When you approach Fool’s Paradise, located down a quiet residential street, you can feel the anticipation building. Once you arrive at the yard, with its tranquil pond, friendly wildlife, quaint cottage and stunning view of Lake Ontario, you’ll wonder how this oasis of nature survived the city of Scarborough growing around it.
Fool’s Paradise, located atop the Scarborough Bluffs, is truly a paradise. The grounds and cottage were designed and built by iconic Canadian artist Doris McCarthy, and have been managed by the Ontario Heritage Trust as a residence for artists since 2015. Fool’s Paradise provides a peaceful, idyllic space to soak in nature, clear your mind and unlock creativity.
“Fool’s Paradise was entrusted to us by Doris McCarthy in 1998, with the expectation that we would use her home for an artist-in-residence program when she passed away,” says Beth Hanna, CEO of the Ontario Heritage Trust. “It’s a unique living and working incubator for artists, musicians and writers, offering privacy and the opportunity to concentrate on their work. So far, we’ve welcomed 37 artists to Fool’s Paradise.”
The property has much to offer by way of creative space. From the cliff’s edge, you can see breakwaters along the beach. Reach the beach by walking the Doris McCarthy Trail, adjacent to the property. Some mornings, the fog over the lake can give the whole place an eerie, otherworldly feeling, while afternoon sun brings out the vibrancy of the flowers, trees and grass. Sitting inside a screened-in porch, you can listen to birds chirping and watch as chipmunks and even deer pass through the yard. All this surrounds the studio space, with its large picture windows, in which Doris McCarthy worked. It’s the perfect place to create, and past artists-in-residence agree.
“As the experience and difficulties of [COVID-19] isolation continue, I am taking comfort by reminding myself of all the pleasure I took hiding from the world for a month last autumn at Fool’s Paradise,” says Tristram Lansdowne, a visual artist and 2019 resident at Fool’s Paradise. “[That included] making paintings, thinking about light, natural rhythms and the experience of place.”
Space is limited each year, with residencies lasting anywhere from two weeks to three months. Typically, an artist will spend a month at Fool’s Paradise and come away refreshed and reinvigorated.
“What a gift it was to be given the opportunity for solitude in a house imbued with the creative spirit of its original owner, set in a beautiful environment,” says Kathy Stinson, writer and 2016 Fool’s Paradise resident. “Oceans of time and space to focus, to work, to walk, to muse—what more could a writer want!”
Applications for the program will remain open until September 30. For more information on applications and eligibility, please see the Ontario Heritage Trust’s Doris McCarthy Artist-in-Residence Program webpage.