Ellen Anderson

Region: Toronto Ontario
Generation: Sansei
Born 1943, Sandon British Columbia


Ayako Ellen Yamasaki Anderson is an artist, writer, and social activist.  She was born in 1943, in Sandon, BC. Sandon was an internment camp for Japanese Canadians during the war. Ellen is considered a sansei third generation Japanese-Canadian but her great grandmother was actually a first generation Issei from Japan. Ellen trained as a visual artist at Central Technical School, in Toronto and then in 1965, she earned a BFA in Theatre from Carnegie Tech./Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.  She started working in the theatre at The Village Playhouse, in Toronto and as a set designer in summer stock, in Port Carling, and Prudhomme’s, Ontario. Other theatre work was with The Canadian Players and as an actress in films.

Her work as a visual artist was exhibited at the Merton Gallery and Mistletoe Magic at the John B. Aird Gallery in Toronto. Ellen’s social activism (founding a not-for-profit daycare and women’s safety association), led to the creation of CSAC Creative Spirit Art Centre in 1992. CSAC is a universally accessible public art gallery/studio/resource centre and gift shop; it is for artists living with long term disabilities. Ellen is the Executive Director, curator, studio manager and founder.

CSAC is a representative of Ontario with VSA (Very Special Arts) International. VSA International has members in 56 countries around the world. Very Special Arts was founded by Jean Kennedy Smith. Her sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics and their brother was JFK, president of the U.S.A.

Ellen has been responsible for CSAC publications on art and disabilities: ‘Beyond Borders’ Catalogue 1993; ‘Celebration ‘95’ ISBN 0-9699995-O-X  1995; ‘Screen Test’ catalogue 2010 ISBN978-0-96999995-1-5 ; ‘This l ability’  2016 ISBN 978-0-9699995-2-2

In 2005, Ellen created a publishing project, An Ayako Ellen Anderson Book, ‘Strong Conviction’ ISBN 0-9739045-O-X Poems by Robert Flanagan and Drawings by Robert J. Anderson.

Currently (2017), Ellen is working on stories based on her Japanese Canadian family’s adventures in their journey to Canada and through the prewar years to the present day.

2018 – 2018
Ellen is closing the Creative Spirit Art Centre due to a lack of funding.
She has donated the following from Creative Spirit Art Centre: the Judy Richardson, Huronia Residential Centre Collection to the Archives of Ontario.
The Hanni Sager Mexican Folk Art Collection will be donated to the ROM.
Mendelson Joe’s letters will be donated to the U of T Media Commons
The documents and ephemera from Creative Spirit Art Centre will be donated to the City of Toronto Archives.

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