The Heliconian Club of Toronto is an association of women involved in the arts and letters based in Toronto, Canada.
Women were excluded from clubs such as The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto, founded in 1908 as an association of musicians, artists, writers and architects. In response, the Heliconian Club was founded in 1909. At first members were professional female musicians, writers, painters and actors. Later it was opened to other occupations related to the humanities such as dance, sculpture and architecture. The name "Heliconian Club" comes from Mount Helicon, the abode of the muses.
Mary Hewitt Smart, who taught singing at the Toronto Conservatory of Music, arranged the first meeting on 20 January 1909 and was elected first president of the club. Executive members included the professional artists Estelle Kerr, Dorothy Stevens, Mabel Cawthra, Marion Long, Elizabeth McGillivray Knowles, Rody Kenny Courtice, Isabel McLaughlin and Kathleen Daly Pepper. Lorrie Dunington-Grubb, co-founder with her husband of Sheridan Nurseries, was another active member of the Heliconian Club. She was president of the Women's Art Association of Canada from 1925 to 1930.
Membership was restricted to women and was by invitation only, but the club was open to most women who had become distinguished is activities such as painting, journalism, writing, music and drama. The club held concerts and social events, held exhibitions and arranged art lessons. In 1916 the club exhibited landscape paintings by Tom Thomson, a precursor of the Group of Seven, drawing an enthusiastic review from Estelle Kerr.
During World War II (1939–1945) the etcher and painter Dorothy Stevens arranged dances for soldiers at the club to raise money for the war effort. In January 1948 the Color Photographic Association of Canada began holding its bi-monthly meetings at the Heliconian Club. On 8-9 April 1955 a meeting of 135 members of Ontario weaving guilds was held at the Heliconian Club. The noted New York weaver Berta Frey gave a talk and demonstrated putting on a multicoloured warp. The group formed an advisory committee to look into setting up a provincial organization, leading to the foundation of the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners the next year.
Heliconian Hall is in the Yorkville district of Toronto on the east of Hazelton Avenue to the north of Scollard Street. The area is home to many art galleries and salons. This building was opened as the Olivet Congregational Church in 1876. Later it became the headquarters of a painters' union. The club bought it in 1923 for $8,000, and raised funding for a major renovation from donations by the members, a theater night, and a bazaar followed by a dance. The mortgage was paid off, and symbolically burned, in 1931.
The hall has "Carpenter's Gothic" architecture with a board and batten exterior, intricate trim, a carved rose window and a wooden spire. It was designated a National Historic Site in 2008. The main room of the building is a large hall with a vaulted ceiling that can hold up to 124 people, with a grand piano on the stage. It is used for dining, art exhibitions, a sketch group, concerts, lectures and meetings. There is a small meeting room beside the hall with a bar and a kitchen. The hall may be rented for events and performances.
The Helconian Club remains true to its original purpose as a venue where women involved in the arts and letters can meet and exchange ideas. Members are involved in art, dance, drama, humanities, literature and music. Over the years the club has entertained many distinguished guests, both men and women. Every month the Heliconian Club Artists hold an art exhibition in the hall, showing the work of more than forty visual artists, including abstracts, oil portraits, mixed media and photography.
- Elizabeth McGillivray Knowles (1866–1928), romantic landscape painter
- Mabel Cawthra (1871–1943), painter and decorator
- Lorrie Dunington-Grubb (1877–1945), landscape architect
- Estelle Muriel Kerr (1879–1971), painter, illustrator and writer
- Marion Long (1882–1970), artist
- Dorothy Stevens (1888–1966), etcher and portrait painter
- Rody Kenny Courtice (1891–1973), painter and teacher.
- Kathleen Daly (1898–1994), landscape and portrait painter.
- Isabel McLaughlin (1903–2002), visual artist, patron and philanthropist
- Claire Wallace (c.1906–1968), journalist and radio broadcaster
- Hilda Kay Grant (1910–1996), writer and artist
- Ann Elizabeth Carson (born 1929), poet, author, artist, sculptor
- Barbara Fris (born 1956), soprano and actress
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