Cats are often featured in works of art and are the pets of choice for many great artists. It is fitting, then, that 4Cats Art Studio (Leaside) on Bayview south of Merton St. is named after a café frequented by Picasso and other artists in Barcelona. This 4Cats is a popular art workshop for children aged six to 13 which opened in the summer of 2019 and has been thriving during the pandemic with full classes.
The Leaside location is the most recent Toronto addition to the 4Cats Art Studios chain, which boasts 45 locations across Canada. Vancouver artists Joey and Darryl Simon founded the company in 2005. When they were told that their premature son might have learning difficulties, they turned to art as a vehicle to make learning more fun for him. Soon they were also teaching his siblings and cousins and opening their first studio in this largely family-run business.
Angelica (Angie) Santana, the district supervisor for East Toronto, explains that Leaside was chosen in response to a need for another east end studio in addition to their Beaches and Danforth locations, and because it is a growing neighbourhood “bubbling with the excitement of young families.” Angie was a filmmaker and art teacher in Brazil before coming to Toronto three years ago to do post-graduate work in community arts and falling in love with Canada and her job.
The main program at 4Cats is their Exploratory Art classes, season-long weekly programs with 90-minute classes. These project-based classes offer the students a choice between two different mediums, such as painting or clay, every two to four weeks. They also study art history since the projects are inspired by specific artists. This is the “artist focus” part of the class where they explore the artists’ lives, artistic movements and inspirations, and discuss the mediums, tools and techniques they are using. As the website states, their goal is to foster a “love of art and learning,” independence and creativity in a studio where everyone works together.
In addition to the regular program, the studio offers winter, spring and summer camps, PA Day camps, private birthday parties, and clay and painting workshops for children and adults. Each studio has a minimum of two instructors with backgrounds in art education specializing in clay or painting.
The studio also has an online option, comprising individual art kits delivered to homes with info about the online classes to accompany them. This part of the business expanded dramatically this past year, and the company recently introduced “subscription box” kits with different projects delivered every month.
According to Angie, the Leaside community has been very welcoming, giving the studio overwhelmingly positive feedback and support. Parents have called 4Cats “a beacon of light” for their children, who enjoy showing off their projects.
For more info about their programs and current Covid protocols, visit leasideartstudio.com.