Attending Art School – 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?

Attending Art School – 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.

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: /ˈ 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: /’, 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: /ˈ 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 Interested in joining? Contact

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
  • 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 or 416-733-9388 x 7062.