Tag Archives: york region

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 www.artcures.ca 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.



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 www.artcures.ca

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 www.aurorajazzfest.com for more information.

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The Plight of Arts York/Arts Unionville

SPECIAL GUEST BLOGGER: Justin Leung, Co-Founder | CanYouth

Before even beginning this article, I encourage and challenge every single person who reads this article to leave a comment and state his or her opinion on the issue below. At CanYouth, we are committed to creating and channelling a strong voice for all youth across Canada and we really do value what you have to say. Thank you!

It all started when Unionville High School first opened in 1985, as the newly created Arts York Program began and stood beside the school right from the very start. The commencement would mark the beginning of 26 years of unparallel excellence in the disciplines of drama, dance, visual arts and music. In this time, the Unionville High School Arts York program managed to establish themselves as a staunch advocate for the arts and was able to spread their influence in the artistic world to virtually all around the globe.

Beginning with the intensive selection process in order to gain admittance to the school, students enter a positive working environment that fosters individual growth and creativity. As a result of all this, the Arts York program has managed to produce alumni that have gone off after their time at Unionville to pursue their passions and make a difference in the world; the most notable being national champion figure skater Emmanuel Sandhu, Hayden Christensen from the Star Wars trilogy and Emmanuelle Chriqui from Entourage.

The program serves as an artistic incubator for youth all across York Region as it encourages talented teenagers to take advantage of the opportunities Unionville offers by auditioning. However, a few years ago the York Region District School Board cut the buses and eliminated all means of school transportation for students attending the Arts York Program. Almost instantly, students within the school who relied on the school buses to get to school were put in jeopardy and the dropping rates began to show. This would mark the beginning of a nightmare for students already attending the school and also to many prospective students who wished to attend. Naturally, the school, the community and many parents and students rallied and protested against the school board’s decision for quite some time. A group of parents took the school board to court and after a significant time period, eventually won. Not long after, the school board succumbed to the public pressure and in an act of appeasement, resumed the bussing. Just one year later however, they slashed it again.

This was the first significant move that the school board initiated and as a result of this, damaged the school’s reputation. Students who wished to attend the school but lived too far would be forced to make the lengthy trek to school every single morning themselves. I was one of these unfortunate students who needed my parents to drive 45 min with me to school every single day. Many others gave up their opportunities to attend the school because of the distance factor.

Just two years ago, the YRDSB school board made another significant decision to restrict the boundaries of the students attending Unionville. New arts programs began to pop up around York Region and students living in areas not around Unionville were required and expected to attend their own respective arts schools. To Unionville’s Arts York program, that meant fewer students, which directly constituted to less talent. When asked about their motives to restrict the boundaries in the region, the school board stated that their intentions were to enrich and spread the arts all around the region.

However, my question that I pose to the school board is this: “to what cost?” To all readers who are viewing this article, I hope you understand that by no means am I saying that the arts shouldn’t be spread around the region. In fact, I am saying the exact opposite and I want more arts school in York Region, BUT I believe that there should be a certain degree of choice revolving this issue. Why can’t we let students choose where they want to go? If the school board’s intentions were to spread the arts, then wouldn’t it benefit the board more if they had students all across York Region diversified and were not being forced to attend their boundary schools? The fact that Unionville’s Arts York program housed students all across the region was a motivating factor in the success of the program. When students from all around gathered together in one place, that was when the real magic happened. Every arts school would experience a rich and diverse representation from all over the region and would effectively create one community, as opposed to the segregation from one boundary to the next. Let’s think about that.

Just as it seemed as the program was adjusting and recovering from the blows that struck them, the arts program, now called Arts Unionville gained word and news of yet even more advancements, or should I say declines. I still remember how my entire class erupted in anger when my teacher notified us about the changes that would take place next year. It was not a great feeling at all and within seconds, the whispers began and the news began to spread. Apparently, the Arts Unionville music class sizes were too low and so certain adjustments had been implemented. The regular separation of grade 9’s and 10’s from the grade 11’s and 12’s would no longer be happening and instead, one huge class of all grades would take place. For those who are unfamiliar with the logistics of the program, the school has prided itself on its small classes and low student to teacher ratios. It is how the program is so effective because individual student attention is given and as a result, fosters individual growth. That now, has been tossed into the trash. The problems do not even stop there.

Imagine a piano major waking up every single morning for school from far off places like Aurora, only to be awaited by a class of 30 kids and not enough pianos. That poses a serious issue and strain on the equipment the school offers. While the school already has filled every single empty space with a piano, how are students expected to share instruments? What do we do if there aren’t enough? Is the school board responsible for supporting all the changes in financial needs the program now requires? What are the differences in the Arts York Program and some other standard and basic music classes in some other schools? We must congratulate the school board for these changes because they have effectively smothered 26 years of artistic excellence and contradicted their own original intentions for their program. I wonder if the people that work for the school board have even considered the implications and consequences of their actions. Let me walk you through a few.

The school board will have effectively created an environment brimming with inequality, as different majors will receive different levels of opportunities. As pessimistic as this sounds, the school board will have successfully began the tilt of the general downward slope of the program. All teachers and students would have to struggle and work extra hard just to maintain the caliber of the program. Why risk everything? Next up, as petty as this may seem to some, 30 kids armed with instruments doesn’t exactly sound or look pleasant. In fact, the very though itself frightens me. The level of noise created would resemble going to a rock concert for 4 years straight. I’m sure we’ll manage to NOT blow our brains out in 4 years. Finally, these changes will decrease the productivity and efficiency of the program, and ultimately cause the program to suffer as the large class sizes will directly hinder the regular speed and progress the program abides by. What is the point of having the program in the first place then?

