Friday, December 18, 2015

BRUNO

As comfortable shopping for a fine meal with the perfect wine as he is designing & building precision custom installations for high-end clients such as Dior, Bruno Girardet is a man of many talents and passions.

Born in Vevey, Bruno still calls Switzerland home, living in Lausanne. With a degree in art and design from the Centre d'enseignement professionnel de Vevey, Bruno has used his love of building and design to create high-end installations for some of Switzerland's most elite shops. In addition to his contemporary design, he also is involved with preserving Switzerland's past using state-of-the-art computerized monitoring equipment to measure building movement and changes in humidity. In a country with high standards for building and preservation, some of the sensors are designed to look like traditional building elements so they are not offensive to the eye! Now, that's good design!

Here, Bruno is pictured in Toronto's Kensington Market to select just the right ingredients for a memorable feast!

BRUNO FUN FACT: He has been trained and is a card-carrying pyrotechnics expert! Bruno can design and set off a 20-minute fireworks extravaganza from an off-shore barge that will light up the sky with over 20,000 fireworks! A man of many talents indeed!

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN




Sunday, December 6, 2015

ANNICK

"I go and work in the mines every day," says Annick Foretay of her job working for Switzerland's only mine. It is a salt mine and she is the marketing manger at Sel Des Alpes which has been operating in Bex, Switzerland (pronounced, 'Bay') since 1554.

Born and raised in Lausanne, Switzerland, 47 year old Annick lived in Canada working as a marketing specialist. In 2003 she returned to Switzerand work for Diageo, the world's largest spirits company which owns brands such as Baileys, Gordon's Gin, Smirnoff vodka and Guinness.

As the marketing manager of Sel des Alpes, Annick is responsible for the way their salt is marketed to other businesses and to consumers. The salt mined at the Bex location is extracted by liquifying, then recrystallizing it for industrial uses such as road salt and de-icing. As well, the more refined product is sold for household consumption and cosmetic uses. It can also be tasted in a range of Swiss salt chocolates.

ANNICK FUN FACT: While living in Canada, and one to never shy away from new experiences, Annick headed north to the French River, four hours north of Toronto to experience her first canoe trip with a small group. With a broad grin and eyes wide with wonder, she was a natural paddling the white water of the rapids and came through without dumping and wanting more.



Tuesday, December 1, 2015

AMANDA

The streets are dark and the chill in the air accompanies the light drizzle. Inside the NightOwl bar which is closed on Mondays, Amanda Maccagnan and her painting partner, Vera, are finishing an ambitious project. An highly accomplished stained glass artist in Toronto, Ontario​, this painting commission is a new form of expression for Amanda. Something much larger and not 3-dimensional. Painting and drawing is nothing new for Amanda, she has been drawing for years, her work bursts with colour at times, and is deeply moving at others. Tonight, Amanda Maccagnan​ finishes a wall which features the large faces of a man, an owl and a woman. The work has taken three days and they will work late into the night to complete it.

If you wish to see here work, please visit: www.amandamaccagnan.com

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Saturday, November 14, 2015

LIA & AMANDA

It's funny how some people meet. Take Lia Xiong and Amanda Bartz for example! Two strangers meet on a plane and end up here in Yosemite Valley as new friends!

Lia is a nurse from Fresno, California. She works full time as a pediatric intensive care nurse and part time in adult open heart surgery. Intense! "I'm a dabbler," she says laughing. A heavy career for someone so youthful. "I look younger with my braces! You should see the look on the patients faces when I take off my mask and say, 'I'm going to be your nurse for open heart surgery' ". In this profession, you need strength, courage and a warm & friendly bedside manner. 27 year old Lia has all that and more.

At the age of 25, Lia decided to focus on looking after herself a bit more and bought a ticket to travel to Alaska. With a love of travel, she has met many people along the way. "I have come to know that people are so kind when you travel alone. Humanity is really kind".

A Wisconsin native, Amanda met Lia on an airplane. "I just need to figure out how to get to Yosemite," Amanda was telling her seat mate. With that, the friendship began. As Lia lives not far from the National Park, they went together where they stand for this photo!

Travelling to Visalia, just outside of Fresno, Amanda has come to train as a worker for the Christian organization, Students International which is based in four countries in Latin America. Amanda is raising funds to move to Costa Rica to start a community wellness programme for the prevention of disease. 

Amanda will set up her programme in Costa Rica where other students and adults from the United States can come to volunteer and work with the local community.

Doing great work for people in need comes at a price. Amanada is raising money to get herself to Costa Rica and to start the programme. If you would like to help her achieve her goals, please go to: www.stint.com and click on the donate button. You can then click on "staff" and find her name. Your contribution will be paid forward to many people through Amanda's work.

Meeting these two young people in a field in a national park makes one feel that the world is indeed in good hands!

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN











Wednesday, November 11, 2015

VERA

Moving from her home in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Vera Malitskaya came to Canada three years ago, following her heart. What she found was a supportive artistic community and friends which allowed her creativity to blossom.

An artist, Vera is currently collaborating with a fellow artist on a huge canvas, a wall in the NightOwl restaurant in Toronto's Little Italy neighbourhood.

Having gone to university and art college in Uzbekistan, Vera felt that artists and creativity were not valued or appreciated, especially artists who are non-traditional. "There wasn't so much freedom for creating there. People we not supportive of ideas," she says of how artists are accepted.

Vera is happy, energized and filled with inspiration. Came to Canada as a live-in caregiver for a supportive family who are still close friends. Vera met her fellow artist and partner on the wall project, Amanda Maccagnan at the ETA Awards and have created a strong creative bond.

The NightOwl wall will be finished today. It is a striking piece of art and one that should be seen. The restaurant is at 647 College Street in Toronto, Ontario.


PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Sunday, November 1, 2015

NICOLAS & EILA

Four countries, two continents, one couple and an enthusiastic Hello! The Hello Project met up with Nicolas Papachristidis and Eila in a ghost town in Nevada, just outside Death Valley. A betting man could have fun with those odds. Now consider Nicolas, who lives in London, England is half Greek, a quarter Indian and a quarter Chinese!

A ship broker, Nicolas comes by this honestly as his father was also into shipping. Moving oil around the world for major oil companies and traders, his business is a grown-up version of a kid’s dream job. With a hearty laugh and a friendly smile he jokes and says shipping is the family business!

“Bicycling and being together,” Eila says of their reason for being here in the United States. Part of a Backroads cycling tour, they, along with other cyclists and a van festooned with bikes and accessories follows them through the challenging heat, hills and desert roads.

Getting married next year, they have been commuting and seeing each other for three years bouncing back and forth between New York and Europe. From Helsinki, Finland, Eila is everything one imagines, beautiful, bright, warm and charming. “You must come to Finland. But only in the summer months,” she offers, "People are friendly, in a good mood - winter is too dark and cold,” she says laughing about her home country.

Having lived in Switzerland, Paris and Germany, Eila has lived in New York for the past 18 years where she works for a financial firm. She will move back to Europe where they will get married in Helsinki and finally find a place to call home together.


Down the road the group of cyclists have started to move. Nicolas and Eila leave the strange ghost town house made of bottles and head toward their group and on to their bikes to explore more of these parts of the United States.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Friday, October 23, 2015

VIVIAN

Vivian Rodriguez is a Navajo woman who was born in Page, Arizona and grew up in Reno, Nevada. Vivian is a guide who loves to show people the spectacular Rattlesnake and Antelope canyons located in Navajo territorial land.

This day, Vivian, with her brightly colour wool bag clears the way of rattlesnakes before we enter Rattlesnake Canyon. In her bag she also has a wooden flute which, when she plays, adds to the spiritual sensation of exploring the canyons.

She returned to Page and is putting together her past and understand her rich First Nations heritage.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

TINA & ULI

With the epic Horseshoe Bend section of the Grand Canyon as a background, friends, Tina is a secretary at an electrical company and Uli is a warehouse manager at a steel company.
Tina is from Bottrop and Uli lives in Bochum, both communities close to Düsseldorf, Germany. They are visiting America and their next stop is Monument Valley.
PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Sunday, October 18, 2015

SHEILA & CHARLY

Originally from Belgium, Charly Liesen emigrated to America and met wis wife Sheila through their local church community. He has been an American citizen since 1992 and from his dress, has totally adopted to life in their home in Hazelton Idaho.

