Sasha Steiner was in her 10th grade at the Etobicoke School of the Arts during the pandemic.
Steiner, a student of contemporary arts, and her classmates couldn’t access their studios or materials. “were barely able to make work as a community,”She spoke. “We were able to have the occasional online show, but it didn’t feel as rewarding or engaging as the shows we used to have. One of the best parts of the shows at our school is the electric energy. As time progressed and (COVID) numbers rose, we began to realize that our experiences as students at an art school would be greatly impacted.”
Kathy Jin, a dancer at Etobicoke School of the Arts (ESA), used her time during the lockdowns. “create, choreograph, and just be creative,”She shared her work on Instagram, YouTube, and YouTube. However, she didn’t show her work to large audiences. “the opportunities to collaborate with different artists and friends, which is a wonderful experience.” Steiner agreed. “Being able to grow in your artmaking alongside your friends is a beautiful thing that art schools can provide. However, not being able to experience that these past years has definitely made it harder on us.”
Now in Grade 12, Jin and Steiner, both 18, found a way to put one of Canada’s top arts high schools back on the stage for the first time in more than two years: a 30-minute film shot in the abandoned lower Bay subway station. The film will premiere Saturday at Innis Town Hall. It features contributions from more 200 student designers, composers and musicians, as well filmmakers, photographers, and filmmakers.
It was last November that the friends decided to relaunch the school’s annual Etobicoke Fashion Show (EFS), a highly anticipated production since its 2018 inaugural event. The COVID ban for indoor student meetings meant that they had to hold their first planning meeting outside. 100 students from Grades 9-12 attended, much to their delight. “We were over the moon,” said Steiner, who with Jin, became co-directors and co-producers of this year’s EFS. “After so many lockdowns, we weren’t sure how motivated or involved the student body would be.”
EFS was previously held on the runway to a live audience. But organizers failed to find a venue that could hold the event. So they switched gears and found a film that they can screen for a live audience. There are other advantages to filming rather than a live event. A live show can be filmed. “the majority of the work would fall to the fashion designers,” said Steiner. “However, with a film, we were better able to incorporate many more mediums — graphic design, editing, cinematography and set design. “People were really excited to participate in a show that showcases students from all types of art majors,”She spoke. “It gave an opportunity for all types of minds to come together.”
Filming also reduces production costs, allowing students to work on a smaller budget (which comes through fundraising, parent support, and ticket sales). “but still come out with something strong that everyone can use in their portfolios,” Steiner said.
Jin and Steiner were looking for filming locations. “interesting and engaging, but would not distract too heavily from the designs,” said Steiner. They chose the abandoned subway station in lower Bay, where ESA staff supervisors volunteered to help with the shooting days. Parents also pitched in, providing food, tracking down props, and transporting supplies.
The majority of designs featured in the film fell into the streetwear category, said Jin, but there was a wide range of looks, from designs inspired by her Asian background to student Ben Haslam’s (extra) long-sleeved embroidered white dress shirt.
Although they were aware that the show could lead to securing scholarships and future employment — 2022 graduates were awarded more than $15 million in scholarships for schools including Tufts, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Cooper Union and Parsons School of Design in New York City and Harvard — it was not it’s raison d’être. “We produced this show for the celebration of artists around us,”Jin: “for a chance to give back to the amazing and talented artists we worked with.”Jin believes that their motivations are similar for their fellow students. “They did this for their love of fashion,”She spoke. “Every student at our school is extremely passionate about their artwork. I love seeing the variety of mediums they use and everything they do is so authentic and raw. There is just nothing like this form of industry in the world. It has such beauty and colour.”
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