How do we solve this issue? Well for starters, students need a voice. It’s as simple as that. If the school board wants to create eventual responsible adults, they first need to listen and consult the students. In my humble opinion, I believe that if the YRDSB school board had maybe taken the time to perhaps sit through some classes, attended some of our performances or even listened to what we have to say directly, they would have thought twice about this. To me, it makes sense to ask the students, teachers, parents and community who are related to the program how THEY want their program to run. Their opinions do matter. I’ve had friends that have unsuccessfully made any impact after sending numerous letters and emails to trustees, superintendents and even directors of education. However, this isn’t the way we should do it. As youth, we are harmless as individuals. It is only when we unite to create one voice where we have a chance to create an impact.

Ending on a positive note, if these changes are to be in effect, I hope we all understand that the way we view these changes will directly constitute to how they will happen. If we go to school next year with a negative mindset, we will only be hurting ourselves even more. So I say we embrace the change and try to see it as an alternative way of operating. We should focus more on the advantages as opposed to dwelling on the negatives. Nevertheless, this should serve as an important lesson for both the administration and students. The school board needs to pay more attention to the student voice and we as students, need to step up and make sure that we are heard so that in the future, instances like these don’t happen.

As Mary Engelbreit once said, “If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”

Special thanks to Tiffany Chan. Photo Creds to Haley Ma.


Justin Leung is one of the co-founder’s of the youth organization CanYouth. He is a grade 12 student currently studying at Unionville High School in the Arts York Program specializing in percussion and drums. In addition to his presence in CanYouth, Justin is also affiliated with Youth Volunteer Markham and the Mayor’s Youth Task Force. Justin hopes to pursue a career in law, politics, international relations and finance. Please check out his organization and read all his other blog posts!

Justin Leung

Co-Founder | CanYouth

justin@canyouth.com | CanYouth.com

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Thereʼs more to the arts that meet the eye

The performing and visual arts are supposed to be entertaining, but more importantly the arts remind us of our power to create. The act of creation is the essence of our purpose and our progress as a community. The arts teach us how to think beyond boundaries and inventively overcome obstacles.

The arts teach us that we are inherent sources of innovation and that we can dramatically contribute to the community in every area of life – from medicine to technology to public policy.

In July, Artcures Inc. a York Region non-profit arts organization, built a six foot mandala for the community to paint. The point was to create something that hopefully benefits others. The action of creating allows us to make sense of ourselves so we know how to be of purpose to the humanity in which we live.

Artcures Inc. also created a paper wish garden in York Region and the public were given strips of rice paper for them to decorate and hang. People wrote messages of hope, health and wellness for themselves, their family and for society. The messages or ʻprayersʼ have been collected and will be burned in a special public ceremony on September 12th in Holland Landing. The ceremony will include a native drumming circle, song and prayer. All are welcome.

For more details, photos of the paper prayers and a map visit the Artcures Inc. website at www.artcures.ca / September Drumming Circle


Artcures Inc.ʼs mission is to expose and invlove the community with the arts and the power art has to generate self expression, exploration and evaluation. The arts lead us to our power to create and inspire change.

Herbert Pryke, Founder Artcures Inc.


Unique Festival in York Region


Brenda Muller is a woman with a vision – and someone who turns her visions into realities. The upcoming Blue Bridge Festival, June 3-5, is her brainchild. She’s also the founder and artistic director of the Ardeleana Trio, a York Region music-scene gem for over 20 years. Brenda herself is a classically trained cellist, but her own songs and music, like the festival itself, draw on a whole slew of other influences.

Taking place this year in Georgina, Newmarket, and Unionville, the Blue Bridge Festival combines various genres of music – from classical to jazz to roots & folk and more — for example, the Toronto Chinese Orchestra — with poetry and children’s workshops, for an unusual creative mix. Many (or most) of the performers either live in, or hail from, York Region, so this festival really is a celebration of where we live.

The gala concert Saturday night at Newmarket’s Trinity United Church is worth noting. It features an orchestra made up of both young music students and older professionals, plus an adult community choir, performing works by Brahms and Haydn. “The mix of generations is really a lot of fun,” says Brenda Muller. And of course a great learning experience for all.

Oh – and William Lyon Mackenzie will make an appearance at the festival too. Played by singer-songwriter and children’s performer Magoo, he’ll give you a tour of Newmarket’s Main Street from his own historical perspective, because Newmarket was a hotbed of foment during the Upper Canada Rebellion.

And yes, yours truly is one of the Blue Bridge artists. I’ll be performing Friday evening in Georgina Pioneer Village, and playing Saturday afternoon in Newmarket at Books Cafe & Things, 208 Main St. S., along with other musicians and poets. The poets and I are already trading poems and song lyrics to create some thematic links in the show – not for us a mere random jumble of pieces, oh no! – though we are leaving room for sudden flashes of improvisation and creative juxtaposition… 

Click here for tickets, schedule, venues and more. Come on out and be moved, amused, inspired and entertained by the eclectic artistic riches in your own York Region backyard!

Marie-Lynn Hammond is a co-founder of Stringband, a seminal Canadian folk group, and a critically acclaimed songwriter living in York Region. In past lives she’s written plays and magazine articles and hosted national CBC radio shows. In between working on two new CDs, she freelances as an editor of both fiction and nonfiction. http://www.marielynnhammond.com