They took a few moments to stop at Badlands National Park to take a few photos before continuing their drive along Interstate 90 in South Dakota.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

FRANZ & AURORE

From Paris, France, François 'Franz' Humbert and Aurore Muller are spending a few weeks traveling around in the United States.

Franz, a graphic designer and Aurore, a clinical research assistant in a pharmaceutical laboratory are seen here visiting Monument Valley in Utah.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Thursday, October 15, 2015

RANGER, BLAINE

From Corsica, South Dakota, Blaine Kortemeyer is the Assistant Chief of Interpretation at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. 

Seen here in uniform and in front of the sculptures of the four presidents, George WashingtonThomas JeffersonAbraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, Ranger Blaine is a tall man with a relaxed way about him and is always enthusiastic and helpful when people come to him with their questions.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

TAYLOR, GREG, ANDREA & MADISON

The Taillacq family of Madison, 3, Greg, Andrea and 11 month old Madison take a moment to pose for The Hello Project in South Dakota's Badlands National Park. After their visit here at the Badlands, they will be heading home to Wellington, Colorado.
The Hello Project has hit the road and will be posting through the United States for a while. Follow for Hellos from the road.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Monday, October 12, 2015

DAVID & VICKY

On the River Tay is the city promoted as 'One City, Many Discoveries', tucked just clear of the North Sea. Two people are absent from Dundee Scotland, but David and Vicky are safe & sound and on vacation here in Toronto. 


Pictured here in the Music Garden at Toronto's harbour, David and Vicky are visiting the city for the first time and will head to Niagara in a few days before heading back to Scotland in a week. A quick trip, but we are happy to have them!

David is a chef at a care home in Dundee. At capacity, the facility is home for 48 residents which means he is responsible for 144 nutritious meals a day. Vicky works in retail industry responsible for electrical goods.

This photograph was taken late yesterday, on the day they arrived in Toronto, so they say goodbye and head off to do more exploring of the waterfront.

DUNDEE FUN FACT: As the city's slogan suggests, Dundee has a lot going on. It was in Dundee that explorer, Robert Scott's Antarctic ship, RSS Discovery was built and is berthed in the harbour for all to view.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Saturday, October 10, 2015

SIMON

According to the Oxford dictionary, Energy is "The strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity".

Truer words have never been spoken about Simon Ibell's energy. Born in 1977, Simon grew up in Victoria, British Columbia on Canada's west coast. He was always active, loved sports and was very popular at school.

Simon is not just energetic, he is a force of nature.

At 4' 8" tall, Simon is one of only 40 Canadian's with Hunter Syndrome (MPS II), one of a group of six rare metabolic disorders. He has spent his life working to bring awareness to this rare disease.

His life-long close school friend and NBA star, Steve Nash and other A-level athletes from pro sports and throughout the Olympic organization have been part of his journey. A well respected advocate for sport, speaker and inspirational leader, Ibell has has never let life get in the way of his goals.

In 2003 he was named, Canadian Spirit of Sport Story of the year for riding 500 kilometres over 10 days, crossing Vancouver Island and raising $250,000 for MPS diseases.

As a past Athlete Relations & Communications manager for Right To Play, Ibell used his energy and vision to touch and inspire others internationally. Along with close friends and Olympians such as Beckie Scott and Adam Van Koeverden, Simon inspires people internationally.

Simon is the founder of the iBellieve Foundation which seeks to bring awareness to MPS and fights for a cure. Please visit www.iBelieve.com to learn more and to get involved.

SIMON FUN FACT: Even during a punishing snow storm, Simon had no difficulty gathering an esteemed group of friends together for a dinner out - proving he embodies what it is to be a force of nature.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Thursday, October 8, 2015

PAUL

In his scrubs, Dr. Paul Wong appears out of nowhere flashing a quick smile. He furtively glances about speaking rapidly and with no idle chat chat. His body is never at rest and his eyes always darting. These are characteristics that can be applied to a shark - always moving or they die. 

He is in his element at the Toronto East General Hospital. He is making a difference. This has been his home for 16 years. They are fortunate to have him.

But it wasn’t always this way. Before graduating from the University of Toronto as an orthopaedic surgeon, Wong had already graduated with a civil engineering degree as a young man. Timid by nature and uncomfortable with swearing, he was not suited for macho and rough construction sites. Soon after, and before the handover of Hong Kong, he emigrated to Toronto at age of 20 with his family. He now calls Canada home.

