Melissa shares her story – Collaboration, resource sharing and the fear of getting it wrong

Melissa shares her story – Collaboration, resource sharing and the fear of getting it wrong

I don’t have any research to back this up but I do have a toddler…..

This month I attended an event at the University of Toronto called: Securing the future: Reimagining public spaces, opportunities, and supports for creative arts in a post-pandemic world

This two hour presentation and discussion explored some of systemic barriers that freelance artists face and how the pandemic amplified this inherent precarity, as well as a vision for the future. The event featured Melissa Wong, Director of Programmes, Arts Emergency; and Gareth Dylan Smith, Assistant Professor of Music, Music Education, Boston University; with Discussant Ely Lyonblum, Strategic Research Development Officer, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto.

There were a number of themes that emerged from this session that stood out for me related to collaboration, resource sharing and the fear of getting it wrong. 

During the Covid 19 lockdowns artists collaborated more because they were all working towards a common goal: surviving. Informal support systems and grassroot movement sprang up resulting in strong artist networks. This resulted in more support and resources sharing between artists and organisations. 

Covid 19 also allowed for a brief moment where artists and organisations had an opportunity to get things wrong. A rare opportunity in the arts sector to experience and focus on process and experimentation versus product.  

However…. Where are we now?  Are we any further along in addressing these challenges?

Then it occurred to me. I have a toddler and these themes come up on a daily basis. 

Working together to solve conflicts or collaborating, sharing and being ok with getting something wrong and then trying again. These are (as far as I know) very basic lessons all young children need to learn.  

When Julius doesn’t want to do something but we need him too, we talk about it, work together and compromise. It may still lead to a total meltdown but we keep trying to ingrain this idea of being a team and working together. 

Sharing is an obvious one.  Lucky for us Julius is very good at sharing. If he has some crackers and he sees someone in the room doesn’t, he’ll make sure they get one (sometimes maybe a bit too forcefully).

Getting things wrong and being able to try again. It is expected that children need to practise, nothing is perfect the first time, they fall and get up and fall and get up. Julius can get so upset when he doesn’t get it “right” all the time. We are constantly telling him to be kind to himself and that it’s ok and he can just keep trying. And he does. If he slips on the very last step, he says “try again” and he has to start over from the very beginning. 

Why is it that this is so basic and fundamental in the development of children and yet… is it so radical for us to adapt in the creative sector?  

These concerns that artists are talking about aren’t new to Covid.  These are things I’ve experienced in my time as an artist and arts manager and have heard others say over and over again. Why can’t we figure this one out?

In Melissa Wong’s presentation she talked about the scarcity mindset. We are an industry of  trying to survive on scraps.  This leads to isolation, drives artists and organisations to hoard whatever resources we have and creates anxiety around being perfect because we can’t afford to lose a single dollar attempting anything new or innovative.

Let’s think about this in the context of a toddler room at any daycare. We have 10 children. Only 5 bowls of the beloved goldfish crackers. The workers give 3 bowls to one child and 2 bowls to another child. They tell the rest of the children to go sit by themselves and figure out how to get some crackers.  On top of that they only have one chance to get it right or they won’t get any crackers at all… maybe ever. 

We wouldn’t treat children that way but we often treat the arts that way.  We appear to be working within a set of systems based on survival of the fittest, where the ‘sword of damocles’ is hovering over everyone’s head.  On top of that we reinforce artists dependency on the few but vital dollars available through public funding agencies. 

For me this begs the questions – How can we ask our young people to embrace collaboration, sharing or learning/exploring as values when we cannot seem to model it for them in our society. What can we do with what we learned throughout the pandemic to empower the arts and move it to a more sustainable future? How do we stop just talking about it and actually do it? 

I don’t have those answers. However, I do believe our greatest resource as a sector is our audiences and more to the point investing in the future generations, our future advocates and audiences. We might benefit from thinking less about what will serve us best tomorrow and start thinking about what will serve the arts community best in 10, 20, 30, 50 years. If we as arts workers really care about the impact of the arts and investing in communities, I believe we need to start thinking about how we get there together and how we can inspire the broader non-arts community to come with us. 

To North York, With Love – a farewell from Cecilia

To North York, With Love – a farewell from Cecilia

To North York, With Love,  

It is with a mix of emotions that I write to you today to share some news: after several years of incredible experiences, I will be bidding farewell to my role at North York Arts. 

Since the spring of 2016, I have had the immense privilege of being part of this vibrant organization. I started at NYA as an intern, new to arts administration and a newcomer to Canada, here I found a supportive community that made me feel at home. The journey has been filled with inspiring collaborations, and the opportunity to contribute to the rich cultural tapestry of North York. 

During my time here, I have been fortunate to work alongside a team of dedicated staff, volunteers, artists, and partners who share a passion for nurturing creativity and fostering artistic endeavors. Together, we have brought numerous programs and events to life for the North York communities. 

While it is bittersweet to say goodbye, I am filled with gratitude for the invaluable experiences and relationships I have gained during my time. The lessons learned and memories made will always hold a special place. So today I thought I would share with you 3 programs at NYA that have shaped my career while working at NYA:

My Art, My New Land – In 2016, as I embarked on my arts administration career as a newcomer, there was a movement from immigrant and newcomer artists advocating for enhanced support and services within the arts community for themselves and their peers. 

During this time, ‘My Art, My New Land’ emerged as bridging program for newcomer artists to better understand the Canadian arts landscape, spearheaded and created by at the time North York based artist Aitak Sorahitalab.This program served as a valuable introduction to the Canadian arts landscape for newcomer artists, with North York Arts proudly stepping in as a partner for its inaugural edition.

NYA has continued its role in supporting newcomer artists on their journeys, recognizing their importance and the profound impact they have on the artistic landscape.

Art Connects – In 2019, our team at NYA (we were four at the time) led internally by Melissa Foster, gathered in a circle with Elder Joanne Dellaire and Indigenous leaders and artists Veronica Johnny and Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone. We delved into a crucial question: ‘As a non-Indigenous organization, what can we do to support the process of decolonization and build the right relations with Indigenous communities?’

Those conversations left a lasting impression on me, I still hold in me a lot of what was shared during those circles, striving to honor those teachings in my work.

Art Connects has consisted of multiple components and phases, all of which have centered Indigenous artists. Truth and reconciliation is a continued process and there are missteps and mistakes that will happen, they are inevitable. But I’m proud of the strides the organization has made in addressing the initial question posed at the start of this project. I trust that the work to build right relations with Indigenous artists and communities will continue.

Mapping Our Neighbourhoods – Narrowing down three projects from the multitude NYA has produced and partnered on during my time here wasn’t an easy task. I found myself constantly changing my choices because there are just so many impactful programs. However, Mapping Our Neighbourhoods will always hold a special place in my heart.

2020 and 2021 were difficult years. On top of everything, we were grappling with how to create meaningful online programming amidst a global pandemic. A lot of wonderful arts programming emerged during that time including NYA’s animation program for seniors (another favourite of mine).

The Mapping Our Neighbourhoods program was born out of discussions on how to keep youth engaged and employed in the arts during those years. It remains one of my personal favorites, go check out the short film and illustrated map that were created by youth through the program. Created through collaborative brainstorming with my colleague Julian Carvajal, Mapping Our Neighbourhoods provides a platform for young creatives to collaborate with lead professional artists, crafting art pieces that reflect their unique stories about North York neighborhoods. 

From all of us at North York Arts, we’re extending a huge thank you to Cecilia for all of her hard work and dedication to our artists, programs and community. Cecilia is focused, dedicated, leads with integrity and care and has been deeply appreciated and respected by artists, partners, co-workers, volunteers and Board members. These traits will be so valuable in her career ahead. Cecilia – we will miss you and wish nothing but the best in your future endeavors. THANK YOU!! 

Fabiana shares her story: Vibrant Arts and more…

Fabiana shares her story: Vibrant Arts and more…

Greetings North York Arts Community,
Navigating the vibrant arts scene, the non-profit realm, and the dynamic world of financial services technology, I’m excited to share a glimpse into my diverse roles.
First of all, I would love to start with my passion for the arts and its transformative effect. I find that art inspires me and helps me spark new ideas, creating space to reflect and explore new concepts. I really enjoy going to museums and attending shows and musicals. Recently, I was captivated by the spellbinding performances of “Fall For Dance North” and “Jagged Little Pill.” These shows added a layer of cultural richness to my life. Hope some of you were also able to catch these shows!
Secondly, as a Board Member and Chair of the Fundraising Committee at North York Arts, I find myself energized when I find ways to help communities and the arts get closer together, all the while learning new skills (this is my first time leading a Fundraising Committee). I find fulfillment in supporting various non-profits, volunteering on two additional boards, as well as providing mentoring and coaching to newcomers in their journey to settle in Canada. I find that nowadays, as we see so much division in the world, we can make a difference by contributing to create connections in our communities.
Finally, I also have a full-time role in banking. Within the banking sphere, my focus lies in finding opportunities to infuse new technology, leveraging innovation to bring new solutions to banking offerings. This job requires me to be constantly looking for opportunities and connecting the dots. I absolutely love this job to the point I feel I would even do it for free (hope no one from work is reading this article!).
So, do you see a common thread here? I hope you do! I sometimes don’t  🙂 Joking aside, I think at the centre of it all is my ability to stay curious and willingness to find connections.
And you would ask about the balancing act? I have to admit that I am not 100% successful all the time in balancing the intricacies of a banking career, parenting two wonderful daughters, making sure I make space to enjoy the arts and continue volunteering in the non-profit sector but…
and there is always a but…
I find satisfaction in knowing that I am heading, in general, in the right direction.
So, at the end of the day, the arts inspire me to stay curious, sparking more energy in my life. Behold – the transformative power of art in action!
Fabiana Montoya
North York Arts Board Member, Fundraising Committee Chair, Volunteer at Two Other Non-Profit Boards, Innovator in Banking, and Proud Parent
Bill shares his story. A love of jazz!

Bill shares his story. A love of jazz!

Meet Bill!

I am the Board Chair of North York Arts. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant and a senior financial professional and have worked in a variety of industries and roles primarily helping organizations that are undergoing transition. However, I am not your typical accountant.

I have a love and passion for music – especially jazz! After many years of visiting jazz clubs and attending jazz festivals, I decided to further my interest and appreciation of this musical genre by volunteering last summer with the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. Volunteering at an event like the jazz festival is not only a lot of fun, but it allows volunteers to network with a group of like-minded individuals who are passionate about jazz, all while listening to some great music! Many volunteers get hooked on the volunteer experience, make some good friends, and return year after year to partake in the positive energy of the festival. The sense of camaraderie and teamwork that came out of the festival this year was inspiring, and it serves as a reminder of the power of community and collaboration.

Festivals enrich the lives of many and have a huge economic impact on the city’s economy. The TD Toronto Jazz Festival attracts more than 500,000 loyal patrons annually over 10 days as more than 1,500 musicians entertain across the city. Toronto hosts a diverse range of festivals focused on satisfying all interests such as food, culture, art, holidays, and music. I encourage anyone who has some free time to get involved with a festival they are interested in and be a part of a wonderful celebration of culture and community!



Julián Carvajal shares his Creative Journey

Julián Carvajal shares his Creative Journey

I am a passionate storyteller. I have been able to tell stories in multiple ways using dozens of mediums. I studied arts for 8 years at a fine arts school in Santiago de Cali,  Colombia where I am originally from. I have had the privilege to experience firsthand the use of multiple mediums to tell stories. Many of my friends don’t know but I have been writing since I was a child. I have been too shy to write in English because I always have the language fear. I have won awards back home in poetry and my tales and poems were published since I was 7 years of age. I am very passionate about writing and telling stories. I started my own anthology of stories and poems to talk about the feelings I developed when I was first diagnosed with Diabetes Mellitus Type I in 1999. It was really hard for me to describe the way my body was feeling and the way I was feeling in relation to others and my relation to the food.

My Mom studied Gerontology, and while she was going to her practices with my sister and me, I developed this profound love and admiration for seniors. I respect them a lot and I decided to do something to ensure they had an opportunity to express themselves, tell us their stories and celebrate who they are as well as their ancestry. I was able to pilot the program during COVID thanks to the financial support of North York Arts. 

This organization believed in the program and my skills to run it. For 10 weeks, Mondays and Fridays became a space for dialogue, a positive space of support and comfort; a space where seniors expressed their feelings and their anguish, their fears, and their concerns. We laughed, cried, kept silent, sang together, danced in the distance, told stories, celebrated countries and their traditions, shared recipes, knitting techniques, and much more!

Thanks to the connection we had with participants a couple of things happened. Personally, I was able to develop a new diagram to make stories more interesting taking them to a deeper level that I didn’t even imagine myself. I call them the Octopus Diagrams. In order to tell stories sometimes, we need to ask the right questions and think and ask out of the box. Creative elements were added to the stories beyond linear storytelling. 

Since May 2020 until now, I have had the pleasure of engaging with over 80 seniors, 4 different organizations, and collaborating with Paula Solano, illustrator, to enhance the participants’ stories.

HERE you can take a look at one of the iterations of the program with TPL. If you happen to know Spanish you can listen to the final audios and a teaser of how the program ran HERE.




Jasmine’s Artistic Journey!

Jasmine’s Artistic Journey!

When I was a young creative growing up in North York, I knew I was drawn to the arts. But, at the time, I had limited access to opportunities that developed my toolkit for beautifying spaces, sparking conversations, and amplifying marginalized voices – myself included. It took interning at North York Arts, mentorship from community arts organizations VIBE Arts, Sketch, and JAYU, and peer support from talented artists to really make this emerging artist, facilitator, and arts administrator begin feeling confident. With these experiences, I make it my mission to give back to the community, especially youth, through arts education and community engagement – be it through my arts administration roles for community-based programming, my art by sharing my story, and through arts facilitation/mentorship by sharing what I’ve learned during my artistic journey.

I am so grateful that my story and my passion have led me to connecting with artists, creatives, and changemakers who have taken chances on me to create change in my community.

Journaling Your Cultural Collage (JYCC) is a reflective and explorative arts & wellness program I designed with youth in mind. Funded by RBC Foundation and VIBE Arts with community partners North York Arts and YIELD, this program uses digital collage and various forms of journaling to affirm identity and practice self-care. Artists were able to compile a photobook and appreciate various cultures and walks of life by sharing stories and learning how to create artist statements. 


StreetARToronto Evelyn Wiggins Cycle Track brought me back to my university days where I could design and paint a mural near York University. It was very fulfilling being able to beautify the neighborhood where I learned about Cultural Artistic Practice and Visual Art. Thank you to the curatorial, administration, and health and safety team for supporting artists!

Photo credit: Gage Fletcher @gage.fletcher

Yonge North York BIA x STEPS – Cafe TO is exciting because I ate (and continue to eat) at so many restaurants in WIllowdale and revisited many family memories. I remember when Sheppard Centre had the movie theatre and Pizza Pizza was one building south, but now I have my art on picnic benches in front of many places I’ve witnessed change! 

