A Brief History of Toronto School of Art

In 1968 a small group of serious students organized by Barbara Barrett got together to improve their skills as artists by hiring a teacher and meeting regularly in a house on Walker Ave. A year later they had three instructors and had formed a non-profit Canadian charitable enterprise named “Art School Toronto”.

In 1972 the name was changed to The Toronto School of Art and the school relocated to the corner of Brunswick and Sussex Avenue, in a former Synagogue, just minutes from the hub of Yorkville. As it grew, the school relocated a few times; first to 1087 Queen St. West in 1988; to 110 Spadina Ave. at the end of 1992, then to 410 Adelaide St. West in 2001. TSA remained there for eleven years, moved to Bloor and Dufferin in May 2013 for 5 years until we moved into our permanent location at 24 Ryerson Avenue in January, 2019.

Back in 1982, TSA established the three-year Fine Art Diploma Program. Its goal was to train and prepare students to become practicing professional artists. The acredited program provided as much exposure to Toronto's visual arts community as possible while adhering to an educational framework. The school also started a one-year Portfolio Development Program and in 1997 introduced the groundbreaking Independent Studio Program (later to become the Professional Art Studio Certificate), which gave Diploma graduates or other art school graduates an intimate and intensive year of guidance and introduction to the art community.

In January 2002, the Digital Lab was launched together with the option of a year-long full-time Digital Art Certificate. The program encouraged students to fully explore their artistic potential within the fast growing new medium.

Currently, TSA does not offer any certificate or diploma programs but, for students who wish to dedicate themselves to their practice in a particular area of study, for opportunities to expand their styles, techniques, process, methods, and concepts under the guidance of a Faculty Mentor, could participate in our Independent Study Option (note this is not presently available). Other professional development opportunities for TSA students include the Portfolio Development Program, which is intended for students who wish to put together a portfolio of their visual art work with the goal of gaining admission into a visual arts high school or Post-Secondary Program.

In addition to the students seeking dedicated professional development, TSA welcomes students and artists at any point in their career who want to study, explore, and connect with a community to develop their art practices and personal growth. This year TSA employs approximately 40 faculty members, all of whom are working artists active in the Toronto art community.

The most recent and very exciting news is that through the generosity of an anonymous donor, TSA was able to purchase a permanent home at 24 Ryerson Avenue (just north of Theatre Passe Muraille) in the Queen and Bathurst Street area.  We've been up and running in our beautiful new facility since January 2019.  It's a four-storey heritage building, built in the early 1900s, with approximately 12,500 square feet of interior space. This compares with approximately 8,000 square feet in our previous location in the Kent School (Bloor & Dufferin). Importantly, the lot on which the building sits is larger than the building footprint, thereby affording us a number of dedicated parking spaces and protected northern natural lighting. TSA determined that a key element to long-term success was owning its own school building. We feel so fortunate now to be finally in our wonderful permanant home!  

We are proud of the years of growth we have achieved, in both numbers and reputation in our previous location in Bloordale. We are proud to continue our role as a leading alternative art school and an energetic contributor to the Canadian arts community at-large, at our permanent home at 24 Ryerson Avenue.