You are invited to Old World Shoes - a documentary exhibit by Henry VanderSpek celebrating the hard-working owners of independent shoe and shoe repair stores of Toronto.

With Toronto in a constant state of redevelopment, and long-time local businesses closing down along the way, Henry was moved to stop and celebrate the local heroes who help keep Toronto moving. Small shoe and shoe repair stores have always intrigued Henry, and so documenting them was a natural way to explore this larger theme of change in Toronto.

Ellen Vivacqua of La Parigina Shoes

Old World Shoes features portraits of 15 shoe store owners along with interview excerpts sharing touching insights, gained from their many decades of serving customers and local communities. The exhibit includes links to short videos so that attendees can hear store owners' voices first hand.

Passersby view the Old World Shoes exhibit at Capri Shoes

Old World Shoes was first shown at Daniels Spectrum from December 2 2021 - January 3, 2022 as part of the Contact Photo Festival (scroll down for images and press coverage). It was recently shown again as part of DesignTO at Capri Shoes (818 Dundas St W, Toronto).

Many thanks to all who attended a lunchtime talk with three talented shoe makers who are featured in the exhibit. Many thanks as well to Emmanuel Farré of Farré by Emmanuel, Jennifer Allison of Art & Sole Academy and Peter Feeney of Peter Feeney Bespoke Footwear for participating and for sharing their craft and passion.  The video of the talk may be viewed here.

I am excited to share that Old World Shoes was selected as "Best in Festival Exhibition" in the 2022 DesignTO Festival!

I'm so thankful that the exhibit received this recognition. Many thanks to all the small business owners who participated in this project, to Paola Di Santo of Capri Shoes who welcomed me to exhibit in her store as part of DesignTO, and to the hardworking creative people who helped me to edit the videos, make the logo and more (see below for my acknowledgments of their help)!


Media Coverage of Old World Shoes in the 2021 Contact Photo Festival (Dec 3 2021 - Jan 3 2022)

Opening Night of Old World Shoes at Daniels Spectrum, part of Contact Photo Festival

L-R: Emmanuel Farré of Farré by Emmanuel, Peter Feeney of Peter Feeney Bespoke Footwear, George of Yiorgos the Cobbler, Henry VanderSpek and David and Richard Markowitz of DAVIDS.

Many thanks to all who attended the opening night of Old World Shoes at Daniels Spectrum! We had a great time. It was wonderful to have owners of four of the businesses present!

Thanks to CBC Radio's Metro Morning for featuring the exhibit in an interview, to the Bata Shoe Museum for doing a Q&A about the exhibit on their blog, and to CBC Toronto for doing a feature on the 6:00 PM News (see below for the video)!

CBC Toronto's feature of Old World ShoesMany thanks to CBC Toronto for featuring my Old World Shoes exhibit on the 6:00 PM news Dec 8, 2021. Many thanks especially to Video Producer Paul Borkwood, who did a wonderful job with this piece.


Many thanks to:

- Craig Thomson, Manuel Garcia, Christian Jacobson and Lucas Hawkins for their work editing videos for Old World Shoes.

- Nancy Baltazar for designing a wonderful logo for the exhibit.

- SJ Kim for camera assistance as well as designing posters and postcards for the exhibit.

- Stewart Timothy for some video and video editing assistance.

- Simon Madore for equipment loans and other technical assistance along the way.

- Ann Chow for organizing the opening night of the Contact Photo Exhibit.

- The Ontario Arts Council for an Exhibition Assistance grant that helped with some of my exhibit costs.

- Paola and Antonietta Di Santo for welcoming me to exhibit in their store, Capri Shoes, as part of the DesignTO Festival. 

- AN especially big thanks to all the businesses that participated in this project!

Keep shopping local and keep supporting local artisans and crafts people!