Arts York

Arts York (or more commonly referred as AY) is a four year program specializing in Dance, Drama, Music and Visual Arts. The program is currently located at Unionville High School. The high school takes students from all over the Greater Toronto Area. Each year, students of the Arts York program will take two AY courses each grade. When students reach the end of the program, they will receive an Arts York certificate recognizing their completion of the program. Students still must have the required credentials in order to receive the Ontario Secondary School Diploma and graduate from high school. Students of the program can expect to perform in the Markham Theatre (which is conveniently located next to the school), or display their works at school. Students may also attend exhibitions, guest speaking, and occasional field trips out of Canada.


In the 1970s', Superintendent Stephen Bacsalmsi created the idea of a public advanced arts program. The Ontario government accepting the idea was only waiting for a new high school to be build. When Unionville High School was under construction, the Ontario government as well as local governments considered it a prime opportunity for an arts program. The program was opened in 1985, along with the opening of Unionville High School.

In recent years, due to the success of the Arts York program in Unionville High School, the York Region District School Board have created alternative locations for the program beginning in 2000 (Arts Huron) and 2007 (Arts West). In 2003, the York Catholic District School Board had started another regional arts program in St. Elizabeth Catholic High School. The Arts Huron Program (housed in Huron Heights Secondary School was created as the alternative for students living in the Northern areas of York Region and the GTA, while the Arts West (housed in Westmount Collegiate Institute) program was created as an alternative for students living in Western areas of York Region and the GTA. Emulating the Arts York program, Arts Huron and Arts West provide similar specialty programs for students, while the St. Elizabeth arts program aimed to emulate the Arts York program, while teaching students in a Christ-centered learning environment. Despite the alternative locations, the Arts York program in Unionville remains the flagship regional arts program for the region.

Admission Process

Admission is open to all those "artistically talented" and interested students who reside in the Greater Toronto Area. Many arts York students apply in Grade 8 for admission into the Grade 9 year. Although limited in space, students of Grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 can apply in all areas of Arts York (excluding the drama program).


The admission process for dance includes a class of ballet and modern dance. The students would then be asked to improvise with a group of 3-4 students to show their creative. Students would also be interviewed by an admission panel.


The students must perform a memorized scene, work in a 90-minute workshop, and be interviewed by an admission panel.


Students would be given are expected to be able to sight read a piece of music, are expected to do an ear test, perform a repertoire, studies, and scales, to do a written theory test, and to be interviewed by an admission panel. Specific requirements apply to certain areas in the program.

*Piano: Perform two pieces of Grade VIII RCM level or equivalent.
*Strings: Perform two pieces of Grade IV RCM level or equivalent.
*Vocals: Perform two contrasting solos with accompanist, perform a musical theatre, and perform a folk song or equivalent to a minimum of Grade II RCM or equivalent.

Visual Arts

Participate in a three hour workshop in which students would be judged by their contour drawings, figure proportions, and shading. Students would also have to submit a portfolio including a self portrait, a still life drawing, a sketchbook, and a sculpture or a 3D work. All pieces would have to include a description.


The program works on the creative and professional skill needed to be successful in dance. The curriculum is based on ballet and modern dance. The theory includes anatomy, injury prevention, nutrients, career choices, and dance history and criticism. The students of the program are divided into companies called Dance Access and UHS Dance Company.


This department is the largest in Arts York. There are at least 2 classes of approximately 30 students each per grade. This is an extremely popular program and the competition for admission is really tough. Over 300 people auditions for it, and only about 50 spots are available.Although curriculum shifts and evolves from year to year, students accepted can look forward to studying aspects of theatre arts including:

* Mime
* Movement
* Choral Drama
* Scene Writing
* Clown
* Characterization
* Stand up Comedy
* Scene Studies
* Shakespeare
* Modern Theatre
* Film
* Stage Production

The program is remarkable in the communal bond students share, partly because of the comrades-in-arms attitude the program's students have towards each other, the relative freedom students are given to access the department's rooms and resources, the most commonly attributed cause being the yearly retreat to The Kinark Outdoor Center, which gives the community quality bonding time.


The program focuses on the developing the skills needed to become a successful musician. This department is separated into four other categories. You could also be in musical arts-piano, musical arts-winds, musical arts-strings, and musical arts-vocal. Classes are divided into two categories - performance and non-performance. In the performances classes, students will play scales, studies, and other short pieces; in the non-performance classes, components such as music history, rudiments, and harmony are taught.

Students in the Arts York music program are participating in a large music group as well: piano and vocal students in choir, string students in string ensemble, and winds students in band. The groups usually hold two concerts per school at Markham Theatre, one in December and the other in May. The groups have also participated in many music competitions such as the Kiwanis Festival and won many awards.

Graduates from the winds and strings students will reach an RCM Grade 8 level, while piano students will reach a Grade 10 level.

Visual Arts

The Visual Arts program provides opportunities for individual creative and imaginative growth as well as development of technical skills. Students of this program will be introduced to experimental and traditional directions in drawing and painting. They will also specialize in sculpture, photography, printmaking (etching and silkscreen), ceramics, textiles and video. There will also be studies in the history of art and critical analyses of one's own work. The student's discovery of individual strengths and directions is a prime focus. For the purpose of developing the aptitudes of talented students interested in the Visual Arts, programs are being offered in all four years.

At each grade level students can expect to take part in field studies to art galleries, museums, OCAD and have talks or portfolio evaluations by guest artists in a variety of artistic careers. The students' work is displayed in the school during the annual Art Show and annually in May at the Markham Theatre. Each year, students of this program are to take 2 visual art courses, one per each semester.

In grade 9, the Visual Arts Foundation Major IA course offers an overview of visual arts as a foundation for further study. Students will become familiar with the elements and principles of design and the expressive qualities of various materials through working with a range of materials, processes, techniques, and styles. They will learn and use methods of analysis and criticism and will study the characteristics of particular historical art periods and a selection of Canadian art and the art of other cultures. This course will introduce the theme of developing imaginative ideas and technical skills through drawing and painting. Both representational and abstract styles will be studied. Drawing concepts, the use of tone, line and volume through still life and portrait, will be developed in pencil, inks and chalks. Printmaking, through line etching, will reinforce design principles. Film animation will be studied as well. The second grade 9 course, Visual Arts Foundation Major IB, introduces topics such as sculpture, and ceramics. Students will learn about sculptural form and the design arts, through the process of making a plaque. Students will also learn about pattern and design; by designing their own wall papers and through research on Escher. Historical techniques will be explored through a thematic approach to Art History. This year during second semester, the 2nd period class participated in 1st annual Tetra Pak Creative Class Challenge. After 2 months of hard work and dedication they are announced to be the proud winners of this years challenge. []

In grade 10, the Visual Arts Foundation Major IIA emphasizes learning through practice, building on what students know, and introducing them to new ideas, materials, and processes for artistic thinking and experimentation. Student learning will include the refined application of the elements and principles of design, incorporation of the creative and design process, and the relationship between form and content. Students will also learn about the connection between works of art and their historical contexts.

Notable Arts York Alumni

**Emanuel Sandhu - Figure skater
**Hayden Christensen - Actor
**Nathan Stephenson - Actor
**Lani Billard - Actor
**Emmanuelle Chriqui - Actor
**Bill Welychca - Former Much Music VJ - A News Channel Correspondant

ee also

*Huron Heights Secondary School
*Unionville High School
*St. Elizabeth Catholic High School
*York Region District School Board

External links

* [ Arts York]
* [ Unionville High School]
* [ York Region District School Board]

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