Catchin a cold at Toronto new surf shop

Aliya N Barnes in front of Elie Landesberg’s photo.
Photos by Sveta Soloveva 

Try on a juicy rash guard, flip through a surf magazine, grab a board of your dream and … go surfing!

Are the Great Lakes too cold for you? Don’t worry, Surf the Greats company got you covered. Their new surf shop and café at 276 Carlaw Avenue offers thick cold water wetsuits, surf booties, and mittens from Rip Curl. While the warmest gear keeps your body comfortable, the beach-inspired events and parties will take care of your mood. For example, until July 29th, Catchin A Cold photo exhibit showcases works from 16 artists who represent all five of the Great Lakes.

Hidden in the labyrinth of the building, the shop became one of many surfers’ favourite spots in Toronto even before it opened. Even while under construction, it hosted Toronto’s premiere of environmental movie Island Earth and welcomed adventure photographer Chris Burkard who was in to Toronto to present his surf documentary Under An Arctic Sky.

Now the shop is officially open and it offers everything surfers need for their soul and body, from surfboards, apparel, sun care, and printed matters to surf and yoga lessons, energizing drinks, and many exciting events like film screenings and live music concerts!

“The atmosphere is totally amazing,” said 20-year-old Aliya N. Barnes, who attended the grand opening party on June 29th. “It’s colourful and bright, but it still has a nice surf chill feeling. I feel like I wanna live here.”

Surf the Greats’ owner Antonio Lennert said that the physical shop is an extension of their online platform that brought many surf enthusiasts together through organizing beach cleanups and free yoga classes and offering surf equipment and lessons for the last three years.

“We started online as a media outlet to connect all different communities of surfers over the Great Lakes using hashtag ‘surf the greats’,” he said. “I feel like we’ve earned the community’s trust by giving, and now the community is giving back to us. That’s why now we have a home, and there’s so many people here and so much positivity. It just feels very special.”

Surf the Greats’ sign over the bar table is shimmers in its juicy colours, shifts from pink to blue and from blue to green. Dj Great Lake Shark (Ellie Landesberg) creates a tropical vibe with folktronica tracks until the band Gold Complex takes over with their live acoustic.

Gold Complex performs at the surf shop on June 29

Guests sample RISE Kombucha, order beer from Sweetgrass Brewing Co., and explore newly arrived surfboards and apparel. There are a couple of major brands like Vans Canada and Rip Curl, but Surf the Greats tries to stay local as much as possible and carries products from Montreal, Tofino, BC, and Toronto, along with their own brand.

Walking through the rows of beach bags and rash guards, the visitors occasionally stop and stare at the photos of Catchin A Cold exhibit. The sixteen photographs vary from black and white to colourful, and show surfers riding or waiting for waves, walking to and staring at the water. “What you see on the walls is a mix of professional photographers and people who go to beach with their phones,” said Lennert. “We tried to make sure that we represented all the Great Lakes, amateur and professional photographers, male and female photographers.” Surf the Greats announced the photo competition in the winter and, working with Vans Canada, selected the winning works out of 700 submissions.

Dj Great Lake Shark (Elie Landesberg) creates a tropical vibe at Surf the Greats’ grand opening party
“I took this photo in Scarborough, Ontario, in a very-very stormy day, and there was one surfer out in very turbulent water,” Elie Landesberg told Novella about his black and white photo. “Because the sky was so grey and the birds were blowing around the sky, I thought it was a metaphor for my life and for surfing to see somebody sitting insulated, so calm among so much turbulence and chaos.”
Lennert said Surf the Greats will host a new event every week. Many of them are free or by donation. Check out a screening of a the surf movie GIVEN on July 20, a wave forecasting workshop on July 29th, and beach yoga every Sunday morning.
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Novella’s July Art Guide

Multi-National Conglomerates Hostile Take Over of the New World Order by Lawrence Paul Yuxwelupton. Source.

It’s difficult to be anywhere in the country in July without echoes of Canada 150 ringing in your ears. This summer’s celebration is, after all, a big one. Instead of going against the grain of festivities for our monthly art guide, we’re working with Canada, in a way, by noting exhibitions this month that are solo exhibitions of or include work by incredible Indigenous artists.


In the past, the Royal Ontario Museum would classify Indigenous art as cultural artefact, separate from what would be considered by fine or classical art. In this exhibition, which opened mid-June, that division is gone. Anishinaabeg artwork is displayed with detailed beadwork charting the artistic movements of the Anishinaabeg from 19th-cnetury friendship bags to the Woodlands School art movement. Co-curator and North Caribou Lake First Nations artist Saul Williams wrote descriptive labels for the artwork and recorded video discussing their symbolic and spiritual meanings.

Find out more here.


Unsettling sets out to do exactly what you would expect it do: disturb, upset, destabilize. Through the works of five different artists and artistic groups, the exhibition aims not only to unsettle its audience, but to unsettle the land it is on and the neighbourhood it is in, which would be Scarborough, at the Doris McCarthy Gallery. Within the context of Canada 150, the artists then aim to go bigger and disrupt the clean and pretty congratulatory narratives found throughout the mainstream anniversary media. The artists will do this all through painting, photography and sculpture.

Find out more here.


Canadian jeweller and sculptor Mary Anne Barkhouse is known for her animal imagery-heavy artwork that highlights ongoing environmental and Indigenous struggles. Her current exhibition with the Koffler Gallery, titled Le Rêve aux Loups, is her first solo exhibition in Toronto. The exhibitor is comprised of sculptures and photo collages, using the realistic and the absurd to highlight themes of adaptation and persistence, regeneration and resistance.

Find out more here.


At the Art Gallery of Mississauga this month, there are two solo exhibitions: one by Jeff Thomas, titled A Necessary Fiction: My Conversation with George Hunter and Edward S. Curtis, and the other by Nafiseh Emadmostofi, titled Burning Desire. Thomas’ exhibit is an examination of archival work by photographers who used Indigenous people in their work. Thomas deconstructs the images, changes the narrative and questions the place of such pictures in a time of self-determination and independent voices. Emadmostofi, selected from a call for graduation students from the University of Toronto, Mississauga and Sheridan College, is an award-winning Iranian artist. Her work in this exhibition is allegorical, drawing on images of the swan and burning books to touch on topical issues to spark protest but also to envision a better world.

Find out more here.


The Art Gallery of Ontario can be, in a word, traditional. And usually, just like with the ROM, I never post their exhibitions on here because they get enough press and funding as it is. However, both of these institutions have showings this month that are worth note. The AGO’s is an exploration of what it means to be Canadian right now. Artists showing include Gu Xiong, Yu Gu, Robert Houle, Meryl McMaster, Seth, Esmaa Mohamoud, Ed Pien & Shuvinai Ashoona. The exhibition looks at where Canada is from, more than 150 years ago, where it is now and where it could go, using a multitude of artists and perspectives to attempt to answer these questions.

Find out more here.

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Novella’s June Art Guide

Ahmad Moualla’s People and Power. Image source.

As we move into another summer, this time a big one for Canada, we remember to think outside of the box — to delve deeper and consider perspectives outside of our own. Our picks for art exhibitions in the month of June bring you everything from Queer intersectionality to examining Canada’s honest history and considerations on what art can do for nations at war. We ask this month that you take some time from work, from planning vacations, and reading magazines to consider, to think, to engage.


The newest exhibition at the Aga Khan Gallery combines music, paintings, and multimedia installations by prominent Syrian artists. Much like a symphony, the exhibition is divided into movements, each unique but linked by overarching themes on the presence and purpose of art in conflict. Together, these artists explore the difficulties in preserving their heritage and culture, and fortitude in the face of war. Artists showing include Ahmad Moualla, Malek Jandali, and Kevork Mourad.

Find more information here.

THE BILL BURNS SHOW: PART 3 (May 27th — June 24th)

Prominent Canadian artist Bill Burns shows the third and final part in his series on truth and the art trade at MKG127 this month. In the show, Burns accompanies his watercolour paintings with goat’s milk and Gregorian Chant. Sounds intriguing, if a little confusing? Burns will also be reading from his new book on June 17th to help give insight into his career and perspective.

Find more information here.

CONTESTED LANDS: CANADA AT 150 (May 28th — June 30th)

As we grow closer to the Canada 150 celebrations, celebratory Canadian propaganda is cropping up everywhere, boasting being a nice, multicultural, and inclusive nation. While Canada certainly has its good points, this exhibition at the MLC Gallery at Ryerson is looking at those silenced and ignored in the Canadian Confederation. The exhibition uses art and artifacts from the Ryerson Special Collection and MLC Research Archives to highlight the achievements of and horrors faced by Indigenous peoples and Canadian women.

Find more information here.


Just in time for Pride, the John B. Aird Gallery brings us an LGBTQ+ focused exhibition. Unlike many of the Pride parties, however, the real focus of this show is on intersectionality. Artists from across Ontario will show their works that engage with LGBTQ social issues and intersect with issues of race, class, religion, ability, and sexual and mental health. The purpose of the exhibition is to spark conversation and action that will build toward equality and diversity.

Find more information here.


English artist Clara Bacou comes to the Robert Kananaj Gallery with an exploration of the boundaries between the real and virtual, the physical and digital. Bacou uses light projection to display her digital art in a 3D way, the exhibition itself representing her own questions on the way we present ourselves online versus the people we are in the real world. If you’ve ever embellished any truths about yourself to seem more desirable on a dating app, this is probably an exhibition you should see.

Find more information here.

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Novella’s February Art Guide

February is a month of storms. There are certainly the literal kinds; the snow squalls and ice storms and blackouts that always seem to find Canada in the months where spring is but a touch of warmth in the back of our minds. But there are other storms we find ourselves in, both political and personal. To fight these destructive forces, there are organized protests, raised awareness, and education given wherever it can be found.

This month, we invite you to consider awareness and perspective through art. The list we’ve compiled of our choices of exhibitions this month are tied together by an idea: It’s time to hear histories that challenge the dominant canon and time to look at our culture from a different perspective.


With major events unfolding in the United States, this exhibition at the Daniel Faria Gallery is more relevant than ever. This all-female exhibition takes that now infamous phrase “nasty woman” (of course referring to Hillary Clinton, the woman who wanted to run a country) and expands upon it until the sheer ridiculousness of the phrase cannot be ignored.

This is a time when “nasty women” are everywhere: threatening to men in positions of power, unapologetic in their outrage, and unafraid to be depicted as ugly. Nadia Belerique, Valerie Blass, Shannon Bool, Aleesa Cohene, Kara Hamilton, Kristine Moran, Jennifer Murphy and Elizabeth Zvonar use their respective disciplines to play with images of women and gender at a time when every new step forward for gender equality is met with belittling rebuttals.

Learn more here.


Gallery 555’s current exhibition is another show with female creators with works tied by one of the art’s most prevalent themes: transformation and new beginnings. With an all-star lineup featuring award-winning artists Amy Bowles, Rebecca Chaperon, Anna Pantcheva, Kate Puxley, and Stacey Sproule, this show promises a visual feast of gorgeous contemporary art, but it will also ask questions and make the viewer consider their own transformative experiences as well as the possibility of new, untouched spaces within the mind.

Highly recommended to anyone feeling a little existential lately.

Learn more here. 


When we consider jobs, we consider the uniform. Every position has one, whether we are conscious of it or not. Some jobs have an easily recognizable uniform that is in and of itself an icon — consider firefighters, doctors, and garbage collectors. Some have more conceptual uniforms, but when you put a group of people with that job in a room, the patterns become clear — consider teachers, government workers, and fashion retailers who reflect the brand aesthetic.)

As part of their winter exhibitions, the Harbourfront Centre has gathered the work of 39 designers to present workwear in our modern world. They explore uniforms’ inherent ties to power and position by creating uniforms for invented, hypothetical jobs for a new, hypothetical society.

