Best GTA Arts School for 2015!

best-of-2015-art-schoolEach year, Toronto4Kids conducts an in-depth survey among our readers to find the absolute best family destinations, and kid-friendly products & services in Toronto and the GTA, and we have been voted best art school for 2015, our second win in a row!
Thanks to everyone involved!

NBA Centre Court – Mural Project

A number of our instructors were involved with the Mural Project for NBA Centre Court. Susie Whaley (Project Manager) and instructors Jen Chin, Sandra Tarantino, Audrey Mah, Eva Ormut, and Barb Lilker all contributed to the project.
From Vibe Arts:

“NBA Canada created this beautiful video sharing George Harvey Collegiate Institute’s student’s journey in creating murals inspired by words connected to the sport of basketball; along with 350 children and youth from 30 schools and community organizations who worked under the guidance of 16 professional artists across the GTA who followed the same journey in creating 60 distinct murals.The murals welcomed NBA fans and NBA All-Stars to Toronto for the very first time in all of Canada. The murals tell the story of  how the game of basketball impacts the lives of many youth groups, and also the shared experiences between artists and basketball players. The 60 unique (4’ x 6’) murals were created on repurposed TTC advertising panels that are now original works of art to be appreciated. You can read the Toronto Star article to hear what some Mason Road Junior Public School students had to say about their experience in creating the murals and seeing them in the 31 TTC subway stations.
The artworks were created thanks to an exciting partnership with the NBA Canada, and PATTISON Outdoor Advertising. The hand-painted murals were on display in 31 TTC subway stations across the City of Toronto, at platform level from December 28, 2015  and will be there until the end of February, in celebration NBA All-Star Game 2016. See the murals before they are gone!”

Check out the video from Cloud in the Sky Studios:

NBA Centre Court & VIBE Arts from Cloud in the Sky Studios on Vimeo.

Instructor Profile: Amanda Baron

Baron-Amanda Amanda Baron is a mixed media artist whose practice borders between digital mediums and painting. She has a BFA from the Ontario College of Art & Design University and had the pleasure of studying in Florence, Italy under the OCADU Off-Campus Studies Program. Amanda’s work has been exhibited internationally as well as locally, in Toronto. As an advocate of community arts, she has been teaching for several years, working with Visual Arts Mississauga and the Avenue Road Arts School. Amanda continues to use her student’s vibrant and energetic approach to art making as inspiration for her own studio practice.


Farida Zaman’s Toronto City Illustrations on the TTC

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The work of our talented instructor, Farida Zaman, is currently being featured on TTC vehicles on posters and guide maps. On the series, Farida says:

This was done for the Toronto Transit Commission as posters and the cover for the maps- (#ttcrideguide 2016). This is launching at the beginning of January for the whole year. Those who live in Toronto and take the ttc will come across it frequently. It was a really fun assignment to do, choosing the icons that summarize this fun cool city! I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved working on it!

Have a look at Farida’s work on her website and Etsy store!

Rediscovering the Musician’s High On My Rare, Restorative Vacation

Rediscovering the musician’s high on my rare, restorative vacation

Lola Rasminsky, Founder of Avenue Road Arts School and Beyond the Box.

By Lola Rasminsky, Founder of Avenue Road Arts School and Beyond the Box.
Originally published by the Globe & Mail 

The World is Too Much With Us

– William Wordsworth

Why don’t you just play hooky for the day?”

– My mom

If there is a statute of limitations on truancy, I’m pretty sure it’s expired by now so my late mother would be safe. But when I was in elementary school, Mom kept a keen eye out for those times when I was getting overloaded with all the stuff I was being asked to absorb and called a timeout.

She would suggest a day or two of R&R, and when I had calmed down she would write the requisite note to school alluding to an unspecified ailment. Back I went, refreshed and ready again to learn.

This strengthened our mother-daughter bond, making us co-conspirators against the excessive demands of a 12-year-old’s world. Also, it sustained me through the rigours of long division.

Now that I’m a grown-up, there’s nobody there to write that note, excusing me from work. Taking off days at a time feels almost like going AWOL in the military. But as I soldiered on in my demanding career, I knew that I would need a leave this summer.

I decided to ignore, for a while, my vocation as an arts entrepreneur and attend to my avocation as an (inconsistent) amateur pianist.

I had heard about the weeklong Toronto Summer Music Academy for amateur musicians being offered for the first time this year. Preparing for the piano masterclass would compel me to practise at the keyboard regularly – something I hadn’t done in years. It wasn’t as if there would be no pressure. I would have to perform and be critiqued in front of other pianists. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself.

I wavered. Is this what you call a vacation? Putting yourself in a situation where failure is a constant concern?

