Erella Vent is Torontos
queen of Queen St.
Like Larry King the fictional
Kensington, Vent reigns benevolently over her territory,-- the creative
community of T.O.s Queen Street West.
Her crazy castle is a tiny, two-story duplex. Its exterior
could have been designed by PeeWee Herman. Colourful toys dangle from
the ceilings. A sheet of leopard-spotted plastic covers the kitchen table.
She uses cellophane instead of curtains.
Her living room is a mini-gallery of Torontos alternative
artists, punctuated with a few masterpieces donated by some neighbourhood
children a cardboard Easter bunny and a cut-out collage of Vents
life sized playhouse.
Vents public are the avant guard artists, musicians and business
people who give the Queen street neighbourhood its distinctive flavour.
Its clear that Erella Vent is nothing like her name suggests. Born
Erella Ganon, 10 years ago she changed her last name to Vent. Erella Vent
is her real name now though she hastens to add she is not irrelevant.
Its all part and parcel of Vents name game. "If
I eat a lot I look like an Erella-phant. If I could fly, theyd call
me an Erella-copter. If she married Darth Vader, shed be Erella-Vader,"
Magnet for information
While she accepts the camaraderie of her Queen St. friends, Vent,
29 doesnt see herself as a queen. She laughs describing one of the
characters whes seen the area change over several generations: "Now
Uncle Max is 64 years old and a regular on Queen street. He wears a T-shirt
that reads Queen for a Day. Hes the real queen of Queen
Instead, Vent prefers the title information broker.
People are always telling me stuff. While some people fight to get
information, Im a magnet for it."
Her phone rings constantly. She answers with and excited, "How do?"
and a friendly, "whats shakin?" Its probably
an artist wanting to know a good cheap press. Or a musician who needs
an animator for his low-budget rock video.
But nowhere is Vent loved more than on her narrow, congested street-
an ethnic working class Coronation St. "At first they were a little
hostile, " admits Vent pointing out her madly painted fence, each
panel a contribution from an artist friend. These days, however, while
her house still sticks out, Vent knows she fits in. "Theyve
all come around," she says.
Every summer Vent holds three Sunday afternoon parties in her backyard.
"For the neighbours its like the Santa Claus parade,"
she says. Vents neighbours hang out windows and sit on their porches
a perfect vantage to take in the throng of Vents sometimes
On Oct 21 1986, Vent
mounted her most successful party.
She and her friends produced the
Ooga-Booga Benefit for
AIDS Research which raised $31,000.00 in one night. Vent brought together
dozens of Toronto singers, musicians and artists for a one-night extravaganza.
The proceeds benefited one
of their own-- artist Tim Jocelyn, and Torontos first hospice for
AIDS patients Casey House.
Vent has been running with Torontos art and music crowd since
she was 13, working part time at Yorkvilles Riverboat coffeehouse
while she was still in high school.
She learned early to appreciate the Bohemian side of life. In 1983,
she left the Ontario College of Art and Design a graduate of the PhotoElectric
Art Department. Shes written music columns for Torontos NOW
magazine and New York fringe music magazine EAR.
Her list of local contacts mushroomed during her three years as
entertainment editor for CKLN radio in Toronto, where she positioned herself
as an enthusiastic supporter of new local artists and struggling bands.
Between the writing and the broadcasts, Vent still fount time to
become a respected visual artist. Her coffee cup shaped coffee table is
currently on a tour of the world; part of an international collection
of acclaimed art furniture-Virtu II.
Vent is also a welcome
sight at Queen street nightspots --the Horseshoe, the Rivoli, the Cameron
and the Bamboo. Shes a must at art gallery openings and is constantly
courted by Torontos alternative performance artists a group
of young, new entertainers whose acts youd be unlikely to catch
at the Imperial Room.
But her latest role has placed her even closer to the heart of Queen
Streets creative community. Her company distributes miniature versions
of local artworks through galleries and art stores. In the form of postcards
or diminutive books, Vent is promoting Torontos most inspiring creators
including Barbara Klunder, Andy Fabo, Stephen Andrews and Adly Gawad.
Idea gets Brightened
"Creative people must come together in a community," explains
Vent. "We need each other for support and stimulation." As a
result of this community spirit, Vent believes much of the art that comes
out of the community is a joint effort. "One artist will express
an idea to a fellow artist. The idea gets brightened and often changed
into something totally different."
According to Vent, its this sense of community effort that
separates the Queen Street enclave from similar communities in other cities.
"The artists are not as supportive in New York or Chicago or Los
Angeles," she says.
Vent goes the distance to bring the Queen St. community together in a
way that makes it easy for outsiders to understand.
So is Erella Vent irrelevant? Hardly.