Sidia Atabales-Schnitzler’s earliest memories are of finding solace in art. “I was always really shy, so in preschool I would usually be at the painting station in my own world,” says the 18-year-old. Now in her second semester of Centennial’s Fine Arts Studio program, an intensive two-year diploma that emphasizes studio-based learning and prepares students to become working artists, Sidia says her art continues to be her escape. “Whenever I’m feeling a certain way, I’ll go and take it out on the sketchbook or the canvas,” she says. The Fine Arts Studio program allows students to explore a broad range of media and develop their creative voices, working in everything from sculpture to acrylics, figure drawing to multimedia collage. It also equips learners with skills in communication, digital promotion and exhibition management as they prepare to launch their careers.

Sidia says the program was so compelling that it was the only one she applied for in her last year of high school. Her only choice proved to be the right one. “I finally feel like I’m part of a community here,” she says. “The teachers are the best I’ve ever had, and as artists themselves they’re very open to whatever creative ideas students want to pursue.” Looking ahead to the future, Sidia plans to open her own studio and present exhibitions where she can showcase her work, which focuses on themes of empowered women and imaginative storytelling.

This program is preparing us really well to present ourselves professionally as artists, which is the one of the most important skills to have,” she says. “That’s what will get you places.