Category Archives: events

Lasting Impressions From The Show Off

OCAD University’s recent 2011 Graduate Exhibition had over 500 thesis projects on display, from 12 different disciplines, spread over 6 floors.  As always, it’s impossible to give everything proper attention, but the children I brought along loved the environment, were inspired by what they saw, and eagerly chatted with some of the artists. But after a few hours of this, your brain tends to get a bit cloudy, which could explain why I almost bought the kids pins with illustrations of serial killers. This is true. I innocently wandered over to look at Lauren Kaiser’s work, but in my distracted state, failed to immediately notice these were illustrations of famous serial killers as children, doing what I suppose future serial killers might do like beheading Ken and tying up teddy. Her humorously disturbing work was definitely not child friendly, so I quietly put the Charlie Manson pin down and engaged in some major distraction. This was clearly my cue to call it a night before I failed miserably at parenting 101. Below are a few of my favs.

Praxis by Callum Schuster was made with insulation foam, spray paint and enamel. It’s texture and unconventional beauty was truly stunning.

Untitled (Grid #1) by Charles Bierk. I liked the parts, but the whole was much more powerful and intense.

Memorium by Michael McDonnell. This was all about metamorphosis with the use of animation and video. The result was mesmerizing, and the hauntingly beautiful music was the perfect accompaniment.

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OCAD Grad Show 2011

The Ontario College of Art and Design will be hosting their annual grad show this weekend, showcasing the work of its 2011 graduating students, from both the Faculty of Art and the Faculty of Design. Why not bring your kids and help inspire the next generation of creative thinkers. With work from over 500 students, there’s bound to be something to please everyone. For more information about  “The Show Off”, check out the website.

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Nuit Blanche

Fog Installation by Fujiko Nakaya. Toronto 2006. Photo:

My first Nuit Blanche experience was a rainy evening in 2006. I walked along Philosopher’s Walk with my two children in tow to experience Fujiko Nakaya’s eerie fog installation. Pockets of thick fog swallowed up the crowd, and proved a little too unsettling for my ten year old son who felt the need to rescue his five year old sister. He latched on to her coattails, causing her to howl with indignation “Let go!” When he finally did, she promptly fell in the mud. We fled to the Gardiner Museum’s washroom for an emergency scrub down, and once the wailing subsided, continued on what turned out to be a magical evening. We were hooked, and haven’t missed one since.

Nuit Blanche returns on October 2nd, bringing us another fantastic all-night celebration of the arts. Participating cities throughout the world will come alive from dusk till dawn, enticing us to explore contemporary art in a fun and welcoming environment. This free event began in Paris in 2002, with the purpose of making art accessible to everyone. The public was invited to visit museums, galleries, cultural institutions, and temporary exhibitions set up in public spaces. Every year, new cities are invited to join this festival which now spans the globe. Toronto will be celebrating its 5th year, while New York City will be joining in for the first time.

Since its inception in 2006, Toronto’s Nuit Blanche has expanded well beyond its humble beginnings, so I would strongly recommend visiting the website to plan your evening. If you are heading out with children, it makes sense to choose some events that will appeal to them, and dodge some of the ones that are inappropriate. I can’t encourage you enough to take your children. They’ll love you for being able to playfully roam the streets of their city at night, participate in some of the interactive installations, pick up glow sticks along the way, be totally amazed and inspired by some of the things they see, and downright puzzled by others. It’s a great evening with fun to be had by all. Hook up with your friends and don’t forget your camera.

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Things That Caught My Eye

OCAD’s Grad Show was bursting at the seams with work from talented students. It’s just the sort of outing you need to motivate, inspire, or send you down the treacherous path of trying your hand at something new without any formal training. Thought I would share with you a few works that caught my eye:

Kira Shaimanova’s fantastical three dimensional illustrations have a lovely unsettling quality. She makes her dolls out of clay, creates her own sets, then photographs them together. Is it just me, or does the doll below look like Bjork?

Sweet Talk by Kira Shaimanova. Photo:

Tiffany Eting Wu’s fibre art installation provides an interesting commentary on how crime scenes are represented in the media. Her hundreds of delicate, white flowers were in perfect contrast to the subject matter.

Crime Scene by Tiffany Eting Wu

Flora Shum’s printmaking was stunning, and definitely my favorite. The wall was filled with her delicate prints, which included etchings on handmade flax paper.

Detail of Flora Shum's work

Amanda Muis’s canvas and encaustic on wood was beautiful. From a distance, I was tempted to think pasta. But on closer inspection, it reminded me of a microscopic view of something like mitochondria… traces of high school biology lingering in my brain.

