Celebrating 21 Years of Community Arts Education

Taking a look back at ArtHeart’s history

By Adi Baker

This year, ArtHeart has been celebrating their twenty-first anniversary. Back when they first got started, Regent Park was a very different place. For one thing, they were the first arts organization to take root in the neighbourhood. Over the years, their philosophy and conviction has never wavered. They teach art and provide nutritious meals to their participants, encouraging both creativity and self-empowerment. Through the programs they deliver, participants are offered a supportive environment in which they can create and learn, building self-esteem and life skills.

Linocut print from the very first ArtHeart exhibition at Jet Fuel.

Linocut print from the very first ArtHeart exhibition at Jet Fuel.

A big move always encourages you to take stock. And for ArtHeart, they found an opportunity to use their annual exhibition at Jet Fuel Coffee (Shop 519 Parliament St.) to take a look back at their venerable history.

During the summer of 2012, the ArtHeart Community Art Centre’s staff and volunteers spent their time gathering the artifacts of the centre’s history and moving them into their new home at Daniels Spectrum. At summer’s end, freshly unpacked in their new space, studio manager Timothy Svirklys and board co-chair Sandi Wong could be found in the new studio. Eager participants were filling the space, brimming with excitement and ready to help launch the first day of programming in over two months. Although Tim and Sandi looked weary from their weeks of preparation, from their broad smiles you could not mistake how happy they were to have everyone back in the studio.

Typically, the work for the annual exhibition is completed over the course of the entire year. But with the big move, a retrospective seemed more fitting. “Current participants will see our history with this retrospective show and that ArtHeart is still a vibrant part of the community,” said Sandi, “and the Jet Fuel patrons and owners will see the results of their support through the years.”


Instructor Dave Lapp helps the children create artwork at ArtHeart.

Instructor Dave Lapp helps the children create artwork at ArtHeart.

ArtHeart, All Grown Up showcased work produced over the years by participants in the children and youth programs. The annual show got its start during the early years of ArtHeart with instructor Dave Lapp. Jet Fuel Coffee offered the walls of the coffeehouse for an exhibition of the kids’ work. “I have been with ArtHeart for almost twenty years and remember how proud the young artists from first Jet Fuel Show were to have their own show,” said Tim. That first show showcased a series of linocut prints. Everyone set out to create their art pieces—brainstorming, sketching, carving and printing. Throughout the whole process, participants learned the rewards of dedicating themselves to a specific goal. When it was done, they knew they had developed a number of new skills: planning ahead, patience, and other essentials to the creative process. When the show opened to the public, all the pieces were for sale. Since that first show, every year has been a success. The show always sells out. The kids are proud of their work and the community comes out to support them. 

ArtHeart Community Art Centre is a registered charity, funded thorough the generosity of foundations and private donors and is located on the second floor of Daniels Spectrum.

The children’s program runs every Tuesday and Wednesday from 3:30pm to 5:00pm including free art instruction with all materials and a healthy snack.

The adult program runs every Wednesday from 5:30 to 8:30pm and Thursday 12:00 to 3:00pm includes free art instruction, with all materials and a hot meal included.

ArtHeart is working to increase their programmes to the full week. Watch for News and Events on their blog at http://artheartblog.tumblr.com/