Category Archives: Arts

Reimagining Urban Space: Brian Wannamaker ’82

Having redeveloped Portland neighbourhoods for two decades while creating living and work spaces for artists, alumnus Brian Wannamaker ’82 can be most fittingly described as a passionate ‘artpreneur.’


An Oakville, Ontario native, Brian relocated to Oregon in 1986 following his studies at Ridley and York University. He recalls not being entirely certain where his path would lead, but began saving his earnings in order to acquire property. With a strong creative compass and solutions-oriented mindset, he soon found himself working in real estate redevelopment. Brian recalls that in the early 1990s, his then business partner exposed him to art collecting, which served to reignite an appreciation he had always had for artistic expression.

”There seemed to be a wrong in the world where artists could work on their craft so hard and barely make ends meet. I just wanted to do a little bit to help these people.”

In the years that followed, Brian was drawn to reimagining properties of cultural and architectural significance around the west coast city, and eventually discovered Falcon Apartments, a diamond-in-the-rough for which he saw immense potential.

When Brian bought the property in Portland’s north end in 1997, it was a languishing, partially inhabited apartment building with low- and fixed-income tenants. However, he was able to envision how it could evolve into a hub for working artists without displacing the existing tenants. Brian felt compelled to breathe new life into the neglected building and to support the struggling tenants living within.

Soon, his plan to transform Falcon Apartments shifted from a business opportunity into a vision to build and empower an arts community. Brian came up with a value strategy to blend the higher renovated apartments rent with the existing tenants rent and the midpoint being profitable without rental increases to fixed income residents. The “cost average “ approach allowed judicious rent to existing resident and artists, while directing a portion of the market rent to support a 14,000-square-foot multi studio space in the lower level. This way, creators (painters, sculptors, musicians, writers and more) could work in dedicated studios and feel connected to a broader creative community. The building and guild of artists are now aptly named Falcon Arts Community.

“My insight for Falcon Art Community came from spending so much time living at Ridley. It’s that basic concept that you want to be around people who you enjoy being around and who you find inspiring.”

Brian recognizes that his care for the community comes in large part from his seven years at Ridley. “It’s a compassion piece that happened at Ridley; it’s about having a big enough perspective to want others to succeed,” he explains. ”There seemed to be a wrong in the world where artists could work on their craft so hard and barely make ends meet. I just wanted to do a little bit to help these people,” Brian adds, demonstrating his embodiment of our school motto.

Throughout his career, Brian has found countless innovative ways to integrate urban renewal with his passion for artistic creativity—whether he’s beautifying a stretch of Portland’s North Mississippi Avenue, leasing converted cold storage unit spaces to a general arts college, conceptualizing an inspiring venue for musicians, or as owner of the stunning Wannamaker Estate Vineyard in Washington.

When asked what advice he has for current Ridleians and youth exploring careers in the arts, Brian imparts, “I think it’s critical to learn how to be inventive…If you learn how to be a creative problem solver, that will help take you further in whichever endeavour you follow through with.”

Off The Grid: Sandy Rasmussen ’07

Abstractionist, Sandy Rasmussen is proving to the art world that his has staying power.

“The grid started out as a pattern resembling my mom’s tablecloth,” Sandy laughs. “We would have dinner outside, and she’d put a tablecloth on the counter and tell us not to make a mess. I’d wonder, why have it? But that tension, that feeling of do not spill anything—I love that.”

Abstractionist and Old Ridleian, Alexander ‘Sandy’ Rasmussen ’07 always knew he would work in the arts. His grandfather, an artist and set designer at the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC), encouraged Sandy from a young age, and his time at Ridley was largely spent hanging around the art department, fascinated by stories of the abstract expressionists who broke visual traditions and found new ways to communicate.

Rasmussen's exhibition at the Christopher Cutts gallery

From his mother’s tablecloth, to the famous grids of Agnes Martin, to the linoleum tile floors of the gas station in which he used to paint, the Niagara-based artist is looking to explore that tension, earning kudos from critics at his recent show at the Christopher Cutts gallery for his “riveting works” and “delectable passages of paint that almost shimmer.”

“The act of putting on paint impasto like I do is kind of a bold statement. What mark do I make now? Do I touch the canvas with that colour? What if I do this? It’s totally subversive,” he concludes. “I’m going to do what I want.”

After graduating from Ridley, the St. Catharines native left to study at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, but soon realized he was looking for a different kind of experience. “As much as art can seem welcoming and nurturing, it can also be a towering history of knowledge that you may not possess,” he admits. “It’s a steep hill.” The following year, Sandy headed east to take Sociology at St. Francis Xavier University—but he didn’t leave art far behind. “I started seeing parallels between the things we were discussing in class and in art,” he says, looking back. And, a year into his degree, painting pulled him home.