A family man, he wishes he could spend more time with his family. They are his pride and joy. He does manage to slow down a little for infrequent vacations. A beach here, a slope there, he is just happy to be with family no matter where they go. To his amusement, his wife loves to fish! Wong?… Not so much! But he goes along to keep her company because this time is rare.

I let him go, as I am taking up valuable time. On an average day, his fracture clinic will see 80-100 patients. Vanishing through the door with a large coffee in hand, he waves and says its been awesome!

WONG FUN FACT: Cheerfully admitting to a bit of an obsessive compulsiveness, he uses words to channel his energy. For years, if he feels down or under pressure or to cheer himself up, he will visualize a word. For a while his word of choice has been, “Awesome"! He laughs and says his staff teases him about it!

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IMAN

To serve and protect. This could be Iman Noor's life's work. We may see her in uniform on the streets of Toronto, bringing to our community, the understanding of a wider community.


Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Iman grew up in Kuwait where her mother is from. Her family moved to Toronto in 2009 seeking a better future and opportunity. For Iman, it has been an opportunity to learn, express herself and find her goal in life.

Ask Iman about her volunteering and she lights up - even brighter! She is a dedicated volunteer at the Hope Place Of Community, a recreation facility for those with developmental challenges. Her relaxed demeanour and style is comforting and engaging, a perfect combination to nurture and help those for whom she cares.

This fall, she will realize her new path and passion. She has enrolled in college for policing. With Iman's current roll as security staff at a downtown condominium, plus her active roll as one who cares for others, she will be an asset to any police force.

IMAN FUN FACT: Contrasts are another of Iman's characteristics. Balancing her drive to become a police officer, Iman also has a passion for dance which began as a younger person in Kuwait where she learned to belly dance. After moving to Canada, she has also become an avid hip hop, dance hall and krump dancer!

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Monday, October 5, 2015

DAWN

No dog. 
No pony. 
No bull. 
This statement on her advertising business website sums it all up. Creative partner and co-owner of Off To Market, a Toronto advertising and marketing agency, Dawn is a straight shooter. Pulling no punches, Dawn is as direct and clear as she is passionate and caring for others.

With a career in advertising and marketing at the big agencies, Dawn knows a thing or to about delivering a message. This is true of her other interests.

Dawn stepped out of the boardroom and into a boxing ring to put her drive and fighting spirit to work raising money for cancer research with the Fight To End Cancer. She is petite, but don't let the big blue eyes and infectious smile fool you, she is a fighter!

DAWN FUN FACT: She taught herself to quilt and to knit and loves making little knitted hedgehogs. Now that's creative, no bull!

PHOTO:SPENCER WYNN

Saturday, October 3, 2015

BEK

As inviting as the beautiful loaves of fresh bread in the window of LeaH'S, Bek Zolnierczyk, works the tiny bakery on St. Clair west in Toronto.


Born in Kitchener, Ontario in 1987, Bek has worked at LeaH'S for two years. It is a small and welcoming bakery on the corning of St. Clair west and Wychwood avenue offering tempting treats and baked goods. Wedding cakes can also be created along with other custom orders.

When Bek is not behind the counter, she is a volunteer birth support worker for expecting and new parents from marginalized communities. She supports mothers in labour and provides postpartum counselling, assistance with nursing and helps clients to adjust to a new baby in the house. 

Bek is moving to Montreal to take a course in her area of interest with the Montreal Birth Companions. Bek's interest is in helping women and families from the queer and trans communities as well as newcomers to Canada and people without status for whom access to healthcare is a challenge. Bek's volunteer work also extends to public education, working with queer and trans youth to provide sex education.

BEK FUN FACT: In addition to bringing up her 14-month old husky, Bek pauses to think of something fun about herself, "Oh, I'm so boring... Oh, I know! I'm really good at knitting", she says! After attempting to knit a tent for a cat, she has moved on to knitting many Harry Potter scarves for friends!

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Friday, October 2, 2015

JANE

Project Hope brings "a little bit of light in a darker time".

