about us

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photo  by Richard Picton

Our Story

When Gabe Anderson turned twenty-one he no longer had access to the special education curriculum in Ontario public schools. He wanted to continue to develop his artistic practice but there were no programs or social services that could accommodate both his artistic aspirations and his cerebral palsy.

Inspired by her son, Ellen Anderson founded Creative Spirit Art Centre in 1992 as a studio and gallery space where artists with disabilities could come and create, exhibit and sell their artwork. For many years Creative Spirit had a space on Bathurst Street and then for a time it was without a permanent home. Through a generous donation in 2007 by Gabe’s grandparents, Tak and Sumi Yamasaki, Creative Spirit took up permanent residence on Dovercourt Road in a beautifully renovated space.

Over the past seventeen years, Creative Spirit has become much more than a family affair. Gabe is still a regular in our studio but today we serve over 40 artist members in the Greater Toronto Area who use our studio space and our gallery to bring their artwork to a wider audience. One of our founding directors, Michael Seary opened a sister organization in Halifax, Nova Scotia called Creative Spirit East. Although the two organizations operate separately, both strive to achieve the same goals.

A unique organization in Canada, Creative Spirit Art Centre celebrates the achievements of individuals living with disabilities as well as brings the challenges they continue to face to light. We believe that through our exhibitions which integrate the work of artists both with and without disabilities we allow people to look beyond preconceived notions of disability and honour the creative spirit of each artist.

Creative Spirit was invited to be the Ontario representative for Very Special Arts (VSA Arts) an international non-profit organization founded by Jean Kennedy Smith which aims to “create a society where people with disabilities learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts.”

Our Mission (1992 - 2017)

Was to provide studio space and art resources to artists with emotional, mental and physical disabilities.

To collect and exhibit art by all members of the creative community.

To be a resource centre for issues concerning art and disability.

To support disabled artists by providing space for them to make, exhibit and sell their artwork.

To develop community relationships in a gallery where artists can exchange ideas and exhibit artwork in an integrated setting.

Our Services

Art Brut, Outsider Art and Folk Art are artistic categories that are traditionally undervalued and underrepresented in mainstream culture. Made by artists with little or no formal training, art from these categories can be incredibly innovative and expressive. It is our belief that these often overlooked art categories offer endless inspiration and are worthy of our attention.

Creative Spirit Art Centre provided studio and gallery space to artists with disabilities between 1992 and 2017. After undergoing an interview and portfolio presentation, member artists used our universally accessible studio space to create artwork for exhibition, for sale or for themselves. It is our firm belief that access to creative self expression is something that we should all be able to enjoy, regardless of perceived abilities.

Studio Exhibitions were mounted, featuring Creative Spirit member artists and often drawing upon our Art Brut and Outsider Art Collection. Member artists were invited to participate in these exhibitions and receive commission on any artworks sold.