ART at Heart Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the creative arts to hospital patients and seniors in the retirement residences.
Hospitalization is an overwhelming experience for anyone. Facing an illness or health challenge often involves far more than managing physical symptoms. Painful procedures, fear, anxiety, separation from family and friends. It can affect our whole self, including our identity, confidence, faith, emotions, way of life, ability to do daily activities and relationship with others. That’s what ART at HEART programs are designed to do for the patients of Toronto hospitals: to give them a sense of normalcy while they are there, distract from their health condition and hospital environment by giving them a chance to use their vivid imagination, acquire new skills and grow their artistic talents.
Research has shown that arts activities and experiences provide not only opportunities for artistic and self-expression, but also measurable health benefits. It relieves stress, reduces fear, helps to heal psychological traumas and improves self-esteem.
Less well known is the effectiveness of incorporating expressive arts into programs for seniors and patients who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other chronic degenerative diseases. Recent clinical research proves what many professionals and caregivers who work with seniors have known for years— making art is an essential, vital component of activities that offer a wide range of health benefits. Several studies show that art can reduce the depression and anxiety that are often symptomatic of chronic diseases. Other research demonstrates that the imagination and creativity of seniors can flourish in later life, helping them to realize unique, unlived potentials, even when suffering from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Art at Heart provides complimentary weekly art workshops on site of the hospitals. Workshops for seniors are also provided in the retirement residences, on the weekly basis.Class curriculum covers a variety of mediums including drawing, painting and sculpting.
Yuliya Ivanisova, the founder and CEO of Art at Heart, believes psychological wellness is an integral part of the healing process. “It is especially important for children who are more vulnerable and can feel even more overwhelmed when hospitalized. They often experience fear and anxiety during uncomfortable and painful procedures and when separated from their families and friends.”
Yuliya was inspired by her daughter Elizabeth, who suffers from arthritis since 2013 and often turns to the arts when she is in pain. “Art helps me to concentrate on the positive and beautiful world around me and not to think about pain”, says Elizabeth. “I imagine that good cells are eating bad cells when I am drawing, painting or doing some crafts.”
Yuliya Ivanisova is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Art at Heart, a non-profit organization providing complimentary art programs to those affected by debilitating diseases and conditions to contribute to their psychological wellbeing for a faster recovery. Yuliya was inspired by her younger daughter who’s been suffering from arthritis and turning into arts when in pain. Yuliya recognized the need to raise awareness of the healing benefits of arts and started to implement regular art programs in hospitals and retirement residences in Toronto and the GTA.
Yuliya graduated from Zaporozhye National University in Ukraine with a BA (Hons) in International Business, and Master’s Degree in Business Administration. Since moving to Toronto in 2004, Yuliya has held a number of positions within the financial industry and is currently a business professional with a prominent global investment company.
Yuliya’s other community involvements include a fundraising campaign for the Hospital of Sick Children to support the creative arts therapy program and volunteering in the organizing committee of Limmud FSU, an international Jewish education organization that focuses on giving young Russian-Jewish adults the opportunity to revitalize and restore Jewish learning. Yuliya also serves as a Board Member of the Canada All Star Ballet Gala, an international ballet project dedicated to bringing ballet choreography masterpieces to Canada.
Diana Gourianova is an art teacher, artist, graphic designer and illustrator. She was born in Odessa, Ukraine, and her parents, recognizing their daughter’s natural inclination and talent, enrolled her in art classes when she was only 5 years old. From then on, art became an intricate part of Diana’s life. She went on to graduate with honours from Odessa School of Fine Art and upon immigration to Canada, completed a Fine Art Program at the Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, as well as obtained a Degree in Advertising and Graphic Design from the International Academy of Design and Technology in Toronto, Ontario. Her works can be found in private collections across Canada, United States, Israel, Australia and Europe.
In 2009 after becoming a mother of three, she saw her potential in teaching and decided to open her own Art School for kids “Artyshock Studio”. To bring her knowledge even further she decided to volunteer as a teacher of art classes at Sick Kids Hospital “I enjoy working with kids, teaching them new skills, seeing them smile and excel every day,” says Diana.