Fat Chance

“The act of putting on paint impasto like I do is kind of a bold statement. What mark do I make now? Do I touch the canvas with that colour? It’s totally subversive. I’m going to do what I want.”

Sandy came back, borrowed $500 from his dad for supplies, and got to work. He sold pieces and secured commissions. He travelled home to paint on weekends and school breaks. He immersed himself in art history. After graduation, Sandy started painting full-time in his parents’ garage, then rented out space at an old rural gas station before spending two tough years working in a cold, dim-lit barn out in Jordan Station—an experience which he says hardened him as an artist.

He now paints in a light-filled barn not far from campus, the rustic surroundings informing his work in pleasant, unexpected ways. And a barn is likely the best place for him to spread out. For Sandy, painting is a sport—and he likes to play large, whether he’s physically stretching across a wide expanse of canvas or stretching out an idea twenty feet. He points to influential artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Bradford and Joe Bradley, artists whose physicality enters their work.

“The thing I loved most about basketball was doing layups during warmup, feeling hyped and excited,” he explains, looking back to his days on the Ridley team. “And with big paintings I get that same shiver down the back of my neck; I’m anxious to get going.”

You can see that energetic sprawl across Samosas, the 8-by 24-foot abstract which now hangs at Brock University. Sandy donated the painting to brothers Taylor ’07 and Clark ’09 Robertson in memory of their parents and sister, Joe, Anita and Laura ’11, who were tragically killed in a plane crash the summer of 2018. Their loss was felt across the Niagara Region; the warm-hearted Robertsons were known widely as philanthropists and community leaders, and they were generous supporters of both Ridley and Brock.

Sandy speaks at the unveiling of Samosas at Brock University. Image courtesy of Brock News.

“When I heard the news, I knew pretty quickly what I wanted to do. It was always theirs.”

The family was very familiar with Samosas, having admired its progression at the gas station where Sandy painted, and then rolled out on his barn floor mere days before the accident. “They’d seen it so many times,” Sandy recalls. “When I heard the news, I knew pretty quickly what I wanted to do. It was always theirs.” Taylor and Clark chose to display the painting in Market Hall, now a permanent memorial at the university where Anita volunteered and whose Board of Trustees Joe had served on for nearly a decade.

“I had nearly exhausted the look by the time I got to the right side of that canvas,” Sandy smiles. “It was like finishing a marathon.” If you see it, you’ll see why. Standing in front of that painting is like going on a contemplative journey; its pathways and rivulets thread across the wide expanse, and you can’t help but follow—all the way off the canvas edge. Samosas was unveiled at Brock this past April. 

Sandy’s paintings often slip to matters of time and nostalgia, his large-scale abstractions christened with playful names like Fresh Fresh (a nod to the woman who makes his favourite samosas), Horse Play (a sweet response to his late grandmother’s living room warnings), or Fat Chance (the gamble that is all art, really—and the piece that kicked off his Toronto show).

Alexander Rasmussen

“My paintings have their own timeline, their own journey,” he explains. “And I just have to trust that, because chances are what you’re working on right now will have a small and fleeting impact.”

His work incorporates memory, but he’s also conscious of it as a deliberate reflection of the present, with the occasional happy accident of an unplanned gesture, the quick scoot of a brush in an unexpected way. “My paintings have their own timeline, their own journey,” he explains thoughtfully. “And I just have to trust that, I suppose, because chances are what you’re working on right now will have a small and fleeting impact. To get an ego about a particular piece—that’s not going to last.”

But as time goes on, Sandy’s proving to the art world that his has staying power. “Rasmussen is already some way on his journey into figuring out those techniques that give his paintings the desired emotional content,” noted Toronto critics this past spring. “He is definitely onto something.”

As for the up-and-coming artist? “There’s no turning back,” he says resolutely. And there may be some delicious irony in that statement, as Sandy’s paintings often capture a textured and abstract past, even as his brush keeps going.


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our winter issue.

Flourishing in These Challenging Times, Vol. 1

Keeping Your Well-Being in Focus

By Director of Wellbeing and Learning, Sue Easton

The Ridley community is moving into uncharted territory, with new Remote Learning for students, and most of us either practicing physical distancing or in isolation—even quarantine—wherever we are in the world. Though this may be a time of uncertainty and change, our well-being doesn’t need to suffer. It may take more conscious, deliberate work than usual but, in keeping with Ridley’s vision to inspire flourishing lives (as defined by PERMA-V: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, achievement, and vitality), each of us can benefit from incorporating the following five behaviours into our days—until we see each other again.

1. Connect with others.

Whether you’re spending time with those you live with, be it to share a meal or complete that jigsaw puzzle, or you’re reaching out via video call to family and friends, or playing a shared game of online Scrabble, connecting is important. We are practicing physical distancing, not social distancing, since we know that relationships are vital to support our well-being.

Recommended Resources:

Discover well-being videos on Facebook’s ESF Discovery College.