Jane Watson embodies her words every Christmas Eve morning through Project Hope which she organized over 11 years ago. Out of her own loss, Jane now gives back to Saint Joseph's Health Centre in Toronto as a way to thank them for their care. She spends a few minutes speaking with each patient and gives them a small gift of a stuffed animal while letting them know someone is thinking about them.

You can watch a short video about Project Hope here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KBwSzMusJQ

Her caring for people also extend to her professional life. Jane is Vice President, Consulting at Optimum Talent, one of Canada's leading career management firms. 

Last year Jane took on one of her most physically and mentally challenging endeavours. She signed up and became a fighter in the Fight to End Cancer. It was here that she stepped out of the boardroom and comfort zone, to step into the boxing ring. Together with her female opponent and other fight teams, she helped raise money for cancer research. She maintains that those battling the disease are the true fighters and are her inspiration. 


Keeping a fit mind and body, she continues to box as well as run. Winter running is her favourite, as well as playing platform tennis, an outdoor winter racquet sport.


JANE FUN FACT: She was Toronto's first female garbage collector! It was, " An awesome summer job for a student"!

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

VIRGIL

Raised by his grandparents and aunts, the 12 year old Virgil finally made it to Canada four years after his mother emigrated from their home in Suriname, South America to further her education. Due to complications with a visa, Virgil had to stay four years longer.


Barrow now calls Etobicoke, on the west side of Toronto, home. His office is the padded floor of a boxing ring at the Kingsway Boxing Club. He is a head coach at the gym and though it is his work, it gives him much more satisfaction that his past information technology background.

He only just found out his great grandfather was a Samurai, so his love of the sweet science and a fighter's disciple must flow through in the blood. In addition to Japanese, he is also a mix of African, Portuguese, Chinese and German. Barrow is a man of the world.

Barrow is a quiet man, not given to outbursts or trash talking. He coaches his students and fighters by encouragement, example and an understated power and intensity.

Virgil once had a deaf client confined to a wheelchair. He was impressed by the man's courage and will to learn. Virgil had to change the way he taught and communicated with the student. He says the experience he says made him a much better coach.

VIRGIL FUN FACT: With his gleaming smile, Virgil says many would never know that he is actually fluent in Dutch. Not surprising given Suriname was originally colonized by the Netherlands.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

HUMBERTO

The first time I saw Humberto Cox, he was at the Pottery Road exit of one of the Toronto ravine trails and appeared to be asking for directions. His three-wheeled scooter looked more like a lost, bright red Christmas ornament against a verdant backdrop of lush green forest. We eventually met a short time & distance later in our common destination, the Toronto Brick Works.


Now 51, Humberto was born in Mexico City to a Canadian father and Mexican mother and moved to Canada in the early 1970s. "You are the only person who speaks English with a Spanish accent and goes, "Eh". " A friend of Humberto's in Florida says of him. With that anecdote, he rocks with laughter – again!

Humberto took actuarial science in school. After graduating, he worked in this capacity, predicting insurance costs for the insurance industry. Now retired, he loves to read a lot, travel and explore. His travels have taken him all over Europe, South America and Asia.

When one travels and has an electric scooter, one has to think of accessibility and logistics. "You just have to do a lot of planning and you never can do too much. Now with the internet its easier but still you might face last-minute challenges at the location." Humberto describes as he recounts some of his travel stories.

Visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing, China was one such example of a mobility challenge. Forget the uneven cobbles that are difficult for everyone to walk on, Humberto found other unique challenges. To get from one building to the other there are ramps, but to exit a large building to the outside, there are particular obstacles! "...the next thing you know, there are these giant doors, and in the bottom they have a beam which most people just walk over, but I can't," he describes of the large red doors found throughout the Forbidden City. "There are people ready to carry me, but I go, "No, no, no! I look at it and it looks like you just lift up the beam and then you should be ok." He tells as he figures out a solution. He found people who will simply lift the beam up and out of his way, replacing it after he passes. Such is an example of a local mobility challenge not necessarily found during online trip planning.

HUMBERTO FUN FACT: While visiting Aukland, New Zealand, he found the Sky Tower is exceptionally accommodating! At 328 metres (1076 feet) it is the highest man-made structure in New Zealand. Similar to Toronto's CN Tower Edgewalk, Aukland's tower offers walks around the exterior of the top of their tower – and they are able to accommodate wheelchairs! "They put all this stuff around me, these harnesses around me, that was the hard part," he motions, describing how the Sky Tower staff secured him so his chair would not fall off the top of the dizzying height. "So there I was flying over Aukland! My mother and aunts though I was crazy!" he laughs remembering their reactions to the safe, but scary stunt!

