Back from Africa

Art Building Children’s Dreams is an organization that provides financial assistance to schools and families at risk, by using children’s art to raise funds for their education and community development.

As part of the twelve volunteer Canadian team, I went to Tanzania to be an art teacher. I designed a mandala for the students to paint. Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘lotus blossom’ and cultures from all over the world draw them. As well as an art form, the mandala is about the process of healing.

The Tanzania Mandala was designed with images that would be easily recognizable by the children and for their specific meaning. The torch is Tanzania’s symbol for freedom. The butterfly personifies transformation and willingness to change. The elephant represents strength and patience. The Baobab tree exemplifies shelter, food, water and fire.

Amedusi wants to be a doctor. He is 13 years old. He lives alone, sleeps in the home of his deceased parents and goes to his grandmothers for food. It is difficult for me to fathom this type of life and imagine his dream as a reality.

Working with these children taught me to be with what is. Limiting my thinking of a situation as difficult is grounded in a belief that promotes judgement. This belief system requires something to be ‘ugly’ for us to recognize beauty.

The giraffe doesn’t think that that rhino is more beautiful or uglier than it is. They are devoid of judgement. The children of Tanzania taught me to be more aware of compartmentalizing everything as good or bad; right or wrong.

I became the student, and with this new perception, I can view John as the healer he wants to be and offer encouragement without attaching an outcome.

Artcures Inc. will soon have prints of painted mandalas available suitable for framing with proceeds donated to ABCD.

Visit for more information.
Herbert Pryke is founder of Artcures Inc. an Aurora based non profit organization that believes in the power of art to restore, repair and renew.



Creating Awareness – Herbert Pryke

I have shared my belief in the power of art to restore many times. It can do so much more than that.Art sparks conversation, debate and opinion. It brings people and communities together.It makes us think and hopefully respond. It creates an awareness about ourselves and our surroundings.

It can also be used to help other people; an act we could all practice a little bit more in the new year.

In October, a special art exhibit was launched in York Region. It showcased a partnership of artists; one mentor and one student. The mentor shared their expertise to help the student express their ideas with paint. The speed at which this concept was received by the artistic community was overwhelming. The exhibit of six paintings has already been on display at the Varley’s McKay Art Centre in Unionville, Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

The exhibit will be at Southlake Hospital, January 6th-February 10th.

This concept is now being duplicated by the McMichael to build a new project for 2013 to help more young artists.
The exhibit, ‘Mentorship in Motion’ has created more than just awareness.

Limited edition, signed and numbered prints were made of each artwork and are sold on the tour and online at The proceeds from the sale of the prints will be donated to six charities. Geneva Centre for Autism, Dramaway, KC’s Cancer Cushion Fund, SickKids Foundation, Bereaved Families of York Region and the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness. In two months over $5,000 has been raised.

The exhibit tour wraps up here in Aurora on April 20th, 2pm. at the Aurora Cultural Centre. There will be refreshments and music along with a cheque presentation.

All are welcome; meet the artists and maybe even purchase a print (depending


The exhibit will be on display at the Aurora Cultural Centre from April 9-27. The Aurora Cultural Centre is located at 22 Church Street, Aurora.



Remembering Dorothy Clark McClure

On September 11, I found out about the passing of a great artist; Dorothy Clark McClure. February 14, 1934-August 19, 2012 She was one of York Region’s most respected artists. She was honoured locally and provincially as an inspirational teacher, talented artist and diligent conservationist. Dorothy painted and worked throughout North America as a designer, illustrator and calligrapher.

In the 1960’s she began her preservation on paper of Canada’s architecture. In Aurora; Doane Hall, Castle Doan, Fleury House and Hilary House have become prints used as gifts for special centennial celebrations.

Last year I had the opportunity to visit Dorothy’s retrospective art exhibit, ‘Then and Now’ at the Aurora Cultural Centre. Dorothy held me by the hand and led me through the rooms. It wasn’t the technical drawings that created the excitement in her that day. She wanted to talk about her spiritual intuitional drawings. Her explanations how she found animals and figures in melding watercolours was inspirational.

There is more to creating art than money. Creating art helps you find your spiritual instincts.

Dorothy’s sixth sense and wisdom will be missed.

Mentorship in Motion

I’m honoured to be asked to participate in the 2nd annual Arts Exposed York Region Arts and Culture Conference, November 2 and 3rd at Seneca College, Markham.

I will be on a panel sharing my views of the importance of collaboration.


noun 1. the action of working with someone to create something.

Mentorship in Motion is a collaboration of professional artists and young people living with a challenge. It’s happening here in York Region.

I am one of the artists in this 1st annual six team project. It has been a humbling experience.

At first introductions, Michael and I shared one thing. We were both diagnosed with cancer. The difference between us is Michael is going into Grade 11. My trek with cancer is finished; Michael is still on his journey. We have been working together on a 36 by 36 inch wooden panel.

The artwork from each team is complete. Each artwork is completely different; each very special. This exhibit will open at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts on October 26th at a special event; The Power of Art. The original artwork will be unveiled, the artists present to speak about their experience and to sell signed limited edition prints of their artwork. Proceeds from the sale of these prints will be donated to a charity of each teams choice. These include: Dramaway, SickKids, Geneva Centre for Autism, KC’s Cancer Cushion Fund, Bereaved Families of Ontario – York Region and the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness.

When motives are authentic enthusiasm builds. Artists from across York Region have been donating their original artwork as door prizes for this opening event. Imagine, for the cost of a $50 ticket, you view the exhibit, be entertained by Joanna Grace on piano, Richmond Hill Philharmonic Orchestra Flute trio, Steppin’Out Theatrical Productions and then take home an original artwork.

The collaboration continues. During the event Anna Stanisz, Programs and Education Curator for the McMichael Canadian Art Collection will have an announcement.

The Mentorship Exhibit will on tour for three months. To purchase tickets to the opening event, read about our mentorship teams and view the tour schedule, visit

No doubt I’ll be talking about the consequence of collaboration to reach more people in our community and share the importance art has to restore, repair and renew.

Dedicated, Passionate Volunteers are what make good things happen in Communities and in the Arts!

When people decide to help create something wonderful together for their community and the arts it makes a difference.
The Aurora jazz+ Festival began as a one day trial in conjunction with the Aurora Farmers Market back in 2009.  Given its success, the next year it grew to a 2 day event and finally in 2011 we had a full-fledged 3 day festival in Town Park with over 6,000 patrons, 2 stages, 20 food vendors, booths, 28 musical acts, 20 visual artists and so much more.

Happily all this community effort by dedicated Board members and hundreds of volunteers has brought this festival recognition as one of the Top 100 Festival/Events in Ontario  by Festival & Events Ontario:

Such recognition and achievement supports the artists, musicians and our culture, while stimulating tourism and economic development in York Region
making the festival site a destination location!  A big spotlight is now on the Aurora jazz+ Festival for 2012!!  Thanks to all our dedicated volunteers,
sponsors, entertainers and artists.

Please join us for the 2012 Aurora jazz+ Festival – August 3 – 5 Town Park for more information.

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The Hippocampus, the small area in the brain shaped like a seahorse, originates from the Greek word ‘hippokampos’; hippos meaning horse and kampos meaning sea monster. This little sea horse with the tail of a fish and the forelegs of a horse houses a complex filing system where we store and retrieve memories.  

The subject of memory is a mystery. Why do some people remember things before the age of two? I do. Others remember things only before the age of five, others only before seven.

The memories I speak of are not necessary recalled because they are traumatic; they could be trivial recollections like bouncing along in a metal stroller, perching on a grandfather’s generous lap, or crawling through the long whispering grass.

When we are writing about our childhood tapping into our memory can often be a challenge. My message to you is:

Don’t wage war against your memory; welcome it.

 One way to evoke a specific childhood memory is to ‘show up at a scene’. This visual exercise will help you to visit a scene as a child, with a child’s reality and naivety, which you can then describe from deep within a reminiscent child’s point of view. Please note that this exercise should only be used to evoke pleasant memories.

Have a keyboard or pencil/paper handy to write down anything you experienced on completion of the exercise – random words, a sentence, a paragraph, an entire chronicle.

Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to center yourself.

Think of a place, a setting, a scene, from your childhood.

Observe from a short distance the young child (YOU) there at the place, in the scene.  

Now slowly start moving towards the child.

Stop. Breathe. Look at the child.

Step forward into child’s space … become the child.

Now look down at your body (eyes still closed). Look at your arms, are there scrapes? Bruises? Gentle rounded joints?  Can u see fine delicate finger bones? Dirty or chewed fingernails?

Look at legs and feet. Are you wearing shoes? Is there sand between your toes?

Now listen (eyes still closed) to the sounds. Can you hear children? Water? Insects? Wind rustling through the leaves? Listen to your heart beat.

Now smell. Is there a scent of flowers? Grass? A dog’s fur? Cooking?

Now taste. Lick your lips. Are they salty? Sweet?

How do you feel? Anxious? Content? Nervous?

Take a deep breath. You are the child.

Now let the child write!

Explore your memory with openness and wonder, not by trying to force memory, but  by releasing and allowing – allowing yourself to be lost and found, to be led and to follow, to float in a timeless sea of awareness and vision.

There’s something symbolic about the shape of our hippocampus, something primordial that mimics man’s beginnings in the sea world (tail of a fish) followed by his progression to land (forelegs of a horse). Become that child again as you flip through your past recollections, forever mesmerized by the mystery of memory.

Artists Start Your Engines

As I get older, I find it takes allot longer for me to get excited. What a great opening line; I bet I have your attention now.

It has been a long time since I have organized a solo show of my art. If fact, it was in 2006. Stuff happened that took the front seat and needed to be addressed. I promised myself that once I had recovered my my wake up call called cancer, I would show again. The time has come. I got my ‘all clear’ last fall. So my new years resolution was to create 100 artworks by June. I booked the Mill Pond Gallery in Richmond Hill for the weekend of June 9/10 to secure my commitment.

I used to steal an hour, grab a brush and go at it. My spontaneity has disappeared. Now before I plan my escape, I need to make sure all the house chores are done, commitments are resolved, turn off the computer and unplug the phone. I’m best if I get up at 5:30am, forgo the coffee and straight to the studio. I put on some soft music like York Region artist David Rankine’s ‘Healing Space’ cd and begin to lay out the paint.

If I eat or drink I lose the momentum. I concede to bathroom breaks. A good day is if I can stay in my hole for about 9 hours. Then I’ll come up for air and take a look around. On days like this I can finished half a dozen paintings. I put them away where I can’t look at them and pull out the previous six I did on my previous session. This way I can look at these pieces with new eyes and tweak the little details I missed on round one.

My time between sessions is 5 to 10 days. If you can do math, I think I’m in trouble to reach my 100 by June goal.

I’m looking for other artists suggestions how they get their engines roaring. But to apply to this question, you have to be over 30.


Herbert Pryke |