We’re excited to introduce arts leader and educator, Charles Smith. Charles is the Artistic Director of The Wind in the Leaves Collective and the Executive director of Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO). 

We’re highlighting Charles’ involvement in CPAMO, specifically growing the equity and diversity landscape in the arts. North York Arts was fortunate to be involved in CPAMO’s most recent cohort of organizations dedicated to deepening their understanding of equity and pluralism in the arts and making organizational changes. 


Tell us a bit about yourself and your background in the arts.

I am a poet, essayist, and interdisciplinary performing artist.  I’m also an arts administrator and educator involved in teaching and promoting equity and pluralism in the arts and society.  I’m from New York City where I studied poetry with Armand Schwerner and William Packard at City University New York and New York University.  When I arrived in Toronto, I started the Black Perspectives Cultural Program in Regent Park and was very involved with Black Theatre Canada. I am currently the Executive Director of Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO) and Artistic Director of The Wind in the Leaves Collective, an interdisciplinary performance group combining his poetry with music, dance, and visual arts.


What is CPAMO and what kind of work are you doing in the city?

CPAMO is a movement of Indigenous and racialized artists and arts organizations engaged in empowering the arts communities of Ontario. We aim to build the capacity of artists by providing access to cultural institutions and facilitating partnerships with various arts organizations. CPAMO strongly believes that its efforts will create an environment in which creative artists from Indigenous and racialized communities will be better understood by presenters for music, dance, theatre, interdisciplinary practices, visual arts, and literary publishers.

To assist in achieving CPAMOs goals and objectives, we undertake activities in community engagement, professional development, research and publications, artist performances, and organizational development and change.


What is the role that arts organizations play in facilitating cultural pluralism?

Arts organizations can and do play a significant role in promoting cultural pluralism.  This is being done by such organizations working directly with Indigenous, radicalized, queer, deaf and disabled, women and other marginalized artists.  Such work can include coming to understand their artistic practices, staging and/or exhibiting these works as well as active promotion and advocacy.  


How can individuals and arts organizations get involved? 

CPAMO is always open to new people and/or organizations that want to get involved. You can become a member (free of charge) or become a presenter. CPAMO members are able to use our website to promote their activities, and they take part in surveys and Roundtable meetings to provide input into CPAMO’s initiatives. You can also join our email/ newsletter list; CPAMO newsletter comes out every other month and we publish the information shared at our events.  

To learn more about CPAMO and to get involved, visit: https://cpamo.org/. To learn more about the how North York Arts was involved,visit: https://cpamo.org/equity-education-in-the-arts/cpamo-poc-phase-2/

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Manager