From left Tricia Aziz, Tera Codispoti, Mona Engeset-Faustino, Melora Parker Pistore, Halina Wyluda-Kazmierczak, Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean, Iwona Kozibroda-Saniternik, Kathryn Alton, Ann Ivy Male.
Words by Ann Ivy Male
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
– Pablo Picasso
A group of female artists who collaborate under the name Art Divas have found a way to keep their creative expression alive through art, and in turn help support a foundation they believe in. The Michaëlle Jean Foundation (www.fmjf.ca) focuses on “celebrating the power of arts to bring about positive alternatives to at-risk youth across Canada and bring a better quality of life to their communities.”
Art Divas, based in Port Credit, is spearheaded by Halina Wyluda-Kazmierczak, a trained artist and a good friend of mine. Halina runs a local art school (www.i-impressions.ca ) whose students are primarily children from as young as three years old to teens.
Mme. Jean with Ann Ivy Male.
“The whole idea of Art Divas came about when mothers, who would pick up their kids from art class, would be so impressed and inspired by their kids artwork that they would ask if I could do weekend workshops for busy moms,” Halina explains.
A few weeks later, Halina offered a weekend workshop that gave moms an opportunity to take a blank canvas on Friday night and walk away with a finished piece of original artwork by Sunday afternoon.
Eventually, these workshops turned into weekly art classes that were frequented by the same core group of women who were enthusiastic about their new creative outlet but also wanted to give back and support a meaningful cause. Melora Parker Pistore, one of the Art Divas, attended a lecture series for women, the Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean’s “Unique Lives & Experiences,” and was inspired by the presentation. Mme. Jean and her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, are co-founders of FMJF. They are clearly passionate about this endeavour and they promote it as: “Arts for Action. Arts for Change.”
Melora recalls Mme. Jean, Canada’s former Governor General, speaking about the importance of supporting Canadian youth, especially those in under-serviced communities. For example, helping Aboriginal youth keep their native art alive in their communities instills a sense of personal pride, supports their local community and gives them a voice. The FMJF recently partnered with the Arts Network for Children and Youth (ANCY) who have initiated the first ever National Youth Arts Week which ran from May 1 to 7.
Melora talks with Mme. Jean while Iwona and Kathryn enjoy the moment.
After the lecture, Melora took these words of inspiration back to the Art Divas group and they all agreed that it was the perfect foundation to support. So, last month, Art Divas held a Spring Art Show and featured a collection of pieces—each depicting the unique style of the artists themselves. The pieces were all successfully sold at a silent auction with the proceeds given to FMJF. The team at the foundation was very appreciative of this initiative and Carole Chabot, Director of Development, sent an e-mail to the Art Divas informing them that Mme. Jean wanted to meet the artists to thank them personally.
“I could not believe this, what an honour,” Halina says.
This special meeting took place last Friday when Mme. Jean was in town to address a large group of educators from the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District SB as part of an Elementary Professional Development Day session held at the Toronto Congress Centre. Carole advised the group that unfortunately due to schedule changes the meeting would be a short one but nonetheless the artists were thrilled to be given such a privileged opportunity. When Mme. Jean finished her speech to the teachers, she made her way outside the hall to meet with the Art Divas.
The meeting area was bustling with teachers on a quick break, however when the group came together to shake hands and introduce themselves, Mme. Jean had everyone feeling like they had her undivided attention. She had an aura that exuded grace and humility. She thanked the group for donating to the foundation and reiterated how important it is to support our youth, especially through the arts.
Original artwork sold at the Spring Show – http://www.artdivas.ca.
“Divas make a difference!” She said with a genuine smile. I asked Mme. Jean if she paints and she told me, “No, I do not paint, but I love to dance and I also play the piano.” Moments later, the group posed for pictures, Mme. Jean gave each artist a warm hug and then her team apologized and informed them that they had to leave. When all was said and done, everyone concurred that in such a brief fifteen minute encounter, Mme. Jean made them feel special.
Halina showing Mme.Jean pictures from the Spring Art Show.
During the car ride home, the group felt euphoric and inspired. A discussion came up about children and art. We wondered why sometimes adults put up barriers to creativity whereas children approach the creative process with endless amounts of freedom. Have you ever watched a toddler dip their fingers in globs of paint and smear it on paper? Brilliant!
Some of us are reluctant to designate a space for the creation of art in our homes for fear of the mess and paint splatter to walls and floors, but in the end all the artists agreed that it didn’t matter how or where you express yourself creatively: what’s important is to try it and see where it can take you. For these Art Divas, it brought them to a place of personal creative satisfaction, camaraderie and an incredible moment of meeting someone inspirational who is advocating for positive change through the power of art.