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Surgeon, musician, cigar-lover: Irv Koven filled his home with stories, music and laughter – The Globe and Mail



Irving Herschel Koven.

Courtesy of family

Irving Herschel Koven: Surgeon. Musician. Educator. Renaissance man. Born July 29, 1928, in Grand Falls, N.B.; died May 16, 2020, Toronto, of a cardiovascular event; aged 91.

Near the end of his life, with family at his side, Irv Koven would often stare pensively into the distance as he smoked his cigar. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he’d smile and say: “We have come a long way from the small town of Grand Falls, New Brunswick.”

Irving and his three siblings were one of two Jewish families in town. Every Friday, kosher meat was delivered by Canadian Pacific train. He learned to play piano at 7. He was mostly self-taught though attended music classes at the local convent one day a week, and accompanied his father, who played the mandolin. At 15, he moved to Montreal to attend Westmount High and began playing in a jazz trio.

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In 1945, he attended Mount Allison University, completed a Bachelor of Arts degree before he applied to medical school. He graduated in 1954 from Dalhousie Medical School with one summer spent in Plaster Rock, N.B., suturing the many lacerations of lumbermen.

Florence Epstein was a nursing student at the Halifax Infirmary affiliated with Irv’s medical school. He was lovestruck by Flossie the moment he saw her and in 1954 the couple married in Cape Breton, before moving to Boston. Here, Irv did his surgical residency and Flossie worked as a nurse until their son Robert was born. In 1956, the family moved to Toronto where Irv continued his training at Mount Sinai Hospital and became a highly respected and gifted surgeon. Three more children, Laurie, Jeff and Steve, arrived.

Irv’s sense of humour filled his home with stories, jokes and laughter. He was always fixing something around the house, reading and learning (he would earn his Master of Education from the University of Toronto at the age of 65).

He built his family a ski chalet at Beaver Valley in 1968, which featured his detailed cabinetry work, fancy wood-window framing, a homemade pull-out sofa and a kitchen table made from a door. The family spent almost every weekend at the chalet. He taught his children to ski, to see the world with the glass always half full, to enjoy life’s gifts and to treasure people and family.

Irv and Flossie often entertained surgical residents, friends and family at home, with singing around the piano after dinner. But Irv also savoured the tranquillity and camaraderie of fly fishing and every year, for 20 years, he returned to the Miramichi River. He shared this passion with his children.

Irv played piano in Toronto bars and restaurants, including the Windsor Arms hotel where he was dubbed: “the cigar-smoking, martini-drinking, piano-playing cancer surgeon.” In 1991, he was invited by the China Orient Express to be the train’s doctor during a trip through the Silk Road regions, but he quickly became the piano-playing doc.

Irv practised general surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital until his retirement in 2006 and was an associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto and a consultant surgeon at Baycrest Centre. (After retiring, he volunteered at Baycrest and played piano on the palliative floor. He performed until the last few months of his life.)

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Irv was a dreamer and often philosophical. He could speak on many topics and wrote two self-published books on his father’s life and on his own. He appreciated being alive and embraced the changes that came with time passing.

The 1954 yearbook from his Doctor of Medicine at Dalhousie captured his enduring character: “He was the dynamo of our class.”

Laurie Bernick, Robert, Jeff and Steve Koven are Irv’s children.

To submit a Lives Lived:

Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go to

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New art hub set up in North Bay's downtown to support local artists – CTV Toronto



Northern Ontario artists now have a co-operative hub to create and sell their artwork in downtown North Bay at Gateway To The Arts.

From paintings on the wall to balloon art on display, a group of 11 northern Ontario artists put their heads together in Feb. to come up with the plan.

“There’s very limited affordable space in the city for artists to work in, said Karrie Emms, one of the group’s founders. “When you want to rent a studio, you’re looking at a hefty chunk of change.”

Emms is one of the 11 artists involved. She paints, is involved in sketch-work and also teaches during paint nights. There are studios in the lower level of the facility, as well as workshop space where the member artists can prepare their works.

“We have five rental studios downstairs,” said Emms. “We planned for COVID-19. We thought if we use the studios, that covers our bills.”

Emms and the other artist members celebrated the official opening of Gateway To The Arts at 151A Main Street on the weekend.

Balloon artist Anne Brule is part of the artisan co-op and was always fascinated with balloon art ever since she read about the world’s largest non-round balloon sculpture in the world. It depicts two soccer players challenging for a ball and is completely made of balloons.

“You can make clothes (with the balloons), you can make all sorts of different things,” said Brulé. “I made a Métis sash for Le Carnival a couple of years ago and it just really opened up so many possibilities.”

The space will also be intended to help young and upcoming artists hone in on their skills and support their talent, as well as help them with resumes and portfolios in hopes of finding a job in the arts.

“Art can be a career. It can be a job and it can support you,” said Emms. “We want to foster to young people.”

Emms said the group is always looking for new members, saying art and the passion for it are limitless.

For the next few weeks, the co-op is also featuring 11 more artists’ holiday artwork.

“There’s so much talent in the area with the ideas and creativity that people have,” Brule said.

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Kamloops Art Gallery offers free virtual art workshops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source – iNFOnews



Image Credit: SUBMITTED

November 24, 2020 – 4:00 PM

For anyone between the ages of 13 to 21 looking to pick up a new hobby they can do from home can check out a virtual art workshop offered by the Kamloops Art Gallery.

Art on 5th is a virtual art workshop series created by the Kamloops Art Gallery’s summer interns that gives participants the opportunity to learn new art forms from industry professionals, according to the art gallery’s website.

The program is hosted through a Zoom call and features a different local artist each session. Each artist will teach participants a different style of art. 

All the materials needed for each workshop are available for registered participants for free at the Kamloops Art Gallery, or can be shipped with a small postage fee.

Tomorrow’s, Nov. 25, workshop will feature local artist Robin Hodgson who will do a tour of his studio before teaching painting with acrylics.

The next session Dec. 2 features local artist Katerine Lopez Escobar, who will teach participants to work with different drawing materials and how to do landscape drawing. The following workshop Dec. 9 will be lead by artist Dylan Bellamy, who will teach the art of portrait painting using acrylic. 

To register for a session, click here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won’t censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2020


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Ancient rock art shows prehistoric people ‘used hallucinogenic drugs’ – Yahoo Canada Sports



The painting shows a datura flower (University of Central Lancashire)
The painting shows a datura flower (PNaS)

A swirl-like painting on the wall of a Californian cave has shown that prehistoric people were using hallucinogenic plants to create art.

New research found that the painting actually shows the flower of Datura wrightii, a plant used for its hallucinogenic properties in ceremonies.

Scientists from the University of Central Lancashire excavated the cave, and found that, as well as a painting of the plant, there were chewed materials from the hallucinogenic plant.

Datura is a powerful hallucinogen which has been associated with witchcraft or religious practices in many societies around the world.

The research was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNaS).

Read more: Ancient drug pouch showed people took cocaine 1,000 years ago

Dr David Robinson, Reader in archaeology at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), said, ‘The link between hallucinogens and rock art has long been suspected, and this research shows that it was not only a source of creative inspiration for these prehistoric groups of people, but a core tenet of important rituals and community gathering.”

Datura was used in Native California as part of adolescent initiation rituals, where the root of the plant was processed into a drink for young people in the community.

Scientists in the cave in California (PNaS) Scientists in the cave in California (PNaS)
Scientists in the cave in California (PNaS)

Other material found at the site also suggests that the site was likely to be a communal space in which people would gather on a seasonal basis for hunting, gathering, food preparation, and eating

The researchers believe that the art played a prominent role in the daily lives of all members of the local community.

Read more: Astronomers find closest black hole to Earth

Dr Robinson says, ‘These findings give us a far more in-depth understanding of the lives of indigenous American communities and their relationships, from late prehistoric times right up until the late 1800s.

‘Importantly, because of this research, the Tejon Indian tribe now visits the site annually to reconnect to this important ancestral place.

Dr Matthew Baker, Reader in Chemistry at the University of Strathclyde and co-author, said: ‘The combination of chemistry and archaeology in this project has truly shown the power of a multidisciplinary approach to uncover new knowledge. This was a gripping project and visiting these sites with Dave was truly memorable.”

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