Avenue Road Arts School celebrates 20 years

[attach]7606[/attach]Twenty years have gone by since Avenue Road Arts School’s founding director Lola Rasminsky moved the school from her Forest Hill basement to a Victorian home at Avenue Road and St. Clair Avenue West.

What started as a fine arts kindergarten in her home, with a class of six kids, now consists of more than 800 students during any given term. There is a variety of classes, workshops and mini courses for kids, teens and adults in creative subjects like painting, music, art, clay, photography and drama.

“A lot of our students have started seeing themselves as artists,” Rasminsky said in a recent interview. “They’ve really surprised
themselves, and some have left careers as lawyers and engineers to become professional artists.

“They’re selling their work. They have galleries. I’m very proud of that.”

The 20th anniversary was commemorated with a party on Feb. 23 at The Bram and Bluma Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library. With radio personality Andy Barrie as host, the guest list saw luminaries from the political, arts and media worlds, including Bob Rae, Marilyn Lightstone, Margaret Wente and Steve Paikin.

Silent and live auctions benefited the Art Access Fund, one of the school’s off-shoot organizations, which provides scholarships for children and youth to study art, music, drama and film.

Avenue Road Arts School recently added a new format of classes: mini courses and workshops for people who are unable to commit to the extended class schedule. Despite its namesake, the school’s most popular class is singing Broadway show tunes.

“We have people who have been coming to this class for 20 years and never missed a year,” Rasminsky said. “Same teacher, so there’s quite a crowd of people who wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Through their experience at the school, she hopes students realize they have more ability than they thought they did and that they are creative.

“I’m actually a musician by training, but I see in any of the arts the possibility of expressing your creativity and when you do that you get closer to who you are,” she said. “I’m very committed to the process.”

ARAS by the numbers

1 Number of private arts schools like ARAS in Toronto in 1993. There are now about 40.
2 Jumbo books of art commissioned by Kids Can Press featuring the work of the school’s students, which won awards and were translated into several languages.
6 Number of students founding director Lola Rasminsky taught in her first year. The school now has 450 kids and teens every term.
35 Number of international students attending summer classes. They hail from Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Israel, Japan, Spain, the U.S. and Uruguay.
48 Painted and collaged fish decorating the first-floor washroom. There are four art-decorated bathrooms in the building.
55 Number of painting easels in the building (plus 2 kilns, 2 potter’s wheels, 16 drawing horses, 18 neutral masks, 25 costume capes, 40 bells and shakers, and 1 piano).
800 Number of students in a term.
2,000 Number of households having enrolled in 10 or more courses at ARAS.