Valeria Kouznetsova was born in Moscow, Russia where she graduated from Moscow Architectural University with a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts and Architecture. In 1996 she moved to Canada and opened her art studio for children and adults. She completed the Art Doll Making course in Toronto and Moscow, and gives art doll making classes to the students as part of the curriculum. Valeria also teaches art in a Montessori school and in a few private schools.
As an artist Valeria works with different media, mostly with acrylic. Her works were exhibited in different art shows. Trying to blend her fine artistic skills with the discipline and humble work of iconography, she learned traditional iconography with the Russian Orthodox church in Toronto.
In 2012 Valeria received her post degree diploma in ABA (Apply Behavior Analysis) and started working with children with special needs. Valeria has joined Art At Heart in October 2016.
Paula Reznik is a third year student studying in the commerce program at Queen’s University. She has recently returned from a four-month study abroad in Madrid, Spain. Paula is best described as an adventurous individual whom is always seeking an opportunity to be social and take on new challenges. She is an excellent marketer, this has been seen through her experiences in sales roles selling home services, real estate, and working in a restaurant. At school she has previously been involved in collaboratively working on implementing a three day conference, she had the role of the sponsorship coordinator. At school she has also been in various mentorship roles, mainly helping incoming students have an easy transition into university. All these experiences improved her communication, collaboration and leadership skills. In her free time she enjoys traveling around the world with her family, participating in business related conferences and dancing with friends. When she heard about Yuliya’s inspiring work with Art at Heart, without a question, she knew she wanted to take part in helping out with such a great organization!
Emil Yalizerov - Chair
Emil Yalizerov is a founder of Party Crew Entertainment, one of the best event management and production companies in Southern Ontario. From music and dance performances to special effects and lighting, his company offers clients the ultimate experience, based on a personalized approach and top quality service. Emil’s talent, skills and stage charisma earned him a strong reputation as an MC and event manager. He hosted private and corporate events not only in Canada, but also in the United States, Europe, and in the Caribbean. He is very involved in his community and often lands a hand with music, equipment and Dj’ing for various causes.
Inna Kravitz - Treasurer
Inna Kravitz, CPA, CGA is an accomplished corporate services leader, with proven track record of leading and strengthening financial and administration services functions in various industries. Inna possesses many years of progressive experience in different areas, including Financial and Strategic Planning, Treasury, and Contract Management. She gained her knowledge and experience by working for for-profit and non-for-profit organizations and volunteering her time in a non-for-profit sector. Inna is also a mother of two girls, with whom she shares her passion for art.
Pavel Mirzoyan - Director
Pavel Mirzoyan is an artist and a sought-after designer who brings over twenty five years of industry experience coupled with a creativity known in Europe and North America.
Born in Yerevan, Armenia, he pursued a career of a Leading Designer at the sophisticated hotel complex and a city landmark of Yerevan of that time, The Palace of Youth. Then he advanced to the role of an Criative Director of the Armenian National Academic Theatre. After moving to Israel Pavel served as a stage designer for the plays of the renowned Russian-Israeli film and theatre director Mikhail Kozakov and worked as a computer graphic designer.
In 1995 Pavel immigrated to Canada where he founded a design and marketing agency, PM Design & Marketing. His designs won multiple international and Canadian awards.
Pavel is also a renowned artist. Since the late 1980-s his paintings have been exhibited at the Yerevan National Gallery of Modern Art, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Modus Art Gallery in Paris, France, numerous galleries and museums of Europe, Israel, Canada and the United States. Many of his works are now in private collections all over the world.
Pavel holds a B.F.A. from Yerevan State Academy of Fine Art.
Gerri Sonkin - Director
Gerri Sonkin has over 10 years of financial industry experience. Gerri has been with the major financial institution since 2009. Gerri helps the business owners with the complicated tax, business and estate planning. He is supported by the in-house team of specialists, including tax, financial and estate planning professionals. Gerri’s professionalism helps him to build long-term relationships with his growing client base and to provide an excellent customer service.
Gerri has the Personal Financial Planner (PFP ®) designation, which is awarded to professionals with extensive financial experience and knowledge in insurance. Gerri holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Bar-Ilan University.
Gerri is happily married to his lovely wife Jane and has four beautiful kids.