Got gamers in the house? Common-Sense Media features family-friendly games and other helpful resources.

New in The Guardian, Dr. Lea Waters shares videos to support families who are in isolation.

Balloons at Pep Rally

2. Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Day.

Mindfulness helps children become more self-aware. Knowing how they are feeling during this unsettling time not only promotes conversation but helps them nurture self-compassion. Mindfulness also helps students learn self-management and develop important decision-making skills. These skills support us in being present and engaged in our new reality—and ready to participate in learning and living activities.

Recommended Resources: 

Greater Good in Education offers well-being resources for both adults and children.

Clear your head with Headspace — a free site which features a variety of meditation practices.

GoZen includes family-friendly videos and activities to support anxiety, resilience and more.

Celebration of the Arts

3. Seek beauty to savour and appreciate.

Immersing ourselves in art, music or nature—be it inside, outside or virtually—boosts our positive emotions. By exploring the resources available to us, we learn where our interests lie, which in turn increases our engagement and helps give us a sense of control over our new situation.

Recommended Resources:

Google Arts and Culture is a virtual treasure trove, providing visitors with tours of hot spots, street art, museums, and more.

Listen up! NPR offers this comprehensive list of live concerts to enjoy from the comfort of your own home.

Go on your own ‘home safari’ via webcams from your favourite zoo. Learn more in this handy guide from The New York Times.

4. Get physical.

We all know that exercise helps with our physical health, but it is also one of the best ways to build positive emotions, decrease anxiety and stress, and support healthy sleep. Exercising outside while practicing physical distancing is a great way to get the benefits of being in nature while moving our bodies. But if that isn’t possible, there are many ways to get physical while keeping indoors.

Recommended Resources:

Get moving with one of these active apps highlighted by Common Sense Media.

Your kids are sure to love these movement and mindfulness videos from Go Noodle.

Stretch it out with classes from YogaDownload.com — the perfect size for any space.

Cross Country Run

5. Find your purpose.

Every human benefits from a feeling of achievement—often connected to what we believe is our purpose in life. For students practicing physical distancing, it may at times feel like academic work provides their sole sense of purpose. It is important that they know they make a difference in the lives of others, within their families, communities and beyond. For inspiration, consider some of these resources.

Recommended Resources:

Reach out via one of these great ideas from Random Acts of Kindness — be sure to check out their kindness calendar!

From practicing gratitude to building optimism, Positive Psychology is offering great resources and activities you’ll want to try.

Keep it close to home with Operation Warm — a website highlighting online volunteer opportunities.

We’ll be sharing more resources in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please remember that as part of the Ridley community, you’re only an email away! Feel free to reach out for support and to learn more.

All That’s Real: Jane Lewis ’90

With her new album recently released, singer-songwriter, Jane Lewis shares how she found her voice—and is helping others find their own.

The chapel light travels warmly along the pews, coming to rest on the rich curves of the piano. A woman sits at its keys. She’s slight, fair, her face framed by a riot of silver curls. Her eyes are closed, fingers moving deftly along the instrument as she sings, softly at first, then with increasing emotion: “Here we are at the end, here we are, no regrets, just gotta take that one last step off the edge.” Above her, the stained-glass beckons, a reminder of things beyond the chapel space.

Jane Lewis Piano

The singer in the video is Jane Lewis ’90, and the song, Carry You Home, is dedicated to her late father, Paul, a teacher, coach and historian whose name many Ridleians will recognize. For the daughter of two long-time faculty members—her mother, Janet was the first housemaster of Dean’s house the year girls started boarding and eventual Assistant Head of Upper School—it was the perfect place to be. “I started writing it when he was sick, and we knew his time was limited,” Jane responds, when asked about the song. “It was really special to be able to film it in the chapel.”

The girl who once wrote poetry and was one of Ridley’s first environmental activists is now a musician based in Guelph, Ontario. Her passionate vocals and piano accompaniment have been compared to legendary singer Carole King, her songs described as “intelligent, poetic and cinematic.” (You’ll want to get to know her playful Beatles cover of Come Together—it won the Independent Music Award for Best Cover Song in 2015.)

All That's Real Album

“It might not be the way you initially imagined, but if you have a passion for something, if it’s authentic to you, you’ll find a way to manifest it.”

Speaking to her, it’s easy to see why. She’s thoughtful, reflective, empathetic—and if you read through the yearbooks, you’ll see that early writer’s voice slowly take shape; listen to her lyrics now and you’ll still find those echoes. It’s unsurprising that she finds inspiration in confessional songwriters like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, and perhaps even less so when she says she’ll often choose silence, as it gives space for the ideas to come. When she’s not busy writing, singing solo, or teaching vocals in the popular workshops she runs, Jane is half of award-winning folk duo Gathering Sparks. Their compelling new album, All That’s Real was just released this fall.

