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5 Toronto Cafes Ideal for Artists in 2018

Whether you’re a painter, writer, actor, performer, musician, or filmmaker, here are top spots to get cozy while expressing your creativity. Our city has a diverse range of cafes throughout different neighbourhoods, but few stand out quite like these. No matter what you’re looking for, be it a place to chill while painting, or share some heartfelt poetry and music, we got you covered.

Art Square Cafe and Creperie

334 Dundas St West

Is it an art gallery? Is it a cafe? A restaurant? It’s a bit of everything. Located in Kensington Market, Art Square Cafe brings the vibe of an art gallery, with dozens of paintings and portraits on its walls, together with a dining area reminiscent of classic Euro vibe, and yes that includes crêpes.

Flying Pony

1481 Gerrard St E

The Flying Pony Gallery is an artist run gallery and coffee shop located in Little India. It features two galleries along with 1600 square feet of exhibition space. The place also serves up great coffee, homemade treats, and it’s renowned for writers and artists alike. Be sure to catch their upcoming annual Art Party, scheduled for December 8th.

Free Times Cafe

320 College St

Free Times Cafe is both recognized as a restaurant and a bar hosting nightly original music, which include open mic sessions and poetry readings. Open since 1980, the space is also known for The Artbar Poetry Series, which takes place every Tuesday.

Fusion Artz Cafe

1767 Avenue Road

A place where you can take classes on ceramics, Fusion Artz Cafe is friendly for a all ages. After you finish making  the piece, they glaze and fire it in their kiln, and it’s ready for pick up after seven days.  They also have snacks and refreshments available. The space is even used for booking private events!

The Harlem Underground

745 Queen St West

Inspired by 1920s Harlem, The Harlem Underground brings you the whole package. Art, music, and incredible food. There’s regular live concerts every week, and Irie Tuesdays, to enjoy a night of live music, poetry, and badass spoken word. Oh and there’s also their Red Stripe, Chicken & Waffles special that evening for $20.

Interview – Anthems in Ashes is Raw Power Ft. Harley Olivia

We sat down with Harley Olivia, lead singer of the Toronto band Anthems in Ashes. The hard rock group bring a blend of power vocals, strong riffs and energetic lyrics that will sastify your need for head banging. But much more than that, is the fact that you don’t have to be a hard rock fan to appreciate them, simply being a music lover is more than enough. Releasing their first EP Burn It Down last summer, they’ve performed in some of the most sought after club venues in the city, including the Bovine Sex Club, and recently released their music video for the song “Her Fire” just last month.

What type of music do you perform? Do you write your own material and/or play instruments?

We play a sort of melodic but heavy metal/rock fusion. We write our own stuff. Usually, Mike comes in with a riff idea or skeleton of a song and then we all expand on that.

What first got you into recording music?

I’ve always loved to sing. When I was in singing lessons as a kid, my teacher would record the songs we were performing and I've always loved that process. It gets more exciting as the gear gets more pro!

Have you had the chance to tour and/or perform any shows? If so, what has the experience been?

We have been performing in the Toronto scene for about 2 years now. We love playing The Bovine Sex Club, Cherry Colas, Lee's Palace ect. The next thing we want to do is tour different cities in Ontario and Quebec.

Do you ever get nervous playing in front of other people?

Always. I am a perfectionist and my harshest critic so I always get nervous. It's an excited nervous though, and I've learned to cope with it. Before I go on stage I like to take a couple minutes to myself and focus on my breathing.

How did you realize this was something you wanted to do?

I've always loved performing and I would get obsessed with bands to an unhealthy level. It was just a love that never went away. I go crazy if I can't write and perform.

Is anyone in your family a musician?

My mum used to sing jazz. She has a really beautiful voice.

How do you find the music industry in Toronto?

I think it's getting better. It was really disheartening for a while when venues kept shutting down, but The Hideout came back and has become a great venue to play at. Also, Locos Only has returned which is a once a month event where members of local bands can come and hang out and network with each other. It makes the music community stronger which is really encouraging.

