An “art-felt” commitment to learning in Leaside’s Business Park

CCSA founder, Nahal Bahrman.
CCSA founder, Nahal Bahrman.

For many of us, awareness of contemporary Canadian art starts and ends with the Group of Seven – and even then, our knowledge is shaky.

A Leaside company hopes to change our appreciation of Canada’s rich art world by using a tried-and-true educational principle: get ’em young and teach them right, not just the classic disciplines of art, but related applications like movie-making and photography.

Leaside has long been known as a diverse neighbourhood in business, culture and community, among other things.

So, it should not be surprising that there is a centre of arts and education on Vanderhoof Ave. in the heart of the Leaside Business Park.

The Canadian Contemporary School of Art is not a conventional facility where a teacher simply instructs and expects everyone to follow the same path. 

It offers a remarkable array of programs. A smattering: students can learn to paint, write, act, make movies, and create fashion.

“We conduct classes even with just one student because we prioritize the individual needs of each student,” said Executive Manager Asad Sharifi. “We believe that everyone possesses a unique seed of creativity that should be valued and nurtured.”

Classes are designed for all age groups, ranging from toddlers to adults. While the school offers primarily group painting and drawing classes for adults, courses such as animation and fashion are predominantly taught in a one-on-one format with adult students.

“On the first day of our children’s painting class, we give them a blank piece of paper and ask them to draw or paint whatever they like. This helps us see how creative they are,” said Sharifi. “After that, we start our first project. We begin with something easy, like drawing a forest with different kinds of trees. We talk about the shapes, sizes, and colours of the trees.

Students at work and play at CCSA.
Students at work and play at CCSA.

“We also encourage the kids to think of a story happening in the forest, which makes them more creative. Right from the first day, we start teaching them how to use watercolors, paint, chalk, and other art techniques.”

The school’s approach emphasizes that though all students may be drawing the same subject with the same materials, everyone’s painting will be different.

The school organizes various national events for children including competitions in painting, shoe design, and photography.

CCSA also provides art-themed birthday parties for children beginning in September.

“Our instructors pay special attention to the age and interests of the birthday child,” said Asad. The parties run for two hours on weekends only.

“We consider every day a day of achievement at CCSA because we witness countless creative moments and growth here. We also organize two exhibitions each year for our students, where they can invite their families and friends to admire their artwork.” 

Some of the students have been with the school since its inception, and it’s heart-warming to see graduates pursue a career in art.

“We chose Leaside because it is culturally diverse and rich,” said Sharifi. Our goal was to establish an art school that would be easily accessible to people from other parts of the city, with the added convenience of free parking. We wanted them to have the opportunity to drop off their children while they attend to other tasks, knowing their kids are in a secure environment.”

For more information on tuition, schedules and children’s birthday party costs, visit:


About Ken Mallett 40 Articles
Ken Mallett has spent his entire working career of 30 + years as a newspaper reporter and television news writer/producer. He worked for ten years as a foreign correspondent in London England for the Sydney (Australia) Morning herald and Toronto Star before moving into television news as a writer/producer for the CBC and later Director of News and Current Affairs for Global Television. He is a regular contributor to Leaside Life.