L-R Tropical Splash in front of Yonge Sheppard Centre, Eating ChungChun with little bro on Byng Ave, Tropical Splash near North York Blvd. 

VIBE Arts NExT Black Mentorship Exhibition was my first ever art exhibition and it was the greatest because I was able to bring my community into Meridian Arts Centre and connect with wholesome Black artists. I also juggled my arts administration and artist hats being the Education & Engagement Coordinator at TO Live. As an artist, I created a digital collage and painting series called Persephone’s Panganat that spoke to my mixed race identity and I felt so seen, especially celebrating with my North York neighbours who came on opening night. 

VIBE NExT Black Mentorship 3.0 cohort 

There is so much more to share, but alas word counts get the best of memories, so I would be honoured if you could support my artistic journey by following me on Instagram @articulately_jasmine. You are also invited to the Gardiner Museum x VIBE Arts FREE community celebration on August 16 @ 6:30pm!

Janice shares her story – and why the Arts are important!

Janice shares her story – and why the Arts are important!

My involvement with NYA started last Spring 2022 when I was finishing my post-graduate certificate in Arts Management and searching for an arts organization to work with as an intern. Going through NYA’s Impact and Annual Reports page, it didn’t take long for me to put NYA at the top of my list. Working to address the needs of not only artists and arts organizations, but the community as a whole through different types of art is a remarkable endeavor that I wanted to be a part of.

I am currently with NYA doing administrative support and I take pride knowing that the seemingly minute details of my work in the organization ripple through the bigger successes that happen in our community programs.

Prior to joining NYA, I worked as a kindergarten teacher for more than 10 years. I believe that the arts is a powerful tool in shaping the future. My background in psychology and my passion for the arts are woven into my pedagogical approach as I find creative ways to engage my students in art-playing and art-making. Promoting the arts at school is imperative as a means for students’ self-expression and understanding identity. The arts bring an array of benefits to children’s growth and development including increased self-confidence, enhanced communication skills, and improved cognition.

In 2020, I’ve completed a research that centered around visual expressive arts and student anxiety for my MA in Educational Studies (Special Education) program. My study has investigated and provided information on student anxiety present in schools, the causes, different types, signs and symptoms, and their externalizing behaviors observed in students in the classroom. I also gathered a resource on visual expressive arts (drawing, painting, sculpting, collage making, and mosaic art) used for its therapeutic function, its types, application techniques, and the possible benefits thereof to students with externalizing anxiety behaviors. Finally, a set of recommendations that can help educators integrate visual expressive arts activities into their regular classroom routines were given.

Why is this information important to share in the arts community? As student anxiety becomes an increasing concern in the classroom especially that the recent pandemic exacerbated it, teachers who form the frontline in supporting these students need all the necessary resources that could enable them to support students, (without waiting for the school’s mental health services that are often inaccessible to many students). As mentioned earlier, the arts have a powerful contribution in the development of our youth towards success. When funding and budget cuts threaten arts education and programming in schools, opportunities are taken away from students, and to many, it can hurt academically and psychologically.

As community members, artists, and the workforce behind arts organizations, we are part of the village that collectively raises and supports our youth and sets them up for success. We have to stand guard, be more proactive, and continue to be creative and resourceful in saving the arts for our youth. After all, art saves!


Art Matters – Melissa Foster shares her story

Art Matters – Melissa Foster shares her story

I’ve been with NYA since 2014 and this year I took on a new position as Director of Development (previously I was the Director of Programming and Outreach). Why the switch? Well, to be honest, it’s exactly the same reason as why I wanted to do programming in the first place – because art matters. 

My arts background is primarily in Theatre. As I was nearing the end of my degree in Theatre I started to become interested in the emerging world of community arts. Community arts seemed to be a way to work in the arts that made sense to me.  Fast forward a few years and I find myself working as a front-line worker in the social service sector, specifically in shelters and in supportive housing.  I ended up working in this sector for close to a decade, while maintaining my own artistic practice.  In social services the impact of the work is very tangible. Simply put – access to adequate housing is a human right. It is one of our basic needs.  It’s hard to argue with the immediate importance of the work.  I certainly would not argue against the importance of the work but for me… it was missing something.  

When given the opportunity, I began facilitating programs and bringing in other artists. One project in particular had a significant influence on me.  It was a theatre project that brought together youth from the shelter, staff and professional artists.  Youth chose their role either writing or acting in these 10-minute plays. Staff or outside artists directed or acted.  I’ll be honest I didn’t really know what I was doing and I made 1000 mistakes overseeing this project, but in the end all the little mistakes didn’t seem to matter all that much.  Everyone had fun and the experience clearly had an impact on all those involved.  The project built bridges between staff and residents and a wider creative community. The youth were proud of what they had done. I’ll never forget when one youth who chose to write a short story said to me “No one has ever asked me to tell my story before this”.  It wasn’t even so much what he said but how he said it that will stay with me. He had a  look on his face that I had never seen before. There seemed to be a shift in the way he saw himself.  I witnessed the effect that participation in the arts can have on an individual.  I had the privilege to be part of that and the lessons I learned continue to influence every aspect of my work.  Art can be a creative platform to share one’s story and has the ability to impact our sense of self and community. 

On the one hand as housing workers we were primarily focused on housing and barriers to housing which is absolutely vital but I realised that there was maybe something else I could do to address a different need; one that helps build the individual, the self, and creates a sense of belonging. All I had to do was provide the opportunity; to make some space for people to participate.  The process of art-making did all the work.  It’s internal work. You can’t really check a box at the end and say, yep done, good job.  It’s work that lasts a lifetime and no one really knows the exact impact because it may not be relevant until years later.  I loved that I could use whatever resources and tools I had to make that space available. So I made the switch into arts management, and got lucky enough to start working with NYA. 

These experiences made me appreciate the value of art in the socio-economic and cultural ecosystem.  We tend to think of the importance of things in a linear or hierarchical way.  For example, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This is a dated reference I know but it is my opinion that it still holds true when it comes to how many people view the importance of charitable work.  

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are:

  1. Physiological Needs (air, water, food, housing)
  2. Safety needs (personal security, employment, health)
  3. Love and Belonging (friendship, community)
  4. Esteem (status, respect, recognition, freedom)
  5. Self-actualization (desire to be the most that one can be)

But what if we challenged ourselves to see it more like an ecosystem? Where each need has a domino effect on the other. Where they are constantly in a relationship with one another and support one another.

(Let me be clear. If someone is dehydrated I’m not saying we should give them a paintbrush. Give them water. Certains needs, need specific things to satisfy those needs. If your need is water, that need is imminent. But what I’d like to encourage is a more holistic view that can see and appreciate the value of the relationship that exists between things like self actualization and our physiological needs).  

Many communities and worldviews reflect this way of looking at things but in this society a linear or hierarchical way of thinking is still dominant. 

That’s what was missing for me all those years ago.  A focus on nurturing our humanity/soul/creativity/_______ (please insert whatever word makes sense to you).  If we saw these needs as part of an ecosystem and not separate from one another how might that affect our work in the charitable sector and how we support the charitable sector? I’m still working on answering these questions.

Art is and always has been an expression of our humanity.  It is something we can’t lose and we all have a right to.  That is what drove me to start working in arts programming and what drives me in this new role.  Creating space so that the art can do the work. It is also why I believe giving to the arts is important and why it is a priority for me. Simply put- art matters. 

Grow North Creative Residency – Anna Kavehmehr shares How You Can Support the Protesters in Iran

Grow North Creative Residency – Anna Kavehmehr shares How You Can Support the Protesters in Iran

The Grow North Creative Residency is an initiative by North York Arts to “pass the mic” to artists in our community. Local artists living in North York are given the opportunity to share information, teachings, and their artistic practice with our audience, and engage with the North York Arts community in meaningful ways. 

One of the most beautiful things I have experienced since the start of the protests in Iran, is the solidarity my non-Iranian friends have shown from the beginning of the woman, life, freedom movement. It is absolutely wonderful to witness so many people supporting, empathizing and genuinely wanting to help Iranian protesters in their fight for freedom. 

I have been asked multiple times and have seen countless comments all over social media of non-Iranians asking: “How can we help?”, and so I wanted to share some of the ways that you can help below: 

  1. Stay engaged and share the news about Iran
  2. Write to your representatives and ask them to support Iranian protesters 
  3. Sign petitions in support of the Iranian protesters
  4. Attend protests in your area 
  5. Help Iranians overcoming internet blackouts and filtering

At this link, you will find a comprehensive list of resources and action items, such as how to help protesters with the internet blackouts and filtering, that is updated on a regular basis. 

If you would like to stay up-to-date on the Iran news, information and real-time developments, here are some accounts you can follow on Instagram: 


Thank you again to North York Arts for giving me this opportunity to amplify the voices of the protesters in Iran.

Grow North Creative Residency – Anna Kavehmehr informs about Iranian Protesters at Risk of Execution – Anna Kavehmehr/Grow North

Grow North Creative Residency – Anna Kavehmehr informs about Iranian Protesters at Risk of Execution – Anna Kavehmehr/Grow North

The Grow North Creative Residency is an initiative by North York Arts to “pass the mic” to artists in our community. Local artists living in North York are given the opportunity to share information, teachings, and their artistic practice with our audience, and engage with the North York Arts community in meaningful ways. 


Since the beginning of the protests in Iran in September 2022, more than 500 protesters have been killed and more than 10,000 protesters have been arrested.  Yet the protesters are still fighting for freedom, whether on the streets all over Iran or by various acts of civil disobedience. 

In an attempt to get the protests under control and inspire fear, the Islamic Republic has charged many innocent protesters with “Moharebeh” which translates to “Waging war against God”. A crime that is punishable by death in Iran. 

At least 4 protesters (Mohesen Shekari (23), Majidreza Rahnavard (23), Mohammad Mehdi Karami (22) and Mohammad Hosseini (39)) have been executed after giving false confessions under extreme physical and psychological pressure. At least another 41 protesters have received death sentences and are at risk of execution. 

False confessions in Iran are a widely reported phenomenon, especially amongst the political prisoners. These confessions are often used as evidence in sham trials, resulting in expedited convictions.

Physical and psychological torture, as well as threats against the prisoner and their family or loved ones are among the methods wherein these false confessions are extracted. It’s also important to note that Iran’s legal system lacks many of the protections and due process that are guaranteed in democratic countries. 

Due to the limitations on the Internet in Iran and lack of freedom of speech, Iranians in diaspora have started an online campaign to raise awareness on the executions in Iran, and get the support of the international community in hopes of getting the death sentences overturned. 

If you would like to join the campaign: 

  1. Grab a pen and paper and write #StopExecutionsinIran 
  2. Take a photo of or with the sign 
  3. Post it. Hashtag it! 

Or simply share a post or protest art and use the hashtag #StopExecutionsinIran

You might think posting on social media and hashtags don’t help in any way. For better or worse, we live in an extremely online world where trending hashtags and social media campaigns have an incredible effect in raising awareness on a topic and in turn will have news media reporting more on the said topic. 

This is how Iranians in Iran and all over the world brought attention to the death of #MahsaAmini and the #WomanLifeFreedom movement, by using the hashtags to educate, shed a light on what was happening in real-time and demand attention from the international community. 

By getting the hashtags trending, we got the attention of the news media, brands, politicians, celebrities and people around the world which started a larger conversation regarding policies against the Islamic Republic and limiting their power to suppress their own people. 

This is what we are hoping to achieve with the #StopExecutionsinIran and we hope that you will join us in raising your voice and supporting the people who are so bravely fighting for freedom.  

Grow North Creative Residency – Anna Kavehmehr shares The Significance of Protest Art in Iran

Grow North Creative Residency – Anna Kavehmehr shares The Significance of Protest Art in Iran

The Grow North Creative Residency is an initiative by North York Arts to “pass the mic” to artists in our community. Local artists living in North York are given the opportunity to share information, teachings, and their artistic practice with our audience, and engage with the North York Arts community in meaningful ways. 


If you are on social media or have attended protests in person, you might have seen the amount of art that is being produced in support of the protests in Iran. You might be wondering why creating art is so significant in the fight for a free Iran.

For context, It is important to know that Iran has a rich history of art, poetry and music that dates back thousands of years. For the past 43 years, all forms of art have been policed, censored, repressed or blocked by the Islamic Republic government. Artists living in Iran cannot freely express themselves through art or any other means. You will find a lot of symbolism, metaphors, or other clever tools artists utilize to express what is forbidden under the Islamic Republic rules and regulations. Iranian artists living outside of Iran who create political art or feely criticize the regime, risk going to prison or worse if they ever decide to go back to Iran. 

In a society where freedom of choice and freedom of expression is against the rules, to freely create art and speak your mind becomes a form of protest. This is why protest art has become so important for Iranians.

Now what is protest art? Protest art or Activist art is the creative works produced by artists and activists that reflect social movements or bring awareness to a political issue. It is a traditional means of communication for citizens, as well as protesting totalitarian regimes where freedom of expression can be seen as a form of civil disobedience. Protest art comes in many forms and mediums such as: illustration, animation, video art, music, anthems, poems, performance art, installation and more. 

Many Iranian artists, myself included, feel that it is our responsibility to use our voice, platform and skills to show solidarity with the protesters, help amplify their voices through art and hopefully bring positive change to the movement. 

Over the past 3 months, a large number of non-Iranian artists and musicians have also joined in on creating protest art in support of the protesters which has brought worldwide attention to the protests. 

If you are an artist who is inspired by the Iranians’ fight for freedom, please use your voice and skills to amplify the Iranian voices. Create portraits, videos, posters, music or any other way that feels authentic to you, to raise your voice in support of the protesters in Iran. 


Grow North Creative Residency – Anna Kavehmehr explains Mahsa (Jina) Amini and the Origin of the Woman, Life Freedom

Grow North Creative Residency – Anna Kavehmehr explains Mahsa (Jina) Amini and the Origin of the Woman, Life Freedom

The Grow North Creative Residency is an initiative by North York Arts to “pass the mic” to artists in our community. Local artists living in North York are given the opportunity to share information, teachings, and their artistic practice with our audience, and engage with the North York Arts community in meaningful ways. 


I am very grateful to North York Arts for giving me this opportunity to bring awareness to what is happening in Iran and the Woman, Life, Freedom movement. 

By now you have probably heard the name, Mahsa (Jina) Amini, how she became a symbol of a freedom movement in Iran, and the protests that have been ongoing since her brutal death 3 days after being in custody of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s “morality police”. You might have also heard the various chants from videos on social media or from the protests in your city. 

Iranians in diaspora have made it their mission to amplify the voices of the protesters in Iran on as many platforms as we can. Since the start of the protests, the government has limited access to the internet to avoid videos or news of the protests coming out. Despite the government’s efforts, Iranians have found different ways to connect to the internet and have risked their lives to get information, photos, and videos out and get the world’s attention. Most Iranians in diaspora are getting messages from their friends and family members which is a simple ask and it is: “Don’t forget about us.” “Please continue to let the world know what is happening in Iran” Or in short: “BE OUR VOICE”.