Who are some of your musical influences?

As a teenager I was obsessed with Marilyn Manson, My Chemical Romance, Slipknot, and The Strokes weirdly. Now I listen to a lot of Deftones, In This Moment, Sumo Cyco and Silversun Pickups. I gravitate towards musicians that are dark and theatrical, beautiful but ugly.

Anthems in Ashes on social media:



Official Website

Where to listen:



Interview – The Gracefulness of Singer-Songwriter Shanika Maria

Originally from Hamilton, Ontario, Shanika Maria is a young up and coming singer-songwriter. Releasing her first EP Childish Games in 2017, Shanika’s songs have an eclectic folk/pop vibe that’s impossible to categorize. The melody, lyrics and attention to detail has the listener in a trance that you rarely hear elsewhere. The closest to be able to describe her style is like a blend of Florence and the Machine and Nina Simone. “A Proud Woman”, the second single from her upcoming album Subtle Uncertainties just got released October 19th 2018. It opens with a narrator daring to be vulnerable in the face of new love. We sat down with the singer to talk a bit more about her inspirations and her work as an artist.


What type of music do you perform?

I originally was playing folk and acoustic music, performing my original music with a mic and an acoustic guitar. My first EP really embodied my solo performance. It was very stripped down, minimalistic and vocal heavy with accompanying guitar. On that album I played guitar and piano. Lately I've been performing a more eclectic array of genres that borrow from pop, dark country, beach rock, r&b and jazz. I've been able to add new elements and interpretation to the music I write by incorporating these styles. My first album that’s coming out really shows the growth of my writing process and my development as an artist.

What first got you into recording music?

I started recording music in my bedroom as a teenager. Around the middle of highschool, I would use my laptop camera and record songs and put them on youtube. That was my first taste of recording music. Around the same time, I began playing around on garageband, recording rough versions of songs with my vocals, guitar, and adding harmonies. I started performing as a solo artist a couple years ago. I really wanted to do a record and release it - to have a snapshot of where I was at musically at that point in time. Out of that, came Childish Games.

Have you had the chance to tour and/or perform any shows? If so, what has the experience been?

I have performed in Hamilton, Toronto and in Victoria. My experience has been mostly positive. I really enjoy performing even though I do get really nervous before shows. My best performances are when I escape into the world of my music and it becomes this really intimate experience.

When did you realize this was something you wanted to do?

I've always been interested in music as a hobby. I never thought it would be something I would pursue. 6 years ago I was asked to sing back up vocals for a band. From then on, I really enjoyed performing. I decided to start performing solo and for the past two years, make it something I actually pursue.

Is anyone in your family a musician?

Not really, both my parents have dabbled on the guitar and my sister played piano as a child, but none of them have really continued playing music.

How do you find the music industry in Toronto?

I think it can be very daunting navigating the music scene in Toronto especially as a solo act. There are many artists with similar styles and it's hard to stand out. I think focusing on what I'm doing is the only way to keep level headed about it all, but I'm still figuring it out.

Who are some of your musical influences?

I have a lot of musical influences, like Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Joni Mitchell, Emily Haines, Feist, Lianna La Havas, Marvin Gaye, and there's a lot more.


Shanika Maria on social media:



Official Website

Where to listen:





5 Things Artists Need to Know Before Launching their Career

It’s no secret that taking the creative route to success can be more challenging than a typical career, but it’s not without its rewards either. If you’re an aspiring artist, or someone just starting to emerge in your field, here are five tips that you need to know before your big break.

1. Network, network, network, network!

This is by far one of the most important things you can do. Expanding your network will get you places that job postings won’t. Interacting with other like-minded people can not only help you cease opportunities, but some of them can eventually become the kind of friends who will understand your hustle and be supportive in ways others might not. Simply put, you have to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. It might sound cliche, but who you know is just as important as what you know. Many times I went as far as sending messages and emails to people I admire, just to ask how they did it. You’d be surprised to know many do answer!