(If you’re like me and have a habit of examining the wardrobe choices in Black Mirror a little too closely, I have a feeling this will be the show for you.)

Learn more here.


For a long time, Canada has worn the “nice guy” label with such national pride. We put ourselves above the United States and Europe with our supposed peaceful history. Really, our history is just as wrought with people and government continually doing wrong towards Indigenous peoples as any other country. This is not a new concept, but it is still not being acknowledged enough.

Kent Monkman’s show at the University of Toronto Art Museum is a bold acknowledgment of the elephant in every room, the airing out of Canada’s dirty secrets. Monkman’s incredible solo project uses paintings, sculptures, and historical artifacts to tell the story of Canada’s history from pre-confederation to the present, all through the eyes of the Indigenous people.

Learn more here.


A Space Gallery’s multidisciplinary exhibition has Canadian artists telling stories of the violence and control of imperialist forces in colonial states. The exhibition includes works by Kahdija Baker, Livia Daza-Paris, Michael Greyeyes, John Halaka, Siamak Haseli, and Gita Hashemi. The works span across media and continents but are all representations of the experiences of the colonized. The works are meant to be representations of “revolutionary grieving,” according to the exhibition’s webpage. Based on that description alone, I imagine this will be an exhibition that will not only be emotionally harrowing but an education for every person who attends.

Learn more here. 

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Novella’s October Art Guide

Commute M by the artist 2fik, to be featured at Yonder. Photo taken from his website.
Commute M by the artist 2fik, to be featured at Yonder. Photo taken from the artist’s website.

As the nights continue to grow longer and colder, we find ourselves entering a shift in mood. With the beginning of October comes the anticipation of Halloween and brooding weather.The everyday things around us take on a mysterious air for the season, and we’re all putting on masks to match.

In our list of suggested art exhibits to check out in the month of October, the mysterious is not so literal. Mystery, in the case of art, comes not from the art itself, but the reaction is draws from you. Half of its power lies in its ability to ask questions, and there are some exhibits this coming month that will certainly get you thinking.

The Amoebic Workshop: A Submerged Exhibition (September 21-October 23)

Can humans claim exclusivity to making art? This is one of the main questions asked by Critical Distance’s current exhibition. This multidisciplinary show features artistic works by Jessica Drenk, Gabriel Lalonde and Claudia Wieser that look at the amoeba in a metaphorical sense. The other part of the exhibit has a tank of for-real amoebas creating their own “art.” The goal is to get us thinking about what it means to be an artist, and why we only save that title for ourselves.

Yonder (September 21-November 27)

Immigration is not a new concept. Immigrants are not a brand new type of people. The last year, however, has been one with “the immigrant” at the forefront of our news and discussion. In the Koffler Gallery’s latest exhibition, a group of Canadian artists from different backgrounds examine displacement and identity construction through the experience of the immigrant. The exhibit will expand outside of the gallery space in Artscape Youngplace, moving into common areas and the exterior of the building.

Waiura; Indigenous Movie Monsters (September 27-October 29)

This is the exhibition premiere for partners and collaborators Rona Ngahuia Osborne and Dan Mace. Presented by A Space Gallery and imagineNATIVE, the exhibition features three videos connected by waiura, the Maori word for “spirit.” The videos use sound and personification to explore the Earth, the stars and human ritual.

Why the @#&! Do You Paint? Go Figure (October 4-November November 28)

The Gladstone Hotel’s annual painting show has only been running for two years, but it promises to be an eye-opening experience. In the 2016 version, curators Spencer J. Harrison and Lukas Toane have compiled a show that breaks down the dominant voices of figure painting and presents a new narrative. This exhibitor aims to open up a dialogue reflecting on the history of figure painting and how we view the body.

Art Toronto (October 28-31)

Toronto’s international contemporary and modern art fair is now 17 years old. Held at the Metro Convention Centre downtown, it is a celebration of contemporary Canadian and international art combined with a series of lectures and panel discussions called PLATFORM. Wether you are an avid modern art fan or someone who’s curious about it, this is the perfect opportunity to learn and discover more about it.