TORONTO -- Art has always been a “therapeutic” hobby for Danielle Zafirovski. 

“It can reduce stress and anxiety,” she tells CTV News Toronto. “And it can also help recognize and acknowledge different feelings that you’re having.”

Zafirovski, a teacher at Markham District High School and an Art Instructor at the Aurora Cultural Centre, thought her students might be able to benefit from a weekly creative session while staying home. 

“I thought that this would help in terms of some students having difficulty in terms of mental health and coping strategies with the whole idea,” she explains. “So I thought that this could be like a thing for them to actually look forward to.”

Now, every Wednesday at 4 p.m., Zafirovski holds an art class over Instagram Live. Dozens of students and parents have been joining in each week as Zafirovski instructs on camera. 

“It’s been really positive,” says Zafirovski. “I like seeing everyone’s paintings afterwards, and even just their comments throughout the Instagram Live session.” 

Sisters Kyra and Eva Turney have been tuning in every week from their home in Markham. 

“Which is really nice, since we get to be creative and we get to express ourselves during these hard times,” says 13-year-old Kyra. 

“I like taking the art classes because you can express yourself with all the art work that we’ve been doing,” adds nine-year-old Eva.

Over the last several weeks, artists have followed Zafirovski’s lead and painted everything from a butterfly, to a sunflower and a bee, to the CN Tower surrounded by cherry blossoms. 

Art class

“The first one that I did that actually inspired this whole thing was the Pink Supermoon,” says Zafirovski. “All of the pieces have to do with the idea of hope and looking forward to the future.”

On Thursdays, after the class has wrapped up, Zafirovski has been holding an online auction for her paintings to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund at Markham Stouffville Hospital. 

“I just thought it would be a great way to help the community, specifically my local hospital,” she said.

“I knew a lot of the seniors' homes were also struggling in the Markham area, so anything to help where I live in Markham.”

So far, more than $600 has been raised through the virtual auction. 

Zafirovski hopes her weekly paint sessions on social media will continue to help individuals, as well as the community. 

“I think that’s it’s just through the power of art. It’s so easy with the technology that’s available,” she says. “It’s really interesting to see how this network can kind of connect us all in something that we haven’t lost.”

You can join the art session on Zafirovski’s Instagram at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesdays.