Sunday Serenades 2022

Sunday Serenades 2022

A photo of Mel Lastman Square presenting Sunday Serenades in 2018. There is music on the stage and a happy crowd.

In 2023, we look forward to hosting Sunday Serenades at Mel Lastman Square and celebrating with our beloved artists, bands and fans!

Regrettably, Sunday Serenades will not take place in 2022 due to staffing shortages in the events industry. Please direct questions to

Please see below for other Jazz related events happening at Mel Lastman Square during the summer of 2022.

Cultura – July 15, 2022: Cultura Festival is teaming up with Toronto Downtown Jazz to bring you fantastic live jazz music as part of the Cultura Festival, for FREE! Mel Lastman Square, music on from 6:30-9pm. Click here for details.

Toronto Underground Jazz Festival, weekend of Sept. 3. Click here for details.

Photo by Elle Choi

Let’s Dance at Downsview Park

Let’s Dance at Downsview Park

On Sunday May 15th and 22nd, we kicked off our series of Around Art and Land activations with Let’s Dance.

It was such a thrill to see and dance with all of our participants in four dance workshops at the Orchard Pavillion of Downsview Park. Our morning workshops were led by Mafa Makhubalo of Mafa Dance Village, and our afternoon sessions were led by Capoeira Bamba and Bamba Mississauga.
There was so much joy and excitement from participants of all ages, abilities and skill levels as we danced, moved, stretched, and laughed by the blooming apple trees of Downsview Park.
Mafa Dance Village led participants through a warm-up, introduced us to the basics of South African dance, then led us through a story creation through movement using the steps and choreography we learned in the first part of the workshop.
Mafa leads 15 participants in a dance class. This photo captures everyone with their arms up and walking forward.
Photo by Celeste Cole
The workshop was concluded and celebrated with a freestyle dance circle, and every participant had their chance to shine.
Participants dancing in a circle with one in the middle and others cheering in the background.
Photo by Celeste Cole
Capoeira Bamba and Capoeira Mississauga taught participants the fundamentals of Capoeira, and explained the history of the Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts and dance. We learned the basics of Capoeira like the Ginga (pronounced jeen-gah) and practiced kicks, and double kicks, and cartwheels with two hands, one hand, and no hands!
Instructor teaching a group of participants the ginga, a rocking move in triangle formation.
Photo by Celeste Cole
We were lucky to be joined by a few seasoned Capoeira students, and the workshops were concluded with impressive solos loaded with kicks, spins, and cartwheels.
A young participants mid-jump with both hands and feet off the ground.
Photo by Celeste Cole
Of course our participants also had the chance to practice with the pros and we crowned two winners for enthusiasm and excitement.
A child and instructor in the middle of the circle practicing Capoeira.
Photo by Celeste Cole
Thank you to everyone who joined us for these workshops, even in the cold and rain on the second Sunday! A huge thank you as well to all of our incredible instructors who brought us together in dance, movement, and excitement. View all the wonderful pictures by Celeste Cole and Radha Radcha in our Facebook Album.
Our next activation for Around Art and Land is happening on June 4th and 18th, What is Around is Alive invites participants on a walking tour of Downsview Park with Alan Colley. We hope to see you there!
How to be a Professional Artist who creates Great Art – Patrick Walters/Grow North

How to be a Professional Artist who creates Great Art – Patrick Walters/Grow North

There is no singular “Correct” way to create great art or be a professional artist. Regardless of your artistic discipline, what works for one artist, may not necessarily work for the other and therefore the ideas and “advice” that I will be sharing in this column, will be subjective, based on my (6+ years of ) professional experience and prefaced with many “I” statements. HAVING SAID THAT, “I” do believe that these ideas and practices can be applied and moulded to many artistic disciplines in ways that will achieve results and success. So let’s get into it!


Habitual Creative Time vs Genuine Inspiration 

I think as we begin this conversation, it is important to note that the very nature of being a “Professional” artist is somewhat antithetical to the idea of creating amazing art. How can you continuously create the best art of your life with a deadline and a budget and oftentimes confounding stipulations put on you by someone who may not necessarily understand your artwork or artistic practice? For me, this is a question I often ask myself. The conclusion I’ve come to is this; Find the balance between creating structured time in your day for intentional and consistent creative time while also nurturing and then capitalising on moments of genuine inspiration. The reality of the situation I find myself in, is that if I just sit around and do nothing until I feel a moment of genuine inspiration, I may create beautiful and masterful art over time, but I will never be able to earn a living, let alone achieve financial and career success for myself. While I often find myself raging against this harsh reality, I have also been fortunate enough to see the benefits of having structured work and creative time in my career. In addition to that, I also truly believe that my best work comes from moments of pure inspiration where I am able to set everything else aside, and become completely enveloped in the process of doing what I was put on this earth to do; my art. I would never want to lose that. So the full picture for me is to schedule enough time in my day to complete the “must-do” art (Social media engagements, Grant proposals, emails, workshops, speaking or writing engagements, commissions etc) , while still providing room for my mind to wonder and stumble into moments of genuine inspiration and creativity (creating new poetry and music).