For Jane, the road to music was a winding one. A philosophy major in university, she was already working in publishing when the opportunities to perform started popping up. And, by 2009, Jane found herself wandering a different, surprisingly natural path—“a decision that came out of what was already happening,” she eloquently puts it.

As someone who herself was at first shy to perform, Jane kept hearing from people who wished they could sing. She soon realized she could fill a need. “If you don’t go to church or aren’t a musician yourself, if you don’t have a family that sits around the piano, then where’s your outlet for singing?” she asks.

Jane founded All Together Now, a singing workshop series in Guelph. There’s no pressure to attend, no public performance; it’s simply about being in the moment, about embodying music. “It can be a powerful thing to get in touch with your voice, or the reason you’ve felt blocked,” she says. “But to share your authentic voice as a human being can be an act of courage. That really motivated me.” For some, these workshops have become a place where they learn to use that voice; for others, it’s a place to stop in and just let it all out. “I’ve had people say this is better than therapy,” she laughs. “And cheaper.”

Jane is also co-founder of the Women’s Music Weekend, an annual retreat where women of all musical abilities can perform in a supportive, inclusive community. There are powerful moments at these events, moments where a woman gains confidence, where she feels brave enough to step out front and sing on her own.

Jane Lewis Headshot

“It can be a powerful thing to get in touch with your voice, or the reason you’ve felt blocked. But to share your authentic voice as a human being can be an act of courage.”

The Women’s Music Weekend also has a bursary programme, now in its third season, where women can apply for financial aid. Having herself received assistance for a workshop she’d once found challenging to attend, the musician quickly saw an opportunity to pay it forward. “That definitely ties back to my time at Ridley,” she recognizes. “The motto, ‘may I be consumed in service’—that’s important.”

Ridley feels those ties pulling right back. Last year, Gathering Sparks performed as part of an artistic lineup at the Toronto Branch Reception at the AGO. “It was a celebration of the arts,” remembers Jane, “and felt like a recognition that this is an important career path a lot of people are taking.”  

When asked what advice she has for Ridley’s budding musicians, she takes a moment to reflect. On where she came from. On the work she puts in now. On the new album that’s taken years to come together—and the recognition that’s already trickling in. “It might not be the way you initially imagined,” she muses, “but if you have a passion for something, if it’s authentic to you, you’ll find a way to manifest it.”

And, if she’s learned anything, it’s that you never know what’s next. Looking back at the road which led her to this point, in some ways not where she thought she’d be, in others right back here at home, Jane seems content.

“Maybe the road is still winding.”


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our winter issue.

Canada’s King of Theatre

Award-winning actor, Colm Feore ’77 talks Canada’s arts scene, giving back—and how his time at Ridley helped give him his start.

Even when he’s travelling, he’s working. But after forty odd years in the business, Colm Feore ’77 will tell you it’s the key to his success. With Stephen Greenblatt’s Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics at one elbow, and a thick history of the Bard at his other, we spoke with Colm this past August when he was visiting his wife—acclaimed director, Donna Feore—while she directed Bernhardt/Hamlet at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. “She promised me a birthday dinner,” laughs the Stratford-based actor, who just turned 61. “So, I came to collect.”

These days, Colm is delving into the ways in which Shakespeare explores the lust for power in his plays—and how society suffers at the hands of his ‘fictional’ kings. One of Canada’s most celebrated actors, the proud Old Ridleian has played many of Shakespeare’s leading characters at the Stratford Festival, and will be taking on the role of Richard III this upcoming season. The play is poised to inaugurate the Tom Patterson Theatre Centre, a stunning, 100-million-dollar space that positions the Festival at the forefront of theatrical innovation. For artistic director Antoni Cimolino, choosing Colm to utter the powerful first words at the new theatre was easy, touting the thespian as “part of the Festival’s DNA” in a recent press release. And, though rehearsals are still months away, for Stratford’s latest king there’s plenty of reading to be done.

But if you haven’t seen him on the stage, you’ll know him from the screen. “To make a living in Canada as an actor, you have to be able to do everything,” Colm imparts—and over the years he’s proved he has the chops. His impressive career has taken him from stage to film, television and Netflix, where you’ll catch outstanding performances in everything from Chicago, Bon Cop, Bad Cop and Thor; to the critically acclaimed Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould; to his award-winning performance as Pierre Elliot Trudeau. You’ll also find him capturing TV audiences in a number of popular series: think The Borgias, The West Wing, House of Cards, 24, The Umbrella Academy and more.

Colm and Donna Feore at Governor Generals Awards

“The whole point of my job is to disappear,” he says simply. “That’s the job. Be something else.”

It’s a diverse body of work that reflects his mantra—just show up—in many ways developed here at Ridley. “That was always the lesson: you’ve got to be here to play,” he reflects. “And it became a very simple mantra. If you show up, you’ll learn; if you learn you’ll get better.”

