Cultura Festival Staff

John Filion | Founder

John Filion, Councillor for Ward 23, has been a Willowdale homeowner since 1978. He has held elected office continually since 1982, first as a member of the North York Board of Education for nine years, including four years as Chair (1987-1990). In 1991, John was elected as a Councillor for Ward 11 in the former City of North York. With amalgamation in 1998, John was elected to the new City of Toronto Council.

John sees cities as a collection of neighbourhoods which need to be supported and protected. He believes in keeping residents informed and involved in decision making. John maintains an office in North York Civic Centre and spends much of his time dealing with local issues.

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Dan Watson | Producer

Dan has created, performed and taught theatre across Canada, Scotland, France, the United States and Japan. He is Co-Artistic Director of Edge of the Woods Theatre in his home town of Huntsville. This company produces an annual travelling outdoor theatre festival as well as various community arts projects for youth and seniors. Dan is a co-founder of the international Theatre company Ahuri Theatre. Recently this company travelled to Japan to present Yabu No Naka:distruthted at the prestigious Setagaya Public Theatre. With Ahuri, Dan also recently conceived and directed the workshop production of A Fool’s Life at the Japan Foundation in Toronto.

Dan was also a member of Compagnie Houppz! with whom he created and toured the hit show SplasH20 to sold out houses across Canada and France. This production was recently nominated for an Eloize Prize for Outstanding Production in Eastern Francophone Canada. Through an artistic residency at Théâtre Populaire d’Acadie, the company recently created a new piece entitled Mouving. This production is currently touring New Brunswick, and will make its European premiere in the fall.

In Toronto, Dan has performed in Theatre Smith Gilmour’s Grimm Too, Ed Roy’s Golden Thug (Buddies in Bad Times/Topological Theatre), the world premiere workshop of The Finger (Theatre Panik) and in Golgi Apparatus‘ Bigfoot and Ahoy! presented at the Cooking Fire Theatre Festival in Toronto.

In addition to his work as a performer, he recently completed internships in marketing and arts administration with Theatre Gargantua and a Metcalf internship with Jumblies Theatre in artistic directorship.He most recently completed a Metcalf Foundation internship with Jumblies Theatre and is the Artistic Producer of one its offshoots Arts4All. Each year, he conceives and directs a large scale site specific multi-disciplinary devised pieces with 150 students from the Humber College Theatre Program. Dan is a graduate of Humber College in Toronto and École Jacques Lecoq in Paris.


Lila Karim | NYA Executive Director

Lila Karim has over 15 years experience in arts programming, administration and special events management in the cultural sector. Lila is currently the Executive Director of North York Arts. She has previously worked for several non-profit organizations including the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, ReelWorld Film Festival + Foundation and Harold Greenberg Fund.

Lila is active within the arts community as a board member with Work in Culture and sits on several committees including Friends of the Arts, Creative Spaces Outside the Downtown Core, and Community Arts Action Advisory. Lila has also produced award-winning work as a digital photographer and filmmaker.


Melissa Foster | NYA Program & Outreach Manager

Melissa holds a Community Arts Practice Certificate and BA (hons) in Theatre Studies from York University, and holds a post-degree diploma in Arts Management from Western University. Melissa has collaborated on numerous community arts projects related to social justice and community relations and helped develop and facilitate arts programs both abroad and within Toronto. Her primary focus is on the development and implementation of public art and community driven, arts-based programming. Melissa has over 8 years working in the public sector, primarily as a Youth Worker for various shelters and supportive housing programs in Toronto. It is here that she began to use her artistic background as a way to engage communities. It is through this experience that she now finds herself with North York Arts. She is excited to be working on initiatives that provide opportunities for artistic participation within the wider community and contribute to Toronto’s vibrant and diverse art scene.


Ely Rosenblum | NYA Development & Communications Manager

Active as an arts and culture educator, Ely has directed documentary films and produced recordings for the British Library, the Smithsonian Institution, the MIT Media Lab, and CBC Radio 1. His previous projects have focused on American Sign Language performance art, West African storytelling through song, and spoken word poetry in maritime Canada. Ely trained as a documentary filmmaker at the Centre for Visual Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he co-founded ART/E/FACT, a publication and event series of art and anthropology. He is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Music at the University of Cambridge, where he co-convened the conference Sound Studies: Art, Experience, Politics.