If you have an Iranian friend or colleague, you probably are seeing them posting news and information about Iran, attend rallies, sign petitions, and ask non-Iranians to stand in solidarity with the protesters in their fight for freedom. It is because of how loud Iranians have been on social media, that we started getting media attention from major news outlets, artists, musicians, celebrities, brands, politicians, human rights organizations, and activists all over the world. 

One of the most popular slogans you might have heard everyone repeating to show their support is “Woman, Life, Freedom” which has now become the battle cry of the whole movement. It is very important to highlight the history behind the slogan, its Kurdish origins, and how it mirrors protesters demands for freedom. 

For context, it is important to note that Mahsa (Jina) Amini was a Kurdish Iranian woman. Kurdish people in Iran are an oppressed minority. The Kurdish slogan, Jin Jîyan Azadî (ژن، ژیان، ئازادی) was first chanted at Mahsa (Jina) Amini’s funeral in Kurdistan. The videos of her funeral went viral, and the slogan quickly became popular in both Kurdish and the Farsi translation Zan, Zendegi, Azadi (زن، زندگی. آزادی) all over Iran. The slogan encompasses everything the protesters want in 3 simple words.

Jin, Zan or Woman: 

The protest was started by young Iranian women. Women in Iran have had their rights taken away and every aspect of their lives controlled by the government for the past 43 years. By starting the slogan with “Woman”, Iranians are demanding equal rights for women. 

Jîyan, Zendegi or Life:

Protesters are demanding a normal life. To live life as authentically as possible in a society that offers safety and stability to its citizens. 

Azadî, Azadi or Freedom:

Protesters are demanding freedom of choice in how they dress, the freedom to consume the art and media they choose, freedom to live their lives or practice the religion of their choice, freedom of expression, and in short to live as freely as possible in a society under democratic law.

Kurdish Origin of the Slogan: 

Jin, Jîyan, Azadî  (ژن، ژیان، ئازادی) is a popular political Kurdish slogan, which originated in Kurdish resistance movement, specifically with the Kurdish women’s movement within it. The Kurdish resistance movement was founded in response to the oppression and persecution of Kurds across the divided land of Kurdistan; in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. The slogan was popularized further and by the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Öcalan in his anti-capitalist and anti-patriarchal writings and ideologies.

The slogan marked the political activities of Kurdish women in the 2000 and was considered attractive because of its spelling, rhythm and connotational significance. It was also used among Kurdish men and women in their war against ISIS. 

 Woman, Life, Freedom movement is now known around the world as the first female-led revolution in the world that has demonstrated the bravery of the youth of Iran, especially the young Iranian women, fighting for their basic human rights. 

Here’s some simple ways that you can show your support to the people of Iran: 

  1. Amplify Iranian voices by sharing the news about Iran on your social media platforms  
  2. Use our hashtags on your social posts: #MahsaAmini #OpIran #FreeIran #WomanLifeFreedom #مهسا_امینی #ژن_ژیان_ئازادی #زن_زندگی_آزادی 
  3. Write to your representatives and demand they take meaningful action to support protesters in Iran. 
  4. Attend a protest near you 
  5. Art is a great tool to raise awareness. If you are an artist or are simply inspired by the movement, create art, design posters, write poems, create videos and animations, or simply use your voice to create positive change. 


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!
Grow North Creative Residency – Patrick Walters shares How to be a Professional Artist who creates Great Art

Grow North Creative Residency – Patrick Walters shares How to be a Professional Artist who creates Great Art

The Grow North Creative Residency is an initiative by North York Arts to “pass the mic” to artists in our community. Local artists living in North York are given the opportunity to share information, teachings, and their artistic practice with our audience, and engage with the North York Arts community in meaningful ways. 


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


Listen to this blog in audio format!

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!

Grow North Creative Residency – Tasneem Dairywala discusses Building a Creative Practice

Grow North Creative Residency – Tasneem Dairywala discusses Building a Creative Practice

The Grow North Creative Residency is an initiative by North York Arts to “pass the mic” to artists in our community. Local artists living in North York are given the opportunity to share information, teachings, and their artistic practice with our audience, and engage with the North York Arts community in meaningful ways. 


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

Grow North Creative Residency – Tasneem Dairywala discusses Building a Creative Practice

Grow North Creative Residency – Tasneem Dairywala talks about Attending Art School

The Grow North Creative Residency is an initiative by North York Arts to “pass the mic” to artists in our community. Local artists living in North York are given the opportunity to share information, teachings, and their artistic practice with our audience, and engage with the North York Arts community in meaningful ways. 


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?

Grow North Creative Residency – Tasneem Dairywala discusses Building a Creative Practice

Grow North Creative Residency – An Interview with Tasneem Dairywala about Building a Creative Career

The Grow North Creative Residency is an initiative by North York Arts to “pass the mic” to artists in our community. Local artists living in North York are given the opportunity to share information, teachings, and their artistic practice with our audience, and engage with the North York Arts community in meaningful ways. 


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.

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: To learn more about the how North York Arts was involved,visit:

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 or call 416-733-9388 x 7067. 

Want to learn more about Stephan and MalPensando? Visit:

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 To learn more about our Northbound 2020 Exhibition Program, visit

Interview by: Kavita Gurm

Communications and Events Assistant

Snapd Arts Feature: Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone

Snapd Arts Feature: Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone

North York Arts is proud to introduce Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone, an Indigenous singer, songwriter, storyteller, artist, and activist originating from North Bay, Ontario. We spoke to Aqua about her background and passion for the arts, her current projects and involvement with NYA, and the importance of Indigenous voices being shared through community arts. Keep reading to learn more!

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and your passion for the arts?

I am an Indigenous two-spirit woman of mixed ancestry. I am Ojibwe with French and Scottish heritage. I identify as Anishnaabe and Metis. I am an artist and activist. I feel very strongly about honouring my teachings and traditions and have always been called to creation in many forms. I am a songwriter and feel it is my deepest level of self-expression or what I like to call “the expression of my spirit”. I am also a drum carrier and drum maker. This is a role I’ve taken on and is a responsibility in my community. The drum has helped me and continues to do so. I am proud to be sober and continue to heal on my journey as I work with the traditional medicines of my ancestors. I have always been passionate, from a young age I felt so righteous about giving voice, face, and space to those who go unheard, unseen, unnoticed. As I grow on my journey I understand that it takes many of all Nations to do this good work for us to heal. I share my medicine and my experiences knowing that they may resonate with someone, even just one, but also accepting that they won’t resonate with others, if any, and that’s ok. 

Why is it important for Indigenous voices and stories to be shared through community arts?

I feel very strongly that Indigenous voices be heard in all areas including community arts because they are of value. This was not the belief for a very long time. Our voices as all marginalized and oppressed groups have been silenced, this needs to change. Community arts is a portal, a vessel to accomplish this. The arts have always allowed for more openness and love than many other areas in mainstream society. This is where it begins, but certainly not where it ends. The young ones I teach and mentor do not see themselves reflected in many aspects of this world. I believe it is crucial to have our own people telling our own stories in our own ways. For our young Indigenous people to see themselves in the leaders in all facets including the arts. 

Can you tell us about the work you are doing with the North York Arts team?

I have had the opportunity and privilege to work with some amazing people at North York Arts, one being Melissa Foster, someone I consider a strong ally. She has been humble, patient, and understanding when it comes to learning about Indigenous peoples and our ways. It’s because of her and the strong connection and relationship we have both nurtured that I’ve been working with North York Arts for the last 3 years. Over this time I have shared my original medicine music, including a song called The Strong that tells a part of the story of my people’s experience in residential schools. I have also lead circles for all Nations to learn about my culture and the hand drum. I have honoured the land and taught the intention behind honouring the land that gives us life and the lives that were given to protect her. I am currently going to be working with Melissa and other team members to discuss the Truth and Reconciliation’s calls to action and how they can be implemented into community arts. This is a big one, but there are other amazing Indigenous people in the community who are also helping. I love my work with North York Arts. It has always been a positive experience for me as an Indigenous two-spirit woman of mixed ancestry. 

What can you tell us about the projects you’re currently working on?

I am currently leading a free and inclusive hand drum group that is open to all Nations, ages, genders, and walks of life every Monday evening at Regent Park School of Music from 7pm-8:30pm. I am also leading another free and inclusive hand drum group every second Tuesday starting from September 17th at Native Child & Family Services of Toronto at 156 Galloway Road from 6pm-7:30pm. I lead a weekly hand drum circle at the Native Women’s Transition House, where I lived for 2 years about 9 years ago. This circle began when I moved out. This circle is closed as it is only for the women and children who live in the house, but it is very close to my heart as I wouldn’t be where I am without the women who worked at the house who helped me so much along my journey. I am training Okichitaw weekly at The Native Canadian Centre as I work towards earning my blackbelt and hopefully one day becoming an instructor so I can pass on this knowledge to young Indigenous and non-Indigenous women. Part of my role as a warrior for peace is teaching and sharing with women. They are our life givers and much of my work is about supporting the strong and powerful women in my community. I am continuing to write new music as I gear up to record my blues album Red Rhythm & Blues

For more information on Aqua, visit

Interview by: Kavita Gurm

Communications and Events Assistant

Arts Feature: Minhwa Canada

Arts Feature: Minhwa Canada

North York Arts is proud to introduce Min Soo Kim, the founder and president of Minhwa Canada! Minhwa Canada is a group of amateur and professional artists who are practicing traditional Korean folk paintings (“Minhwa”) with a modern twist.

Keep reading to learn about Min Soo and Minhwa Canada, what she hopes people will take away from the exhibition, and what Minhwa means to her.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your arts background?

My name is Min Soo Kim and I am a Minhwa artist and teacher based in Toronto, Canada and Seoul, South Korea. For over 27 years I have worked with Minhwa mediums and have been teaching for the last 8 years of its unique history and techniques. I am the founder and president of Ontario’s newest art collective, Minhwa Canada.

Tell us about the Minhwa Collective, why it was formed, and what they do. 

Minhwa Canada brings together artists with an interest in Korean Folk painting and history. Members meet on a weekly basis to paint, discuss, and share interpretations of Minhwa’s historic art form. Minhwa, Korean folk painting from the Joseon Dynasty, is a unique art form developed by the “common people.” The then taboo art was an illegal practice in order to uphold the kingdom’s royal artists’ prestige and standards. Minhwa’s symbolisms are related to the everyday people’s lives and wishes of good luck, longevity, happy marriage and more.

What do you hope people will take away from seeing your exhibition, The Colours of Korean Folk Art

Minhwa Canada would like to engage with a wider audience to share and discuss the traditional Korean art form of Minhwa. Through the exhibition, Minhwa Canada members are excited to showcase the possibilities of Minhwa and encourage others to join as well. Minhwa Canada’s art classes are more than just learning new skills. By painting as a collective, artists form a bond and friendship and a sense of being part of a community where all voices, opinions and interpretations matter. We hope that The Colours of Korean Folk Art starts up new conversations to all viewers.

What does Minhwa mean to you? 

Minhwa is a form of expression through intricate symbolism but also a place to explore possibilities in a traditional medium. I like to push Minhwa’s boundaries by incorporating new symbolisms related to today’s modern times while keeping its traditional significance and methods. At the same time, without Minhwa, I would never have been able to form Minhwa Canada and meet talented artists living right here in the city and from across provinces. Minhwa to me is a gateway to start conversations, meet new people, express opinions, learn patience, and much more. 

Minhwa: The Colours of Korean Folk Art will be on display from November 5-21, 2019 at the North York Centre. The opening of the exhibition and an Artist Meet & Greet will take place on November 5 from 12-2 PM. Click here to RSVP for free!

To learn more about Northbound and Minhwa Canada, visit

Interview by: Kavita Gurm

Communications Assistant

Arts Feature: Marina Nazarova

Arts Feature: Marina Nazarova

We’re excited to introduce Marina Nazarova, a Russian-Canadian visual artist and illustrator based in Toronto. Marina is one of our Northbound artists, and she will be at NYA’s upcoming fundraiser this month doing live paintings!

We spoke to Marina about her arts background, her artwork, and the importance of public art. Keep reading to learn more!

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

I grew up in Russia and moved to Canada when I was 19, leaving my family and friends behind. The new life turned me upside down and since then I always felt like there is two of me that exists. I began to investigate the themes of personal identity and duality through my figurative paintings when I studied at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver. Now based in Toronto I continue to explore this subject from my home studio.

What themes do you explore with your work, and where do you draw inspiration?

I draw my inspirations from people I meet, places I go and photographs that I find or take myself. Essentially any source that can tell me a story about dual realities and shifting perceptions.

 Why do you think public art is so important in a community? 

I believe that public art is absolutely a necessary component of any city. In a way it’s a rather magical element that not just beautifies the neighbourhood and gives the place an identity, but importantly it unites people and builds communities. Art in public spaces is accessible. Everyone can enjoy it, experience it, and feel it. The artwork creates a strong narrative that can be inspiring and moving.

What are you looking forward to at North York Arts’ Beers And Brushes fundraiser next month?

I’m looking forward to meeting new people and sharing my love for painting. I want to see North Toronto engaged in the cultural life and staying curious about arts.

Don’t miss Marina’s live paintings at Beers and Brushes on October 24! To learn more about our fundraiser and buy tickets, visit To learn more about Marina, visit

Interview by: Kavita Gurm

Communications and Events Assistant

Arts Feature: Jieun June Kim

Arts Feature: Jieun June Kim

We’re thrilled to introduce Jieun June Kim, a Toronto-based, Korean-born painter and muralist.

Jieun is one of our Northbound artists, and she will be at our inaugural fundraiser this month doing live paintings! Keep reading to learn more about Jieun and her work.

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

I am a Toronto based, Korean born painter, muralist and art producer. I graduated with honer from Duksung Women’s University in Korea receiving BFA in Korean Painting and Fashion Design. And I studied Visual Arts from Washington University in St. Louis, received MFA.  I have exhibited my paintings around the world at notable galleries and events.

I completed the Mural Art Career Development program offered by Mural Routes in 2017 and have since created numerous murals and have worked with various arts organizations, city of Toronto as well as renowned corporate partners.

I explore the idea of “home” as an immigrant while creating a safe space through art, and making a strong community. I believe that art has the power to connect people and to break through cultural boundaries. 

I am a recipient of the  Newcomer and Refugee Artist Mentorship grant from the Toronto Arts Council (2018) and is one of the artist in residence artist at the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto (2019). 

Also, I am co-founder of KJ Bit Collective who creates murals and street art events, and a member of the Mural Routes advisory committee team.

What themes do you explore with your work, and where do you draw inspiration?

I strive to create a utopia where past & present, fantasy & reality coexist in my work. To do this I tap into my own personal experiences and try to articulate the struggles between my past in Seoul, Korea and my present in Toronto, Canada and the “home away from home” transitional phase that I find myself in. 

I move away from dichotomous thinking in my work and introduce a place that no one has ever experienced before with vague boundaries between reality and dreams.

Especially for my larger scale works, I like to use bold, colourful patterns and playful, dynamic shapes and let the colours pop in psychedelic shades. It makes viewers have an immersive experience. I would like the viewers to feel the in between space that I have created and to relate to my experience.

Why do you think public art is so important in a community? 

Public art invigorates our city by breaking the trend of sameness and blandness, and creates a uniqueness by giving communities a stronger sense of identity. 

In addition to that I think public art serves as a bridge between various cultures. It’s great tool for social engagement and makes opportunity for people to start conversation.

What are you looking forward to at North York Arts’ Beers And Brushes fundraiser next month?

I am going to paint live at North York Arts’ Beers And Brushes fundraiser. I am very happy to support local art organization and also look forward to create something that represents my community. 

Don’t miss Jieun’s live paintings at Beers and Brushes on October 24! To learn more about our fundraiser and buy tickets, visit To learn more about Jieun, visit

Interview by: Kavita Gurm

Communications and Events Assistant

Snapd Arts Feature: Ebony Viani-Singer

Snapd Arts Feature: Ebony Viani-Singer

North York Arts is thrilled to introduce Ebony Viani-Singer, the coordinator for one of our signature fall programs – Second Act: ESL Theatre Program. Second Act provides a series of free theatre-focused workshops for youth to feel more comfortable and confident speaking English.

Ebony is excited to bring her passion for the arts into her role as coordinator for the program

Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Ebony Viani-Singer and I was born and raised in Canada, but my parents both immigrated here from Venezuela. I have always had a passion for acting, music and the arts in general. Right after high school I went to York University to pursue a degree in music to become a teacher after that, but quickly realized it wasn’t the career path for me. I took some time off to rediscover what it was that was truly my passion, and I enrolled into the Child and Youth Care program at Humber. I am currently in my last semester of the program and love the fact that I get to help people as my career. It has given me a new drive and sense of purpose I have not been able to find in anything else I have tried to pursue. 

What are you looking forward to with Second Act?

What I am most looking forward to is combining two of my biggest passions, acting and helping others, and getting to hear the stories of all the youth who will be a part of the program. I believe that there is so much to learn from the experiences of others and cannot wait to help others grow, but also have them help me grow as well.

How has arts and culture made an impact in your life?

Arts and culture have allowed me to express myself when words were not enough. There have been so many opportunities where I did not have the words to speak, but art gave me a voice whether it was through music, drama, painting and drawing. I am so grateful that I was able to use the arts as an outlet and a tool to feel truly free. 

How do you think art can play a role in helping to reduce language barriers?

Art is a universal language that can be felt and understood by all. Though different places around the world have different artistic styles, all seek to have their art be an expression of self. Whether or not you speak the same language as someone, everyone has felt pain, joy, sadness or any other emotion at some point in their lives. Art transcends speech and allows us to connect on a level that is not just understood, but felt. It allows for someone to share thoughts and ideas without necessarily needing to say a single word. It creates a connection between in a very unique way.

To learn more about Second Act and other North York Arts programs, visit

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Arts Feature: Elham Fatapour

Arts Feature: Elham Fatapour

We are so proud of all our amazing Northbound artists, and we love introducing them to you and speaking to them about their artwork! 

Elham Fatapour is a Toronto-based artist born in Tehran, Iran. Elham’s art practice focuses on traumatic Middle East geopolitics in relation to her personal narratives. Keep reading to learn more about Elham and her upcoming exhibition, My Story

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

I am a Toronto based artist born in Tehran, Iran. My passion for sociology, politics, and visual storytelling propelled me into the world of professional arts. After moving to Canada I studied Illustration and currently I am completing my masters degree in visual arts at York University.

I use imagery, colour and technique to charge my paintings with empathy and present them in mixed media installations that encompass the viewer. 

Briefly describe your two series, My Story and Erosion, and how they come together in this exhibition.

My imagery incorporates culturally symbolic materials, such as carpet fragments, to express my social and political investigations. Through the integration of domestic textiles, historic patterns and figures in my work, I aim to conceptually implicate all people. This inquiry has led to “My Story” series of over 10 life sized paintings that would be installed relative to the viewpoint portrayed. Each of the gestures and viewpoints suggest aspects of my autobiography as an immigrant artist.

This series will be accompanied with another series of monochromatic portraits and figurative paintings titled “Erosion”. These paintings are based on the injustices suffered by children due to political authorities and war. I aim to give a visual voice to a few of those children. I use photographs as my starting point. Their colourless existence affected me deeply and so this series was conceived of as monochromatic. By depicting these children, I feel as if I am providing them with a sense of the other side of the world, perhaps even as if I had switched lives with them.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your interpretation of war and its connection to the body?

The geopolitical context of my experience in this part of the world and sharing it has shaped a big part of my practice as an artist. I am responding to the increasingly global context in which we all now live.

Obviously one of the inevitable consequences of war is immigration. Immigration could be by force or choice and either one has their own side effects.

The connection of war and the body is how these displaced individuals, in greater numbers than ever, fit into the future. There is resilience in cases of displacement, and this can wear down an individual or a group.

What conversations do you hope to spark with this exhibition?

I often paint a large quantity of figurative work, at life scale. I hope the installation of this work immerses the viewer and in doing so, opens a dialogue about the survivorship of displaced peoples.

In my “Erosion” series, the process of making these images involves painting with oils, which are then obfuscated by solvent to make them blurry and monochromatic. In this way, I comment on the often forgotten and transient nature of many of these refugees’ lives. I am hoping this could resolve in creating an open pathway for sharing my perspective with the viewers. This exhibition includes several empty canvases to show the absence of those who passed away, vanished or were forgotten. I hope this installation could provoke the same emotional effect on my audience. Through my art, I want to make visible the unrecognized injustices that continue to unfold around the world.


My Story will be on display from Sept 25 – Oct 10 at the 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media and Education. Public gallery hours are from Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm. Elham will also be doing an Artist Talk on Saturday, September 28 from 2 – 3 pm, and the gallery will be open until 5 pm. 

An opening reception for Elham’s exhibit will take place on Thursday, September 26 from 6-9 pm. This event is free to attend! Click here to RSVP. 

For more information, visit

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Arts Feature: Tasneem Dairywala

Arts Feature: Tasneem Dairywala

We’re delighted to introduce Tasneem Dairywala, another one of our talented Northbound Gallery Program Artists! 

Tasneem is a new-generation emerging artist living and working in North York. Her work is inspired by her role as an art educator, her training at OCAD University, and traditional Pakistani art aesthetics.

Keep reading to learn more about Tasneem’s art process and her upcoming exhibition, Metamorphic Reflections

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

For me, art has always played an important role in understanding and decoding the complexity of human identities and relationships. In the last year, I have gotten more involved in my community, Flemingdon Park, as an artist and educator, and have started to collaborate with community members to create art. This has strengthened my belief in art’s power to break through social isolation and overcome the ethnocultural boundaries that divide us. 

Describe Metamorphic Reflections and your processes behind each portrait.

Metamorphic Reflections is a series of portrait paintings inspired by stories of Toronto residents from diverse demographics. Each painting is started through a question that encourages interviewees to self-reflect on how they define and value themselves. The photos taken during these interactions capture the subjects’ expressions as they speak and serve as inspirations for the paintings. The life-sized portraits are painted on mirrors and aim to capture the subjects’ presence and aura as they share their stories. 

What was your thought behind using mirrors as a medium?  

I wanted to paint on mirrors so that viewers could see other people’s portraits changing because of their reflections, changing how they see themselves and others. 

What do you hope people take away from the exhibition?

Through this installation, I hope to have viewers think about the similarities between themselves and the painted individuals, why it is so uncomfortable to connect with people and have meaningful conversations, and what can we do to overcome this discomfort and the social isolation it causes.

Metamorphic Reflections will be on display at the Toronto Centre for the Arts from September 25 – November 24, 2019. The exhibit will be open to the public Tuesday – Friday from 1-6 PM. For more information, click here.

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Snapd Arts Feature:Timea Wharton-Suri

Snapd Arts Feature:Timea Wharton-Suri

North York Arts is thrilled to be working with Timea Wharton-Suri this year! Timea is an arts and entertainment professional who grew up right here in North York. Having studied and worked all over the city and in various disciplines, she has gained a thorough perspective on art and community. We asked her about her passion for the arts, her current projects, and her take on the future of arts and culture in North York. 

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your passion for the arts? 

For 20 years, I have been either performing, teaching, administrating, consulting, programming or producing the arts. Many of these roles have been undertaken simultaneously – the artist’s life! I was born and raised in North York and have since worked all over the city, mostly within dance, music and literary forms. I am a quiet, shy person and the arts have always allowed me to express myself. I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to weave the arts into every aspect of my life.

What projects are you working on that you are excited about?

I have a few irons in the fire, including curating the Uptown Moves dance series and a new discussion series for TO Live. Right now I’m deep into production of a new children’s literary event for North York Arts at the North York Central Library. For this free September 28th Culture Days event, the incredible Toronto Comic Arts Festival is programming renowned kid-focused comic artists and authors to present to and engage with kids and their parents. There will be feature artist presentations and workshops to get the kids creating their own stories.

In your opinion, how are art and community correlated? 

For me, the arts and healthy communities go hand-in-hand. Engaging with the arts provides community members with powerful tools to articulate their thoughts, emotions and concerns. The arts bring people together to both preserve past and create new experiences for growth. The arts are a means to community dialogue, to better mental and physical health, to greater mobilization, and to greater understanding. 

How would you describe North York’s art and culture community and how do you hope to see it evolve in the future?

Given the size and diversity of North York, I view local arts as having multiple communities of participants. And I mean that in a good way. We have the knowledge of so many cultures to be shared, and the artistic creation and sharing is necessarily done in numerous ways and spaces. These distinct arts communities can come together in parks, community centres and theatres to share their work. In future, I am hoping to see more diversity in the audiences of these distinct public expressions of culture. Why waste the beauty of having so many cultures in North York by only engaging with the art of your own?

For more information on Timea, you can visit her website at For more information about the Culture Days event with Toronto Comic Arts Festival and North York Arts visit 

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Arts Feature: Emma Lau

Arts Feature: Emma Lau

We love learning more about our talented Northbound artists! This month, we had the chance to talk to artist Emma Lau about her exhibition, A Quiet Mind II

A Quiet Mind II showcases Emma’s paintings, all of which translate her meditation practice into fine art. Keep reading to learn more about Emma’s artwork, her meditation experience, and the role meditation plays in her art-making process! 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your artwork?

My name is Emma Lau and I was born in 1979, London, England. I have lived in London, Hong Kong, and Toronto, having immersed in both The East and The West. My artwork explores visualizations of my meditation experience. My artwork is predominantly painting in abstraction using acrylic on canvas. The scale of my work varies from small canvases to canvases as tall as I am.

Can you tell us about your experience with meditation?

I had read a lot of spiritual books and books on Eastern philosophy and they all emphasized the importance of meditating as well as reading – that it was not enough to simply have the knowledge from reading – one must meditate too. In 2009, I found a group that believed, as I did, that the way to achieve a sustainable world peace was through individuals experiencing their inner peace and the way to this was through meditation. Through this group I was eventually invited to Thailand in 2010, where Buddhist monks who have mastered meditation guided me to meditate at a deep level. This had a profound effect on all aspects of my life and my subsequent artwork.

How does your meditation experience influence or guide your art-making process?

I meditate before each painting session. The meditation that precedes the beginning of a new painting is especially important. After meditation, I begin to paint. Part of my mind is still in the depths of the meditation and that affects the composition of the painting. I paint in abstraction, but there is an element of description to my work. As though of a place familiar though never visited. Sometimes there is a sense of an opening or gateway, perhaps to another dimension or a deeper level within meditation.

What do you hope people will take away from your exhibit? 

At the least, I hope people enjoy the experience of the exhibition and viewing the paintings. At most, I hope people (who do not yet meditate) may be inspired to try meditation some time in the future. I hope people further question the belief that there is something greater in existence than what we currently perceive.

A Quiet Mind II is on display from August 14 – August 29 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Public gallery hours are from Tuesday to Friday, 1-6 pm. There will be extended gallery hours on August 22 (5-8 pm) and August 24 (1:30-5 pm). 

An opening reception for Emma’s exhibit will take place on Thursday, August 15 from 6-9 pm. This event is free to attend! Click here to RSVP. 

To learn more, visit

Interview by: Kavita Gurm

Communications and Events Assistant

Arts Feature: Mika Babineau

Arts Feature: Mika Babineau

We’re excited to introduce Mika Babineau, one of our 2019 Northbound Gallery Program artists! In her self-portrait series, Ace and In Your Face, Mika beautifully showcases different aspects of asexuality, such as coming out, belonging in the LGBTQ+ community, and acceptance. 

Keep reading to learn more about Mika’s arts background, her Northbound exhibition, and what she hopes people will take away from seeing her work!

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

I am a Toronto based painter who was originally born in Moncton, New Brunswick. I moved to Ontario to go to college, but ended up staying here in order to seriously pursue my art career. I graduated from Sheridan College with honours, and I’ve been a practising artist for 3 years now. In that time I’ve exhibited at a variety of galleries and libraries, plus a few art fairs. I specialize in portraits and landscapes, both encompassing vibrant colour energy.

What can you tell us about your exhibition? 

My exhibit is meant to both empower asexual people by talking about their experiences, while also informing and educating allosexuals (non asexual people) about an aspect of the LGBT+ community they may not know much about. Each self portrait explains a different aspect of my journey of coming to terms with being asexual. There are 8 paintings in total, each with a passage which explains different aspects of asexuality to the viewer, with themes of coming out, representation, and belonging.

What does the title of your exhibition, Ace and In Your Face, symbolize?

The “Ace” in Ace and In Your Face is the fun nickname asexual people have given themselves (“aces”), while the “In Your Face” is for the uncompromising and overt themes I am educating my audience about. I really want to be in the viewer’s face about asexuality, telling my story with conviction and confidence. Aces are very seldom given the spotlight, so it is finally our time to shine, and time for me to be unapologetically myself in this series.

What do you hope people will take away from seeing your exhibition? 

I hope people will take away a better understanding of asexuality, and of the queer community as a whole. There are so many different sexualities and gender identities out there, and I want people to be willing to learn about all kinds of different people’s experiences. Aces are not understood very well by the general public, or represented very well in many spaces; I want to give a voice to their struggles and their lives. I want people to come away feeling more accepted, and feeling more acceptance for other people. And ultimately, I don’t want any ace to ever feel broken or unaccepted ever again. 

Ace and In Your Face is currently on display at the Toronto Centre for the Arts until August 24. The exhibit is open to the public Tuesday-Friday from 1-6 PM. To learn more about Mika’s exhibit, click here.


Interview by: Kavita Gurm

Communications and Events Assistant

Snapd Arts Feature: Brant Matthews (Fireguy)

Snapd Arts Feature: Brant Matthews (Fireguy)

For over 15 years, Brant Matthews (a.k.a. Fireguy) has had a burning desire to entertain the world with its most fascinating element. Based in Toronto, he has performed in countries all over the world, and we were lucky to have him bring the heat to Cultura Festival last month! 

