Farewell Lila! – Departure Announcement

Farewell Lila! – Departure Announcement

We’d like to take this time to announce that North York Arts’ founding Executive Director, Lila Karim, will be moving on from the organization as of April 7th, 2021.

NYA has been incredibly fortunate to have had Lila as a leader for the past 10 years. Thanks to her passion, care, and guidance, what started as a team of one has grown into a thriving organization filled with staff, interns, volunteers, artists, facilitators, and more, running year-round programs for North York communities. Lila is a driving force in Toronto’s art sector who will continue to make an impact wherever she goes. We are so proud of Lila and all she has accomplished and we are grateful to her for paving the way to NYA’s future. Thank you for everything, Lila, you will be immensely missed!

Please see Lila’s statement below as well as a statement from Joe Borowiec, our Board Chair, on what’s next for North York Arts.

Lila Karim, Outgoing Executive Director
Melissa Foster, Interim Executive Director

A message from Lila Karim

After ten incredible years as the Founding Executive Director of North York Arts, I am leaving to pursue a new role with the City of Toronto as Senior Arts Consultant – Arts East, starting mid-April.

My journey with North York Arts has been a truly rewarding one. While developing the organization from the early start-up phase in 2011 to transitioning into a charity, I have had the immense honour of working alongside so many amazing colleagues, artists, partners, performers, musicians, producers, curators, arts groups, and cultural leaders. It has also been a privilege to collaborate and serve the North York community where we have engaged with over 230,000+ community members since inception.

As North York Arts embarks on the next phase of development with the new strategic plan and celebrating its 10th anniversary later this year, I look forward to the organization continuing to support the recovery process during these challenging times and furthering the organization’s vision of an inclusive, equitable, engaged and sustainable arts community in North York.

I want to thank our founding partners, government supporters, sponsors, donors, and volunteers for your continued support during my tenure. I also thank our sister Local Arts Service Organizations and the artistic community in Toronto for your collaboration and creativity over the years.

Finally, I send my heartfelt gratitude to the NYA Board of Directors and Staff (past and present). Thank you for your ongoing support, leadership, and mentorship. You are the pillars of our great accomplishments together at North York Arts and I am so very grateful to have been able to work and collaborate with all of you.

I will miss everyone and I wish you all the very best of success for the future!

With love & gratitude,
Lila Karim ❤️

A message from Joe Borowiec

On behalf of the Board of Directors and Staff at North York Arts, I want to offer a huge thank you to Lila for everything she has done for North York Arts since 2011 and to wish her success in the next chapter of her career. Her vision, leadership, and wisdom will be greatly missed by the Board, Staff, and partners alike.

As part of the organization’s transition plan, we are very happy to announce that Melissa Foster has accepted the role of Interim Executive Director. Melissa has been with North York Arts since 2014 and has grown into a leadership role as our Program & Outreach Director since 2018. Over the next few weeks, the Board and Staff will ensure a smooth transition for the organization and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with our many partners, supporters, and community members and to serving North York communities.

Also during this time, the Executive Committee will begin the search process for our next Executive Director. More information about the job posting will be announced in the coming weeks. I want to thank the Board and Staff for their guidance and support during the transition process.

Please join us all in thanking Lila for the contributions she has made over the years to North York Arts and congratulating Melissa on the Interim Executive Director role.

Joe Borowiec
NYA Board Chair

Next Steps

To stay informed about the next steps including a job posting for Executive Director, please stay connected with us through our online channels including our newsletter, social media, and website. We appreciate your patience!

NYA’s Anti-Racism Statement

NYA stands in solidarity with Black communities against racism, oppression, injustice, and violence.

To be anti-racist is a continuous process and NYA recognizes that we have much more work to do. By adhering to our values and leading with authenticity, we are responsible for actively undoing, unlearning, and re-educating ourselves to do better. We are committed to becoming better allies to the Black residents, Black artists, and Black-led art organizations all over North York and Toronto to create long-term change.

As an organization and as individuals, we have begun taking actionable steps and we plan to be fully transparent with you in our efforts. We must hold ourselves and each other accountable.

Please stay tuned for further updates.

