York’s Arts for Children of Toronto founder awarded Order of Canada

The Guardian – York
July 12, 2007

York’s Arts for Children of Toronto founder awarded Order of Canada
She’s noticed that kids in the poorer neighbourhoods of the city are amongst the most talented young artists she’s seen

By Clark Kim

Like father, like daughter.

Lola Rasminsky, who founded the Arts for Children of Toronto that provides high-quality arts programs in under served communities including the former city of York, has recently been named a Member of the Order of Canada, following in the footsteps of her late father Louis Rasminsky.

He had served as the governor of the Bank of Canada from 1961 to 1973 and became one of the first people to be appointed a Companion to the Order of Canada in 1968.

“I am thrilled and honoured and humbled, knowing that there are many people who do fabulous work,” said Rasminsky, who received a call from the governor-general’s office a couple of weeks ago notifying her that she was one of 71 new appointees to be awarded the country’s highest civilian honour.

She will be joined at Rideau Hall in Ottawa this fall to receive her award by such notable Canadian figures as former prime minister Jean Chretien, Reform party founder Preston Manning, golfer Mike Weir and broadcaster Pamela Wallin.

“This year marks an important anniversary for the Order of Canada,” said Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean. “Awarded for the first time in 1967, it has since become the centrepiece of our country’s system of honours. We are proud to celebrate 40 years of outstanding achievements and excellence in all sectors of society.”

Rasminsky is being honoured for her contributions to arts education.

Her journey started 28 years ago in the basement of her Forest Hill home teaching fine arts for six neighbourhood children.

“At that time, I was just thinking that I wanted to stay home with my own kids,” said Rasminsky, who never really imagined expanding what she had started. But in 1993, when the Royal Conservatory of Music felt the financial crunch and started selling different branch locations across the city, Rasminsky secured one of its buildings on Avenue Road where she opened the privately owned Avenue Road Arts School, currently serving 1,200 students of all ages.

While that school took off and became a success, something still didn’t feel right.

“I felt badly of only providing arts programs for kids who could afford to come,” Rasminsky said.

So in 1995, she founded the Arts for Children of Toronto, a registered charity that has provided youth in York and other high-need neighbourhoods with innovative outreach programs.

“It’s grown quite dramatically since 1995,” said Rasminsky, but she recalled it actually grew quite slowly at first.

Reaching out to more than 30 schools initially to offer highly subsidized arts programming, that first year, only two principals showed interest. �Word got around, however, and today, about 50 schools are participating in the programs provided by Arts for Children.

She’s noticed that kids in the poorer neighbourhoods of the city are amongst the most talented young artists she’s seen. All they need, she said, is the opportunity to express themselves.

“To me, that’s highly rewarding to see that,” said Rasminsky, whose longtime secret ambition is to open up a children’s art gallery. “That gives me such a greater pride than the Order of Canada or any other award.”

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