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Monday, September 28, 2015

MARY

Asked where her favourite spot in Toronto is, Mary Vallis Cowan did not hesitate to say the Toronto Brick Works, a converted brick manufacturing facility dating back to the 1800's. "Its a place where my daughter watched a turtle laying eggs in the middle of Toronto".

Born in Montreal, her dad headed west to seek employment in the Alberta's oil patch when she was 11 months of age. Eight months later, with an oil job, Mary and her mother followed, settling in Edmonton. After a move to Kelowna, British Columbia when she was high school aged, Mary headed to Victoria, British Columbia to attend the University of Victoria.

Landing a job at the National Post in 2000 began Mary's career in journalism but not before she had to finish writing her last exams in the office, Andrew Coyne, National Post political columnist and author!

Ten years after starting at the National Post, Mary moved to the Toronto Star where she is now Life Editor. Leaving hard news at the Post and working her way into the Life department she is finding it a refreshing change, "I came to the Star as an editor. Now I am the Life editor and it is so fun and creative," she says of the freedom to experiment with ideas and stories.

Now heavily involved in taking stories in a different direction on their new iPad tablet edition, Star Touch, things have become very exciting. "It's exceptionally visual. We're telling stories in a completely new way. It shows off photography so well," she says of the display possibilities of the new tablet edition of the Star. She did a count a few days ago of the number of photos in the Life section. There were 10 printed photos in the newspaper, but in the iPad edition there were 100. "We are focusing on how people want to consume their news and putting them in control," she says of the platform's high level of interactivity.

MARY FUN FACT: "I'm a secret Coronation Street fan," she admits of her guilty pleasure. "It's all so tawdry and it's a 20 minute escape in her day. After I put the kids to bed I curl up with a glass of wine and watch the terrible lives of Coronation Street," she says laughing. She never has to worry about being without as she simply downloads the episodes from iTunes... on her iPad of course!


PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN




Sunday, September 27, 2015

HELLO MUSKOKA

This is the group shot of the 500px Global Photo Walk in Muskoka. The walk took place this year in 210 locations around the world. Once place that needed representing was Muskoka, the hours north of Toronto. The day was warm, sunny and the 6km trail was dry and easy to walk.

If you are interested in finding out more about this walk or about the global photo community of 500px, check them out at www.500px.com As well, Fujifilm Canada was a title sponsor of this year's event. Thanks to Helen Hayter from Fuji for attending this walk and for dispensing some prizes after the walk!

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN


Friday, September 25, 2015

LIO

It has been 100 years since the beginning of the Armenian Genocide which saw a systematic decimation of the minority Armenian population of the then, Ottoman Empire. By 1918 almost 1 million people were killed, the rest left homeless, stateless and scattered to the wind and hospitality of neighbouring countries. Persia, more commonly known as Iran was one country that opened its doors to the Armenians – and it is where 73 year old Lio Faridani was born.

Last night the collective memory of Toronto's Armenian community gathered for the Art and Memory exhibit at Arta Gallery in the Distillery District. The moving and powerful exhibit of paintings and sculpture is dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Faces of desperate women reach out as you walk into the gallery. At 14 feet, Lio's painting depicting the suffering of the Armenian people through the anguished faces of the women left behind and in front of a row of soldiers, set up the visual journey through the collection of pieces.

Born in Isfahan, Iran, Lio moved with his family to Tehran at the age of six. He was always drawing and painting and interested in art as a boy. After high school he studied architecture and art in Florence, Italy which shaped and refined his life-long passion and talent as an artist. After a couple of years working on Poland and Denmark, Lio returned to Iran to continue working as a visual artist.

In 1987 Lio and his wife moved to Toronto where he has been working in architecture and art. "In my opinion, all architects should also be artists or they are not architects," he says laughing at his belief that the two disciplines are linked.