Though Colm had a diverse career on campus—becoming a Prefect, taking an active role in public speaking and debate, participating in a range of sports, and becoming editor of the Acta’s sports and literary sections—it was the acting bug that got him. Colm credits Ridley’s teachers with instilling in him a genuine love for words and the stage. “We weren’t just doing the standard production of West Side Story, or whatever was making the rounds at school gymnasium plays,” he remembers. “They engaged us in a serious commitment to drama, and to the idea that there might be a life in the arts. And when you have masters and students, fellow students, above and below you, who are all into the same thing…” Colm trails off. “Well, a guy could dream.”

Colm Feore on stage at Ridley

“That was always the lesson: you’ve got to be here to play,” he reflects. “And it became a very simple mantra. If you show up, you’ll learn; if you learn you’ll get better.”

And as his parents returned to Ridley time and again to see him act, they were learning just how good their son really was. “Once someone leaned over to them during a play and said, ‘This is very good, but it’s not really fair for them to bring in professional actors,’” he smiles.

But it was when he was applying to post-secondary school that Colm really received their endorsement, learning they’d accepted an offer from Montreal’s National Theatre School on his behalf—and suddenly the dream was off and running.

That Ridleian mantra kept Colm showing up right through theatre school and onto stage and screen, helping him navigate the requisite ebbs and flows of the biz. “Ridley’s a school that’s based on hard work and determination—your effort is going to matter just as much as your talent,” he shares. “Because for every six miracles in this industry, there are a thousand people behind them who just keep doing the work. Professionally, that pays dividends.”

Colm Feore accepts Governor General award

And as the accolades keep coming, with peers and critics alike applauding his ability to “disappear into roles,” it’s clear both talent and hard work pay off. In 2002, Colm received a Gemini for his performance in Trudeau, and the Gascon-Thomas Award by the National Theatre School of Canada in 2013. That same year he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, for “bridging Anglophone and Francophone cultures as a fluently bilingual performer.” This past spring, Colm was recognized for Lifetime Artistic Achievement at the Governor General’s Performing Arts Gala in Ottawa. But the popular actor takes his success in stride. “The whole point of my job is to disappear,” he says simply. “That’s the job. Be something else.”

“There’s a great application of these skills we learn communicating in the arts: speaking to one another, showing and telling our stories, exploring each other’s histories and lives. We learn from each other. And one of the best ways to do that is to take a risk, to stand up in front of people and to say, ‘I think this’—and I trust that you will find some value in it.”

In true Ridley fashion, Colm is also giving back, raising awareness of the importance of studying Shakespeare as a guest in Marvin Karon’s summer camp, Shakesperience, and as a board member of REEL CANADA, a unique programme which engages and inspires youth, and promotes Canada’s cultural identity. “REEL CANADA brings Canadian film into Canadian classrooms,” he explains, clearly passionate about the project which connects students with directors, writers, actors, and producers. “It says, ‘Here’s our story. Here’s who we are—and you’re going to see yourselves reflected in these spaces.’”

Colm on stage

And as he sits in his Chicago hotel, thinking back to his time on the Ridley stage, of the hallways he once walked, Colm hopes his story will inspire the students who walk them now. Because he knows, perhaps more than most, that telling stories is what brings communities together. “There’s a great application of these skills we learn communicating in the arts: speaking to one another, showing and telling our stories, exploring each other’s histories and lives. We learn from each other,” he concludes thoughtfully. “And one of the best ways to do that is to take a risk, to stand up in front of people and to say, ‘I think this’—and I trust that you will find some value in it.”


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from our winter issue.


Fresh Year, Fresh Start: How Ridley helps students forge their own paths

Written by Head of Upper School, Michele Bett

A new school year is just around the corner, and it is holding out hands full of promise. It is time for another fresh start, time to discover the wealth of untapped potential among our magnificent community of learners. Who can say what great new friendships will be forged in the Houses of Ridley College, what tests of courage, commitment, and collaboration will be faced on our sports fields, or what giant steps will be taken on the path of success?

Ah, but what do I mean by “success”? What do we at Ridley think we are trying to achieve? I would like to explore – and perhaps clarify – what success looks like from a Ridley College perspective, and to suggest a way for you parents to help.

Sir Ken Robinson’s highly regarded book, Finding Your Element: How to discover your talents and passions and transform your life, might be a good place to begin our exploration. Robinson says that one’s “element” is the convergence of natural talents and personal passions, and that finding one’s element is the most important quest that any of us can have. Finding your element is the quest to find yourself.

This quest involves both an outward and inward journey. The outward journey is the discovery of the opportunities the world can offer. The inward journey includes unlocking a student’s academic aptitude and accepting one’s unique purpose. 