Please Welcome our New Board Members!

Please Welcome our New Board Members!

We are pleased to announce that five new members have been appointed to the NYA Board of Directors! With expertise ranging from accounting to artistic direction, this new leadership will accompany the existing members’ skills to further support NYA’s strategic goals both now and in the future.

The new members will be joining the current Board of Directors who are cultural, business and community leaders from across the city: Joe Borowiec, Jason Ho, Umair Jaffar, Susan Karnay, Millean Kung, Diana Panagiotopoulos, Kathleen Sloan, Bill Stephenson and Nina Zaslavsky.

The Board will continue to provide leadership and strategic oversight to carry out NYA’s vision of an inclusive, engaged, and sustainable arts and culture community in North York. The new members’ knowledge and passion for the arts will be a meaningful addition to our team.

Please join us in welcoming the newly appointed NYA board members. Click on the links to learn more! 

David Di Giovanni

Mira Lax

Jessica Singh

Jonathan Stewart

Elka Weinstein

NYA’s Response to COVID-19

At North York Arts, the health and safety of our staff, board, program facilitators, participants, and community members is our top priority.

In light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), North York Arts has opted to take protective measures to aid in controlling and containing the spread of the virus. As such, we will be postponing certain programs until further notice. For specific information on affected programs, please see the list at the bottom of this notice. 

NYA will continue to monitor the situation (aligning with the end of the provincial school board closure) to ensure that we are making well-informed decisions on how best to move forward.

NYA staff has decided to limit our time in the office and primarily work from home. Therefore, the best way to get in touch with us is by email (see below).

As a friendly reminder during this difficult period – COVID-19 has impacted (and will continue to impact) many local artists, arts organizations, and arts workers. If you can, please continue to support these individuals and organizations remotely. For example, if a live performance you were planning to attend was cancelled due to COVID-19, consider donating your ticket fee rather than requesting a refund. The livelihood of countless arts professionals is at stake!

Finally, we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to our health care professionals, first responders, public officials and government leaders for keeping us informed and safe. For more information, resources, and updates regarding COVID-19, please visit Toronto Public Health.

Thank you for your understanding and support, and stay safe!

– The NYA Team

Current NYA Programs Affected:

Second Act Seniors
March 17 workshop cancelled 
March 24 workshop cancelled 

Legacy Collective
All in-person meetings and workshops postponed.
New workshops moved online. 

Drum to DJ
Workshops cancelled that align with school closures

Northbound Exhibition Program
Lacrima: /ˈla.kri.ma/ postponed
 MERAKI Project postponed
A series of Mythological Narratives postponed 

Cultura Festival
Date and time under review

Sunday Serenades
Date and time under review


Contact information:

Program Inquires:

Organizational Questions or Concerns:

Marketing and Communications:

Other inquiries:

Snapd Arts Feature: Anna Kavehmehr

Snapd Arts Feature: Anna Kavehmehr

The opening of the 2020 Northbound Exhibition Program is quickly approaching, and we’re excited to introduce our first artist: Anna Kavehmehr! Born in Tehran, Anna moved to Toronto in 2013 to pursue her art career. Her exhibition, “Lacrima: /’la.kri.ma/, follows the story of a girl in different stages of her life where she is experiencing feelings of loss, loneliness, displacement, and the hopelessness that comes with them. 

Keep reading to learn more about Anna and her work!   

Tell us about yourself and your background in the arts. 

I started drawing from a young age by copying my mom’s sketches. She used to draw beautiful portraits and I was always in awe of how she captured elegance with a few lines. I became obsessed with creating art that conveys something intangible, and I never stopped drawing. I went to art school and studied Graphic Design and focused on book illustration for my thesis.  After moving to Canada, I completed my master’s degree in Digital Media and created an AR storybook of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland for my final project. I am currently working on a short animation and a graphic novel and am always open to collaborate with other artists. 

Describe your exhibition; where did you draw inspiration? 

This collection of work stemmed from emotions that I was experiencing after immigrating to Canada and the loneliness that came with it. The feelings were contradictory, complex and at times dark. What compelled me to create art about them was that I was fully aware of them and was trying to work through them by bringing them on a page and confronting them. It almost felt like being stuck in a freeze-frame moment where I was merely a bystander looking upon myself.