Keep reading to learn more about Brant and his fiery skills, his experience working with Toronto performers, and his thoughts on arts and culture in the North York community. 

Can you tell us about yourself, your interests, and what you do? 

I’m a Guinness World Record Holder in Fire Eating and have been performing fire and glow shows at various events for over 20 years. 

How and why did you get into fire performing? 

I learnt how to juggle for a play and wanted to learn fire juggling. Then I figured I should learn how to fire eat. Following that I started busking on the streets of Montreal. It’s been a slow and steady rise from gig to gig where I now travel the world with my show. 

What is it like getting to work with so many talented performers in Toronto?

I started a talent agency called Dispatch Talent that had a training space in North York. I now book many performers for events and enjoy mentoring up and coming acts. It’s very cool to see people grow their talent and become self sufficient artists. 

How do you think organizations like ours can work together to increase the arts and culture profile of North York?

We need to get more people on the street with their art. I feel that the street can teach people about dealing with rejection. Rejection is the best way to learn what isn’t working and what is. I would love to see streets filled with artists of all types adding to the culture of North York and the GTA. Mel Lastman Square is such a nice area for shows and events like Cultura Festival, which really makes use of the space with music, food, and an outdoor movie (and of course, there were some fantastic buskers brought to you by Dispatch Talent!)

We’re excited to announce that Brant will be hosting North York Arts’ inaugural fundraiser on October 24th! To learn more about the event, visit To learn more about Fireguy, visit and to learn more about Dispatch Talent visit

Interview by: Kavita Gurm

Communications and Events Assistant

Sneak Peak: Cultura Festival Playlist for July 26th!

Sneak Peak: Cultura Festival Playlist for July 26th!

It’s hard to believe that the fourth and final night of Cultura Festival is this Friday – time really does fly when you’re having fun! 

To close off this year’s festival, we’ve got a spectacular group of performers lined up, including live music from The Arsenals and Charmie! Want to learn more about each artist and get a sneak peek of their music? Keep reading! 

If you like what you hear, make sure you join us this Friday, July 26 from 6 – 11 PM at Mel Lastman Square to catch their free performances at Cultura. 

The Arsenals

The Arsenals 100% Kick-Ass Ska, a.k.a. The Arsenals, is a 6-piece Toronto based band that blends Jamaican Ska, Rockysteady, Reggae, and “Ska-terized” Pop music. They play the history of Jamaican Music, from authentic Studio One Ska and Rocksteady to classic Reggae! 


Charmie is a passionate 23-year-old singer-songwriter based in Toronto. She plays a unique contemporary fusion of Rhythm, Blues, Pop, and Soul music. As a self taught musician, Charmie excels at playing guitar, piano, bass, and drums!

Photo by: Jeff Sun

Sneak Peak: Cultura Festival Playlist for July 19th!

Sneak Peak: Cultura Festival Playlist for July 19th!

We can’t wait for the musical performances at Cultura Festival this Friday, July 19! We are very lucky to have two incredibly talented bands taking the stage: Delhi 2 Dublin and Moskitto Bar

Keep reading to learn more about each band and check out our suggested playlists to get a sneak peek of each group’s unique sound! 

Love the music and want to hear more? Stop by Cultura this Friday evening from 6 – 11 PM at Mel Lastman Square to watch both bands play LIVE (and for free) right here in North York! These are going to be two showstopping performances you won’t want to miss! 

Delhi 2 Dublin

Delhi 2 Dublin is a Vancouver-based electronic ensemble that brings South Asian influences into the world of Western pop music. They play a fusion of Bhangra, electronic, funk, dub, reggae, hip hop, Celtic music, and a mashup of other genres!

Moskitto Bar

Moskitto Bar started with the connection of three talented artists playing in the woods at Ontario’s OM Festival, while mosquitoes fed on them. Since then, more musicians have joined, sharing their passion for music and mixing cultures. Moskitto Bar’s sound combines Ukrainian, Balkan, Iraqi, Middle-Eastern, and French Celtic music.

Photo by: Shoeb Kadri

8 Must-Haves for Cultura 2019!

8 Must-Haves for Cultura 2019!

The first night of Cultura Festival is this Friday! Get ready for 4 unforgettable nights of live music, delicious food, exciting buskers, interactive art activities, animated movie screenings, and more!

Never been to Cultura before? Not sure what to expect? We’ve got you covered! Keep reading for a list of must-have items that will help ensure you have the best possible experience at the festival! 

1) Comfy shoes

With so many different activities and performances going on, you’re going to want to explore every corner of Mel Lastman Square – so don’t forget to wear your comfiest shoes! 

2) Sunscreen

Even though Cultura starts at 6 PM, the sun doesn’t set until later in the evening. If it’s a sunny day, make sure you apply lots of sunscreen! 

3) Your appetite (and cash!)

There are a ton of delicious food trucks coming to Cultura this year! From wood oven cooked pizza to authentic Caribbean cuisine to Korean BBQ (and much more), there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Grab a bite of your favourite dish or try something new! 

4) A reusable water bottle 

Stay hydrated (and help save the environment) by bringing your own water bottle! We will have a water station on-site where you can refill your bottles. 

5) A hat

Cultura Festival is an outdoor event, so bring your favourite hat to keep cool from the sun! 

6) A cushion or a blanket

Each night, we’ll be screening a different animated movie. Bring a soft cushion or a cozy blanket so you can get comfy and enjoy the movie!

7) A Camera

Cultura showcases the beautiful and vibrant cultural community of North York, and there are so many fantastic photo opportunities and great moments to capture (be sure to stop by our tent to take a Polaroid picture in our photo booth)! Share your photos on Twitter and Instagram with #CulturaToronto and tag us @NorthYorkArts! 

8)  Your friends and family

The more the merrier! Make Cultura a night to remember and spend it with the people you love.

Arts Feature:  Banafsheh Erfanian

Arts Feature: Banafsheh Erfanian

We’re excited to introduce Banafsheh Erfanian, one of our Northbound Gallery Program artists this year! To get to know Banafsheh, we asked her a few questions about herself, her art, and her exhibition with Northbound. Read below to learn more!

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your art practice?

I am a Toronto based painter, illustrator, and educator. I was born in Tehran, Iran and graduated from Tehran University of Art with a Bachelor of Graphic Design. I also hold an MFA in Illustration. I have been painting and illustrating for 15 years; during this time I have illustrated 30 books and magazines, written more than 25 articles in art reviews, exhibited around the world, and have won several international awards. The stories I have illustrated such as, Arabian Nights, Ardavirafnameh (Zoroastrian Paradise, and Inferno), Shahnameh (The epics of Iranian kings), convey mythical themes and share their messages through magical realism or surrealism that stimulate my ideas. I find these stories to be a platform through which I illustrates what is beyond reality.

What can you tell us about your exhibition?

 The sparks of an individual’s identity can be found in their background. Their identity means the ground that holds their roots, the land where they came into existence, the land where they saw four seasons; the taste of their food and water, the costumes they wear, their sun and rain, their mountains and seas, their looks, their language and accent. Shahnameh is one of the most important tales about Persian epics that has been passed down from generation to generation during centuries. It has had such importance that has been patronized by Persian kings to be produced as picture books. My roots as an Iranian-Canadian artist can be found in my culture and Shahnameh is an undeniable part of my culture. Persian literature conveys Philosophical implications and is a window to the Iranian body of wisdom and collective psyche and an endless source of information and creation for an artist with Persian background. This exhibition is a contemporary visual read of Shahnameh addressing the younger Persian generation. I hope I can be a link to this cultural chain and encourage the younger generations of my community to know more about their cultural roots and history.

What do you want people to take away from the show?

This exhibition aims to give the audience a grasp of Persian history and culture through the poet of Shahnameh and the illustrator’s point of view. I hope this will help the Persian younger immigrant generations that have not lived in Iran, but have Persian blood in their veins to know more about Persian literature and have a deeper sense of a part of what it means to be Persian. It would also be an opportunity for youth to enrich their imagination and for Canadians from diverse background, to learn about the Persian literature and art through Shahnameh’s whimsical narratives and my visual interpretations

To you, what role does art play when understanding a culture’s history?

If you take a retrospective look at the history of art, you will interestingly find out that art has been used by the powers as a tool of power reinforcement. For instance, In the Medieval times, illuminations were made to make people have a stronger belief in Christianity. Persian kings used architecture and colossal sculptures and reliefs to show to the nations how powerful their empire was at the time. In Sassanid time, A prophet emerged who was entitled ‘Mani, The Painter Prophet’ because he was a talented painter himself and his followers were attracted to his ritual through painting and music. In fact, art was a magical tool as it is today in the same way. Any form of power has taken advantage of art as capitalism does through commercials today. Apart from the power discourse, I believe any type of art reflects a great deal about the culture of the time they belong to. Artworks are the purest documents of their time through which you can explore people’s look, costumes, rituals, politics, architecture, nature, and the collective insight of the peoples that used to live in the ancient times.

For more information about Banafsheh and her upcoming exhibition, click here.

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Snapd Arts Feature: Joe Borowiec

Snapd Arts Feature: Joe Borowiec

North York Arts is thrilled to announce their newly appointed Board Chair – Joe Borowiec!

Joe, a self-described art enthusiast, has been a leader at NYA for over 7 years. While acting as an advisory committee member, board member, and (most recently) board president, Joe has provided a great deal of support and expertise to the organization and by extension, the North York community.

As Joe transitions into his new role, we wanted to learn more about his connection to the arts, his involvement with NYA, and exciting plans ahead for the organization.

Tell me a bit about yourself. Have you always had an interest in the arts?

My interest in the arts goes back to an early childhood memory of being taken to what was then known as the Art Gallery of Toronto by my mother. I still remember the Floorburger and Black Bathroom #2. I have been fascinated by art ever since, despite learning early on that while I was pretty good at art in school, I would never be good enough to be an artist.

When did you first get involved with North York Arts and what drew you to the organization?

I began my involvement with North York Arts while it was being developed by the Toronto Arts Foundation. North York holds a special place for me because my early adulthood was spent here. While I tried to contribute to North York at the time, NYA gives me a second chance.

How do you see arts and culture as a catalyst for community development?

It seems to me that arts and culture have an impact at both the personal and community scales. Making art lets people develop and express a part of their inner being and create beauty and joy and articulate meaning in their own and other peoples’ lives. Art doesn’t have to be something that hangs on a wall – it can be spoken, sung, danced, played or shown. It can reach one person at a time or an audience together. At a community scale, the arts allow people to share stories and perceptions and help people see and understand more of themselves and their neighbours. And the arts don’t have to be serious, they can be fun, too!

What kind of growth do you see for North York Arts in the next year?

I hope that North York Arts can expand the breadth of its programs and partnerships and expand its geographic reach into more communities of North York. At the same time, as a charitable organization relying on grants, sponsorships and donations, we have to be careful to not get ahead of ourselves and ensure that we have the financial and human resources we need and manage the risks and commitments we make.

For more information about Joe and NYA’s other amazing board members click here

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Snapd Arts Feature: Fanny Martin

Snapd Arts Feature: Fanny Martin

Summer is on the horizon, and with it are North York Arts’ July festival programs Cultura Festival and Sunday Serenades. NYA is thrilled to announce the addition of Fanny Martin to our team, who will be producing both festivals!

Fanny, who has diverse arts festival production experience, brings a unique expertise to Cultura Festival and Sunday Serenades that will build on the successes of years past while implementing strategies for new and innovative visitor experiences.

Tell us about yourself. Where you’re from and your interests.

I grew up in a small village near Paris where community music was really important. My father was a leader in the local marching band, and my earliest musical memory is to bang the snare drum in a parade. Playing, listening and making live music happen has been a constant thread in my life. Before coming to Toronto, I spent 10 years in the UK, where I worked with festivals, orchestras and music education programs.

How did you get into festival production?

Besides music, my other passion is books, so I studied literature then business with a view to get into the circulation side of publishing – my aim is always to share what I love! A chance encounter led me to work on an international conference. I was warned that I might catch the event management bug, which I did indeed. The next step was to combine music and events, and I got my start at the Manchester Jazz Festival, which led to many other opportunities, as a producer and consultant.

What can we expect with Cultura this year?

Hopefully sunshine! Weather is always a concern but we’ve just got to plan for all scenarios. Rain or shine, we’ll bring Mel Lastman Square to life with food, roaming buskers, pop-up bands, family animations – that’s all in the first part of the event, from 6 to 8pm – then we’ve got some fantastic international bands lined up for main stage, and when the sun comes down we’ll put the giant screen up and all watch a great film under the stars. There’s a lot going on and we design the experience so that everyone can choose their own adventure on the Square!

How do you envision a successful festival strategy?

When planning a festival, we’re always oscillating between the minuscule details and the very large picture, taking in everything in between. Some decisions have an immediate result on the audience experience – for example, making sure there are enough washrooms on site – and others can have far-ranging repercussions, for example on artists’ careers and local businesses. Another key element of success is to bring specialists together – programmers, technicians, marketers, fundraisers – and get them to coordinate their efforts to deliver on time, even if they have very different ways of working and sometimes different priorities. That’s why it takes a lot of time and imagination, and it’s very important for me to have a collaborative, mutually-beneficial approach.

Cultura Festival and Sunday Serenades run every Friday and Sunday in July, respectively, at Mel Lastman Square. To learn more go to


Interview by: Brett Cormier

Development and Communications Intern

Snapd Arts Feature: Julian Carvajal

Snapd Arts Feature: Julian Carvajal

We’re proud to announce the addition of Art Starts founder Julian Carvajal to North York Arts’ programming committee!  Julian has weaved a career in both non-profit and arts sectors culminating in his work with Art Starts Mentorship Hub, an initiative to support and encourage underrepresented communities in Toronto’s dynamic arts setting.

A lifetime lover of the arts, Julian has strived to enrich himself through various artistic mediums, all while giving back to the community through his volunteer and charitable initiatives.  As Art Starts’ Special Projects Manager, Julian brings a unique perspective and knowledgeability that will enable North York Arts’ continued success of engaging and cultivating the arts in local communities. We at NYA are excited to work with Julian going forward in 2019!

Tell me about yourself: your career, appreciation for the arts, etc.
I consider myself a colourful Colombo-Canadian Project Manager, Event Producer, Admin of the Arts, Media Artist & Curator. I was born in Santiago de Cali, Colombia, the reason why I am a Salsa lover! I studied in a special school 200% dedicated to the arts for eight years. I had the opportunity to study drama and write scripts for the performances at school. Drawing, sculpting, vocal technique, body appreciation, music appreciation, and ceramic, were part of my classes. I also learned to play some strings, wind, and percussion instruments as well as piano and many others.  Now ask me how many can I play now!? I do not play any at all but all those learnings had made me the person I am today, an art lover and Art(ivist) who lives his life in a very passionate and multifaceted way. The only part that I kept and that many people do not know about me is poetry; I have been writing an anthology for the last 20 years with over 300 creations that I hope to share with others at some point of my life.
What is Art Starts and what role does it play in Toronto’s artistic community?
Art Starts is home for me, it has been my incubator for the last 4 years. We are an award-winning charitable, not-for-profit organization that uses the arts as a vehicle to inspire long-term social change in Toronto’s underserved neighbourhoods. We bring together professional artists with residents of all ages and collaborate with other community organizations to create community-building art projects in all artistic disciplines. At the Special Projects department, we run programs citywide and offer a wide range of mentorship opportunities and workshops for youth, newcomers and emerging artists across the city. We proudly are the co-founder of Platform A, a collection of Toronto’s leading community arts organizations that have come together to develop capacity and innovation in the community-engaged arts sector.
You’ve recently joined the programming committee with North York Arts. Tell me about that and the planning committees purpose
First of all, I would like to tell you, I love North York Arts! I got introduce to NYA though Melissa back in 2016 and let me tell you, it is hard not to fall in love with her extraordinary spirit and willingness! After that, I met the rest of the team and they are doers who also create meaningful programs for the community in North York. I was very happy when invited to join the programming committee, for me, this is a great opportunity to continuing my purpose in life, being a bridge who connects people and supports platforms that provide artists with multiple opportunities for professional and personal growth. Having a voice in this committee is humbling but also a great responsibility to ensure we properly reflect the needs of the community sector in North York.
 What current and future collaborations do you envision between NYA and Art Starts
As Special Projects Manager, we are always looking for ways to collaborate — the sky is the limit! North York Arts plays an important role in the community. They are a friendly organization who is really dedicated to creating strategic opportunities not only for artists but also community members. We are currently co-organizing Art Starts Satellite Workshops; we have been running a series of workshops for the creative sector for three consecutive years. In this opportunity, we wanted to take it to the next level and foster relationships with new audiences who might not be familiar with who we are and what we do. If cryptocurrency is the new trend, partnerships and collaborations are the ways to go now especially when the sector is experiencing funding cuts and some other challenges.

To learn more about Art Starts and its initiatives go to

Interview by: Brett Cormier

Development and Communications Intern

Snapd Arts Feature: David Norsworthy

Snapd Arts Feature: David Norsworthy

North York Arts is thrilled to be showcasing Possibilities of Dialogue at the Toronto Centre for the Arts next month! Co-created and performed by TOES FOR DANCE Co-Director David Norsworthy and NYC-based dance artist Marielis Garcia, Possibilities of Dialogue is an exchange of energy and awareness.

The show is part of NYA’s Evolve! Performing Arts Program, which was created to give new and emerging Toronto-based theatre and dance artists an opportunity to explore, develop, revise or complete a work using high quality, accessible space and services.

I had the chance to ask David a few questions about his passion for dance, his experience with Evolve!, and what audiences can expect from the performance.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your passion for dance

I am an independent dance artist (choreographer, performer and educator). I grew up in Mississauga, pursued my professional training at The Juilliard School in New York City and now base myself in North York while working around the world. Dancing, for me, is at its finest when doing, feeling and thinking are practiced in equal balance! I am fascinated by the pursuit of freedom in my body and deeply committed to interrogating and advocating for the value of art within the context of community.

What has your experience been like with NYA’s Evolve! Program?

Honestly, it has been a total dream. Marielis and I started working on Possibilities of Dialogue in May 2017 and the opportunity to further develop and present this work in my home city came at the perfect stage in our process! We are really grateful for the time to experiment with technical elements (lighting and sound) in a professional theatre space during our Technical Residency before the shows. Such a necessity in terms of creating a cohesive, thoroughly devised performance but also (unfortunately) a luxury that is rarely possible for performance makers in Toronto!

Why do you think it’s important for artists to have access to high quality space?

Creativity is a tricky beast. It’s a kind of phenomenon that can be prepared for and invited but never forced. Lately I’ve been very interested in how to cultivate the conditions for creativity to “show up” and one major factor is the working environment. Often rehearsal/performance space is so expensive that there is no time to experiment or take risks … This is hugely detrimental as it narrows the possibilities to what an artist knows or can easily imagine will “work”. Removing the financial stress around space allows artists to be bolder in their experimentation and more imaginative.  

What can people expect during Possibilities of Dialogue?

Although I appreciate the intention behind your question, I actually hope that people will arrive at the performance without very many expectations!! Here’s what I can share: Possibilities of Dialogue is a contemporary dance performance that is, at times, interactive with and responsive to the audience. Marielis and I will do our best to bring both our physical virtuosity and listening skills into the performance; which is almost entirely improvised based on a rigorous choreographic structure. Our role is to facilitate an inclusive experience that has the possibility of generating curiosity and connection.

Possibilities of Dialogue is co-presented by TOES FOR DANCE, co-produced by North York Arts’ Evolve! Program and part of the DanceWorks CoWorks Series. The performance will be at the Toronto Centre for the Arts from April 5-7, 2019. Tickets are on sale on Ticketmaster or at Box Office. Click here for more information. 

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Snapd Arts Feature: Melissa Foster

Snapd Arts Feature: Melissa Foster

Last year, North York Arts began their pilot program called “Evolve! Performing Arts Program.” The program provides new generation and diverse theatre and dance artists with the opportunity to develop their work using high-quality, professional theatre space, with minimal costs.

In anticipation of Evolve’s! first workshop performance happening this month, I interviewed Melissa Foster, North York Arts’ Program and Outreach Director, who led the team in developing the program.

Tell me a bit about yourself and you career in community arts.
I have always had a love for the arts – especially theatre. This led me to pursue an undergraduate degree in Theatre Studies. After receiving my B.A., I switched gears and started working in the social service sector. Throughout my 10 year career I continued to run and facilitate arts programs for community members both abroad and within Toronto. Eventually, I decided to formally combine my passions; I completed a certificate in Community Arts Practice from York University, as well as a post-grad diploma in Arts Management from Western University.

I have been at North York Arts since 2014 and during my time here I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with so many talented and dedicated local artists, community builders and service providers to grow the arts sector and engage all North York residents in the arts.  

Why did North York Arts develop Evolve?
After working with so many artists and arts organizations over the years, it’s become apparent that there is a need for affordable and professional artistic space in the city. Thanks to our long-standing partnership with Toronto Centre for the Arts (TCA), one of Toronto’s three civic theatres, we were able to create Evolve! to help address these gaps in resources.

Specifically Evolve! is for performing artists in Toronto who are still in the developmental stages of their work. Artists receive access to the TCA’s “black box” Studio Theatre. Ultimately, the goal of the program is to help support the capacity of the theatre and dance community.

Why do you think it’s important that artists have access to high-quality space?
We live in a society that is results driven and we don’t pay a lot of attention to the process – but art is a process.  A compelling story takes time to develop, and the collaborative nature of the performing arts requires a home – one that meets the unique needs of the performing arts. It’s these unique needs of theatre and dance that make access to space so difficult. The ability to access space at no-cost, that is equipped with all the things you need to develop your story is rare, especially for new-generation artists.

What can we expect from Evolve’s first workshop performance?
Evolve’s first workshop performance is called EARTH; the show is presented in partnership with two Toronto dance organizations, Dance Immersion and Artists in Motion (AIM) Dace Company.

Dance Immersion is a not-for-profit organization that produces, promotes and supports dancers and dances of the African Diaspora. Last year, Dance Immersion did an open call for artists and collectives who were interested in participating in Evolve!. AIM Dance Company, run by artistic director and choreographer Shameka Blake, was selected. As Shameka puts it “EARTH is a creation story. Exploring Earth, a ‘Mother Goddess’ who rules all people and gives birth to new generations of all beings.”

You can catch EARTH, a work-in-progress presentation, Feb 27th – 28th at 8pm at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5400 Yonge Street, North York. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the Box Office.

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Snapd Arts Feature: North York Arts, A Year in Review

Snapd Arts Feature: North York Arts, A Year in Review

Another wonderful year at North York Arts has come and gone! Throughout this year we have grown immensely while providing both new and existing programs to the arts community of North York. As we say goodbye to 2018, we are reflecting on the impactful year we had and we are looking forward to the exciting endeavors that next year will bring!

New and Notable Program Developments:

Creative Leaders:
2018 was a great year for the growth of North York Arts’ Creative Leaders program. We continued to work with Legacy Collective, a senior engagement initiative to support access to the arts. The group has been growing in members, two of which have assumed leadership roles. They had several art and leadership programs throughout the year and they are finishing with an exhibition at Bernard Betel Community Centre on December 4th. Our Youth Dance Program that has run for four years finished the year with a presentation at STOMP Urban Dance Competition and Urban Arts’ Throwdown Dance Convention.

Finally, our DJ Program, lead by Benjamin de Graaf from Love Music Initiative, successfully ran for its second year in a row with many new participating youth! The group had the opportunity to perform during Myseum’s Intersection Festival at the Drum to DJ workshop in March.

Sunday Serenades:
In 2018, North York Arts became the sole producers of Sunday Serenades. The event, which was delivered by the City of Toronto for over 20 years, is a staple for North York, Toronto, and GTA residents alike. As a newly established charity, we want to thank our wonderful sponsors, donors, and partners; with their support, we delivered four wonderful weeks of jazz for hundreds of attendees.

Organizational Growth and Changes

This year, NYA was fortunate to have three summer interns and one fall intern who assisted with a range of tasks including event support, program development, and marketing; we can’t thank them enough for their contribution! Our team also grew by two full-time staff and by four new board members. The new leadership will complement the existing board members and staff to further achieve NYA’s strategic goals both now and in the future.

Of course, we also want to thank our office, photography, and event volunteers who dedicate their time this year to supporting the North York arts community!

What can the North York Community Look Forward to next year?

Northbound Gallery Program:
We are excited to launch Northbound Gallery Program! Artists were selected by a jury to exhibit their work throughout 2019 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts’ Lower Gallery. The program was created to support the professional development of artists. Keep an eye out next year for the announcement of the artists and exhibition dates!

Evolve! Performing Arts Program:
North York Arts is piloting a new initiative called Evolve! The program provides new generation and diverse theatre and dance artists with the opportunity to develop their work using high-quality, professional theatre space. Although the program focuses on rehearsal and development, there will be opportunity in 2019 for the public to attend performances and get a preview of the amazing work of the artists in our community.

Stay tuned on our website, social media and newsletter for updates and information on all the excitement. For now, happy holiday season and we can’t wait to see you at North York Arts’ events in the new year!

Visit: or follow us at @northyorkarts
Photo Credit: Legacy Collective Member

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Snapd Arts Feature: Neighbourhood Arts Network

Snapd Arts Feature: Neighbourhood Arts Network

North York Arts is pleased to be participating in Emergence Symposium! This large-scale event will convene over 150 community engaged arts practitioners, policy makers and community members to discuss the theme of Arts and Equity.

Emergence Symposium was created by Neighbourhood Arts Network (NAN), an initiative of Toronto Arts Foundation dedicated to celebrating and supporting community engaged artists and arts organizations around Toronto. We had the chance to chat with Angie Aranda and Inés Aguileta, both core leaders at Neighbourhood Arts Network who are busy organizing Emergence Symposium 2018.

Please introduce yourselves and tell us a bit about Neighbourhood Arts Network.

A: My name is Angie Aranda and I am the manager at NAN, which was formed in 2010. Prior to that, Toronto Arts Foundation and Toronto Arts Council hosted forums around community art to better serve, help, and connect artists. NAN was created to develop additional opportunities for the arts community to connect. It has since established workshops and awards to support artists with limited access to resources.

I: My name is Inés Aguileta and I am the senior program coordinator. It’s been really interesting to observe NAN’s growth – from its initial mission to support community-engaged artists, to what it is today: a citywide network that fosters and encourages the exchange of ideas and expertise amongst artists working in all disciplines in Toronto’s communities.

Tell us about Emergence Symposium. Why did NAN start this initiative?

A: The first Emergence Symposium was created in 2011 and focused on celebrating community-engaged arts. Discussions centered around what inclusivity, positive social change, and equity look like in creative practice and organizations. Emergence evolved by looking at how our intersections as people affect the creation of art and community building.

I: With the last two symposiums, we shifted our focus to address pressing issues facing our communities, which is beautiful and interesting because NAN, at its core, is responsive to the needs of our artists and community.

What can participants expect from the Emergence Symposium this year?

A: An open call for submissions highlighted the urgency for self-care activations. Emergence 2018 will focus on self-care through different lenses and mediums, organizational equity and creative entrepreneurship, intersections of immigration and who we are as people in the context of colonization.

Why was it important for NAN to partner with Toronto’s 6 Local Arts Service Organizations (LASOs) for the Emergence Symposium?

I: We really wanted to bring the arts outside of the downtown core and for that to happen, we turned to the LASO’s. The LASOs are able to present strategic programming that would best help and serve their community, while being part of a bigger platform.

A: We wanted to reach out to the LASOs who helped propel NAN forward as an organization. They are leaders in their community and we wanted to work with them to create urgency for discussions on equity.

What does Arts and Equity mean to you?

A: Equity transpires through art making, and transforms individuals. My mother is a member of North York Art’s Legacy Collective (a seniors arts access group) and I see the transformative power that art has to help her express her personal story and deal with her struggles.

I: I am still trying to figure out what equity means to me – it is an everyday learning process. I have learned to understand and identify my own privileges and work towards giving a voice and access to those who may not have it all times.

For this year’s symposium, NYA is hosting Art as Medicine (part of our Beyond Access Beyond the Creative series). The workshop will explore the relationship between wellness and art from an Indigenous perspective. Join us at North York Central Library, 5120 Yonge St on Thursday November 22, 2018 from 12:30 to 4:30 PM.

For more information about Emergence Symposium visit:

To Sign up for Arts as Medicine visit:


Snapd Arts Feature: Juan Poveda

Snapd Arts Feature: Juan Poveda

For the second year in a row, North York Arts is partnering with local organizations and facilitators to run Second Act – an ESL theatre program for youth. Second Act provides a series of free theatre-focused workshops for youth to feel more comfortable and confident speaking English.

Juan Poveda, a newcomer from Colombia and a student in the Social Service Worker program at Seneca, is excited to bring his passion for service into his role as coordinator for the program.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Juan Poveda, I was born in Colombia and I came to Canada two years ago. I am studying social service work at Seneca College and I am very passionate about service.

In regards to Second Act, what are you looking forward too?

I am looking forward to helping people, to giving newcomers like me the opportunity to improve their English and their skills through arts. I find the arts to be a very powerful and safe space for people to explore the city and to explore themselves.  

How do you define service and why do you see service as an art?

To me, service is a combination of a lot of skills, but mainly it is to put all of your accumulated experience in front of another person for them to take what is helpful for them. That’s what service is to me.

I see service as an art in every single way because it involves a lot of arts, like the art of listening, the art of conversation, of being willing to be vulnerable. There are a lot of opportunities to use other kinds of arts like more traditional understanding of arts such as dance, theatre, writing, painting, etc. All of those arts are tools for people to explore themselves and to get to know themselves better.

Why is it important to for the newcomer community to have access to arts and culture programming?

I feel like arts are an important transformation tool to improve society and reduce inequality. When you’re a newcomer, you experience a lot of shocks; the culture shock first but then you have to overcome any other obstacles that are there in society. Through arts programs, you can get to know other people which will help you to overcome these barriers because you’re going learn that you are not alone. Also, arts programs provide a safe space to talk about things and improve your English.

Interview by: Vimbai Chikoore

Event and Communications Assistant

Please Welcome our New Board Members!

North York Arts Announces Four New Board Members

North York Arts (NYA) is pleased to announce that four new members have been appointed to the Board of Directors. NYA has already seen tremendous growth in their programs, operations, and organizational presence since 2011. The new leadership will complement the existing members expertise and will support NYA to further achieve its strategic goals both now and in the future.

“We are thrilled to welcome these new members to NYA,” says Kristopher Dell, Chair, Board of Directors. “Their expertise and passion for the arts will be a meaningful addition to our team as we plan for new arts programming opportunities and more community engagement.”

The new members will accompany the current Board of Directors who are cultural, business and community leaders from across the city, with expertise in finance, governance, marketing, programming and fundraising: Joe Borowiec, Kristopher Dell, Yonni Fushman, Jason Ho, Millean Kung, Afarin Mansouri, David Oliver, Diana Panagiotopoulos, Kathleen Sloan and Nina Zaslavsky.

Joining the NYA Board are the following new members:

  •   Umair Jaffar, who has over 17 years experience in the arts sector. Umair is the founder of the Institute for Preservation of Arts & Culture (IPAC) in Pakistan and, since migrating to Canada in 2014, he has worked in senior roles at major cultural organizations such as the Aga Khan Museum and Harbourfront Centre.
  •   Kirsten Kamper is a dedicated fundraising and operations professional, passionate about the social and financial impact of arts and culture. She has worked for over 18 years in the non-profit sector, currently as Vice President, Operations and Campaign with the Royal Ontario Museum Governors.
  •   Susan Karnay is an entertainment lawyer with over 20 years of experience in the Canadian cultural industries. A long-time North York resident and arts enthusiast, she currently sits on the Board of Directors of Women in Film & Television and is the co-founder of Bob Lake Productions.
  •   Bill Stephenson is a senior finance professional who assists clients who are undergoing transition to solve problems, improve processes and systems, implement internal controls, and execute and transfer knowledge. Bill believes that a finance professional should serve as a business partner who helps create value and drive strategy.

The Board will continue to provide leadership and strategic oversight to carry out NYA’s purpose as one of Toronto’s six Local Arts Service Organizations (LASOs), with the mission to collaborate with artists, arts organizations, and partners to develop, strengthen, and promote cultural programming and initiatives for North York communities.

Photo Credit: Kayla Wondergem

North York Arts Announces Pilot Program to Support the Development of Dance and Theatre Productions

North York Arts Announces Pilot Program to Support the Development of Dance and Theatre Productions

North York Arts is piloting a new initiative called “Evolve! Performing Arts Program.” The program provides new generation and diverse theatre and dance artists with the opportunity to develop their work during the creative incubation phase using high-quality, professional theatre space, with minimal costs.

Evolve! is a response to gaps in resources for performing artists in Toronto who are still in the developmental stages of their work,” said Lila Karim, Executive Director of North York Arts. “The goal of the program is to help support the capacity of the theatre and dance community.”

The program will take place at the Toronto Centre for the Arts (TCA), a major theatre facility located in North York that is part of Civic Theatres Toronto. Specifically, Evolve! will be held in the Studio Theatre, a “black box” style 180-seat theatre equipped with professional lighting and sound systems. This is made possible thanks to the long-standing partnership between North York Arts and the TCA, as well as their shared vision to work collaboratively to bring art and community together in North York.

North York Arts has four groups who are participating during their pilot year, and the plan for the future is to have a juried selection process.

The first group to participate is Cinematoscape – a local multi-disciplinary arts company that focuses on projects for the screen and stage. Simeon Taole, one of Cinematoscape’s founders, says his participation in Evolve! is “like a concert pianist having an opportunity to practice on a piano that’s actually in tune.” He says, “as a theatre artist, being able to workshop the play where you would actually perform is fantastic.”

The other participating artists and arts groups include Victoria Mata, dancer and choreographer;  Dance Immersion, a not-for-profit organization that produces, promotes and supports dancers and dances of the African Diaspora; and Possibilities of Dialogue, an exchange of energy and awareness by dance artists Marielis Garcia and David Norsworthy.

Written by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Snapd Arts Feature: Katherina Kwan

Snapd Arts Feature: Katherina Kwan

North York Arts is thrilled to be partnering with another visual artist this fall to showcase their work to the North York community. The show is titled Rhythms of the Mind – Aesthetic Self Reflection by Chinese Calligraphy artist, Katherina Kwan.

Katherina Kwan, an accountant originating from Hong Kong, is a passionate calligraphy artist that wants to make the art form more accessible. Her exhibition pushes viewers to look past language and cultural barriers.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Katherina Kwan. I immigrated from Hong Kong in December 1990. Chinese Calligraphy is like “living” art for me. I have learned over so many years and I have truly discovered the joys of calligraphy. I found that it is a freedom to express myself. I started to have exhibitions to share my joys with people and to show that the art is so lovely. That drives me to keep working on the calligraphy almost every week.

How and why did you get involved with Chinese Calligraphy?

When I was a teenager, I went on a trip with my family. We were with a touring company and two of the members were a retired couple. The old man and woman taught in primary schools, but they loved the arts. They taught me about the culture, the arts and a lot of philosophy about Confucius (a Chinese teacher and philosopher). When I got home, we kept writing letters to each other. Close to my graduation, they mailed me a handmade bookmark. The front side was a painting and the backside was calligraphy writing. I loved the writing, I said “wow writing can be so beautiful”. At that time, I started finding teachers to teach me how to write proper calligraphy and then I learned calligraphy in Hong Kong.

Why is it important to engage communities outside the Chinese community with calligraphy?

People who don’t know Chinese always have questions like, “I don’t have the cultural background, I cannot understand what [Chinese Calligraphy] is.” This is something that people struggle with. But my thinking is different – Chinese Calligraphy is like music. I don’t know Italian, I don’t know French, but when an Italian or French singer sings a song, I can feel their mood and emotions. I can enjoy the sound. I don’t know the background and I don’t understand a lot, but I still love it. Chinese Calligraphy is the same. You don’t need to understand Chinese. You can still understand something very pure about the art. That’s what I want to show people.

What does the title Rhythms of the Mind symbolize?

It’s an Asian philosophy about life. The Chinese title means “No Shape, Big Picture.” There is a bigger scenario beyond the shapes you see. Don’t rely just on the shapes to make meaning. That is the “rhythm” I refer to in the English title. The rhythm is not some planned construct, but an instinctual expression. Each stroke of the brush represents my most raw feelings, and from these feelings I illustrate meaning.

As Katherina’s nephew puts it: “You know how to see a picture as a physical thing whereas [Katherina] is trying to paint a concept, and a concept is intangible.”

Rhythm of the Mind will be showcased in the Toronto Centre for the Arts from September 18, 2018 to October 2, 2018. To find more information click here

Interview by: Vimbai Chikoore

Event and Communications Assistant

Snapd Arts Feature: Cinematoscape

Snapd Arts Feature: Cinematoscape

Simeon Taole and Danielle Ungara are the founders of Cinematoscape, a multi-disciplinary arts company based in Toronto. The organization excels in visual storytelling with a focus on projects for the screen and stage.

Danielle and Simeon are excited to be participating in North York Arts’ pilot program called “The Incubator”. The Incubator is a residency program that aims to respond to gaps in resources for Toronto-based artists. The program gives theatre and dance artists accessible professional theatre space and services to develop their work.

Tell me about yourselves and Cinematoscape.

S: I’m a writer, actor and director working and based here in North York. I have worked in theatre, film and television and I co-founded Cinematoscape.

D: I’m a producer with Cinematoscape. The easiest way to remember our name is cinema-to-escape. When we thought about developing our company we wanted to look for opportunities to develop our own projects, and we are proud to be North York based. Currently, we have an award-winning production company where we do film and stage.

Can you elaborate on the Cinematoscape creative process?

S: We believe in the power of story; it’s key to everything that we do. We look for things that interest us and see how we can explore them. I tend to write about personal experiences and reflect on the past while also trying to imagine the future. We try to find things in the world and within ourselves that spark interest and then take that idea from there.

D: Once we have an idea of what we want to develop, Simeon will start writing; honing characters, plot and research. Then we see what we can do with it on the screen or the stage. With our most recent script, we are excited to continue to develop it and see how it grows.

What are you looking forward to in regards to the Incubator?

S: So looking forward to that! I’ve spent quite some time working on this script for the stage. When you spend so much time in front of a computer, just typing away, it’s all in your head. I’m looking forward to workshopping the play, bringing other actors in, getting the text on its feet, and exploring the story to see what new ideas come from collaborating with other artists.

D: It gives us an opportunity to explore what really works in the atmosphere that it would be produced in. So from a production lense we can start to imagine what the score looks like and what the set design looks like. It will give us that unique opportunity that we haven’t done prior.

Why is it important that artists have accessible high quality space?

S: I think it’s important because as an artist you get to explore the work in a space that you would hope your final product would be in. I’ll use this analogy – It’s like a concert pianist having an opportunity to practice on a piano that’s actually in tune! If you’re a theatre artist, being able to workshop the play where you would actually perform is fantastic!

D: I think it gives us an opportunity to keep work that we’re developing in North York. This is a growing community and more accessible space for artists means more accessible spaces for audiences. The more opportunities we have to support creating arts, means that people will have more options to attend the arts. It’s sort of a win for everyone.  

The Incubator will be held at the Toronto Centre for the Arts Studio Theatre. For more information visit: Learn more about Cinematoscape at


Interview by: Vimbai Chikoore

Event and Communications Assistant

Snapd Arts Feature: Berene Campbell

Snapd Arts Feature: Berene Campbell

As Toronto continues to heal after the terrible Yonge St. incident, we are seeing many initiatives and acts of support that are helping inspire and unite the community.

Recently, quilter Berene Campbell led an installation piece called the “Toronto Love Project.” Located in the North York Centre, The Toronto Love Project is comprised of 4″ by 22ft colourful banners with messages of love, made by quilters around the world.

In an interview with Berene, she talks about her decision to start the Toronto Love Project and reminds us of the incredible power of community collaboration.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your artwork.

I am South African, and have lived in Dubai, England, and in Canada for 25 years. I am a graphic designer and a quilter. I teach quilting, make quilts, design patterns and co-ordinate collaborative projects within the quilting community.

Your community projects have been so Impactful around the world. Can you tell me a bit about this and your decision to start the Toronto Love Project?

My first community project was small. I organized a quilt for a friend who had brain cancer. I invited his friends – big hockey guys – to embroider a message on fabric, which was made into a quilt. They’d never threaded a needle, but embraced the process. It was very moving.

In 2013 the Boston bombing occurred, and I felt upset. I decided to make peace and love flags. My local Vancouver quilt guild joined in my project called “To Boston with Love”. We posted it on social media, and within 6 weeks we had almost 2,000 flags from around the world. They were hung in the Museum of Fine Arts – it was amazing! I learned that doing something positive not only makes you feel better, but it makes those participating feel better too. Everyone seeing that energy feels better.

When the Toronto van attack happened, it was so shocking. I felt that this is my town, and I wanted to help the city heal. Again, I wanted to enable people to participate in doing something that would make them feel better. And for the community that receives the gift of the installation, when they walk into that space – they will be uplifted. It’ll be beautiful.

What is the significance behind the hearts in Toronto Love?

I didn’t know North York area, so my husband, Cosmo, and I came up here to look at spaces for the project. As we were walking, Cosmo noticed that just south of Mel Lastman Square there are little bronze hearts embedded into the sidewalk. The fact that they were scattered around where the tragedy occurred seemed so poignant that I just couldn’t ignore them. I designed some heart cards for messages from the community, which hang from the banners.

What role do you think art can play in the healing?

As a person who struggles with anxiety, I find that being creative is helpful, and collaborating with other people prevents you feeling isolated, and makes us part of a bigger picture. I could make all those banners myself and it wouldn’t be as powerful as it if they were made by a community. If you give people a plan to be a part of something good, they jump on board. Collaborative energy is a very powerful thing.

North York Arts would like to thank all who have contributed to this project in support of our community.

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Snapd Arts Feature: Akshata Naik

Snapd Arts Feature: Akshata Naik

North York Arts is excited to have two new summer staff members! They came to us through our internship program which we offer to students looking to enhance their career and gain school credit with practical experience.

Akshata is studying arts administration at Humber College, she will be working as the Event and Sponsorship Assistant. She looks forward to growing her insights through impactful arts and cultural works at North York Arts and gaining a complete understanding of various cultural sectoral needs in present day and in the future.

Tell me a bit about yourself and who you are as an artist

My name is Akashta and I am a newcomer to Canada; I came from India. I did my studies in visual arts and I did my major in painting.  Since my graduation, I have been working on art projects that engage communities through large art installations. I had my first solo exhibition in the UK in 2016 where I put around 1500 paper boats on display as a part of an art installation for newcomers, immigrants and refugees affected by crisis across the globe. I recently had a show as part of a project at the Coldstream Fine Arts gallery in Toronto. It was very similar to what I did in the UK two years back, with 700 paper red boats put across the gallery. That’s my artistic process and journey.

Where does your passion for the arts come from?

I remember as a child I was always drawn to creative activities. I loved painting and enjoyed drawing. Since then, I’ve been drawn towards the arts and this helped me decide to make it my career path. I think with respect to visual arts, my art practice is something where I like to involve the audience into the art and not just let the audience be a viewer from a distance. That is what drives me towards art.

Why did you decide to work in the Arts and Culture Sector

I think the arts and culture sector is one of the most sensitive sectors and, with today’s new technology and complications around the globe, the sector is needed and necessary! I think art is one thing that brings people together, that brings humanity together. The larger reason for being in art is to bring peace through art.

What excites you about interning at North York Arts?

I think it’s the space, the people, the projects, and the activities that they have lined up. I am interested in working with them and growing with them as a Local Arts Service Organization. I think there is a lot to learn about how an organization works at an administrative level and understanding their strategic plans.


Interview by: Vimbai Chikoore

Event and Communications Assistant

Snapd Arts Feature: Clyde Wagner, President & CEO, CTT

Snapd Arts Feature: Clyde Wagner, President & CEO, CTT

North York Arts and the Toronto Centre for the Arts have been working together for the last four years to bring art and community together in North York.

In 2015, Toronto’s City Council approved the consolidation of the governance and operations of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, and Toronto Centre for the Arts into one new organization under the direction of a City appointed board called Civic Theatres Toronto (CTT). CTT completed their amalgamation at the end of 2017.

