In partnership with Groundwood Books, the Koffler Centre of the Arts hosted graphic novelist and illustrator Dasha Tolstikova as our Artist in Residence from May 16 – May 19, 2016, featuring her debut illustrated memoir, A Year Without Mom.

















During her residency, Dasha engaged with diverse communities through a series of cross-disciplinary workshops and school programs.

On Monday May 16th, Dasha conducted an Author-in-the-School workshop for grade 5 and 6 students at Rose Avenue Public School. With Dasha’s illustrations as inspiration, students imagined and drew their own fictional characters.


(A signed copy of A Year Without Mom given to the class at Rose Ave.)















(The cover of an illustrated booklet by Zayan at Rose Ave.)















(The cover of an illustrated booklet by Sofiya at Rose Ave.)

On Monday afternoon, Dasha led a program for kids from CARE (the after-school arts program at Trinity-Bellwoods Community Centre), inspired by her online diary in which she illustrated herself as a fox everyday for over a year.


(Dasha showing the after-school group illustrations by her mom in the Koffler Gallery)

The next morning, the Koffler Staff met Dasha and Daniel Rotsztain: Urban Geographer and artist, to explore the streets of Toronto and to sketch some of the city’s architecture. We walked through Chinatown into a laneway lined with urban-cottage-style houses and Dasha and Daniel sat down on a curb to draw a semi-detached house that caught their attention.


(Daniel and Dasha sketching in Chinatown)

Dasha and Daniel then sketched what is known to some Kensington Market’s “canoe house” because of the large canoe leaning against its façade.














(Daniel and Dasha presenting their drawings in front of the “canoe house”)


After lunch in the Market, we made our way North to Leo Baeck Day School for another author-in-the-school workshop. The students imagined the bag-headed characters Günter and Gertrude and participated in a short story writing activity about these two characters.















(A student at Leo Baeck drawing Günter and Gertrude)

DashaKblog9(Dasha with Grade 6 students at Leo Baeck)

On Wednesday May 18th, the Koffler and House of Anansi Press/Groundwood Books hosted a conversation between Dasha and writer Lisa Moore at Small World Music Centre. Nick Hutcheson moderated the conversation, discussing A Year Without Mom and Moore’s novel Flannery. The two writers replied candidly to questions about relationships between mothers and daughters and growing up, and generously discussed the differences and similarities between their creative processes.


(Dasha, Lisa Moore, and Nick Hutcheson on stage at Small World Music Centre)

On the fourth and final day of Dasha’s residency, Dasha and Sheila Barry from Groundwood Books: Dasha’s editor and publisher; visited Humber College to speak to students in the Creative Book Publishing program. Dasha and Sheila each presented their personal journeys throughout the publishing process of A Year Without Mom, from first correspondence, to the final published copy of the book.

That evening, Dasha’s residency culminated with a graphic memoir workshop in collaboration with the Girls’ Art League (GAL) at the Koffler Gallery. Participants enjoyed drawing, drinks, and socializing with fellow “GALs”.


(Illustrations and the cover of a mini-book from the GAL workshop)















(One of the illustrated narratives from the GAL workshop)

Thanks again to Dasha for sharing your creativity as our Artist in Residence and to everyone who participated in workshops, conversations, and other events during Dasha’s residency. We were truly lucky to have Dasha with us for the week, and are excited to see her future projects!