Photo courtesy of Thorncliffe Artscape.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of enthusiastic shoppers and excited children, East York Town Centre hosted the artwork of several local artists from 12 to 4 pm on the weekend of 23 and 24 November. The Thorncliffe Artscape Art Exhibition, a two-day event organized by Sameen Arif, Khadija Aziz, Amal Hirani, Sabeeha Ishaque, Mark Jove, Suraj Kandula, Izhan Saeed, and Afrah Saleem from Ms. Munro’s Grade 12 Leadership class, featured the drawings and paintings of artists ranging from the age of seven to eighteen. The artists were students at Thorncliffe Park PS, Valley Park MS, and Marc Garneau CI. A total of twenty-five students submitted artwork for the exhibit.

Promotion for artwork submissions began in the middle of October and the deadline for submissions was 18 November. Though it was a class assignment, the art exhibition meant much more to its eight co-founders. When asked why they chose art as their main concept, Sabeeha Ishaque, the Project Manager, said, “Art is a universal language that transcends all language and racial barriers; stories can be told, ideas can be shared and messages can be delivered.”

“We wanted to use art to create community bonding,” said Khadija Aziz, the Art Director and Show Curator. “We thought art would help youth create a little bit of their own identity and pride in their own community.”

Many felt that the art exhibition was made better through the inclusion of artwork from youth of all ages. “Using artwork from other schools enforced our message of diversity and community. We were able to see the community through the eyes of a seven year old and the eyes of a seventeen year old. It was fascinating to see how they all communicated a common message of acceptance and unity,” said Sabeeha Ishaque.

The organizers of the exhibit. Photo courtesy of Thorncliffe Artscape.

Thorncliffe Artscape executives during the award ceremony. Photo courtesy of Thorncliffe Artscape.

Dozens of people stopped by, admiring the artwork and expressing their opinions. Myra Merchant, a university student majoring in miniature art, had a lot to say about twelve-year old Khalid Jan’s painting titled “My Family”. “Though the artwork is awful in terms of proportion and measurement, I think it has charm. It shows depth, and the use of contrasting colours is amazing. A really great artist once said that if a perfect artist can begin to paint like a kid again, then they are a really good artist. So drawing like a kid, even as a kid, is really good.”

This event also let the artists express their views and feelings. One of the youngest artists that were featured, Mehreen Khan, a seven-year old, drew her family. When asked why, she simply replied, “Because they’re my family.” Meriem Kakal, a Grade 6 student, said, “I wanted to say what I liked about art.”

For other artists, the art exhibition became a scene of business and building relationships. Noor Mah, who submitted several art pieces, said, “This was really helpful for me since I made a lot of contacts with people who were interested in buying my paintings.”

Khadija Aziz added, “On the first day, at least two artists from MGCI were offered commission work to create a decoration piece for their house or a portrait of their family. It was an opportunity for our young artists to get recognized and create connections, especially for those applying to art universities or looking forward to making art their career.”

An award ceremony was held at 3 pm on Sunday 24 November, the second and final day of the Artscape Art Exhibition. Certificates and prizes were handed out to winners from each age category based on how well their artwork matched the theme of the whole project.

The winners were:

Ages 15 – 18:

First Prize – Anusha Fazal

Honourable Mention – Idris Ali

Ages 11 – 14:

First Prize – Saima Zafar

Honourable Mention – Meriem Kakal

Ages 7 – 10:

First Prize – Mehreen Khan and Usna Hamid

Prizes included $50 cheques and a $15 gift card for Tim Hortons provided by East York Town Centre and a watercolour paint set provided by Thorncliffe Artscape.

On the whole, the event was a huge success. “We had a huge audience today, a lot of community members who came to support and applaud all the artists. A lot of adults stood there, analyzed the art pieces and discussed with us. A lot of young children were also inspired, and shared with each other their favourite pieces,” said Khadija Aziz, who has founded and curated two other shows since May 2013.