The Avenue Road Arts School is home to a diverse student base. From preschoolers to tweens, from teens to adults, students – both beginners and advanced – attend the creative oasis and create under one roof.
Several young students attending the children’s arts programs at the Avenue Road Arts School went on to study in their respective art fields at competitive and accomplished colleges and universities:
Rachel Stephenson Sheff
Now attending the New Studio on Broadway at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts
Rachel started taking programs at the Avenue Road Arts School when she was just 9 months old, attending a baby music class once a week. Rachel went on to participate in the School’s Musical Theatre Company program and played the leading role in the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. She was encouraged to audition for the Tisch program by her instructors. Up against fierce competition for the limited number of spots in the program, Rachel was accepted and landed the role Wendla in Tisch’s mainstage production of Spring Awakening during her Junior year.
Rachel speaks affectionately about her experience in the ARAS Musical Theatre Program. She is sure that the supportive environment that her instructors created gave her the confidence to know that she could realize her dream of developing her skills as a ‘triple threat’ performer. And she remains grateful for the professional performance space and the live band at accompany all performances.
Now attending the Animation Program at Sheridan College
Kunli loved to draw as a young boy and started studying at the Avenue Road Arts School in 2001, almost never missing a class. He studied drawing and painting, cartooning and illustration at the School and when he turned 17 started taking adult figure drawing classes. He was recently admitted to the highly competitive Animation Program at Sheridan College. Kunli’s dream is to become a professional animator or commercial artist.
Graduated from the Fine Arts Program at York University
Stephanie studied at the Avenue Road Arts School for four years – taking many visual art classes including pottery, drawing and painting and life drawing. She later auditioned for the Arts School’s Musical Theatre Company and her teacher still remembers the singing component of the audition and how the song brought up goose bumps to those on the panel.
Stephanie was accepted into the Fine Arts Program at York University and graduated with her BFA in 2012. She has gone out of her way to express her gratitude for her experiences at ARAS that gave her the confidence to pursue her passion. Stephanie currently designs children’s clothing and has launched her website – www.princesskayscouture.com
Now a Professional Photographer working in Berlin
Luna came to the Arts School shortly after her family arrived in Canada from Bosnia in 1996. After taking several classes at the School, she went on to study Photography at Sheridan College. Luna now lives in Berlin where she works as a photographer for an architecture firm and freelances as well as doing her own art photography.
A number of students have left their illustrious careers, either partially or fully, to devote themselves to creating art. Doctors, lawyers, speech pathologists, clinical psychologists, professors and many entrepreneurs are spending more and more of their time cultivating their artistic talents.
Erwin Rummel was a nuclear engineer who came to painting later in life. About 15 years ago, he quit Atomic Energy Canada to allow more time off to attend his painting classes at the Avenue Road Arts School. He furthered his studies both in Toronto and Santa Monica, California. He became a prolific painter who built himself an art studio on his farm property. Erwin participated in almost twenty art shows, including a couple of solo exhibits.
In 2016, a memorial service was held at the School for Rummel, arranged by his wife Erika. The memorial was a beautiful recognition of his life, and a number of his paintings were donated and auctioned, with proceeds going towards the School’s partner the Arts Access Fund.
Ann Wilson, a long-time student at the School, worked as a public policy lawyer with the provincial government. She took a year off several years ago, fully intending to return to work at the end of her sabbatical. During that year she discovered that she enjoyed painting more than she could have imagined. She never went back and is now a successful working artist. www.annwilsonstudio.com
Alan Banack, a practicing physician, decided to pursue a new hobby, in addition to other non-work interests, such as music and woodworking. He wanted to further develop and enhance his creative side. After exploring different possibilities, photography seemed to strike a chord with him. He started taking courses at the Avenue Road Arts School and within a very short time he says that he became addicted! He began to view his environment through his camera’s lens and was astounded by the beauty he saw everywhere. He started to see the world in a new way.
Athanasia Susie Colomvakos
Athanasia Susie Colomvakos was in awe of the artistic talents of others, but never thought that art was something she could do herself. In 2004, while under going cancer treatments, she decided she would challenge herself by trying to learn to paint. She found the Arts School online and enrolled in her first class. The minute she put that paintbrush in her hand, she knew she had found her passion. Through the exceptionally talented Arts School faculty she has developed the essential foundations of her painting practice. She is now a full time artist with a studio in her home. www.susiecolomvakos.com
Members of the Broadway Showtunes Class
Ten participants in the Broadway showtunes class have been attending the same class for at least fifteen years. Some are recently retired from medicine, business, accounting, hospital administration and banking – one is still a professor at McMaster. They all look forward to the Monday night class- especially the camaraderie and fun that they enjoy every week. They are counting on belting out showtunes with their classmates for the next fifteen years – at least!