TORONTO — The art room at the Joseph and Minnie Wagman Centre is a beehive of creative activity, where members do ceramics, stained glass, painting, sewing and other crafts.
Rachel Aronov, left, Ted Rosen and Irina Iordanova
The queen bee of this atelier is Rachel Aronov, 88, a volunteer and member who has been teaching ceramics at the Wagman Centre for almost 25 years.
The Bulgarian-born Aronov studied ceramics in Sofia. She also ran a ceramics factory in Israel for 25 years before joining her son in Canada. A serious car accident in 1984 led to her admission to Baycrest Hospital.
Through the hospital, she became connected to the creative arts studio at the Wagman Centre. Pointing to her seat, she says with a smile. “I have been sitting in the same chair for 25 years.”
A Baycrest Terrace resident for the past 16 years, Aronov is at the art centre every day that it’s open.
She says she helps five to 10 people a day with ceramic painting. “I have discovered lots of talent.”
And there is no shortage of appreciative students and admirers, according to Adrienne Glaun, an arts centre regular who prefers to keep her age a secret.
“Rachel has made ceramics my life,” Glaun says. “She has helped me make the most wonderful things.”
The mood is jovial at the ceramics table where Ted Rosen, 91, a retired psychiatrist, decorates a ceramic bowl with a floral design. “Rachel is the teacher,” he says. “I’m colour blind. I rely on her.”
Rosen also does fabric art, bead making and wood burning. A natural kibbitzer, he happily models some scarves and beads he’s made in the art centre before he heads off to a discussion group.
The warm atmosphere of the art studio draws many participants, says Irina Iordanova, creative arts co-ordinator for the Wagman Centre and Baycrest Terrace.
She says the community in the art room has created a “family environment, where people are supportive of one another. They all help each other out.”
Iordanova says she tries to foster a community spirit by celebrating holidays and birthdays. “We listen to music, and we do dancing. We try to incorporate all different art forms in the daily activities of the art room.“
The art centre must accommodate various levels of physical, cognitive and social ability, she notes, explaining that some people can work independently, while others have serious physical and cognitive challenges.
She says that her background in art, physiotherapy and bio-psycho-social studies enables her to devise activities for people of various abilities.
For example, Iordanova notes that because people with Parkinson’s disease have trouble holding a paint brush, she has them do ceramics by scratching a design onto the painted surface.
Coincidentally, Iordanova, who is Bulgarian, graduated from the same art college as Aronov.
“I couldn’t believe that she went to the same college,” Aronov says. “There’s lots of sharing[ between us]. We have a good understanding. “We’re good friends, and we’re good partners. Irina has taught us all.”