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)


2. Not everyone will like you

It’s not a secret. It doesn’t matter if you can top Lady Gaga as a vocalist, match the wits of Samuel L. Jackson, or paint a canvas that’ll tower higher than the Sistine Chapel, not everyone will like your work. Seeking likes on social media, or bending your identity to accommodate everyone might get you five minutes of exposure, but it won’t give you an entire career. The most successful people are those who refused to give up, created their own unique identity, and who kept on singing, acting, performing, writing, training, persisting regardless of who was watching.

Flashdance (1983)


3. Know Thyself

When we’re just starting out, we may take jobs we’re not exactly proud of, ‘cause you know- they pay the bills, but if you’re looking to do this full-time, you need to know exactly why you’re here. Are there certain values you’d like to convey? Is there a disenfranchised community you want to help out? Did you become an artist to inspire people in any way? Do you want to see more diversity on screen? We don’t think of these questions very often, but they’ll help you narrow down exactly the kind of portfolio you want to have. And you also have to learn to say “yes” when you mean “yes”, and say a firm “no” when you mean “no”.

This goes for everything in life. If you know deep in your heart that you’re a rock or jazz singer, try not to bend for others. If you have an idea of which roles bring out your best performances, go for it! If you know your poetry is what expresses the real you best, don’t write a fiction novel just for the sake of it- unless you really, really want to. Experimenting is fine, as long as you come back to yourself.

Fame (1980)


4. The hustle is real

If you decided to become an artist because you thought it would give you more freedom, or so you can be a rebel or an outcast, think again. There’s the expression, “If you work doing what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life”. While there is some truth to it, some people like to run with that idea. The reality is becoming your own creative boss will require you to probably put in almost double the hours of a regular full-time job. Nevermind the fact many of us do have a regular job simultaneously! The good news is it gets easier, and eventually you manage to get to doing your art full-time, but for the first decade or so of your career, you won’t have much of a social life, or much sleep (as I’m typing this at 1:30am). Ask anyone however and they’ll tell you straight up spending twelve hours onset or in a studio, totally beats an eight hour shift at the office.

Dead Poets Society (1989)


5. Have a plan, but stay open to the unexpected

I’ve been a writer for over ten years, and directed my first short in 2012. Had you told younger me that I would have had to drop out of university, work at call-centers, and eventually move to a big city like Toronto, only to spend the next two years hustling as a freelance script supervisor and write blogs, I would have hid in my room for the rest of my life! And for good reason. The reality is that it’s going to be overwhelming. Having a longterm plan will pay off in the long run, because there will be days where you’ll wonder what made you want to become an artist. There will be days where you’ll wonder if it’s worth it, because change take time. Remember, a watched kettle never boils. Going over that plan will remind you why you started.

Million Dollar Baby (2005)


Even if it means sharing cheesy quotes all over your social media. And yes I also encourage you share as much of your own work as possible! Don’t be afraid of to spam news feeds. Even if it means creating a vision board filled with photos of the most outlandish goals you have, and meditating on them. Even if it means sacrificing a few fun events, and releasing friends who don’t support you. What matters is to keep pushing. What matters is whatever you do is fulfilling for you. The world needs more inspired people.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists? In what ways can the community better support each other?

"An artist cannot fail. It is a success just to be one." - Charles Horton Cooley


5 Movies from TIFF 2018 to Watch Out For

With another year in festivals almost passed, it’s  time to look at some of the new film releases. Handpicked from 2018’s Toronto International Film Festival, we’ve been lucky to see more and more work that showcase characters and storylines that are not only relatable, but that still allow us to fantasize about the possibilities that the world of cinema has to offer.

The Fireflies are Gone

Director: Sébastien Pilote

Starring Karelle Tremblay, Pierre-Luc Brilliant

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We kick off our list with a French-Canadian coming-of-age flick La disparition des lucioles, which follows Léo, a teenage girl who longs to escape her dull home life in a small town in rural Quebec. As her high school graduation gets closer, she befriends an older musician named Steve, who teaches her guitar and gives her an outlet to become the person she longs to be. In between all this, Léo experiences frustration with her stepfather, a locally known talk show host who’s on the side of the political divide that caused her union worker dad to leave town. Despite its raw subject matter, the film still manages to hold a certain air of fantasy, which allows us to better connect with the main protagonist.

