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Local art teacher shows students that art is for everyone

She believes anyone can create art, and strives to support her students with simple, stress-free methods in a 'cozy' atmosphere
YuliaBalobanovaClass
Students proudly share their finished art works in Yulia's class

Local art teacher, Yulia often hears people say they can’t paint or draw, but she is confident that they’re wrong.

“I believe everyone can draw or paint and create art, and that’s why I invite people with no artistic experience at all [to take my classes],” she said. And by the end, students are usually surprised at how impressed they are with their own artwork. 

She believes this is, in part, because she offers simple instruction that’s easy to follow. 

“I try to keep a balance between fun and serious. If it’s too serious, too academic, it’s boring for the kids. But they should learn something new, too.”

Her classes range from beginner techniques and colour theory to art history, exploring the works of famous artists.

Beyond learning something new, Yulia wants her students to soak up all the benefits that come with indulging in creativity -- namely, that it’s incredibly relaxing. 

“It’s a good idea to take a break from your logical brain and make your right brain work and be more creative.”

Born in the Soviet Union, she offers her classes in both English and Russian. 

Teaching a skill-building class like this in Russian is especially beneficial for children because it allows them to practice their native tongue, preventing them from losing the language completely. 

“And for adults, it’s important because it’s comfortable to speak. And for me, it’s very easy to teach. It’s almost like a club where we can relax, speak our native language, do some creative stuff, socialize and meet new friends.”

As there is a large population of Russian-speaking people in Kitchener-Waterloo, her Russian classes are typically full. 

But learning a new skill in any language can be daunting, which is why her classes offer a “nice and cozy experience,” prioritizing creating a friendly and supportive atmosphere.

“Because many adults are afraid to paint or draw, my goal is to support them, and the kids.”

Brynn Kirbyson, a fine arts student at the University of Waterloo, has been working alongside Yulia as an assistant instructor. 

As the sole proprietor of the business, Kirbyson said Yulia has a knack for creating “personable relationships with her students and a welcoming environment for all new and returning clients.” 

“Yulia’s perseverance is not only an inspiration for immigrants, but [for] wider range of people, like small business owners, local artists, and fellow mothers,” Kirbyson said. 
 
“When I was in school, I loved math and science. I drew and painted easily, but my parents didn’t take it seriously,” she said.

Born in the Kyrgyzstan, Yulia had a different kind of education. 

“If a kid didn’t attend art school, she couldn’t go to university or college to study art,” she said. Unsure of what else to do, she decided to study computer science in university, graduating as a software engineer. 

Software engineers, of course, tend to spend all their time interacting with computers, rather than people. 

“But I love working with people, and I’m a creative person,” she said, adding that she always regretted not attending art school as a child. She decided to move to Russia, where she would study design in Saint Petersburg, becoming an independent interior designer. 

However, it was when she moved to Canada ten years ago that she began to really dive into her career as an artist. She started teaching in 2015 and offering art classes in Kitchener in 2020 out of a studio in downtown Kitchener near Victoria Park. 

For the month of March, Yulia is donating 50 per cent of proceeds from any art sales she makes to UNICEF Ukraine. 

“I can’t talk about it without tears. Ukrainian and Russian nations are like brothers, which is why I want to help,” she said, adding that she thought the best way she could help was with her art and the money she makes from it. 

You can learn more about Yulia’s classes here

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