and 80’s. In 2001 Jeff Stober relaunched the Drake as a bohemian hotel and nightspot. Controversially, the hotel has been both applauded and criticized for bringing the bourgeoisie back to Parkdale and its contemporaneous in and out migration of galleries and artist studios. The Drake claims to contribute to the neighbourhood by acting as a space for both artists and young professionals to interact.
Visible City researchers interviewed literary agent and former publisher Sam Hiyate in the lobby of the Drake Hotel. At the time of the interview, Hiyate was a live-in "social convenor" at the hotel, tasked with bringing together artists communities to gather in the space.
- Charles Finley
Interview with Sam Hiyate
| Visions and Potential of The Drake Hiyate describes the purpose of the Drake Hotel: a space created to encourage people to meet and talk, but more specifically, a place for artists and promoters to meet and culturally mingle. Hiyate discusses the relevance of The Drake as an influential meeting place through comparisons to New York City’s Chelsea Hotel, and Toronto’s own Cameron House- both renowned for being nurturing spaces for artists to live and work in during their primes. Hiyate speculates that the Drake could have an interesting impact on the formation of cultural social networks, both in connecting local artist scenes and how those networks connect to the international scene. Hiyate discusses Drake owner Jeff Stober's vision of the hotel to be a place where significant artistic work could be traced back to and his aim to promote a comfortable atmosphere for both local and international artists.
|| Providing Support to Art and Artists Hiyate relates the business relationship between artists, the hotel and private collectors. He also discusses how artists are supported and how artists are selected, including efforts to include a mix of established and emerging artists.
| Patronage Model of The Drake According to Hiyate, the Drake’s support for artists follows more of an American model of arts patronage rather than the public funding model through arts councils used more often in Canada, The Drake provides for their artists through private investors and collectors. The hotel’s capability to provide non-commercially-based events and opportunities for artists relies on sales from their restaurant, beverage and hospitality services in the hotel. A commercialization model is proposed, bringing together emerging art that is commodifiable, but exhibited and sold in an unconventional way. Hiyate discusses how the Drake’s role is to bring together the talent and those that package it.
|| Scenes and Subscenes Hiyate talks about his attempts to bring together the filmmakers, musicians, designers, writers, visual artists that run in very different circles and scenes in Toronto. While the Drake claims to be a casual atmosphere to meet and talk, he also discusses the potential for professional networking. He explains how the hotel format works for the Drake, including an increasing commercial emphasis on the bars, clubs and cafés rather than simply a place to stay, and how sections of the hotel support different scenes. The role of the Drake’s location in the Queen Street West neighbourhood and its sub-scenes is discussed.
| Cultural Scenes and Their Benefit to the City Hiyate gives an explanation of Toronto’s role within the international cultural scene. A discussion of the nature of cultural clusters is taken up with regard to the Queen St. West area, and the recent gentrification to the west end of the city.