Revival of the Homeland painted by Pavel Telega, a Grade 10 student at Toronto’s Michael Power-St. Joseph’s High School.

Young artistic talent inspires hope for Ukraine

  • April 21, 2023

A painting by Grade 10 student Pavel Telega is turning heads and inspiring optimism for peace in Ukraine and beyond.

The 15-year-old’s family heritage is rooted in the eastern European nation at war with Russia for over a year. The piece by the Michael Power-St. Joseph High School student is called Відродження батьківщини or Revival of The Homeland and is inspired by the resiliency of the Ukraine community, and was one of many submissions in the Emerging Young Artist Competition organized by Toronto Catholic District School Board trustee Markus de Domenico.

The painting contains symbolism of a phoenix rising from the ruins of war and the colours of the Ukrainian flag. The imagery can be interpreted as a representation of hope and resilience, where new beginnings can emerge even in the darkest of times, wrote Telega with the submission. The monuments of Kyiv at the top of the painting represent the hope that one-day peace will come.

“I hope the painting will show that there’s a possibility to rebuild once all this is over,” said Telega, who has family still in Ukraine. “That there is a way out of this that will bring back prosperity and happiness and get rid of the misery. That there will be a time, hopefully in the future where there is no war.”

The competition received over 400 submissions from students throughout the ward in seven artistic categories which included digital arts, dance, literature, crafts, vocal music, instrumental and visual arts. The idea around the event, launched during the pandemic and now in its third year, is to encourage and celebrate the artistic gifts of students, says de Domenico. All 13 TCDSB schools in his Ward 2 participated in the competition culminating in the awards ceremony April 13 at Michael Power.

De Domenico says Telega’s piece, which came second in his category, has drawn bids from buyers though it is currently not for sale.

An artist himself, de Domenico who is a singer for children and family concerts and got his start on the popular 1980s show Mr. Dressup, says he relates with the connection many students have with their art. Many are deeply attached to the pieces they create and are very personal sentiments that often are only expressed through the arts, he says.

“I love the arts and I find that there’s a side of all of us whether a child or adult that is only expressed through paintings or singing or dancing,” said de Domenico. “It’s a side that’s expressed that we really need to encourage because the arts do a beautiful job of mixing and blending intellect and expression and thinking outside the box or in very simple ways.”

Though it’s a lot of work to organize, de Domenico’s passion for art and belief in the power of the medium to inspire self-reflection keeps him coming back each year. 

“Let’s learn something about the students from the art, the singing, the songs they pick, the dances, the way they express themselves and the way they paint,” said the trustee. “Let’s also learn something about ourselves and the way we relate to the experience of (others). It’s inspiring to me.”

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