Saturday, August 20, 2016

Central Technical School, 50 years Later

Richard Wessell, Mark Thurman, and me with Dustin Garnet, May 27th, 2016

Flash back to June 1963.  Barbara Tenny, Mark Thurman and me

Dr. Dustin Garnet wrote his thesis on the art education at Central Technical School, he has also been an art instructor there for the past decade. It was a supreme honour for me to be one of the ten people he interviewed for his thesis. My post on our interview is here. Just prior to meeting Dustin at the school this spring, I was delighted to receive a hard copy of STUDIES in ART Education, which includes his article Alice's Story: Insights to the Artistic Community of Central Technical School in the 1960s. 

Below is the building where we had our academic studies, reduced as they were to english, economics, science and physical education (in our final year) to accommodate our heavily weighted art subjects which included anatomy, history of art, commercial art, design, life drawing and painting, still life, illustration, lettering, research and museum. Yes museum, because the Royal Ontario Museum is a short walk from Central Tech. We had a half day painting at the ROM, once a week.

"The Main Building" as we called it is most impressive.  May 2016

Before the art building was completed art classes where held in six studios up in the very top of the tower.  Today they are mathematics classrooms. 

Climbing the steps to the tower studios, May 2016

The foyer of the old building is grand ...

It's hard to fathom that we graduated this amazing facility, 50 years ago. An impeccably timed highlight of Bill's and my Friendship Tour, to Ontario and Quebec in May/June (a story for another day) was having Dustin tour us, and two of my classmates, through all of the studios of what is now called the The Art Centre as well as the old, stone school which opened in 1915.

The Art Centre with its amazing north facing windows, May 2016
The foyer inside the front doors of the The Art Centre, May 2016

Dustin began the tour on the top floor of The Art Centre which was, in or time, Virginia Luz's class. We moved along into Dawson Kennedy's then Kathleen Kennedy's studio. In the last top floor studio, which I recall as being shared by Bob Ross and Doris McCarthy, life drawing is still instructed.

Life drawing studio

Here are some of my classmates back in April of 1966 ...

Barry Corston behind John Williamson (RIP) Sandra Ko, Ula Ahonen and Cynthia Jakubowski

There were times when models didn't show up and when this happened one of us students would pose. Here you have three former students hamming it up as models ...

Mark, myself and Richard

Me and Mark, life drawing April 1966 - oh how young we were!

Sculpture and print making was not a part of our curriculum. These studios were used by the special art students who studied only art. To enter the special art program, in the 1960s, students had to have previously achieved grade ten in a regular high school program. I did work in the sculpture studio but not until after graduation and as a night school student. 

Clay sculptures in the sculpture studio
The print making studio is a fully equipped masterpiece

Dustin's class back in January 1966.  Lisa Shallhase and Sally Simone working on a lettering project, Richard Wessell looks on

Dustin's studio/classroom today

From the very onset the tour took on a most surreal quality. As we made our way through the studios and halls all sorts of rich memories came flooding in making it difficult to be in the present. After a work week, in abnormally high temperatures without air conditioning (which hadn't been turned on yet) Dustin begged off joining Bill, Mark, Richard and me for a pub supper. I can't speak for the others, but I couldn't shake the sensation of travelling through time until I'd slept that night. 

What a wonderful gift you gave us, Dustin. Many thanks for a treasured opportunity to visit our alma mater with you.   

You may enjoy delving into Central Tech further. Here is the original blog post I wrote and some of the art I created while there. Here you'll see art by my classmates.


  1. What a wonderful post, Alice - I love the photos of then and now, and can see how surreal the whole visit must have been for you. And your students photos are just marvellous - that period of the early sixties carries a stamp on it like no other period in time. Truly beautiful. xo

    1. Thanks Win. It was a powerful, meaningful time to be sure. The skills I learned there set me up for a life of making art!

  2. Wow - what a fabulous world! Fabulously seeped in tradition and creativity. Thanks for the tour.

    1. Many thanks Juanita. If I were better with words I could really express the impact my years at Central Tech had on me.