Of his huge painting at the gallery entrance, Lio prepared sketches over a long time detailing aspects of the genocide through research and personal stories growing up in Iran. A deeply personal piece, his painting is also a piece for the people and meant to survive for generations to come. "This is why I paint in oil, it is a medium that will last for people in the future to see," he says of the final work that took 2 1/2 months of continual work from the stack of sketches holding the collected memories of a tragic history.

You may see more of Lio's work here: http://contemporaryarts.ca/


PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Thursday, September 24, 2015

ROMAN

Against a dull, drab background, Roman West makes a statement in colour and about his plans to fly.

Having only arrived in Toronto in June for school and work from his home in Barbados, Roman is finally getting to the end of all the immigration procedures to immigrate to Canada.

Roman is enrolled in flight school at Toronto Airways and wishes to eventually become a commercial pilot after working his way through becoming a private pilot. To help him afford school and live he will be looking for jobs in the aviation industry. At this point he is still dealing with all the paperwork, appointments and medicals required to move to Canada.

ROMAN FUN FACT: He came to Canada alone while his family is still back in Barbados. Asked how many in his family he laughs, "I don't know, it's huge, it goes on and on with many different generations"!

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

GIUSEPPE

Caught just before heading out to taste some wine, Giuseppe Pelligra stops to say Hello. This warm and hospitable chef & owner of Fusilli Ristorante is a constant in this ever-changing city.

Born in Canada but moved to his parents home in Sicily when he was eight years old, Giuseppe grew up inspired by the land, the people, the wine and food of Italy. After university and meeting his wife, we wanted a change and to explore the country of his birth. He moved back to Canada. 

With two children, he has had a successful neighbourhood restaurant in Toronto's downtown east side for the last 27 years. Given Toronto's fickle restaurant culture, he is a survivor. Fusilli's has been serving savoury classic Italian food here since 1988. Though he has been here for a long time, he is always experimenting with new dishes and new wines.

When he is not wearing his apron, he is socializing with friends, camping, enjoying family walks and sports. He enjoys golf but says he's not very good - but plays for the enjoyment of getting out with friends and to enjoy beautiful surroundings.

Next time you are in Toronto's Corktown neighbourhood and have a hunger for good Italian fare in an intimate restaurant, Giuseppe will welcome you and make you feel like one of the family. www.fusilli.ca

GIUSEPPE FUN FACT: When he is not working the restaurant, he rarely eats Italian food! "Its food I already know! So he explores and enjoys the tastes of other countries.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Monday, September 21, 2015

STEVE

The tall, colourful black and green butterfly flag tells you that Steve Polansky is close by. This flag is hard to miss on the west end of the Toronto beaches and is of a similar visual motif to one of his elaborate stacked kites. Frequent this area of the beach and you will often catch Steve's kite acrobatics.

Originally from Colfax, Washington, Steve's immigration to Toronto is a romantic one with interesting stops along the way. "I followed a girl here," he says of the reason he came to Canada in the early 1980's. Steve was working on a kibbutz in Israel for 10 years when he met a Canadian woman who inspired him to follow his heart. "When I arrived in Toronto, I didn't really know if Toronto was the name of the province or Ontario was"!

After arriving in Toronto, Steve worked with friends who stated a solar energy company. Having a mechanical background, Steve began his own company installing residential sky lights which he enjoyed for years. He now runs a private consulting business called, Cognitive Quitting where he helps people stop smoking by getting at the reason a person smokes and what drives them to smoke. Check him out if you need help: http://cognitivequitting.com/

Steve fell into flying kites after seeing them at the Toronto Home Show and observing them at a kite show at the Kortright Centre for Conservation. Years later, he has between 25 and 30 kites but his favourite kites to fly are Revolution kites with many angular wing shaped kites in a stacked arrangement controlled with two sets of spectra line. Even in very low wind, these elegant kites appear to hover without moving. Take a walk down to the beach in the evenings or on a weekend and you just may find Steve choreographing his kites in an elegant dance.

STEVE FUN FACT: Sometimes he has fun with people when flying his kites. Steve had a stuffed toy tabby cat named Rodney that he would often attach to the kite line. When Rodney was 80 in the air he looked very real indeed! Steve enjoyed the reactions of the passersby, some would laugh and  enjoy the spectacle, others would be horrified! "It was easy to tell who was uptight and who wasn't"!

