The dreams of children and seniors

The Toronto Star
March 17, 2002

The dreams of children and seniors
by Aparita Bhandari
Entertainment Reporter

Nine-year-old Jennifer McPherson giggles, her hair spilling down her face, as she explains her dream of flying into a dog place where everything is made of biscuits. She would like to own a golden retriever, but it won’t be till she leaves home for university because her father is allergic to dogs.

McPherson, her brother Matthew McPherson, 11, Kai Broomfield, 7, and Rebecca Di Pucchio, 8, have made eyes with dreams written in them. About a foot long, the eyes are of clay and glazed shiny. Some are open, others half closed.

Broomfield’s eye tells of her dream to fly — on a pony. But in her dream, she crashes. Matthew McPherson dreams of flying and falling, and Di Puccio dreams of becoming a better swimmer.

The dreaming eyes are one of the exhibits of A Celebration Of Lives Lived And Lives Dreamt Of, an exhibition being held by the Avenue Road Arts School in partnership with Dennis Avenue Public School, the Symes 55+ Centre and Ottawa-based artist Jerry Gray.

Several of the Avenue Road Arts School’s classes have contributed to the exhibition, which will start tomorrow and run through April 5 in the corridor of BCE Place.

The children are sitting around a table in the attic of the Avenue Road Arts School. “You have to see this,” says Lola Rasminsky, the founder and director of the school, leading the way into a washroom that’s been converted into a magical fairy town. “We change the theme regularly.”

The arts school started out in Rasminsky’s Toronto house in 1979. Then it had six students. Now it holds classes for 1,000 students, ranging from preschoolers to seniors.

A short while ago Rasminsky worked on an outreach program teaching art to seniors and children. “That made me think about bringing (the two groups) together,” she says.

Rasminsky’s first thought was an inter-generational choir.

But then, she delved into organizing an exhibition of paintings, pottery and other crafts to “celebrate lives lived and lives dreamt of.” Besides the dreaming eyes, classes have made dream beds, dream boxes and dream pillows. Some children made artwork about nightmares.

“We don’t try and patronize them,” says curator Irene Luxbacher. “It’s not about being perfect. We let them explore what they feel.”

Additional work created by children from Dennis Avenue Public School is included in the children’s section called What Children Dream Of. The seniors’ work was created as a joint project between the Avenue Road Arts School and the Symes 55+ Centre and is titled Cloak Of Memories.

Gray’s portrait series, Rare Spirits: A Personal Tribute to Vintage Elders, will also be on display. Rasminsky was familiar with the series, which started with Gray’s painting portraits of her father.

Gray’s paintings depict the pain, vulnerability, spirit and determination of the people she painted. The artwork of the students of Rasminsky’s school shows unfettered creativity.

Both are examples of the ability to step outside a comfort zone.

“I think we can learn a lot from both seniors and children, these groups that are normally marginalized,” she says. “My own father lived till he was 90 and taught me a lot. And children. They are willing to try everything.”