As it happens, the gratification we get from learning and making music is enormous – something equivalent to a “runner’s high.” The pleasure we take in creating something beautiful – even in listening to music that moves us – has a documented physical effect. Endorphins, the “happiness hormones,” are released, flowing us into the “zone” where we become so intensely focused on the moment that we lose track of time and everything else loses importance.

Immersed in perfecting a piece of music, practising one phrase over and over, you can become almost addicted to improvement, surprising yourself as you look back at the distance you have travelled. A young clarinetist friend of mine once told me: “I eat, I sleep and I practise – and I love my life.”

Kevin Speidell for The Globe and Mail

There are so few places in our lives where we can feel totally in control. Practising music is one. Knowing that you’ve worked hard and can reap the fruits of your labour, brings a tremendous sense of well-being.

One of the lecturers in the program, Dr. John Chong, medical director of the Musicians’ Clinics of Canada, spoke about the “cocaine effect” of making music at a peak level.

Why should I have been surprised to learn that most of my fellow participants in the amateur music academy were accomplished professionals from a broad range of fields: tax law, psychotherapy, arbitration, pharmacy, medical research, journalism? Yet our conversations over lunch were almost always about our pieces, our best-loved performers and favourite instruments. We could have called ourselves Music Addicts Anonymous.

So what is it about this addiction that has allowed me to feel I was going on a really restorative vacation? The very fact that it’s so completely absorbing means you forget about your deadlines, your unfinished to-do list and all the people you still have to get back to. I couldn’t believe I felt no compulsion to check my phone to see who still cared about me. Six hours without looking at my phone is a record for me. It was a perfect escape.

I like to come back from a vacation enriched – having learned something I didn’t know before. Our “tour guide,” James Anagnoson, dean of the Glenn Gould School, offered insights that were not only about our playing, but about life. “You are so busy ‘doing’ that you’re not taking the time to listen to yourself,” he would say. This is my story. For years, I hadn’t been listening to the small insistent voice in my head saying: “You need to make more music.”

Did the week change me? That remains to be seen. What has changed is my recognition that the anticipation of this vacation was just as renewing as the week itself. I’m already anticipating next year’s downtown music-making getaway. I have 12 months to experience the “musician’s high” that is the payoff of practising.

I don’t ever want to recover from my need for making music. It fills a deep longing in my soul. And, unlike other addictions, it has a way of loving me back.

Lola Rasminsky lives in Toronto.


New “Vento” Series of Painting from Joseph Romantini

Esteemed artist and ARAS instructor Joseph Romantini is back with a new series of monochrome paintings. Drawing from his successful “World of Grey” series, Joseph Romantini introduces the “Vento” series (vento meaning wind in Italian) that focuses on the beauty of the movement of wind-blown feminine figures.

His first piece, Vento #1, is an oil on canvas monochromatic piece, measuring 2.5ft. x 3ft.romatinit_ventoHis other piece, Vento #2, is also an oil on canvas monochromatic piece, measuring 2.5ft x 3ft.

Vento 2Both pieces are now on display at PI Creative, 1180 Caledonia Road, Toronto.

Joseph Romantini Unveils New “World of Grey” Artworks

Joseph Romantini "World fo Grey"ARAS artist/instructor Joseph Romantini has released three new pieces for his World of Grey series. Mr. Romantini brings his a wonderfully minimalist style to these 22×30 canvases, depicting realistic and contemporary monochrome oil and acrylic-on-canvas painting of a woman’s legs in various outfits and poses.

Joseph’s artist statement for World of Grey:

My hope is that the work I create reflects a feeling of celebration and vibrancy; a way of seeing the joy in life regardless of what the future holds.

His works can be purchased at P.I. Creative Art, 1180 Caledonia Road, Toronto.

Iris Karuna & Miles Ingrassia Present: Oh Thank Heaven… at Come Up To My Room 2015

Come Up To My Room 2015 at the Gladstone HotelFrom BlogTO:

Come Up To My Room (CUTMR) is the Gladstone Hotel’s annual alternative design event.  CUTMR is the Gladstone’s signature, self-produced design event that bends disciplinary boundaries and explores new ground with each passing year. Under wraps until the day it opens, the show inspires over 4,000 attendees with mind-twisting and 140-character-inspiring works of creativity.

New this year, CUTMR’15 extends its run to 10 days of design extravaganza at the Gladstone, with new programming, an exciting band night, and a symposium for Toronto’s largest alternative design exhibition.

Our very own Iris Karuna, along with collaborator Miles Ingrassia, have produced Oh Thank Heaven…, which “explores urban detachment, and the compulsion to discover or designate unconventional spaces as sacred. Objects typically associated with variety stores instead mimic recognizably sacred spaces, such as church altars and stained glass windows. This installation emphasizes the incongruity between physically occupied spaces, and their metaphysical effects.”