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Sunday, September 20, 2015

RON & ADRIENNE

What do white guys know about heat? A fare question levelled at them by a heat-loving laughing Jamaican couple used to hot sauce. The answer coming from Ron and Adrienne Savoie would surprise you.

Born in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Ron was two years old when the family moved to the the small town of Neguac, a deeply Acadian community in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. Neguac claims the title of Savoie Capital of Canada, as almost every Savoie can trace their ancestry back to this area. Adrienne grew up in a dynasty town of a different sort – the General Motors capital of Ontario in Oshawa!

After a move back to Ontario the French speaking 13-year old Ron had to learn English quickly in Chatham where he spent his teenage years. After a few moves which included working as a miner for seven years, Ron met Adrienne in Oshawa. Ron, a City of Oshawa public employee and Adrienne a 30-year hair dresser retired happily to Costa Rica after a close introduced them of the Central American paradise.

It was an interest in cooking that led to developing the richly flavoured smokey hot sauce while running a tiny three-table restaurant in Costa Rica. Friends told them, and encouraged them to make more and to bring it up to Canada. They never knew then that the home made sauce would grow into a thriving business. Returning to Oshawa, they now have 15 sauces, snacks, spices and four stores! The residents of Oshawa, Pickering, Barrie, and Brantford are fortunate to find Jungle Heat hot sauces in their communities.

RON & ADRIENNE FUN FACT: "White boy don't know how to make hot sauce," a proud Jamaican woman at a trade show once teasingly told Ron and Adrienne! After being told that they have won 66 awards for their sauce, the Woman said, "No one makes sauce like my mom," and with that the challenge was on! It was after trying their hottest recipe and passing out for a short time, the woman came-to and pronounced, "This white boy knows how to make hot sauce"!

Note: If one day you see a huge hearse, emblazoned with flames rolling into your neighbourhood, take comfort in the fact that the coffin inside is ushering in hot sauce using their rolling billboard, and not the end of days!


PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Friday, September 18, 2015

ANDRE & VERI

First-time visitors to the city, but no strangers to world travel, Andre and Veri visit Toronto's City Hall from their home down in Argentina.

Both women work for ExxonMobil where they met. A friendship developed and they have both found they are great travel friends. Between them they have visited many places including the United States, France, Italy and Spain.

"The weather here is very beautiful, we are so lucky with the warmth," Veri says of the unseasonably warm temperatures Toronto has been enjoying this late in September.

TRAVELING FUN FACT: Once while traveling in Amsterdam, Andre had no luck in finding a hotel for the night. "Everything was full, no room anywhere. Someone told me to check Couchsurfing," explains Andre of her dubious thoughts of the popular online service offering up a spare couch for the night. "I found a guy who had a couch so I stayed there. It is a good service and does not cost anything, and he was a very nice man".

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Thursday, September 17, 2015

HANS & CHAE

At mid day, in the shadow of the 1853 St. James Cathedral and the pealing of the church bells in downtown Toronto, Hans and Chae enjoy a quiet lunch hour away from their computers.

Hans, from Busan, South Korea, known for its temples, beaches and mountains came to Toronto in 2004 by himself for school and work. He is an animator working not far from where they sit behind the church. His work has appeared in television series, films and commercials. A graduate of the Vancouver Film School, Hans has worked animation assignments in China, Turkey and Korea as well as at home in Toronto.

Seoul, capital of South Korea is Chae's hometown until 2013 when she landed in Canada without knowing any English. After one year at school, she was proficient and today her spoken English is flawless. Graduating from Centennial College in animation, she works with Hans at Arc Productions where she is involved in producing 3D character animation. "Its a secret! Next year you can check on TV and see it," she says smiling when asked about her current project. 

HANS' PROUD MOMENT: "I had an ordinary life," Hans says in his understated way when asked to think of something in his life that stands out. "I worked hard to get my portfolio. I worked in restaurants and everything. But the day I finished my portfolio, I got an animation job in Turkey. I am proud of that".

CHAE's MOST PROUD MOMENT: "Actually it just happened recently," she explains of the day she received two exciting pieces of news. "On this one day, I got this job and I also head from my school coordinator that I was getting and academic award for excellence! I had the highest GPA in my class"! "I felt amazing, I told my parents right away in Korea".


PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN