The Art Circle

groupFor more information, visit The Art Circle.

A program of generosity and kindness, hardship and perseverance, creativity and inspiration


As part of Toronto’s community program, Out of the Cold, Beth Sholom and Beth Tzedec synagogue jointly run a weekly shelter for the homeless between the months of January and March, annually. The program is completely funded by donations, and run by volunteers. Beth Sholom hosts the program, providing a room for dinner and evening activities, as well as 40 beds for guests to sleep in overnight. Between 150 and 200 persons who are homeless come to Beth Sholom each week, where a hot meal, overnight shelter, and clothing donations are provided.

Also offered, is an art program. In 2010, volunteer Melanie Cheskes founded the program The Art Circle. After dinner, several tables are cleared and designated for painting and drawing, where volunteers oversee and facilitate art activities. Between 8 and 20 guests attend each week. Some participants have a background in fine arts, and some have never picked up a paintbrush before. All are encouraged to explore, experiment, learn and teach. Together, ideas and techniques are shared. An environment of warmth and support is formed, and inspiration and creative energy emanates.

At the end of each season, the artists and volunteers host an art show, where artists’ work is displayed and put up for sale. The proceeds raised go back to the artists, who in turn donate a percentage back into the program. In this way, the participants, alongside volunteers, partake in raising both funds and awareness about poverty and homelessness in Toronto.

Participants attest to improving their artistic skills, bonding with other artists, and gaining an improved sense of confidence. Some have come to create and exhibit their artwork independently from the program.

The Art Circle has also spurred different levels of community involvement. Tens of volunteers partake in facilitating weekly art activities, and organizing, advertising, and hosting the art show. Furthermore, several individuals and businesses have taken it upon themselves to raise funds, donate art, matting and frame supplies, as well as public awareness about the program.