Theatrical Release: Unknown, Independent screenings across Quebec September 28th-October 4th 2018



Edge of the Knife

Directors: Gwaai Edenshaw, Helen Haig-Brown

Starring Tyler York

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Making history as the first film spoken only in dialects of the Haida language, the story of Sgaawaay K’uuna is set in 19th century Haida Gwaii (on what’s now considered the Pacific East Coast of Canada), and is based off a myth of the Haida people. It  follows two large families on a fishing retreat. Kwa’s son is tragically killed in an accident caused by Adiits’ii (York) a nobleman. Tormented by guilt, Adiits’ii goes off into the wild and becomes the supernatural being Gaagiixiid. Despite everything, the families put all their efforts to have him turned back into human form. What makes this film even more compelling, is when we consider that right now less than twenty people in the Haida Gwaii community speak the Haida language fluently. Most of the cast had to learn it to appear in the film. Luckily it’s being taught once again in local schools, with elders hoping new generations will be able to preserve this part of their culture. Let’s hope Edge of the Knife gets some kind of distribution deal.

Theatrical Release: Unknown, Currently showing in different festivals




Director: Steve McQueen

Starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabath Debicki, Liam Neeson

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Inspired by the 1980s tv series of the same name, the story begins with Veronica Rawlins (Davis) and her husband, Harry (Neeson). The story quickly cuts to a bank heist gone wrong that causes three robbers to be led to their death. Rawlins is left widowed, with a $2 million debt. The wives band together to finish what they started by organizing a heist themselves, but unlike typical heist movies, here were offered a cold glimpse into the reality of these women. Being in a society that taught us it’s every man/woman/person to themselves, has forced them to do the unthinkable, all to be able to survive and come out on top. 

Theatrical Release: November 16th 2018



The Hate U Give

Director: George Tillman Jr.

Starring Amandla Stenberg, Algee Smith

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Based on the novel by Angie Thomas, here we follow Starr (Stenberg), a teenage girl born and raised in a lower class neighbourhood with a mostly black community. Yet between that she attends prep school, where most students are white. The tension between both worlds gets shattered, when one night her best friend Khalil (Smith) is shot by police, forcing her to step into a role that involves standing up for what’s right. The film manages to bring to the forefront issues around race that are often easily swept under other narratives. Unlike other similar titles, it doesn’t gloss over the reality of the main character and instead allows the audience completely into her world.

 Theatrical Release: October 12th 2018



A Star is Born

Director: Bradley Cooper

Starring Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga

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In his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper stars  alongside Lady Gaga in the fourth adaptation of the classic story. Not quite a remake, each generation gets a version of a similar plot, which involves a male musician suffering from alcohol issues who encounters an aspiring actress and singer. What each adaptation brings to the table, depends on what era it is. Country singer Jackson Maine (Cooper) hears waitress Ally (Gaga) performing in a drag club one night. The two of them hit it off from there, and Ally becomes a music star when Jackson brings her on stage during one of his concerts. The adaptation manages to be relatable, while still offering hope in a time in modern history where not a lot of people have the chance to dream, and the soundtrack is brilliant.

Theatrical Release: October 5th 2018


Awesome Book Titles to Add to Your Reading Collection

Now that the fall weather has arrived, and you’re likely to be spending more time indoors, here are some reads currently on the bestsellers list for entertainment of the quiet variety. Filled with drama, unique characters, and relevant subject matters that will make you want to write your own mystery, thriller or family novel.


Lethal White - Robert Galbraith

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Release Date: September 18th 2018

Under the pen name Robert Galbraith, this is JK Rowling’s fourth novel of the Cormoran Strike series. Cormoran Strike is approached by a young man named Billy about a murder he believed he witnessed as a child. To figure out the case, Strike and his partner Robert Ellacott go off on a hunt that leadsthem to the shady backstreets of London. The book will please readers across the board, and keeps the mystery until the very end.


