Arts York

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Arts Unionville (formerly known as Arts York, prior to the York Region District School Board's expansion of the program), is a four-year co-educational arts intensive program at Unionville High School. The program specializing in Dance, Drama, Music and Visual Arts.

The arts curriculum at Arts York is designed in conjunction with the academic discipline of Unionville High School. Students of the Arts York program specialize in one core arts major within each semester in addition to the expectation to fulfill all required academic credentials for the Ontario Secondary School Diploma. Students of the program can expect to perform frequently in the Markham Theatre which was built with the school on a similar architectural theme.

Note: Arts Unionville is one of four schools within the York Region District School Board that offers specialized arts programming of choice.


In the 1970s, Superintendent Stephen Bacsalmsi created the idea of an advanced arts program. The Ontario government approved the proposal pending the construction of the new school. The program was opened in 1985 along with the opening of Unionville High School.

In recent years, due to the success of the Arts program at Unionville High School, the York Region District School Board created additional locations for the program: in 2000 (Arts Huron), 2007 (Arts West), and 2009 (Arts Alexander Mackenzie). The Arts Huron program (at Huron Heights Secondary School) was created as the alternative for students living in the northern areas of York Region and the GTA, the Arts West (at Westmount Collegiate Institute) program was created as an alternative for students living in western areas of York Region and the GTA, and the Arts Alexander Mackenzie (at Alexander Mackenzie High School, Richmond Hill) program was created as an alternative for students living in central areas of York Region and the GTA.

Admission Process[edit]

Admission is open to interested students who reside in York Region and the Greater Toronto Area. Students are expected to make an application prior to their enrollment in high school. In special circumstances, students of Grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 can apply in various areas of Arts programming, excluding Drama. Students and parents are encouraged to visit each of the four schools to determine specific arts programming that is available at the schools, prior to the application process.


The admission process for Dance includes a class of ballet and modern dance. The students would then be asked to improvise with a group of 3-4 students to show their creative. Students will be interviewed by an admission panel.


The students must perform a memorized monologue, work in a 90-minute workshop, and be interviewed by an admission panel.


Students are expected to be able to sight read a piece of music, perform an ear test, perform a repertoire piece, several technical studies, scales, do a written theory test, and be interviewed by an admission panel. Specific requirements apply to certain areas in the program.

  • Piano: Perform two pieces of Grade VIII RCM level or equivalent.
  • Strings: Perform two pieces of Grade IV RCM level or equivalent.
  • Vocals: Perform two contrasting solos with an accompanist

Visual Arts, Arts Unionville[edit]

Participate in a three-hour workshop in which students would be judged by their contour drawings, figure proportions, and shading. Students would also have to submit a portfolio including a self-portrait, a still life drawing, a sketchbook, and a sculpture or a 3D work. All pieces must include a description. Students will be interviewed by an admission panel.

Dance, Arts Unionville[edit]

The program works on the creative and professional skill needed to be successful in dance. The curriculum is strictly based on ballet and modern dance. The theory portion of the academics includes anatomy, injury prevention, nutrition, career choices, and dance history and criticism. The students of the program are divided into companies called Dance Access and UHS Dance Company.

Drama, Arts Unionville[edit]

At Arts York, there are 2 classes (often combined) of approximately 30 students. Admission to the Arts York Drama program is extremely competitive. Students learn the metrics of theater both through academic and practical training, and are expected to study multiple aspects of theater arts including:

The program is remarkable in the communal bond students share, partly because of the comrades-in-arms attitude the program's students have towards each other, the relative liberal approach of the department and the freedom students are given to access the department's resources.

Music, Arts Unionville[edit]

The program focuses on enhancing of skills needed to become a successful musician. This department is separated into four categories: musical arts-piano, musical arts-winds, musical arts-strings, and musical arts-vocal. Classes are divided into two categories - performance and musicianship. In the performance classes, students will play scales, studies, and play in various small ensembles. In the musicianship classes, components such as music history, rudiments, and harmony are emphasized.

Students in the Arts York music program participate in large ensembles including Concert Choir, Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble. The groups perform two concerts within each calendar year at Markham Theatre: once in December and once in April. The groups have also participated in many music competitions such as the Kiwanis Festival, OVA (Ontario Vocals Association, and OBA (Ontario Band Association).

Students auditioning for the Winds and String focus will have achieved a Conservatory Level of at minimum Grade 8. Pianists auditioning for this program will have achieved a Conservatory Level of at least Grade 10. Many graduates of this program have completed their ARCT, and plan to continue a career in music.

Visual Arts, Arts Unionville[edit]

The Visual Arts program provides opportunities for individual creative and imaginative growth as well as development of technical skills. Students of this program will be introduced to experimental and traditional directions in drawing and painting. They will also specialize in sculpture, photography, printmaking (etching and silkscreen), ceramics, textiles and video. There will also be studies in the history of art and critical analyses of one's own work. The student's discovery of individual strengths and directions is a prime focus. For the purpose of developing the aptitudes of talented students interested in the Visual Arts, programs are being offered in all four years.

At each grade level students can expect to take part in field studies to art galleries, museums, OCAD and have talks or portfolio evaluations by guest artists in a variety of artistic careers. The students' work is displayed in the school during the annual Art Show and annually in May at the Markham Theatre. Each year, students of this program are to take 2 visual art courses, one per each semester.

In grade 9, the Visual Arts Foundation Major IA course offers an overview of visual arts as a foundation for further study. Students will become familiar with the elements and principles of design and the expressive qualities of various materials through working with a range of materials, processes, techniques, and styles. They will learn and use methods of analysis and criticism and will study the characteristics of particular historical art periods and a selection of Canadian art and the art of other cultures. This course will introduce the theme of developing imaginative ideas and technical skills through drawing and painting. Both representational and abstract styles will be studied. Drawing concepts, the use of tone, line and volume through still life and portrait, will be developed in pencil, inks and chalks. Printmaking, through line etching, will reinforce design principles. Film animation will be studied as well. The second grade 9 course, Visual Arts Foundation Major IB, introduces topics such as sculpture, and ceramics. Students will learn about sculptural form and the design arts, through the process of making a plaque. Students will also learn about pattern and design; by designing their own wall papers and through research on Escher. Historical techniques will be explored through a thematic approach to Art History.

In grade 10, the Visual Arts Foundation Major IIA emphasizes learning through practice, building on what students know, and introducing them to new ideas, materials, and processes for artistic thinking and experimentation. Student learning will include the refined application of the elements and principles of design, incorporation of the creative and design process, and the relationship between form and content. Students will also learn about the connection between works of art and their historical contexts.

Notable Arts Alumni[edit]

See also[edit]

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