But, how?

 Is It the Habit of Creation or Creating Good Habits?

There was never a specific point in time where I thought to myself, “Boom! Now I got it all figured out”. In fact I think many professional artists will tell you that there is NEVER a point where you have it all figured out because the balance of what is required from you is always changing from month to month and year to year. Some weeks I have all the work in the world lined up and I have to set aside much more structured time for myself because “Money affi mek!” In those moments I will naturally be more focused on worldly ideas of money, deadlines and networks and be less open to a moment where the universe will speak to you in such a way that you experience a brilliant idea for an artwork or have the strong desire to create something. Trust me, that is okay! I create a schedule for all my “Must dos” and capitalise on that because I am trying to understand that I am earning money and resources, in order to have more time and money to finance my truly artistic endeavours. Some other weeks, I may find myself with more time and space to create and it is equally important to seize those moments to the fullest because I understand that these moments are fleeting and I was the 1-in-7,000,000,000 that the Universe chose to put that artwork out to the world. In these times, I will naturally find it more difficult to cross off the “must dos” and they may oftentimes feel like even more of a chore than they already can sometimes feel like for me. Trust me, that is okay!
Ideally, in my week, I will be able to balance between the two ideas and that is actually quite a large metric by which I define “Success” for myself as a professional artist. My modus operandi is this: I want to be in the habit of being able to seamlessly switch between completing my “must do” tasks and seizing on random moments of inspiration in my day to day. If I have a good idea or a beautiful line pops into my head, I WRITE IT DOWN. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have gone back into my Google doc of ideas and found UNCUT DIAMONDS in the form of an idea that I can turn into a bar, a turn of phrase, a whole poem or even an entire project. None of those would have been available if I didn’t write it down at the time, knowing that I would return to it after my “must dos” were completed. You don’t get to decide when a moment of inspiration or creation will hit you, but you can do everything in your power to take full advantage when it does and also cultivate healthy conditions for it to occur.


In the end, experience and discipline will be your best teachers. You cannot create great art or be a professional artist without getting into the habit of being comfortable working on deadlines, within budgets and inside stipulations of your contracted employer. However, this does not mean that you forgo moments of genuine inspiration because you need that to feel complete and to create truly stunning pieces of art. Balancing both is the ever changing mission, and it is my privilege and my responsibility to execute that mission, to the best of my ability, on a day to day basis. This column has only scratched the surface of the iceberg in terms of this topic but I would be happy to go even more in depth on examples and personal anecdotes to give more context in the future. Thank you for reading and all the best in your mission.

Graphic Illustration of a traditional scale


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Celebrating Earth Day with Upcycled Art

Celebrating Earth Day with Upcycled Art

On Sunday April 24th, North York Arts was thrilled to be joined by Orfelina of @orfeecoart for our first in-person event since the start of the pandemic. In collaboration with our friends at Downsview Park, we engaged with many families who came to participate and enjoy the festivities for Earth Day at Downsview Park. 

An image of a man playing the accordion in the park       Orfelina standing behind a cutout of a cardboard guitar

Our lead artist Orfelina created a guitar using upcycled cardboard including shipping boxes, cereal packages, milk cartons, and paper towel rolls. These materials were decorated by our many participants of all ages, and each addition to the guitar held a message for the planet. Throughout the event, participants learned about the importance of taking care of the planet, and brainstormed ways that they can help and make an impact.

Orfelina is pasting a decoration that reads clean up our oceans to a cardboard guitar     a cardboard piece of art that reads I want to save the trees and flowers and animals

The goal of this activation was to create a piece of art with as little waste as possible. Often the creation of art can have a negative impact on the environment, and we were very happy to use upcycled materials and create a final product that applied all three “R’s” (reduce, reuse, recycle).

the top of a cardboard guitar with messages for the environment

the middle of a cardboard guitar with messages for the planet

Orfelina is an environmental artist and creator/facilitator of an eco-friendly community art program for children. Her passion for art, environmentalism, and community engagement, along with her art education experience with the TCDSB and the TDSB, have strengthened her motivation to engage young people in protecting the earth through participatory community arts.