The Tattooist of Auschwitz - Heather Morris

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Release Date: January 11th 2018

Based on the incredible true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, who met and fell in love while both were at a concentration camp during World War II. Lale was forced to work as a tattooist, where his job was to inscribe prisoners with numbers into their arms. During the time, Lale took the opportunity his position gave him, to exchange stolen money and jewels from murdered Jews for food to help feed his comrades. One day while in line waiting to get tattooed, Gita met Lale, and their romance was instant, proving that the best moments can arise in difficult times.


Women Talking - Miriam Toews

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Release Date: August 21st 2018


Inspired by actual events, the story follows eight Mennonite women who recently found out the demons that have been coming to violate them and hundreds of other women and girls night after night, are in fact men from their colony. They band together to make a decision that will change their fate forever- whether to attempt to escape the community and village they grew up in. Timely with the current conversation around sexual assault, it probes deep into understanding how women are conditioned to perceive their autonomy, or lack of. 


Washington Black - Esi Edugyan

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Release Date: August 30th 2018

Washington Black is an eleven-year-old who works as a slave at a plantation in Barbados. His master’s brother Christopher Wilde (aka “Titch”), an explorer and abolitionist, takes him in and introduces Wash to a world of freedom. When a murder occurs and Wash has a bounty placed on his head, Titch takes him across the east coast of America and to the Arctic so he can start his life over. Despite countless stories like this, it’s an important reminder of just how far we’ve come for human rights issues, and how much more we have to go.


Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan

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Release Date: June 11th 2018

First released five years ago, the book is rising in sales again due to the summer release of its successful movie adaptation. Here we follow the tale of three super wealthy Chinese families. Controversy starts to brew when Rachel Chu, a New Yorker, flies to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family. Keeping in mind the first of the series came out long before the #oscarsowhite campaign, which was started to highlight the lack of diversity in the film industry. The film adaptation was  groundbreaking since it’s the first film with an all-Asian cast and Asian-American leads since The Joy Luck Club, released in 1993. 

Jim Carrey’s Most Memorable Roles (So Far)

To celebrate the release of Jim Carrey’s role in the new tv series Kidding, currently airing on CraveTV and The Movie Network, we take a look at some of the Toronto actor’s most memorable roles thus far.

Born in Newmarket, Ontario, he began taking an interest in comedy at a very young age, when at ten years old he wrote a letter to Carol Burnett stating he knew impressions well enough to be on her show.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, that can be seen here, the actor said he wrote himself a chèque of $10 million five years before getting casted for his  role in Dumb and Dumber, stating he did that to set the goal for himself that would eventually lead to his success.

The Mask - 1994

Director: Chuck Russell

The role that launched Jim Carrey’s career, ‘The Mask’ is a nineties classic inspired by the comic book series of the same name. In the story, Carrey portrays Stanley Ipkiss, a bank clerk tired of his everyday life. Soon he finds a mask representing Loki, the Norse god of mischief. The moment he wears it he gets the chance to emulate his inner self. However things soon go awry when his alter ego is found linked to the death of a crime boss’s friend.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events – 2004

Director: Brad Siberling

Based on the children’s book series by author Daniel Handler, most famously known under the pen name Lemony Snicket, the film began development back in 2000, and cost over $100 million. The film follows Count Olaf, devilishly portrayed by Carrey,  who plots to earn the fortune of his adopted relatives after taking them under his care, despite  them being under age. Despite the film not being developed into a franchise and instead rebooted as a  Netflix series, it was praised for Carrey’s acting, and was approved enough to earn several Academy Award nominations such as Best Makeup and Art Direction.