What is your favourite part about showcasing stories and emotions through your work?

 For me, creating any sort of art is almost a form of therapy. Depicting emotions has helped me understand the different states I’ve been in and has helped me know myself a little better. I believe stories have the power to connect a wide range of audiences that might on the surface have nothing in common. They help us understand different people, their struggles, their happiness and their dreams. To me, Illustration is just a different form of storytelling.

What is something you hope that people take away from your exhibition? 

My hope is that I was able to depict that dark emotions can creep up in the most ordinary settings as well as over-powering a situation one might be in. That all emotions are welcome in getting to know oneself. 

What are you most looking forward to as a participant of Northbound? 

I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and thankful to North York Arts for promoting emerging artists, especially in the North York area. The chance to have so many people view your work is always very exciting, and I’m looking forward to connecting with other North York based artists and art enthusiasts. 

Lacrima: /ˈla.kri.ma/ will be on display from April 1 – April 30 at the North York Centre; the exhibition opening will take place on April 1 from 12 pm – 1 pm. This exhibition is free to the public. For more information, click here.

Interview by: Kavita Gurm

Communications and Events Assistant

Snapd Arts Feature: Cecilia Acevedo

Snapd Arts Feature: Cecilia Acevedo

We are excited to introduce Cecilia Acevedo, the group leader of Legacy Collective. Legacy Collective is an independent North York-based senior engagement initiative supported by North York Arts. The group celebrates creativity and wisdom through peer-to-peer learning, storytelling, and art-making. 

Over the past year, Cecilia Acevedo has been the group’s lead coordinator – she has ensured that it is a well-run space for sharing, creating, and building friendships. We asked Cecilia about her interest in the arts and her involvement in the Legacy Collective. 

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

My name is Cecilia and I am from Chile. I came to Canada in 1984 and while it was really hard at the beginning, as time went on it became much better. I always had an interest in the arts (I think I got it from my mom!). There was just something inside me that drew me to art – I think my favourite is visual art. I’m a visual learner; I can look at something and in my mind, I can see where to add or change colours. Art has always been a way for me to express myself.

Tell us about Legacy Collective; when did you get involved and what is your role now? 

Legacy Collective is a group of senior women from different ethnic backgrounds. We gather together and share our knowledge in visual arts, painting, crochet, knitting, and other types of art. In 2009, before I was a part of Legacy Collective, I was involved with another arts group that I learned about at a community centre. Then, 3 years ago, I heard about the Legacy Collective and decided to join. Now I am one of the group’s leaders and I’m really happy because I have the opportunity to teach and share my knowledge with the other ladies, which they can use to improve their skills. 

What impact has the Legacy Collective had on you and the participants?

For me, the Legacy Collective has been very important because it’s a place where we can share our knowledge, emotions, and our cultures. We all come from different countries and situations which gives us the chance to learn from each other – a chance that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. For this reason, being a part of the Legacy Collective has been amazing. Legacy Collective was able to bring people from all around the world together. 

How do you hope to see Legacy Collective grow in the future? 

It’s our dream for Legacy Collective to grow. We want to do so many more things – and we are trying. We want to grow our participants, become much bigger, and we want to continue to give a helping hand to other people. Just like North York Arts, we want to be able to share with those in our community. 

The Legacy Collective meets every Friday in North York. To learn more about the work they are doing visit https://www.northyorkarts.org/project/legacy-collective/. Interested in joining? Contact cecilia@northyorkarts.org.

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Call for Nominations to the Board of Directors

Call for Nominations to the Board of Directors

North York Arts is excited to announce that the Call for Nominations to the Board of Directors is now open!

The Board of Directors provides strategic leadership, governance, establishes policy, oversees the operations and financial performance of North York Arts and assesses the Board’s own effectiveness. Our Board Members will serve on several committees, including:

  • Executive
  • Finance & Audit
  • Accounting
  • Governance & Nominating
  • Programming & Events
  • Fundraising & Marketing
  • Legal

New members will be supported and mentored by the existing Board of Directors to help ease the transition into this leadership role. Participation on the Board is voluntary and there is no remuneration for service.

Expected Commitment from Board Members:

  • Term begins April 2020 and have the ability to serve for a minimum of one (1) year and eligible for re-election at the annual general meeting
  • Attend 8 Board meetings that take place each year: one in conjunction with the Annual General Meeting
  • Able to commit the time and resources to serve on the Board and one board committee, and represent North York Arts as requested

The Governance & Nomination Committee is particularly interested in candidates with the following knowledge and expertise, who either live or work in the City of Toronto:

  • Fundraising, Development & Sponsorship
  • Community Arts & Leadership
  • Small Business and/or Social Enterprise


  • Commitment to North York Arts’ Vision and Values and has an appreciation for the arts
  • Personal commitment to devote the time necessary to perform the responsibilities of a Board member
  • Strong communication and collaborative skills
  • Previous non-profit board experience is an asset
  • Live and/or work in the City of Toronto

To apply:

  • Please submit a cover letter and your résumé / CV by March 11, 2020 to lila@northyorkarts.org
  • All applicants must complete this application to be considered for the position.
  • All cover letters and résumé / CVs will be reviewed by the Committee to be selected for an interview.
  • Nominations Committee will then make recommendations for each open board position to the Board. The Board will meet and review the recommendations and then motion for selection.

North York Arts is strongly committed to equity and inclusion within the community and encourages applications from all qualified candidates including Persons with Disabilities, Persons of Colour, Indigenous and 2SLGBTQIAP community members. We thank all applicants in advance, however only those selected for an interview will be contacted.

For more information about the role and nomination process – please contact Executive Director, Lila Karim at lila@northyorkarts.org or 416-733-9388 x 7062.

Snapd Arts Feature: Charles Smith

Snapd Arts Feature: Charles Smith

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

Snapd Arts Feature: Stephen Dyer

Snapd Arts Feature: Stephen Dyer

Next month, North York Arts will be running “Second Act Seniors” An 8-week ESL theatre program for seniors and adults. Each week, participants are led by instructors to feel more confident in their English speaking abilities. 

With that said, we’re excited to introduce one of the instructors, Stephan Dyer. Along with his partners Juan Cajiao and Isaac Luy, Stephan founded MalPensado, a Spanish speaking comedy club. We spoke to Stephan about MalPensado, comedy as a tool for development, and what he’s looking forward to with Second Act Seniors.

Tell us about yourselves and what you do.
Juan Cajiao, Isaac Luy and I are bilingual comedians and public speaking coaches born in Colombia, Venezuela, and Costa Rica, respectively. In 2014 we founded MalPensando, the only Spanish comedy club in Canada. We’ve also been on TEDx and Comedy Central and performed in 15 countries including Malaysia, Singapore, and Luxembourg. In 2017, MalPensando became a bilingual comedy school and has since helped over 600 people in 5 countries become funny, confident speakers through improv, clown, public speaking and comedy workshops.

Tell us about MalPensado and its impact on the community.
MalPensando gives back to the Hispanic-Canadian community regularly as it is one of our key priorities and core values. Every year we give over $3000 workshop scholarships to charities that help Hispanics better adapt into Canada. We also offer numerous free Leadership workshops on a yearly basis in order to give our community the necessary tools to succeed in today’s Canadian society.  Examples of these workshops are “LinkedIn Workshop To Advance Your Career (For Hispanic Newcomers),” “Resume Critique Workshop For Hispanic Newcomers,” “How To Network Effectively: The Canadian Way,” “The Secrets Behind Getting A Job in Canada,” “How To Be A Master Of Ceremonies,” “Speaking With Confidence,” and coming this winter 2020 “Financial Literacy for Youth.”

How can comedy be used to develop public speaking and other skills?
Comedy is truth and pain. Comedy is basically tragedy plus time. In other words, it’s very therapeutic. When you’re real on stage, when you’re authentic, you connect with people because it’s also happened to them. Typically when something is “relatable”, it’s funny! 

Our 6-week course actually teaches people to conquer the fear of public speaking, make people laugh, and influence any audience! It helps people get amazing presentation skills because we teach you 25 tips and techniques. Instead of me telling you, I’ll just copy and paste one of our student’s testimonials: 

“This was honestly one of the best things I have ever done. I was able to push myself beyond my comfort zone and grow as a person. Prior to this course, I wasn’t very confident in myself. One of the main reasons I joined the course was to overcome social anxiety, and it definitely helped me do that and so much more. MalPensando not only helped me become a more confident public speaker, but a more confident person in general. I am super grateful for the lessons Stephan and Juan taught us. It is definitely a course that impacted my life greatly. I got to meet some amazing people from different walks of life that I would have never crossed paths with if it hadn’t been for this course. I highly recommend this for everyone! It was an incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.” 

What are you most looking forward to during your Second Act Seniors workshop?
So excited you have no idea. More often than not, I find that seniors are more authentic when expressing themselves. That authenticity is KEY for connecting with an audience and making people laugh because, as you remember, comedy is truth and pain, Often, they’re not scared about being vulnerable and sharing real stories, real failures, or telling it like it is. Their stories will be therapeutic and will inspire people everywhere. 

Second Act Seniors starts on February 4th! Interested in signing up? Visit northyorkarts.org/project/second-act-seniors or call 416-733-9388 x 7067. 

Want to learn more about Stephan and MalPensando? Visit: malpensando.com

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Manager

Snapd Arts Feature: Adom Acheampong

Snapd Arts Feature: Adom Acheampong

At North York Arts, we are lucky to work with so many incredible artists and arts workers in our city. One of these incredible people is Adom Acheampong, an arts programmer who currently works at the Nia Centre for the Arts. Adom has been immersed in the arts sector for many years and we are excited for her to be part of Northbound 2020 as a jury member! 

We spoke to Adom about her arts background and current work, what she loves about Toronto’s arts community, and her involvement with Northbound 2020.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your arts background. 

I’ve had the privilege of working in programming, mentorship, advocacy, and curatorial capacity in the arts for five years now, and am proud to be able to support the arts & cultural communities throughout Toronto – specifically for Black & Indigenous People of Colour. Currently, I am the Program Manager at Nia Centre for the Arts, and the Chair of the Decent Work Advisory Committee as part of the Ontario Nonprofit Network. 

Creatively, I am a writer working mainly in short fiction and prose. My work has most recently appeared online with Broken Pencil Magazine, and will be featured in the forthcoming FEEL WAYS anthology. I am also currently one of four fantastic 2019 Writers-in-Residence at Firefly Creative Writing Studio. 

Can you tell us about the work you do at the Nia Centre for the Arts? 

As the Program Manager at the Nia Centre for the Arts, I work to continually advance our mission to support, showcase, and promote an appreciation for art from across the African Diaspora. This involves everything from developing meaningful and impactful partnerships and programs, developing opportunities for young people to find their purpose through the arts, continually evaluating programs, and of course, lots of grant writing and reporting! I work with a small but phenomenally powerful team, and every day brings new challenges and opportunities.

What do you love most about Toronto’s community arts scene?

What I love most about Toronto’s community arts scene is its transformative potential to truly bring out the creativity in everyone. Community arts is the hub for tough conversations, challenging ideas, and grassroots innovation. As artists, we are consistently at the forefront of social critique and change. Through community arts, everyday people can meaningfully engage in this critique, and drive social change in ways that are accessible and impactful to them and their respective communities. Toronto is a great example of how this creative potential manifests within a city.

What are you looking forward to about being a Northbound 2020 jury member? 

Sitting on a jury is always an honour and a great experience. Although usually fun and incredibly engaging, I don’t take the responsibility lightly. Although I am very excited to review the submissions, I am most excited for the lively conversation that will undoubtedly take place during the jurying process amongst passionate jury members committed to equity, access, and creating meaningful opportunities for artists.

To learn more about the Nia Centre, visit https://www.niacentre.org/home. To learn more about our Northbound 2020 Exhibition Program, visit https://www.northyorkarts.org/project/open-call/

Interview by: Kavita Gurm

Communications and Events Assistant