National Post (Latest Edition)

A VACATION FROM THEIR VOCATIONS

- 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.

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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.
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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