Thanks for an incredible year

Thank you everyone for your support this year. We have transcended expectations and become something incredibly exciting that I am not yet sure how to describe.

We often discuss art works in class that have managed to reach the highest level of possibility in terms of clarity, quality and impact – art works that have brought us together in a shared epitome of experience. I feel that as a group of people we have now ourselves become such an art work. One of us called it a symbiotic glow. We do indeed share a symbiotic glow.

Working as a group we have managed to make something that meets all our known criteria for success. We are hundreds of individuals who have touched people at Art Talk 3 and Art Talk 4, at Portfolio Day 5, in class, in our talks large and small, through a wonder and joy of connection, understanding, empathy, honesty, and some level of unconditional love and respect for each other, and, according to some of the letters written to me this year, love for ourselves. That what we do helps us to love ourselves is the realization of a goal. That we are becoming proficient at it is something I know should be written about and documented and shared more broadly.

It may appear that we are focused on making artworks, and it is up to all of us in esava to change this perception. Although we do make some of the most astounding art works at any art school at any level in the world, what we are doing is dramatically more vast and compelling. What we are capable of as a community is yet to be known.

In the past ten months we also managed to increase expectation around things that are a bit more tangible. We exhibited at Saatchi Gallery in London UK, at the Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo NY, at QueenSpecific Gallery in Toronto (twice!), at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards exhibition in New York, in the ScotiaBank Contact Photography Festival, at York University, at Twist Gallery, at the Edward Day Gallery, and of course, at ESA.

Our Scholastic results signaled our commitment once again, with ESA winning 43% of all International awards (last year we hit 50.5%). That means of all countries around the world except the USA, ESA students won 43% of all available awards – more than any single country. Dave Dyment helped out a lot this year and curated our show at York U, which lead to a very rich conversation with members of the arts faculty and possible future commitments. Our grade 9 and 10 students’ opening at Edward Day drew hundreds of people. Art Talks 3&4 were each seen by more than three hundred people. PD5 had five hundred visitors join us in the evening. Our end of year show attracted the same number.

Our fifth Portfolio Day included 90+ representatives from 50+ schools from 4 countries. I am still thrilled when I think back to the quality and scale and complexity of the work exhibited. Many university reps took the opportunity that day to let us know that esava is the leading art program in the world. One had visited art specific high schools in ten countries by the time he got to PD 5 and told me there is nothing else working at this level in the world. Many of our grade 12’s were cautioned not to attend universities by their representatives, and one student was told her PD5 work was the equivalent of an MFA graduating show.

I think the most exciting result for me was that the grade 12’s received more than 22 first round/most prestigious scholarship offers from five US schools – more than double our previous record. Of all the students in the world applying for admission to these prestigious US art schools, our kids received almost all of the top scholarships available.

Our Department Exhibition this May included more than 1500 artworks hung throughout the halls and rooms of the entire school and we broke our previous sales record. This is our primary fund raising event for a department that chews through art supplies at a staggering rate. One of my jobs is to balance the ambitions of the 300+ people enrolled in art and photography courses with our budget. As the quality and scale of work increases in each grade every year it costs us more to keep pace and support these incredible people. I am so thankful to everyone who came and purchased art work.

We continued our partnership with the Magenta Foundation with an exhibition in September at Twist Gallery in Toronto, where all 30 of our photographs were sold. We look forward to our second Flash Forward Incubator exhibition July 30, also at Twist – please join us. Money from the sale of the photographs is being split between purchasing much needed new camera equipment and supporting our grads with three $1000 annual scholarships.

Art Talk 3 and Art Talk 4 this year at OCADU were triumphs of honesty and integrity. I thank you personally for your support of the very brave twenty six people who chose to speak. I hope to have Art Talk 5 and 6 at the start of next year. Some video is available of the art talks on our new website that launched in January–

This new website and our new Instagram account have been a revelation. More than 3000 people have visited, which documents some of the work being made here as well as listing many of our activities. esa_visual_art on Instagram has more than 1400 followers just 30 weeks in. Because of Instagram we had a collector who follows esa_visual_art fly in from New York to purchase from our end of the year art show, and shipped work to a collector in Winnipeg.

This year we are sending our grads off to post-secondary schools in Halifax, Montreal, Kingston, Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton, Waterloo, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Savannah, and London UK. We had people accepted into schools all across the US and Europe and Canada, and a record dollar amount of scholarships offered – something around $4 million dollars. Not bad everyone, not bad at all.

Behind all of this is the most caring and intelligent community I have yet to encounter. Our primary success in esava is how well we support and assist each other in taking on challenging and significant experiences designed to help us be the best versions of ourselves every day.

I cannot imagine a better place to be. I hope that the relationships built at esava continue to support our grads as they move away and strengthen our growing satellite communities around the world.

Thank you all for your support and attention. It means the world to us.
Matthew Varey