Koffler Studio Offsite is an after-school visual arts program, first piloted in 2019 at Thorncliffe Park Public School with the support of an Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) Seed grant. Over the course of twenty-weeks, thirty talented grade 5 students were led by ten professional artists through various art making processes, they attended art exhibitions across the city, and shared their own artworks in a final group exhibition.

This week, we announced the OTF has awarded the Koffler with a $526,200 Grow Grant to expand Koffler Studio Offsite programming to over 4,000 students at additional schools in the GTA over a three-year period. In light of this exciting news, this week we’ll be taking a look back at the inaugural year of Koffler Studio Offsite.


While Thorncliffe Park Public School might be the largest elementary school in North America, with over 1,300 students in grades 1 through 5, and a cultural makeup accounting for over 47 different countries, there is such a strong and vibrant sense of community present. One might expect that at a school this large, students, staff and parents would all be disconnected from one another, but within moments of setting foot into the school it is evident that Thorncliffe is a place where everyone looks out for one another and as such, houses plenty of love. To have been welcomed into such an incredible school to run the first iteration of Koffler Studio Offsite was an honour, and it is with great anticipation that we await future installments of ‘art club’ – as the 2019 participants lovingly re-named the program – at Thorncliffe. 

Every Wednesday for twenty-weeks beginning in February 2019 through until June 2019, Patricia Riticca and I were forced to pinch ourselves, just to make sure that we weren’t dreaming. It never felt real to be able to come to Thorncliffe on a weekly basis, head to Mrs. Beattie's classroom armed with snacks and art-supplies, and witness thirty talented grade 5 students grow as artists and as individuals, under the direction of various practicing artists. Wednesdays quickly became my favourite day of the week and I look forward to when that becomes true again! 

There was often a recurring request amongst students, parents and teachers alike, for even more ‘art club’, and due to the generous support of the OTF, the Koffler will be able to fulfill this demand! Koffler Studio Offsite Programming will be offered to even more Thorncliffe students over a three year period, by way of offering Fall and Spring after-school sessions and in-class workshops; this is in addition to the two new schools that Koffler Studio Offsite will be expanded to serve. 

Dainesha Nugent-Palache
TD Assistant Curator of Education & Exhibitions 


Multidisciplinary artist Patrick Cruz taught students the fundamentals of painting, guiding them to create collaborative large scale abstract paintings that reflected on notions of home. Photo: Dahlia Katz.


Students joined photographer Azra Kara in the darkroom at OCAD U, where they learned the basics of black & white photo processing, explored various experimental darkroom techniques, and developed their own photographs and photograms. Photo: Dahlia Katz.


Following artist facilitator Ness Lee’s lesson on the technique of pinch-pot, students created ceramic vessels that contribute to a larger collaborative installation. Photo: Dahlia Katz.

Play (2019) is a series of short films written and directed by Koffler Studio Offsite participants using toys as characters and props. Over the course of 3 weeks last spring, students collaborated in groups to create storyboards, props and sets to bring their scripts to life with the help of editor Joële Walinga, cinematographers Ian Carleton and Gabriela Osio Vanden, and sound Engineer Daniel Warth.

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Testing Grounds (June 2019), the final exhibition at East York Town Centre, showcased artworks produced by grade five students from Thorncliffe Park Public School who participated in the twenty-week long program Koffler Studio Offsite. The works exhibited reflected their exploration of diverse visual arts disciplines under the guidance of ten professional artists who visited the school once a week. With an emphasis on experimentation, play and collaboration, Koffler Studio Offsite artists contemplated ideas around their identity, community and the environment. Photos: Mary Anderson.

Koffler Studio Offsite Artist Facilitators: Patrick Cruz, Tetyana Herych, Azra Kara, Ness Lee, Tau Lewis, Maddy Mathews, Alicia Nauta, Farihah Shah, Jöele Walinga, Kendra Yee.

Participating Thorncliffe Park Public School Students: Muhammed Aaban, Hiba Abbasi, Aayan Abid, Yomna Alturk, Muzhda Azada, Rameez Farook, Amina Habib, Abdelelah Hassan, Zoya Iftikhar, Nabeeha Iftikar, Modabira Ilhami, Wafa Kazmoz, Mohammed Khan, Labeeka Khan, Tim Mannoura, Ilma Masoodi, Allison Mendez, Ziya Pathan, Shayira Raidah, Amr Rawash, Sameeha Shahid, Khadeja Shaikh, Aamna Shiraz, Fatima Tahir, Fatima Tariq, Maliha Frui Twala, Muhammad Uzman, Babar Waheed, Zainab Waseem, Nabeeha Yousuf.

Koffler Centre of the Arts Staff: Dainesha Nugent-Palache (TD Assistant Curator of Education & Exhibitions), Patricia Ritacca (Education and Public Engagement Manager).

The Koffler Centre of the Arts acknowledges the support of Thorncliffe Park Public School Principal Jeffery Crane, educators Stephanie Rallis and Katherine Beatie, and School Trustee Rachel Chernos Lin, for their sustained belief in the Koffler Studio Offsite project. Thanks to OCAD University Faculty of Art & Photography Department for the use of its darkroom facilities, and especially to Hugh Martin, OCADU Photo-Lab Technician, for his time and efforts making the university photography lab usable for grade five students.​
Koffler family FoundationCIBC Wood GundyOntario Arts Council | Conseil Des Arts De L'OntarioToronto Arts Council | Funded by the City of TorontoCanada Council