The Truman Show – 1998

Director: Peter Weir

Truman Burbank’s life is seemingly perfect. He has the perfect job, the perfect partner, the perfect family, and in the perfect neighborhood. Except none of it is real. It’s one of Carrey’s top roles because he manages to play off as naïve, even though the audience along with all the other characters know full well he’s been lied to. It’s a great social commentary that forces us to look at our own lives, and how much of it is a certain way because of what those around us decided. What we realize at the end when Burbank finally has his awakening is the joke is really on the audience. Sooner or later he would have discovered his life was a reality show, but how long before we see that the film is about us? That we're just as clueless as the fans in the movie who spend their days watching him?

Man on the Moon – 1999

Director: Milos Forman

In Carrey’s first critically acclaimed role, he portrays the late famous and controversial comedian Andy Kaufman. Kaufman was a mysterious, misunderstood performer who above all, wanted to be known beyond his classic character Latka on the series Taxi. Here Carrey shows his sensitive, vulnerable side without letting the audience in too closely, just like Kaufman did in real life. You’re never really sure why he puts on a stint, but you go along because you just can’t seem to keep your eyes off him. The role even earned Carrey a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical.

Most recently a documentary called Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond was released last year which takes us behind the scenes in the making of the movie, which can be seen on Netflix.

Fun fact: Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman also share the same birthday, January 17th.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - 2004

Director: Michel Gondry

The plot is straightforward yet harrowing. Carrey plays Joel, a man who’s ex-partner Clementine decided to get a procedure to erase any memories of their relationship. Most of the story takes place inside the male lead’s mind, as we’re given insight into how exactly the couple fell apart. Here Jim Carrey is relatable and steers clear from his usual quirky roles. Despite already having proved himself as a serious actor with the release of Man on the Moon and The Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was the role that finally convinced critics he’s more than just a comedian. (Not that he needed to convince fans.)

5 Must-See Street Art Locations in Toronto

1. Keele and Dundas West

Those who regularly take the Bloor-Yonge line on the TTC subway have no doubt spotted this edgy masterpiece located in the heart of the Junction. The Keele Wall first began getting adorned with paint by a group of artists in 1991, and the images have evolved since. The collective behind this mural is none other than the HSA Crew.


2. Front Street and Union Station UnderpassImage and video hosting by TinyPic

This mural is as artistic as it is political. Located at the underpass right next to Union station, the Indigenous inspired mural was put together for the Mother Earth Water Walk, a group of Anishinabe people who started their organization in 2003, to raise awareness for clean water. The water walk takes place every year, and the next one is scheduled for September 24th 2018 in Niagara Falls.


3. Graffiti Alley on Queen St and Augusta

Graffiti Alley is one of the most famous street art locations in Toronto, and for good reason. The collective Style in Progress has been frequenting the spot for fourteen years now, to promote urban art, fashion and dance. One the left we see a portrait of famous local street artist Mike Kennedy, who passed away in 2016 and was known for collaborating on many murals across the city, including Seven New Wonders of the World, located at Broadview and Gerrard. Graffiti Alley is also the spot comedian Rick Mercer has often used for his rants on his CBC show The Rick Mercer Report.


4. Equilibrium on Carlton and Jarvis

The symbolism of this tall mural speak for itself. Standing at twenty-three stories, it’s the largest piece of street artist San Miguel’s career. Collaborating with the STEPS Initiative, artist Okuda San Miguel states that “the gay flag is like my palette because all the colours together symbolize for me, the multi cultures, multi gender, everything.” And with a canvas this size, it’s hard to miss when you’re walking in the neighbourhood of Cabbagetown.


5. The Awakening on Lawrence & Caledonia Underpass

Sparking controversy with some North York residents after first being unveiled in 2015, The Awakening has many layers of meaning. Put together by the Essencia Art Collective, the mural shows the evolution of nature and the impact of capitalism and the environment. Some residents said the mural looked “scary” and shouldn’t be located in a residential neighbourhood. Love it or hate it, it grabs your attention. Hence why it tops our list.


What’s your favourite street art in Toronto? Do you think art should be for enjoyment, a tool for social change, or both? What makes street art different? Leave a comment to get the discussion flowing.