History of the Don Valley Art Club

Adapted from an account written by DVAC Librarian, Jean Thomson, in 2004

A small group of East York artists met and painted together in the mid 1940’s, first at their homes and then at Chester Avenue Public School. Needing more space as membership increased, in 1948 the group, including H.Leeds, D.Cardwell, J.Williams, E.Walters, F.Bain, W.Shaw among others, requested of the Borough of East York, and were granted, squatters rights for a piece of land at what is now the foot of Don Mills Road for $1.00 per year. The members built a cabin by themselves and while doing so, held their meetings at neighbour Charles Sauriol’s cabin.

In 1949 the Club held its first show and thereafter held two shows a year, one being an annual event where a critic judged the show. The ”most recent and original” works were hung in the cabin and, weather permitting, outside on the fence. The Club had weekly meetings, summer and winter, and had demonstrations from such luminaries as Lismer, Brigdon, Bayefsky, Berkovitch, Schneider, Franck and Varley. There was an active social life. They held corn roasts, Halloween and Christmas parties, and weekend field trips. A monthly newsletter was produced, published and mailed by Tom Homewood, for free, to all club members.

In 1967, True Davidson, Mayor of East York, planned the restoration of Todmorden Mills as a Centennial project and invited the art club and East Side players to locate in the renovated Mill Building. The Club accepted, sold its building for $5000, which it donated to the East York Foundation which was financing the renovation. The Club moved into the building in 1975, donated time towards painting the interior and cleaning their space. The Club stayed at Todmorden until the summer of 2000. During that period the membership increased and was limited to 150.

The art programmes were expanded to include all days except Saturday, and the Club’s status as a “painters club” was established. Its social activities waned as lives became busier but the Club still has Christmas parties and the interest in day, weekend, and longer painting trips, both locally and out of province, has increased. In 2000, the Club rented space at the Brick Works which was renovated to provide more suitable space.

In 2011 the Club moved to its present location at 666 Eglinton Avenue West where it shares space with the Forest Hill Art Club. The annual art shows continue to be held in the excellent gallery space at Todmorden Mills at Pottery Road and Bayview Avenue in the Don Valley.

True Davidson’s dream of an art centre at Todmorden Mills is thus partially fulfilled.