June 17, 2019 2:53 pm
Updated: June 17, 2019 7:16 pm

Celebrating arts in Toronto: Women’s Art Association dates back 132 years

WATCH ABOVE: Located in Toronto's Annex neighbourhood, you'll find the Women's Art Association of Canada. Started by artist Mary Ella Dignam, 132 years ago and still going strong after all these years. Susan Hay has the story.


Located in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, you will find the Women’s Art Association of Canada.

“It started 132 years ago by Mary Ella Dignam, who was an artist in her own right,” said Dale Butterhill, co-president of the Women’s Art Association of Canada.

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“Mary Ella was educated in New York and Paris and when she came back to Toronto, she felt a need to create an outlet for women in the arts” he said.

“It wasn’t until after the war, that men could formally become members and to this day the association has male members.”

This member-supported charitable organization is dedicated to assisting Canadian artists. This is a place where like-minded people can gather in a charming 19th century house.

“We have a memberships base, but we have an organization that welcomes the public and is open to the public,” said Butterhill.

Since 1948, the association has offered a scholarship program to students in the arts.

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Funding 17 scholarships at seven leading arts organizations including Canada’s National Ballet School, The Royal Conservatory of Music, and the Ontario College of Art and Design.

“So this is a very, very important part of our heritage and the vast majority of those scholarships are supported through our members,” he said.

The volunteer-led organization operates on a small budget allowing the doors to remain open after all these years.

“To be able to evolve through time, remain relevant, go through ups and downs, I think,” said Butterhill. “I can safely say, Mary Ella would be very proud to see her legacy continuing into the 21st century.”

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