The Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto (CAGT) was founded in 1974 by Calligrapher Alf Ebsen and incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 1975. A resident group at NPCC for 20 years, CAGT has continued to provide opportunities for the study of calligraphy, its history, cultural traditions and application for all ages through classes, workshops, monthly member’s meetings and exhibitions.
CAGT meets at Neilson Park Creative Centre (NPCC) the second Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m. or Sunday afternoons at 1:00 p.m. as scheduled.
Alf Ebsen, Calligrapher and Graphic Artist was instrumental in creating an awareness of both calligraphic and cursive writing forms in the 1970s. He offered classes and workshops not only in Toronto, but throughout Ontario at that time.
Mr. Ebsen had been influenced by European calligraphy for many years prior to his immigration to Canada. In the first part of the 20th century, master calligraphers Edward Johnston in England and Rudolf Koch in Germany had rediscovered and taught scripts written with the broad edged pen.
In Canada he made his living as a calligrapher and his love and enthusiasm for the pen led him to the development of the “Canadian System of Handwriting”. It was a basic, non-flourished Italic script – easy to teach and easy to learn. His vision was the introduction of the Italic cursive writing into Canadian schools through trained instructors as means of pedagogical aid.
In 1974 Alf Ebsen and 12 of his former students founded the Handwriters Guild of Toronto and a decade later the Guild had grown to 300 members. Alf Ebsen penned a biography for Italix in 1979 :
In 1984 our Guild name was changed to the Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto to better reflect the diversity of our members creative practices in all different lettering arts.
The Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto teaches techniques in classes and workshops at the Neilson Park Creative Centre in Etobicoke (Toronto). The Centre became our permanent home since 1999.
Western scripts such as Roman Capitals, Uncial, Carolingian, Gothic, Italic and Copperplate are taught together with contemporary forms such as Brush Lettering and Monoline Alphabets. Members also can learn or explore form a range of paper and fibre art techniques, book making and printmaking as examples. Modern lettering is executed with a broad edged steel nib, pointed pen, brushes, quill, ruling pen or even felt markers.
The advancement of technology and use of computers has changed how artists and others use type, fonts and scripts to communicate through their lettering and artwork. The skill and knowledge of lettering by hand and cursive handwriting was left to a niche of enthusiasts, still writing by traditional methods. The Guild is experiencing a renewed curiosity from of all ages about the skill of writing by hand. Calligraphy in Toronto is flourishing!
The Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto is here for anyone interested in this art form.
Mark Lurz, Guild Founder Photo Credit: Susan Mentis, 2015