In a townhome backing on to the Toronto Community Housing revitalization site in Lawrence Heights is the home of the Lawrence Heights Art Collective.
The Collective is a group of like-minded artists who are working to beautify their community, expose fellow TCHC tenants to art, and teach art and music to the community’s youth. From May 8 to 11, 2017, the Collective had an art show at Toronto’s City Hall rotunda.
Elena Korniakova displays her work
“We showed about 100 pieces of art, from very small in size to very large pieces,” said Collective co-founder Elena Korniakova.
Sculptor Yuri Malaev
The Collective was founded when Korniakova met with a few other artist friends who also live at Lawrence Heights and Neptune. “I met Yuri Malaev and we became fast friends,” she said. Malaev is a renowned artist who immigrated to Canada and was a sculptor for the former USSR government. He previously created works of art ranging from very small to gigantic soviet-themed sculptures, located around the globe. The other two co-founders of the Collective are Eva Pekova, who writes poetry among other artistic pursuits, and Herbie Blaine, a fine artist.
The artwork of fine artist, Herbie Blaine
“The four of us started to create art for the community,” said Korniakova, who is an architect by trade. “Yuri made sculptures out of material found in the community and started displaying them outside his building, and combined with Eva’s gardening, our building is very beautiful. People in the other buildings became envious and also wanted Yuri’s sculptures and Eva’s gardening in front of their buildings too.”
The Collective gained popularity around the Lawrence Heights community and it has been supported by Toronto Community Housing staff, whenever possible. “Some staff saw what we were doing and supported us in various ways,” says Korniakova.
Racquel Nelson, Manager of Revitalization and Renewal Communities in Lawrence Heights, says the quality of the Collective’s art was too good to go unnoticed. “At Toronto Community Housing, we all try hard to support community-building work when we see it,” she said. Toronto Community Housing staff met with staff at the City, which led to the Collective being invited to display their art at the City Hall rotunda from May 8 to 11.
Lawrence Heights Art Collective work displayed at the City Hall rotunda
“Being able to show our art at City Hall and also at the townhome in Lawrence Heights has a good impact on everyone,” said Korniakova. “I just want to show the possibilities that are there for people from all cultures around the world, through art.”