National Post (Latest Edition) - - RE­MEM­BER­ING - BY RE­BECCA SPENCE

When Ste­fa­nia Baresic’s hus­band died in Oc­to­ber 2000, she was in need of some heal­ing. Six months af­ter her hus­band’s pass­ing, she en­rolled her­self and her young daugh­ter in classes at Toronto’s Av­enue Road Arts School. At first, she was self­con­scious about her abil­i­ties. She doubted her­self ev­ery step of the way. Now, 10 years later, she’s find­ing art is “help­ing tremen­dously” with cop­ing with her loss.

“It re­laxes me, it puts me in a dif­fer­ent place where you don’t re­ally have to use your ra­tio­nal mind. You can just en­joy beauty,” she says.

Two of Baresic’s draw­ings — each of fe­male nudes — will be on dis­play from April 12 to 18 in an ex­hibit called Sen­sa­tions at Toronto’s Spazio dell’Arte Gallery, the Av­enue Road Arts School’s first ad­vanced stu­dent ex­hibit in its 18-year his­tory. The ex­hibit is also no­table for the num­ber of artists who have aban­doned, whether par­tially of fully, their oth­er­wise il­lus­tri­ous ca­reers as doc­tors, lawyers and pro­fes­sors in or­der to de­vote them­selves to art.

“Ev­ery­one has busy lives, but quite a few peo­ple have made spe­cial ar­range­ments with their work,” says Lola Ras­min­sky, who founded the school in 1993, of­fer­ing be­gin­ner classes in draw­ing and paint­ing.

One artist, Er­win Rum­mel, has treated art as his “sec­ond ca­reer.” For­merly a suc­cess­ful nu­clear en­gi­neer, he made the tran­si­tion into vis­ual art in 1997 when he was 56 years old. “I used to go to mu­se­ums and art gal­leries and I would look at paint­ings and I would say to my­self, ‘Well I could do that, too,’ ” Rum­mel says.

Al­though he started out with sculpt­ing, he finds him­self grav­i­tat­ing more to­ward acrylic and oil paint­ing. “I get a lot of plea­sure out of splash­ing paint around and tak­ing classes here and there,” says Rum­mel, who will have one paint­ing in the ex­hibit.

Ras­min­sky says the stu­dents are “ter­ri­bly ex­cited” about be­ing ex­hib­ited in a gallery where they can ac­tu­ally sell their work. The ex­hibit will fea­ture about 150 works in­clud­ing medi­ums such as dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy, land­scapes, por­traits, ab­stracts and fig­ure draw­ing.

Baresic calls her in­volve­ment in the show a “great hon­our.” She’s amazed by the re­sults she’s been able to achieve with the help of the school’s in­struc­tors. “The teach­ers there are won­der­ful,” she says. “They re­ally ... help you dis­cover your pos­si­bil­i­ties.”

Ras­min­sky sees the school as a way of help­ing peo­ple both nur­ture their spirit and im­prove their tech­ni­cal skills.

“We all have a need to ex­press our­selves,” she says. “And it’s not al­ways in words that we can best ex­press our­selves.

Al­though Baresic has, un­like Rum­mel, never thought about pur­su­ing art as a pro­fes­sion, she cer­tainly sees it as “more than a hobby.”

“It’s a part of the way I look at life,” she says. “Do­ing art is en­joy­ing beauty. It keeps me in a won­der­ful state of mind when you see some­thing beau­ti­ful. You feel bet­ter. You feel pos­i­tive. It puts you in a blessed state of mind.”

The Sen­sa­tion open­ing gala will take place on April 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Spazio dell’Arte Gallery. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit av­enueroad­artss­chool.com.

Av­enue Road Arts School’s new ex­hibit fea­tures artists who have put aside their pro­fes­sions to ded­i­cate them selves to art. From top, works by Zelie Burke, Bob Pres­ner, Zelie Burke and Ann Caverly.

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