Speaking of purpose, I have been impressed by Richard Leider’s recently published The Power of Purpose: Find Meaning, Live Longer, Better. In this book, the author says that to live with purpose is to actively live one’s values. Purpose is our essence and what makes each of us so special. When we get up in the morning ready to contribute to the world, we are living with purpose, living with meaning. Living like this is not just living – it is living well.

Research suggests that having a purpose requires an aim outside ourselves. Naming our purpose helps satisfy our need to matter and feel worthy. Through a Ridley College lens, we can see three important messages for our students:

  • They are part of something bigger than themselves;
  • They are committing to live a life of service; 
  • They are going to transform a world that needs them.

So when we talk about steps on the path of success, we are saying that the quest for each of us at Ridley is to find our element, our passion, and our purpose. Once we identify these, we need to learn how to live these values every day.

We believe that advisors, housemasters, teachers and coaches can all provide invaluable assistance to students on this quest because authentic learning and discovery thrive in a kind and caring community.

I think that high school is the right time for young people to begin thinking about these things. Students confront a bewildering range of choices and must make decisions all the time, but the most important of these decisions have to do with their own identity and integrity. 

I am reminded of a poem that many of you will be familiar with by American poet Robert Frost, called “The Road Not Taken.” In it, the speaker is walking through the woods, comes upon a fork in the path ahead and wonders which way to go. It is not always easy to know which road leads to success, to one’s purpose. As Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said, you cannot connect the dots going forward; you can only connect the dots looking back. In other words, despite our best-laid plans, we can never know the future. It is only when we look back on those choices, those experiences, those seemingly chance encounters, that we can discern a direction.

So it is in the poem. The speaker finally chooses one of the roads, recognizing he will never know what he has missed by not choosing the other, but concluding that his choice has “made all the difference” in his life. The Grateful Dead sang a similar sentiment: 

There is a road, no simple highway

Between the dawn and the dark of night,

And if you go, no one may follow,

That path is for your steps alone.

As their popular song suggests, this path, this quest for one’s element, passion and purpose is exclusive, singular, “for your steps alone.” This year, each of us at Ridley will make choices that help to define us as unique individuals and to name that purpose that drives us forward. There is always some risk in making a choice, since we cannot know exactly where it will lead us, but when we look back one day we will be able to connect those dots, to see how our life’s path has led us to become who we are.

Given the various quests of the members of our community and the many pathways that lie ahead of us, perhaps you will understand when I write how delighted I am by the wonderful adventure that awaits us this year. But I also mentioned that there is a way that you could help. Of course, as parents you know your children in ways we never can, but there is one area on which to focus that I think could be valuable. 

Lea Waters, the developer of the Visible Well-Being program (which as some of you know has been adopted by Ridley College), has recently published a study that investigates the relationship between what she calls “strength-based parenting” and educational outcomes. 

A strength-based approach to parenting is one in which parents encourage their children to recognize and use their own character strengths. These strengths may include humour, kindness, self-control, persistence and so on. Waters accepts that emotional warmth and appropriate control are important aspects of parenting, but suggests that awareness and acknowledgement by parents of their child’s strengths helps support the healthy development of the child’s character and personality. 

Furthermore, Waters’ work shows how promoting a young person’s character strengths fosters academic achievement. She found that strength-based parenting not only influences a child’s well-being but also positively affects academic outcomes. Surely, it is good to know that Ridley’s emphasis on our students’ visible well-being has benefits both in and outside the classroom. Universities in Canada and beyond are still interested in student grades, and I believe that our educational priorities, along with your support, provide the best possible environment for young people to flourish academically, socially and personally.

In closing, I want to offer a warm welcome as we embark on our exciting, collective journey of discovery this year. Ridley’s faculty and administration are dedicated to helping each of our students discover their element, passion and purpose, and to thrive in every area of school life. This year will provide many challenges for us all – but challenges are simply stepping-stones to growth when we love what we do. 

Author and speaker Simon Sinek famously said, “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.” One of our most important tasks as educators – and parents – is to help your children, our students, find their passion by discovering what they truly love.

TOP 10 Highlights from the 2017-2018 School Year

Ridley has had its share of excitement in academics, athletics and the arts over the past ten months. As another school year comes to an end, we look back on some of the most noteworthy events of 2017-2018.

Ridley Becomes First Visible Wellbeing™ School in North America
Dr. Waters’ First Visit | Dr. Waters’ Second Visit

Benefit Raises $275,000 for Ridley

View photos | Watch video

Tigers Represent Team Canada
Training Camp | FIBA U18 photos

Ridley Launches New Design of Tiger Magazine

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Ridley Releases First Documentary: Ridley Carries On
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Historical Year for Ridley Athletics

GymnasticsBasketballSwimmingHockey | Girls Rugby 
Boys Rugby & Tennis | Rowing

Ridley Celebrates Canada’s 150th Birthday

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Tigers Show Selflessness on Service Learning Trips

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Students Celebrate Diversity During Winter Carnival 

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Arts Flourishing More Than Ever Before

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The Gift of a Ridley Education

The story of Ben Johnson ’17 is that of a young man whose challenges seemed insurmountable – until the kindness of a stranger and the gift of a Ridley College education changed the course of his life.

