The Seven Year Itch - the name of the week of anniversary events at The Drake - usually refers to when a marriage goes sexless, but that's not the case for The Drake, is it?
Ha. Yeah, to me, the seven-year itch is more about having hit your stride and now you're looking for more fun.
Nice. So, as well as bringing in artists to fill in enormous versions of Mallory Diaczun's colouring-book-style images of porn faces, which will adorn the front windows of the hotel, you're also handing out pornography … I mean, art … to diners.
Yes, it's a playful gesture for Valentine's Day. The host is going to offer four of Diaczun's images, with the guidance that there are two that are kind of flirty and two that are more explicit.
So people can choose depending on what on what kind of date they're on, I guess. Do they get crayons too?
Any flesh-coloured ones?
No, it's more fun without those.
I like the idea of artistic surprises for visitors and diners in the hotel. Have you curated others in the past?
Oh yes, lots. One of my favourites is coming back for the anniversary. It was a seemingly spontaneous event with Superstein, a local designer who makes T-shirts, underwear, sweatshirts and other comfy things out of cotton, all silkscreened in really punchy patterns. When they do a fashion show, it's not the kind of fashion show you imagine. It's a flash-mob dance performance. When it starts, the dancers will come out of literally anywhere. They'll all be dressed in Superstein - tank tops and shorts and tights, that kind of thing - and they'll do this amazing hip-hop dance performance. They bring in parkour artists - people who can do flips and aerials - so it's very acrobatic. It brought the house down a couple years ago, so we're bringing it back on Feb. 17.
Curating art for a hotel seems like a unique challenge.
It is a challenge, but there's a great opportunity, too. When people come here, they don't come to look at art the way they go to a museum to look at art. I get to show them things that they may not see otherwise and we have an incredibly wide and diverse audience. In the morning, we have moms and babies in the café, power lunches in the middle of the day, private parties at night, club kids, and on and on.
That mix hasn't always been harmonious. I've heard some people complain about the corner of Beaconsfield and Queen becoming a mini-club district on Saturdays, though I tend to think this type of complaining between people from different scenes - even within the Drake itself - is a healthy sign for a city.
This is a very busy place on Saturday night and what happens here on a Saturday night lets me pay for an art installation. Personally, I don't think of myself as a scenester and I think that's part of why, three years in, I love hanging out here. I go to other places in the city that have a more clear identity and there are times when I want that - going to the Magpie for trivia, for instance. But part of what I love about coming here is that I never know who I am going to run into. I love that.
Yeah, I remember seven years ago, some people said, "I'm never going to The Drake." Some people banned it, maybe because it was a success from the get-go. But now everyone has gone to The Drake, whether they wanted to or not. And it's not an issue any more. The question now is: How is Mia Nielsen going keep The Drake's romance with Toronto fresh?
Oh god, I feel like I'm in a meeting!
It's all good. Jeff Stober, the owner, is a very creative thinker and he has enabled us as programmers. If you can dream it, chances are you can do it. For Nuit Blanche in 2008, I did an installation project with David Rokeby where we hung 800 projection screens on the front of the building for one night. It hurt me to take it down. As a programmer, The Drake is an inspiring place to be. I discovered Mallory Diaczun's work at a 'zine fair two years ago. She's still a student [at the University of Toronto] But I saw these colouring-book pages and I thought, "This is amazing." I've worked on a few projects with her since then and now she's on our windows. I'm able to take risks like that, which never gets old.
Special to The Globe and Mail