Right next door to Toronto's iconic Gothic Revival castle Casa Loma, lies an equally impressive – if somewhat smaller – mansion with white bricks and contrasting green shutters.
Spadina House was once home to James Austin, a Toronto-based businessman who helped found The Dominion Bank—the same Dominion Bank that merged with The Bank of Toronto in 1955 to form The Toronto-Dominion Bank, now generally known as TD.
No longer the Austin family's private residence, Spadina House is now open to the public as Spadina Museum run by the City of Toronto. Over the years, this historic home has served as the backdrop for a number of Hollywood productions, some of which starred Keanu Reeves, Christopher Plummer and Christopher Walken. Its sumptuous rooms and lush gardens have played host to countless weddings and special events, including Great Gatsby-themed parties.
But in August 2022, Spadina House underwent a transformation never-before-seen in its long and storied history. That's when the building was reimagined through an entirely new lens by artist and curator Gordon Shadrach who transformed it into "Mrs. Pipkin's Manor."
As part of what he is calling the Dis/Mantle art exhibition, Shadrach has redecorated Spadina House as though it belonged to Louisa Pipkin, a former slave from the United States who escaped enslavement and sought freedom via the underground railroad and found employment in Canada as a laundress for the Austin family. In Shadrach's Afrofuturism-inspired narrative, Spadina House is reimagined to belong to Mrs. Pipkin, instead of the Austin family. A portrait of Mrs. Pipkin hung in the Spadina House and Shadrach was inspired after realizing it was the only one featuring a person of colour.
The immersive exhibition invites visitors to explore the historic home that’s now filled with textiles, ceramics and sound art by creators from the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. Paintings of prominent Black Canadians (by Shadrach) line the walls of Mrs. Pipkin's reimagined home—including a painting of Naki Osutei, Vice President, Canadian Personal Bank Strategy, Colleague Experience and ESG at TD
Shadrach's Dis/Mantle multimedia art exhibition brings Black history and culture to the forefront in a traditionally white, Eurocentric space.
"So much of Black history has been erased or ignored. This is what Black people… encounter when dealing with their own history," says Shadrach.
These paintings—many reminiscent of traditional portraiture—replace older portraits from the Austin family which are shrouded in black cloth. The idea, Shadrach explains, is to convey the concept of erasure.
As visitors roam Mrs. Pipkin's Manor, they can explore an alternate past—and envision a new future.
"What we learn about history, often only tells us part of the story," says Osutei. "Art installations like this inspire conversation. Had this exhibit not been produced, we wouldn't be talking about Mrs. Pipkin and enslavement in Canada."
Click on the video above to go inside the Dis/Mantle art exhibition and hear Shadrach and Osutei talk about it. Dis/Mantle runs until May 28, 2023. Learn more about it here.
To learn more about the TD commitment to diversity and inclusion, visit the TD Ready Commitment.
To learn more about how TD is helping to drive positive, sustainable changefor Black customers, communities, and colleagues, please visit td.com/marchforward.