Our next event with Orfelina and @orfeecoart will be during Doors Open Toronto at the Meridian Arts Centre. We will be creating kites once again using upcycled materials and containing messages for the planet and all flying creatures. Join us for “Elevating My Dreams” on May 28th and May 29th. We hope to see you there!

Building a Creative Practice – Tasneem Dairywala/Grow North

Building a Creative Practice – Tasneem Dairywala/Grow North

Building a Creative Practice

By Expecting the Unexpected

We’re all born artists, but for most of us, creativity gets buried under the pressure of heavy responsibilities, busy schedules, and rigid social structures. For those of us who are able to make room for our creativity, we still often manage to stifle it through our own expectations. So here are some dos and don’ts to build and sustain a creative practice based on my own experience!


Do expect your creativity to reward you, to create an additional layer of meaning in every part of your life. A tearful hug from an audience member, a homemade cake from a participant, a balloon of happiness expanding within your heart… These are the unexpected gifts your creativity will sprinkle upon you.


Don’t expect your creativity to reward you with money and fame. These goals are just a reflection of what society considers ‘successful’. If these are your end goals, there are easier ways to get to them. Our creations sew together the torn fragments of the world. What we create is valuable, even if it doesn’t meet the standard definition of success.


Do expect your creativity to stun and surprise you. Bring down ‘art’ from its pedestal so your creativity can have free reign. Trust in the unknown. Encourage yourself. Your creativity will bloom when you play, experiment and let loose!


Don’t expect your creativity to bring you perfection. We are imperfect beings living in an imperfect world. We can only make imperfect things. Be careful of the narrative you tell yourself.  If you start creating to achieve perfection instead of joy, your creativity will go into hiding, quietly withdrawing until the pressure lifts off.


Do expect your creativity to want excitement and change. Go to shows, take classes, read books. Reach out to other artists and art organisations, such as NYA! Taking the first step is scary but necessary. Seek knowledge. Build connections.


Don’t expect creativity to always be around. Creativity doesn’t like being alone all the time, and it certainly doesn’t like being bored. Pretty much anything other than sitting at home and stewing about its absence will bring it back to you.

And that’s all I’ve got! Creativity is elusive and slippery. Expect too much, and it’ll flee. Let it breathe, and it’ll seep through the cracks of the ordinary in the most wonderful ways. I wish you the best of luck!

Tasneem Dairywala is an Artist, Writer and Illustrator. To read more of her writing, sign up for her newsletter at

Building a Creative Practice – Tasneem Dairywala/Grow North

Attending Art School – Tasneem Dairywala/Grow North

Based on: Girl, By Jamaica Kincaid

Wash your brushes immediately and put them to dry hanging upside down; Wash the acrylic ones separately and never mix them with oils; don’t leave your paintings to dry in the hot sun; they’ll cook and crack; wash your palettes as soon as you’re done using them; when buying yourself an apron, be sure that you don’t spend too much money on it, because that way you won’t feel guilty when you spill wax and paint all over; prime your canvases overnight before you paint on them; always eat your food before you start painting; don’t want toxics inside there; don’t sing while you work; don’t socialize so much; don’t eat your meals outside – you’re wasting good moneythis is how to build a stretcher; this is how to stretch a canvas on the stretcher you have just built; this is how to use an easel when you’re painting something too large; this is how you smile to a professor you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to a professor you don’t like at all; this is how you smile to a professor you like too much; this is how to sculpt a pot; this is how to sculpt a face; this is how to sculpt a body; this is how you set a work on display; be sure to wash every day; the smell of your paint is better than the smell of your sweat; don’t paint too many flowers – they can make your work boring; don’t throw stones to hear the pattern of sound they make; you waste too much time daydreaming; this is how to knead red clay; this is how to knead white clay; this is how to start up a kiln; this is how to get the maximum amount of work done in the minimum amount of time; this is how to save a painting before it becomes an inconceivable mess; this is how to burn old rags; and that way your room won’t look dirtier than it is already; this is how to control your work; and this is how your grades control you; this is how to love what you do; and if this doesn’t work there are other ways, and if they don’t work, don’t feel too bad about giving up; this is how to make old supplies last; this is how to squeeze out each thumbnail for more ideas and mistakes to make sure your painting turns out looking perfect; but what if I like them imperfect?; you mean to say that after all this, you are going to be the kind of artist who thinks every mark you make is a masterpiece?

Building a Creative Practice – Tasneem Dairywala/Grow North

Building a Creative Career – Tasneem Dairywala/Grow North

An Interview with Tasneem Dairywala

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a visual artist and an art educator. I run a non-profit called Art Ignite and we do lots of fun art programs in Flemingdon Park. I’m also on my way to publishing my first children’s book, ‘How to Show Love’ after which, I will be able to change my status from writer to author!