You can join Iris and all of the other artists during the opening reception tomorrow, Friday, January 16th, 7pm at the Gladstone Hotel. Facebook Event Info Here

You can see Iris’ work in the windows of Melody Bar, situated on the first floor of the Gladstone Hotel.

For more event details, please check out CUTMR’s Facebook Event page.

Farida Zaman’s City Illustrations Highlighted

Farida Zaman, LondonOur talented instructor, Farida Zaman, was recently interviewed by art and travel website Wanderarti where she delves into the myriad of inspirations and the creative processes behind her vibrant, offbeat artworks:

I always take a ton of photos, and from train stubs to any form of memorabilia I collect it all. I don’t typically draw onsite. I soak in the feel of the place , journalling about the locations also really helps the process.

Checkout more of the fun interview. Also, have a look at Farida’s work on her website and Etsy store!

How creating art lightens the burden of depression

Lola Rasminsky, Founder of Avenue Road Arts School and Beyond the Box.





By Lola Rasminsky, Founder of Avenue Road Arts School and Beyond the Box.
Originally published by the Globe & Mail

Since the suicide of Robin Williams, much has been written suggesting a connection between depression and highly creative personalities. A recent article in the Atlantic Monthly cites the suicides of Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Vincent van Gogh, Mark Rothko, Diane Arbus, Anne Sexton, and Arshile Gorky as possible evidence.

What has not been mentioned is the connection between art making and healing.

As a person who has been flattened by depression on more than one occasion, I’m intimately aware of the feelings that Michael Redhill so eloquently described in his recent Globe article. Feelings of paralysis and despair plague the depressed person mercilessly. I believe that more of us have been there than we care to admit.

After more than 20 years at the helm of an arts school, I can tell you about countless psychiatrists who referred their depressed patients to us, knowing how therapeutic making art can be.

You don’t have to be an artist to engage in artistic expression. Many of us think that we have no particular talent, therefore, what’s the point of even trying to make art? In fact, just the act of creating something can be a joyful and liberating experience.

How can making art have an impact on a person’s mood? Creating art can open up a space in what, when you’re depressed, feels like a seamless darkness. “There is a crack in everything – that’s where the light gets in.” That’s Leonard Cohen speaking (and he ought to know). Art making is not a cure. But it can certainly lighten the burden. Here are seven reasons why – I’m sure there are more:

Distraction – When you are making art, under the guidance of an inspiring instructor, you enter the ‘zone’ where time doesn’t matter, in fact nothing matters other than what you are engaged in. This is a wonderful distraction from the constant rumination about how low you are feeling;

Hope – When you’re engaged in an artistic activity, you are constantly making choices – how can you fall prey to black-and-white thinking with such an array of colors to choose from? Often depression comes from feeling trapped, feeling that you have fewer options in life than you would like. The moment we can make choices, in any realm, we feel more empowered and less like a victim. We all need to feel a sense of possibility – even if it’s within a small realm that forms part of our life;

Discovery – When you are making art, you are expressing something that can’t be expressed in words. Feelings come out that you might not have been aware of – this is a liberating experience, and sometimes illuminating. A wise woman once told me that when we create we discover ourselves.

Freedom – Making art involves much trial and error – a lot of playing around with ideas and approaches. In a supportive setting (not necessarily a therapeutic setting), playfulness is encouraged – there is no ‘right’ way to do it. Not having to worry about being judged is a gift to enjoy.

Action – The simple step of taking an action – getting to a class, putting charcoal to paper, is, in my experience, the best antidote to depression. It is so easy to sit in your cocoon, stare into space and think about how depressed you are. The minute you take an action you have something to feel good about. Even the smallest step forward can make a difference.

Satisfaction – You might discover that you have a talent you’d never noticed. Often when we’re depressed we feel that we’re not really good at much. It’s so important for all of us (especially children) to find one thing we’re good at. In my years of running an arts school, I’ve seen numerous lawyers, and corporate executives do an about face in their careers. One of them had written four books in Constitutional Law before turning to painting. She’s now a full time artist whose work sells well in a reputable Queen Street gallery. These ‘suits’ did not feel satisfied in the work world they were inhabiting, realizing that you don’t make a million dollars without paying for it in some other currency. So they decided to throw themselves into something completely different. Some have become full time practicing artists and couldn’t be happier, despite the fact that they are earning far less money.

Connection – Sometimes depressed people feel that no one in the world understands them. They often discover one or two kindred spirits in an art class. This personal connection is always helpful to a person who can feel isolated by their condition.

While I know psychiatrists are suggesting to their depressed patients that trying an art class could be a good thing, I can never distinguish them from other students. In class, they’re as absorbed, curious and as eager to learn as the next person. What art has to teach them is not so much what to do with a pot of paint, but how have a life worth living.

Originally Published by the Globe & Mail