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Holy Blossom’s Cultural Centre’s Salon Series Launch:
Introducing guest writer and artist,
Tilya Gallay Helfield.

I am thrilled to inaugurate our Holy Blossom Salon Series on Tuesday, June 9, 1015, with guest writer and artist Tilya Gallay Helfield, who will be reading excerpts from her recently published book, Metaphors for Love.

The publication of this book marks the completion of a project that Tilya started some 30 years ago, but which actually had begun much earlier in Ottawa, during the Second World War. Though the stories in this book are mostly fictionalized, they nonetheless deftly integrate the flavours and nuances of her experiences and observations as a  young Jewish girl, coming of age in a young  Jewish community, in a young country, in a time of great social, cultural and political change.

It is also a special event for me, because Tilya is my mother, and her stories are part of the fabric of my  life:   I have been hearing about some of these events and characters for as long as I can remember. The stories also represent my mother’s artistic persona: to my siblings and me, she was never just ‘Mom’, but a veritable ‘renaissance woman’.

My mother always ‘worked’ at home on her art. Our basement became her studio, and our dining room table, her office. As a young woman preparing for university she had dreamed of becoming a photo -journalist and travelling around the world. She also badly wanted to pursue a degree in Fine Arts but was discouraged – perhaps even forbidden – by her father and instead, took her Bachelor degree and then her Master’s degree in English Literature at McGill University. This was quite unusual at that time, and was made all the more impressive by the fact that in the time between her two degrees, she met she my father, married, and had a baby (my sister Marie). Many years later she went back to school and got that Fine Arts degree she wanted so badly, at Concordia University, where I was also enrolled in the same program, and reaped the benefits of her encyclopaedic art history notes!

Tilya was never involved in just one thing at a time. There were a myriad of projects around the house in different stages of development or various piles of paper.  Nor did she confine herself to one particular medium. She was a writer with by-lines in two different local community newspapers, a painter, and a print-maker. She also made jewellery, baskets and hand-made paper. She still falls into helpless gales of laughter every time she recounts the story of my brother, drinking the paper pulp she kept in fridge, because he thought the blender actually contained a milkshake!  (Oh, foolish boy.)  And though she never became a photo-journalist, she did teach herself to use a camera and to develop her own pictures in the dark room, which she then used in her art,

Her work, and that of her colleagues, friends, and children, was everywhere in our house. She encouraged us to sketch with her, framed our drawings, proudly wore the horrible copper enamel earrings and displayed the lopsided clay ashtrays we made for her at summer camp.  For a conservative woman, she was very open-minded in her belief that all art had beauty and value.

She was also incredibly ‘crafty’, long before that became a trend.  Our house was filled with beautiful blankets, afghans, wall-hangings and pillows that she knit and crocheted and sewed, and our dolls were dressed in magnificent hand-made baby clothes that were the envy of all our friends.  Her creativity further extended to some pretty bold home renovations, which she personally designed and supervised, transforming our previously ordinary bungalow.

In our home there was also a great love and respect for culture. Through our parents  (whose favourite trips together always included plays or concerts), my siblings and I acquired great appreciation for art, literature, theatre, music, and dance and film, which we now have passed on to our own children.

From my Mom, the multi-talented, multi-media artist and writer, I’ve learned many valuable ‘art’ lessons about ‘life’, including:  1) there are no mistakes in art,  2) never be afraid to branch out and try new things  3) anything worth doing, is worth doing well, and  4) art is ‘good’ if it  makes people talk

I am very proud to introduce her as the first guest artist of the new Salon Series at Holy Blossom.

Let the conversation begin…..

Gillian Helfield.

My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation: that is what I call good company. Jane Austen

The Holy Blossom Centre for Culture announces a new series of ‘Salons’ focused on the latest work of artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers in our community.

Inspired by the 18th Century Parisian Salons, these gatherings aim to introduce a new ‘Age of Conversation’, by providing new opportunities for people to come together to share their intellectual and cultural interests.

The Parisian salons also significantly marked the important cultural and historical developments taking place in the surrounding society. In that same spirit of growth and renewal and in keeping with our own Temple Renewal, we will launch our salon series this coming summer.

We hope you will join us for our inaugural event on June 9, 2015 at 7:30 p.m., a literary evening with writer and artist Tilya Gallay Helfield, who will read from her recently published book, Metaphors for Love, a collection of short stories about a young Jewish girl’s coming of age in wartime Ottawa.

Introducing the new ‘Salon’ Series at Holy Blossom!

Introducing the new ‘Salon’ Series at Holy Blossom!

About the Book:

METAPHORS FOR LOVE, written by Tilya Gallay Helfield, is a collection of twenty linked short stories that reads as a novel. The stories, nine of which have already been published, begin when the heroine was a seven-year-old girl living in Ottawa during WWII, but they move back and forth in time over a period of six decades, describing the lives of her eccentric grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and siblings. They are by turns dramatic, heartbreaking, humorous and poignant, with spectres of death and war honing some to an unexpected sharp edge.

METAPHORS FOR LOVE, published by Imago Press, March 2015, can be found on at It will also be available for sale at the Salon.

About the Author:

Tilya Gallay Helfield was born and raised in Ottawa, lived for many years in Montreal, and now resides in Toronto. She earned a B.A and M.A. in English literature from McGill University, and a B.F.A. in Fine Arts from Concordia University.

Her short stories have been published online and in print, in several well-known Canadian literary journals, including The Fiddlehead and Oasis, and have won several prizes.

Tilya is also a multi-media artist whose work has been exhibited internationally and can be found in several public and private collections in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Samples of her artwork can be seen on her website (

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Showing 7 comments
  • Eleanor and Peter Loebel

    Beautiful introduction. We hope to attend. Ellie and Peter

  • Gillian Helfield

    We are looking forward to the inauguration of this series, and to exploring and sharing the knowledge and talent of our local community!

    The Kleins

  • Debbie Spiegel

    Join us for this first of many programs for the Centre for Arts & Culture. Under the guidance of Gillian Helfield, we look forward to this as our debut. Looking forward to seeing everyone there.

  • Michaele-Sue Goldblatt

    Great idea. What TIME is this? Not listed.

    • admin

      We are still finalizing the first program for the series. Look for additional details shortly on our website and in Life at Holy Blossom.

  • FlorenceHertzman

    Sounds good.

  • Lindi Rivers

    This is an exciting and enriching new opportunity for stimulating our imagination and intellect, in good company. It sounds like a wonderful series.

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