What would you say are the most important parts of building a creative career?

  • Continuous learning:
    • By learning, I don’t mean acquiring an expensive degree or only learning about art-specific topics. Learn about whatever makes you curious, because it’s crucial to creative growth. Here are some free or low-cost education platforms that I’ve found very useful:
      • Gale Institute
      • TDSB classes for adults
      • Coursera
      • City of Toronto: Parks, Forestry and Recreation
      • Toronto Public Library
  • Building connections:
    • Post-COVID, it would be wonderful to start attending art events again and building in-person connections. But in the meantime, there are other ways to remain connected:
      • Ask every person you know if they know someone doing the same things as you. I have found this to be the absolute best way to accumulate knowledge and find collaborators.
      • Join newsletters. Almost all organizations send them out, and they’re full of opportunities.
      • Look at Toronto, Ontario and Canada Art Council’s websites. Search for grants related to the fields you’re interested in, look at who was funded by these grants in the past year, and reach out to them. This is how I came across NYA. They gave me the volunteer experience and mentorship needed to start my own business, and it all started with an email!
  • Being brave:
    • You’ve already taken the first steps in this journey. Don’t be afraid to move forward. You’re good enough to get grants. You’re good enough to run projects. You’re good enough to do whatever you desire!


What are some of the steps you take to apply for grants?

  1. Attend grant writing workshops by funders.
  2. Include keywords from the grant description and evaluation metrics in my application.
  3. Talk to the grant officer before applying.
  4. Plan the budget before the project so I know what’s achievable.
  5. Make sure the support material is high quality.
    1. If they’re asking for reference letters, make sure the letter is signed, has a header, the correct date, and answers their questions.
    2. If they’re asking for art work, make sure it’s professionally documented.
  6. Break up long questions into smaller sections. This helps to ensure that the entire question has been answered and no details have been left out.
  7. Ask people to proofread. Most people want to help and will say yes!
  8. Start and submit the applications as early as possible to avoid getting stressed.
  9. Ask the grant officer for feedback if the application is unsuccessful.
  10. Pay someone to write the grant if the application is repeatedly unsuccessful. It’s a great learning experience and worth it, especially if the grant writer works on commission.


Are there any grants that are good for emerging artists?

  1. Art Reach is a great one if you’re under 30.
  2. Cultural Hotspot is also fantastic, but you have to partner with an organization.
  3. Toronto Arts Council and Ontario Arts Council applications are not too hard, but each program has a different eligibility criteria. Make sure you meet it before starting the application.
  4. Inspirit workshop is also great if you have a project idea specific to their mission.
  5. Microgrants are good starters, but they pop up randomly. Keep an eye on your newsletters!


Is there anything else you would want to tell an emerging artist?

The art world is like a buffet. You want to keep adding projects to your plate even after it’s full. But it’s not sustainable. It’s a long journey so take care of yourself and your mental health. There will always be more opportunities.

Introducing NYA’s Executive Director

Introducing NYA’s Executive Director

Welcome, Christina Giannelia!

One behalf of the board and staff at North York Arts, I am thrilled to announce that Christina Giannelia has joined North York Arts as Executive Director.

Born and raised in Toronto, Christina brings over a decade of experience in the international arts and non-profit sector. With a MA in Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship from Erasmus University Rotterdam, she has held leadership positions for the Dutch Dance Festival, Dansateliers Production House in the Netherlands and Fall for Dance North in Toronto. Christina is a proud volunteer Board member of the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and Jasad Dance Projects and has served as a peer jury member for the Ontario Arts Council.

“I am honoured to have the opportunity to lead North York Arts – to serve the inspiring communities of North York and build on NYA’s incredible achievements of the past 10 years. I am joined by an extremely talented team and grateful for the support of NYA’s dedicated funders, partners, sponsors, donors and volunteers. I look forward to expanding NYA’s impact by developing strategic partnerships, connecting with and celebrating local talent and further establishing NYA’s leadership role in equitable, responsive and innovative community arts programming.”

Christina’s experience and clear passion for building community through the arts aligns with NYA’s mission to strengthen and collaborate with North York’s creative sector. The Board of Directors and I will work to support Christina in furthering NYA’s commitment and I am confident that her leadership will push NYA further towards our vision of an inclusive, equitable, engaged, and sustainable arts community in North York.

Christina replaces Melissa Foster, who has served as Interim Executive Director since April 2021. I would like to thank Melissa for stepping in as interim Executive Director, as well as the entire NYA team and Board of Directors for their dedication during this period of transition.

Please join me in welcoming Christina!


Joe Borowiec, Board Chair

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.