Ben always enjoyed a love of learning and possessed an innate mastery of science, but prior to Ridley, he did not have a nurturing community that would allow him to excel. After years of struggling to overcome challenges, Ben came to a critical juncture in his Grade 11 year, when he was moved to an emergency shelter.

At the shelter, he found it difficult to focus on his studies while dealing with the challenging circumstances of his personal life. In spite of the hardships he was faced with, he recognized he had to persevere and pursue his dreams. With the caring guidance of his godmother, Ben’s grades skyrocketed. Encouraged by this scholastic success, he began to explore the possibilities available to him after high school.

Ben’s drive and determination did not go unnoticed. Julia Bertollo, former Director of Summer Programmes, invited Ben to attend Ridley’s Summer Academy – which included his tuition and board. While studying during the summer, he learned more than just Grade 12 chemistry. He discovered the importance of independent living. At the same time, he took advantage of Ridley’s music department and practiced his co-curricular skills.

While Ben’s talents flourished that summer, an anonymous donor took notice and decided to fund Ben’s final year of high school at Ridley. This generous gift allowed him to attend a school where he could continue to thrive, with the anticipation of continuing to university.

While in Grade 12 at Ridley, Ben embraced the vast opportunities given to him. He became an editor for the TigerPost, Ridley’s student-run publication and was a valued member of the film club, writing the score and recording music for a student film. He immersed himself in the arts, which enabled him to experience the positive influence creativity has on one’s academic achievements.

Ben viewed his academic success as a personal responsibility and took his education very seriously. “As someone who has the desire to make the most out of an education, Ridley was an exceptional place for me to study,” says Ben. Although he was at Ridley for only one year, he ensured that he absorbed as much experiential and academic knowledge as he possibly could. He loved that he was able to incorporate his personal interests into all his classes and personalize his education.

“My Ridley experience was very well-balanced, proving to be encouraging, both on a personal and academic level. My classes were all intriguing, as they expanded on the material in a way that allowed me to discover the various areas of what I personally liked about the subject at hand. My classes, in particular, were mainly in the sciences, however, I frequently took opportunities to bridge together different disciplines in a way that was of my personal interest. I also appreciated the challenges: the workload was demanding, but it was only for the benefit of my education, as it fostered important time management skills and efficient study habits that I know will be necessary for lifelong success.” – Ben Johnson ’17

Ben was the recipient of three scholarships by the time he graduated Ridley. The first was the Brock Niagara Principal’s Scholarship, which he was awarded alongside fellow Old Ridleian, David Biggar ’17. This award is presented to students in the area that demonstrate exceptional academic results as well as a dedication to community service. Not long after, Ben was awarded Ridley’s Robert J. Malyk Prize for Biology. “I was able to meet Bob in person and thank him; he generously funds this annual scholarship to those who share his passion of Life Sciences and hold significant potential in their scientific careers,” says Ben. Most recently, he was the recipient of the PenFinancial Scholarship after he submitted a moving video that expresses the obstacles he’s overcome and the goals he hopes to reach.

This past September, Ben began his post-secondary journey at Brock University in Neuroscience, with a focus on Neurocomputing. While he has only just begun his programme, he is setting his sights on the future. “Main career pathways are research or medicine. Both interest me, however, I am currently aiming for medical school following my undergraduate programme,” declares Ben.

“[At Ridley] I had the opportunity to experience a wider scope of an education. I find this translates effectively to the university environment, as not only am I already engaging in clubs and activities on campus, but a broader skill set makes me able to make deeper connections with the new people I meet.” – Ben Johnson ’17

As a student who embraced all that Ridley had to offer and didn’t take this opportunity for granted, Ben says this: “My advice is to embrace your opportunities. You are in a position that can bring you to great success if you put in the effort. There are others in this world who do not have the same opportunities, so always be thankful. The main way to show appreciation of your opportunities is to make the most out of them, which means putting in blood, sweat and tears. But at the same time, don’t forget to take a moment and enjoy the blessings that you have, for it will help you stay motivated.”

It is hoped that Ben’s story is an inspiration, demonstrating how acts of kindness can powerfully transform the lives of talented youth.

Donate now to enable more bright minds to unlock their potential at Ridley.

Flourishing Lives through the Arts

By Duane Nickerson | Director of the Arts

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” – Pablo Picasso

The arts are different. Unlike most activities, the product of art activity is not useful. Art does not feed us or make our lives more comfortable. It seems the very nature of art is to be without practical use. So why is it that evidence of art making through music and painting pre-dates the invention of writing by over 30,000 years? Why is it that art making traditions have existed in all human cultures throughout history? Just what is it about this activity that compels us to invest time and energy making it, consuming it and storing it in museums?

Picasso touches upon the answer. Art allows us to feel, to sense the wonder and complexity of existence that is ever elusive, that defies encapsulation within language or numbers. Making art is a hard-wired compulsion that can be seen in children who spontaneously make up songs, dance, draw and act out imaginary scenarios. Watch any four-year-old and you will see evidence of this compulsion and the sheer joy that it brings. Children express themselves freely until they move into adolescence and become more self-conscious and invest more time learning the argotic codes required for social standing. Too often the capacities of the artist are left to atrophy as children move through educational institutions that leave behind rigorous arts curricula and thereby denigrate this activity as less important. Children get the message: art is not valued by the adults here so I’ll attend to those things that are valued. The loss of potential is enormous, the capacity for full experience diminished.

At Ridley College, the arts are not left behind.

At Ridley, we aspire to nourish flourishing lives that tap into all facets of our humanity. We aspire to facilitate the full development of the child so that they can reach their maximum potential as productive, creative, happy people. At Ridley, children are exposed to music and art education by specialist teachers beginning in Kindergarten and are able to access increasingly specialized and demanding arts curriculum as they move through the programme into Upper School.

Many of our senior students find that, for them, a flourishing life is one infused with the joy experienced when engaged with art in the studio and on the stage. This joy comes from a state of flow. In a state of flow, a person is fully immersed in an activity because the challenge of the task is matched with their level of competence required to complete the task. As a teacher of visual art, observing students immersed in a state of flow in the studio is one of the most rewarding features of my job. A child who is fully immersed in the process of hands-on creation is a flourishing child.

As Ridley continues to build upon its reputation as a world-class school, its arts programme will grow to facilitate higher levels of performance and deeper engagement. The tools that we use to make art are also expanding to include a wide array of electronic media. More than ever, cultural industries are emerging to encompass large swaths of economic activity in an increasingly automated world. Thus, in the arts, we are also preparing children for rewarding careers as well as ensuring that they keep in their lives the joy and fulfillment that comes from engaging with the arts.

For all of us throughout our lives, we are faced with the task of building identity and generating meaning. Throughout history, the arts have played a vital role facilitating meaning making and affirming cultural identity. Beyond developing artists’ capacities, Ridley’s role as a school is to ensure that its students move on to adulthood with a deep-seated appreciation for the value of art in their lives. If Ridley can do this, it has done its part in ensuring our culture and civilization will continue to nourish our humanity and thereby make the world a better place.

Students Venture to Winnipeg for Speaking Arts Competition

By Paul O’Rourke | Assistant Head of Lower School & IB MYP Programme Coordinator

Ridley participated in the annual International Independent Schools’ Public Speaking Competition co-hosted by the Gray Academy and Balmoral Hall in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Nearly 150 students from over 40 teams throughout the globe were involved in this unique event that features a wide range of the speaking arts- debate, drama, and public speaking. Schools from Canada, the U.S.A., Bermuda, Korea, Peru, Scotland, England, Hong Kong, India and South Africa competed in a five-day tournament that brought together some of the best high school debaters and public speakers in the world.

Each participant selected three events from various categories that included: persuasive, after-dinner, and impromptu speaking; parliamentary and cross-examination debate; dramatic interpretation, interpretive reading, and radio newscast. Ridley was ably represented by returning junior, Bart Skala ’19 along with first time competitors Faraday Kenny ’18 and Rahul Walia ’19. Bart excelled in parliamentary debate and after-dinner speaking, reaching the finals of parliamentary debating, and narrowly missing the finals in the latter event. Newcomer Faraday Kenny competed successfully in persuasive speaking, interpretive reading, and parliamentary debating. Her speech on whether kneeling for the national anthem is un-patriotic was both topical and informative. Rahul Walia earned strong marks for his performances in impromptu speaking and persuasive speaking, in addition to good parliamentary debate rounds.

While in Winnipeg, all competitors enjoyed the unique experience of visiting the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. It was a fitting place for the top debaters and speakers to spend an afternoon exploring this spectacular venue in the heart of the city. The school venues were unique as well, situated as they each are on First Nations and Metis Treaty One lands. Organizers and hosts underscored this unique historical fact whenever possible.

The closing banquet was held at the Shaary Zadek Synagogue on the bank of the Assiniboine River, again underscoring Winnipeg’s diverse roots. Although Ridley did not claim any of the individual or team awards, each student demonstrated growth and progress throughout the tournament.  All students are congratulated and thanked for their outstanding efforts and contributions.

Ahead next on the debate calendar is the National Qualifier at Country Day School on November 21- a tournament that involves both debate and public speaking – followed by the Fulford Cup hosted by Maclachlan College on November 25.

New students are always welcomed at this activity that meets Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. in room 203 of Lower School.