Detail of Tempest by Amanda Muis.

Elisabeth Heidinga’s installation is about how humanity’s over-consumption is impacting negatively on the environment, and how our behaviour patterns are contributing to increased numbers of animals becoming endangered.

Detail of an installation by Elisabeth Heidinga

Abby McGuane created an interesting marbling effect with her collaged black and white inkjet prints. Slightly different sized holes were cut in superimposed copies of the same image, thus creating the marbling effect. Unfortunately, the depth of these spaces doesn’t really come through in the photograph. It really was neat.

Detail from Unseeing by Abby McGuane.

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A Graduate Show Worth Exploring

The Ontario College of Art & Design

Enter OCAD is the Ontario College of Art and Design’s annual graduate exhibition, taking place May 6-9, 2010 in Toronto. It’s a great place to offer kids a comprehensive look at what art can be, while visiting one of the funkiest buildings in the city. On display is the thesis work of this year’s graduating class, covering everything from drawing and printmaking, to industrial and graphic design. The environment is child friendly, and you’ll find it’s a fabulous opportunity to create a dialogue with kids and talk to them about what they like, what they don’t like, and why. It’s also a chance for you to support up and coming artists who are still under the radar, and possibly pick up some great art at reasonable prices.

A fond memory I have is of my daughter and her friend who were fascinated by a student drawing in his sketchbook. He took an impressive amount of time to talk to them about his work, and clearly inspired them. They were only eight years old but loved every minute of their visit, and were exposed to some unusual and surprising manifestations of art. We shall return…

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Hiding From March Break?

I’m not going to help you hide, but to cope. Entertaining children during March Break may appear to be a daunting task, but you really can come out of it unscathed. And if you’re not escaping to the sun, you can seek solace in the fact that this will not last forever. As soon as kids hit their teens, they’re quite happy to fend for themselves and would rather you not interfere with their chill time anyway.

First of all, weekends don’t count so you’re really only faced with five days to fill, unless of course your children are in private school, in which case I wish you much luck and plenty of wine. I’m down to one child in need of entertainment, and I can’t stress enough the importance of friends. It’s more fun for your kids, and everything they do lasts a bit longer when they’re together.

Unless you’re going on a big outing like skiing, mornings should be long and lazy; that’s half your day already. Let the kids indulge in some cartoons, or throw them outside to play in the snow. Forget the snowman, challenge them to make a snowwoman which will have them in fits of laughter; give them squirt bottles filled with coloured water for a little Pollock on ice; have them shovel the driveway. There could be incentive in this, if you know what I mean. After all, we are also interested in preserving your sanity. Little stolen moments to read the paper and have a cup of tea are golden.

Lunch. At this point, you better have a plan for the afternoon like a friend coming over. Give them lots of opportunity to fend for themselves. Set them up with an arts and crafts activity, karaoke, a dress up theme like Alice, board games, computer games, a treasure hunt, etc. Maybe you’d like to bake something with them that could end up being their snack, and the beginning of a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. You could play ‘beat the clock’ and have them clean up the kitchen before the timer goes off and the muffins are ready. Before you know it, your kitchen’s clean, the kids are proudly enjoying a snack they made, and evening is around the corner.

I’m a firm believer in not having to go out to the same, overpriced, crowded places, year after year. The wonderful thing about Toronto, and many other North American cities is how multicultural they are, giving you an opportunity to play tourist. You can actually go to neighbourhoods like Little India, Little Italy, Greektown, and Chinatown, and feel momentarily immersed in that culture. The people, colours, sounds, smells, food, street signs all help to transport you. Why not propose a day trip to China with your children and their friends? Walk through your local Chinatown, visit the shops, eat some local food for lunch, and don’t forget to buy a little souvenir. Make sure the kids bring a notepad to record their thoughts or make sketches of things they enjoyed seeing. They can also take photographs, and save any receipts and business cards, so when they come home they can create a wonderful collage of their outing.

If you live in Toronto, I do have a few suggestions. First would be the Textile Museum, where they have special activities for the occasion. Since it’s off the beaten path, it’s calmer than the big museums and a beautiful space to visit.  The Paper Place is having a collage competition and providing materials free of charge. You just have to pick up the package, take it home, and bring back the collage once finished. It’s an inspiring shop to take your kids to. Another plan is to hang out at a bookshop, followed by a hot chocolate. Indigo/Chapters and Mabel’s Fables are really great about letting you hang out for as long as you want. And while I’m hoping to stay far from the madding crowd most of the time, I might brave one visit to the AGO, or the ROM which has a new bat cave to visit. And this time, make the gift shop your friend; it’s good for at least half an hour. Bonne chance!

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