2018 represents the launch year for the company including a new brand and a new program that covers all venues; North York Arts is looking forward to the changes this will bring for the North York community! That being said, I was excited to talk to Clyde Wagner, President/CEO of CTT.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your passion for Toronto’s arts and culture sector.

I have been fortunate to work internationally for many years but also to have the great joy of often returning home to Toronto. Having been the GM and Executive Producer for the Luminato Festival, I was able to partner with many arts institutions across the city and across all disciplines. This wide range of engagement reasserted my solid faith in the quality and vision of the artists of this city. As a cultural business leader it’s my role to not only support this sector locally but also to loudly promote Canadian and Toronto talent to the world.

What has been the most exciting part about the amalgamation of Toronto’s three civic theatres?

CTT can achieve much more as an amalgamated company through economies of scale including the opportunity to better leverage the talented staff that make up our team. By eliminating the inherent competition that existed between the buildings and activating a unified marketing, programming and operations strategy across all three venues and seven performance spaces, we are able to increase usage and revenue to balance the budget and engage the community in a more meaningful way. Together we can create two cultural hubs for the City of Toronto (Uptown and Downtown); both hold the potential to create a lasting positive impact on their neighborhoods and the city as a whole.

How do you envision CTT and NYA working together to support the local creative community?

The challenge to any company like CTT is how to both connect to a professional community of artists drawing audiences for world class talent but also to provide inspiration and opportunity for emerging artists. Having NYA as a partner to assist in making this connection is vital to our success. They are an essential part of the ecosystem as the catalyst for this dialogue and also as a check for CTT to make sure we always keep rooted in our local communities, not just for our audiences. It’s especially helpful that they have their offices in our building and we happen to be good friends and share the same beliefs!

What can North York expect from CTT in the next year?

The aim is to spotlight artistic activity from the north GTA, including areas such as Woodbridge, Brampton, Downsview, Jane and Finch, Willowdale, Thornhill, Agincourt, etc. to the TCA through continuing partnerships with arts groups. It’s wrong to assume that creativity only happens downtown. We know people are inspired by the communities in which they live, and we need to be a space for those forces and a promoter for that talent.

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator


Dear North York Community Members:
North York Arts’ Board and Staff are truly saddened by the tragedy that occurred yesterday. We send our deepest condolences to the families of the victims, and our thoughts to those who are injured. Our hearts are heavy as we are grieving with our community.
North York is an incredibly vibrant neighbourhood that we are lucky to call home. Over the next few weeks, we will work with our city leaders, partners and artists to support the community in the grief and healing journey.
We thank the Toronto Police, Fire, EMS and our community members who bravely helped and supported those affected by this senseless act of violence.
From all of us at North York Arts
Snapd Arts Feature: Kristopher Dell

Snapd Arts Feature: Kristopher Dell

Last Month at North York Arts, we celebrated our first anniversary of becoming a charity. The year was significant to say the least; it was full of growth in our programs, partnerships, and within the organization. We’re proud and eager to share these milestones with the North York community!

In light of this anniversary and our first annual general meeting taking place this month, I sat down with our board Chair, Kristopher Dell. Kris talked about his career in the arts, his love for North York, and the exciting plans ahead for North York Arts.

Tell me a bit about yourself and what led you to a career in arts and culture.
I am presently the Director of Production for Civic Theatres Toronto in addition to my volunteer role as the chair of the board for North York Arts. I have been working professionally for 25 years and doing shows is literally all I’ve ever wanted to do.  I guess I got the bug while I was in high school; acting in the drama club and things like that. When I got to University (I went to York University for Theatre), they encouraged us to learn a little bit of everything. This meant that I got to do production, and I never looked back.  I studied set design, I studied lighting design, I studied sound design, and I was working before I even finished school.

What drew you to get involved with North York Arts?
I spent a lot of my career working with community groups and not-for-profit arts organizations. I grew to feel very strongly that it was important that people have access to professional arts services – which is exactly what North York Arts is.

What inspires you most about the North York arts and culture community?
It’s diversity; it’s almost infinitely diverse. That gets me really excited because it means that there’s so many possibilities and so many different kinds of shows. I personally like being exposed to new and different kinds of things, and I like the idea that those things could actually cross-pollinate. So, you might see someone singing in farsi, to a hip hop beat, while there is someone doing a painting on stage inspired by that. That’s fascinating for me.

What kind of growth do you see for North York Arts in the next year?
I think North York Arts has a real opportunity in the next year to expand its development programming which is really providing the mentorship and professional level services specifically to youth and also to newcomers. I think that’s really exciting. One of the ideas we’ve talked about is establishing a more permanent presence outside its home office. We want to establish satellite locations through building relationships with local libraries and things like that, and that is also really exciting.


Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Snapd Arts Feature: Azadeh Pirazimian

Snapd Arts Feature: Azadeh Pirazimian

Every year, North York Arts partners with emerging and established artists to put on art exhibitions for the North York community. The first exhibition of 2018 is titled “They are Around” by multidisciplinary artist, Azadeh Pirazimian.

Azadeh, who has a B.A. in Painting and an M.A. in Visual Communication, was born in Iran and has been in Canada for almost three years. Her collection “They are Around” explores how she began to develop her artistic voice in Canada. I had the chance to talk with Azadeh and learn a little more about her exhibition and her inspiring story.

Tell me a bit about yourself and where your love for art comes from.

I’m Azadeh Pirazimian and two and half years ago I immigrated to Canada. I remember that as a child I was really interested in art. It was mostly visual art – I was really interested in painting and my teachers were always interested in my artwork. When I finished high school, I went to university and I studied painting. Little by little, I got more interested in visual art. I also did drama; I was working as an actress in a theatre.  So I did both visual art and theatre at the same time. I don’t know where [my love for art] comes from. Maybe it comes from the nature of where I was living at the time; I’m from north of Iran so I was surrounded by beautiful nature. Maybe it comes from that, I don’t know.  All I know is that if I wasn’t an artist, I would be absolutely confused and I don’t know what I would do!

To date, what has your experience as in artist in Toronto been like?

I guess in Toronto I was “born again” as an artist. When I was in Iran, I was mostly teaching art and doing theatre on the side. I wasn’t very experienced in presenting my work. But when I came here, I could see that there was space for me to show my art, even in North York. I started my first workshops here in North York with newcomers. With places like North York Arts, Toronto Arts Foundation, and other organizations in Toronto, I found that I could present my work and even sell my work. Within two years, I sold several of my artworks. That wasn’t really something I could do in Iran. So here in Toronto, I have had new experiences that have really helped me establish myself as an artist and introduce myself as an artist. For me, that was amazing and I’m really happy.

Can you describe your upcoming exhibition and where you found inspiration?

As I said before, it’s only been a short time since I’ve been in Canada. When I arrived here, I was alone. I didn’t really have any friends or family so I was at home for a whole six months. I was confused. I couldn’t really speak English, just some daily phrases. At first, I was afraid to communicate because I didn’t know the culture.

One day, I was at home and I was looking outside the window during the summer and the nature was so beautiful; I remember the wind between the leaves. I was inside and I was feeling a little depressed because I am usually a sociable person and so I thought, “Ok – You can’t communicate with people but you have your art. You are an artist. You studied this…” I didn’t have many art supplies but I said, “I have my notebook, I have my pen, so just get out of here and even if you can’t communicate with people, you can communicate with nature.”

So I went outside to the nearest park from my building and I started to sketch and connect with the nature, trees, and animals all around me. And then the project just happened. Now I have a collection of black and white drawings that are all about my first days in Canada where I didn’t have people to communicate with, so nature helped me.

Then, people came and they talked. The first window helped me to open another window to talk to people – that was the motivation for this series of drawings that I did for over a year. It was healing for me at that time. It took shape and now it’s a collection that I can present.

What do you hope people take away from this exhibition?

I hope that people who are like me, even if they are not newcomers (I know that there are some people who have lived in this country for a long time but still feel alone), know that they can do the same. They don’t have to wait for something really big to happen. They can start with something small to get out of their loneliness. Even if it’s with a butterfly, or the leaves- if they just get out and communicate, they will see that big things will happen. I believe that big things always start from small steps. If they find inspiration inside, they should work on it and see that something really amazing can happen.

You can see Azadeh’s exhibition “They are Around” from March 15-23, 2018 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts (5040 Yonge St.) in the Lower Gallery. Opening Reception will be held on March 15 from 6-8 pm. For daily gallery hours, please visit For more information on Azadeh and her work and career, visit


Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Snapd Arts Feature: Nina Blanc

Snapd Arts Feature: Nina Blanc

North York Arts has been working with Ephraim’s Place, a community centre located at Jane and Sheppard, for the past three years to create and establish arts programming for the youth in the area. One program in particular that has seen much success is the dance program where professional dancers are hired to teach the participants. Since the start of the program, the youth involved have created a dance squad called “JNS Finest” and have competed twice at STOMP urban dance competition in Toronto.  

This year, Nina Blanc, who is a professional music and dance artist, is teaching JNS Finest. I had the chance to chat with Nina last month to learn a little bit more about her and her love for the arts.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your passion for music and dance.

My name is Nina and I was born in Nigeria and I came to Canada with my family when I was eight. Of course, I grew up with Nigerian culture – you know, the music, the food, the fashion – but I also experienced Canadian culture. It was a beautiful childhood having Canadian culture and West African culture blending.

Being born in a different place and growing up in Canada influences my art. I started dancing around high school (nothing formal) and then went to university. It was in university where, although we had limited resources, people who otherwise had nothing in common shared a passion for dance and came together. We were all so determined and motivated.

After university, I went to Calgary and that’s where I really fell in love with music. I played piano all my life but I never really considered myself a musician. I didn’t find as many dance opportunities in Calgary as I did in Toronto, and the isolation from my home and everyone I was used to being around pushed me to explore another outlet for my emotions and expression. So, I really think that going through these different phases in my life pushed me to art and music.

How would you describe the dance community in Toronto?

Funny enough people I meet nowadays assume I grew up in the studio training in formal styles like ballet, jazz, etc.  They don’t necessarily realize that Toronto is such a beautifully rich city for dance and, if you have the passion, you can come out with the same skills. The Toronto dance community is so diverse and has so much uniqueness. There are so many choreographers with their own styles – I stick to that and I appreciate that. There are also so many drop-in studios for adults where you can meet amazing people.

How do you think youth can benefit from dance and creative expression?

I think tremendously. It’s an outlet – especially for youth, which is such a vulnerable time. Dance and art can be something that keeps you grounded and motivated, or maybe it’s just a place to find connection. Life is so confusing and you have so much emotion, and when you are a part of something you can create a passion. I work as a registered nurse and now that I understand things better, I wish I was pushed to do more dance and music when I was a young.

What excites you the most about working with the JNS Finest?

It’s so funny – just hearing about the group I got so excited because I was told they are very spunky. You know, I can teach a bunch of steps but they have to bring that energy. I’m here to teach the skeleton, backbone, and structure, but I’m really excited for the attitude, the spunk, and the personality!

Nina has been working with JNS Finest since January and will continue until their STOMP performance in May. She is a dance and music artist specializing in Urban Alternative, AfroFunk, Soul, RnB, and Hip Hop. For more information on Nina and her work visit:, @whoisninablanc, and

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Snapd Arts Feature: Lila Karim

Snapd Arts Feature: Lila Karim

It goes without saying that North York has an amazing arts and culture scene. As the Development and Communications Coordinator at North York Arts, I am lucky to work with this creative community and, with the start of the new year, I am excited and curious about the possibility of growth in the sector.

With this in mind, I decided to sit down with my boss and Executive Director of North York Arts, Lila Karim, to understand her drive to progress the arts sector in North York, and to hear her personal and professional aspirations for the community in 2018.

Where does your passion for the arts come from?

It’s been inherent since childhood. Creativity has always been a part of my world in terms of studying photography in high school, being in drama groups, and getting involved with multidisciplinary arts programing. Over the years, I’ve built connections with the arts community, and I’ve realized that art is really about story telling. Whether it’s through dance, film, visual art, or any discipline, I’ve developed a passion for giving artists the platform to share their stories.

What is your connection to North York?

I grew up in Thornhill and I spent a lot of time in North York attending events at Mel Lastman Square and at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Now working in the region, I’ve developed a greater understanding of the vibrancy of the arts outside the downtown core.

How would you describe North York’s arts and culture landscape?

North York has an incredibly diverse arts and culture community. With close to 1 million residents, there are countless artists, arts groups, and initiatives produced by people of all different ages, cultural backgrounds and, life experiences (not to mention, the amazing artistic diversity in the region). I get excited about the possibility of showcasing these perspectives and art forms.

What are your aspirations for North York’s arts and culture sector in 2018?

Within the last six years, I have seen so much artistic growth in North York and I would like to see even greater engagement. This year at North York Arts, we want to ensure that we continue building artistic connections in every ward in the region, and that we are providing accessible and inclusive programing for the entire community to engage with and enjoy. I think it’s going to be a great year!

Lila is the founding Executive Director of North York Arts. She has over an 18-year career in the cultural sector and has worked for several non-profit arts organizations including the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, ReelWorld Film Festival and The Harold Greenberg Fund. 

Interview by: Rachel Birnberg

Development and Communications Coordinator

Snapd Arts Feature: Sashoya Shoya Oya

Snapd Arts Feature: Sashoya Shoya Oya

In this time we now live, Sashoya Shoya Oya, is an artist who channels her voice through the medium of oral-storytelling within the realm of folklore traditions.

Growing up as a child in Dalvey, St. Thomas, Jamaica she was often surrounded by dances such as Quadrille, Maypole, Dinki Mini, the spiritual practice of Kumina, and many more alongside folk songs and the heart-filled anansi stories of Louise Bennett-Coverley. Looking back, she remembers the everyday stories and proverbs told to her by her grandmother, mother, aunts and people of her district. At the time, such things were common place, so the thought of story-telling being a major part of her future career was nonexistent.

Sashoya came to Canada in 2004, and in 2008, her last year of high school, she became a member of Nomanzland, a community theatre collective based in Jane and Finch. She was with Nomanzland for 6 years before she went to participate in the Artist Mentoring Youth Project (AMY) which then transitioned her to study theatre at York University.

While at York, her views of the theatre world expanded but she was still in search for the lense of learning where she could be all of who she is. In 2014, she came across an audition notice for The Watah Theatre, founded by d’bi young anitafrika and from then on she has been mentored under d’bi’s tutelage. She is currently the Associate Artistic Director of The Watah Theatre and her learning has been through the Anitafrika Method using the Sorplusi principles.

As she answered the questions each principle provided, she started uncovering her childhood memories and events which had been laying dormant inside of her. It was here that her love of oral-storytelling was revived. With it’s revival Sashoya looked around and realized that the folklore she grew up with was not as alive as it once was. When she thinks about Sankofa, she thinks about the youths of Caribbean descent here in Canada who do not have immediate access to such artistic and cultural history. This thought led her to create The Walking Griot, a storytelling guild with the goal of teaching and passing on this knowledge through workshops and programs using various artistic mediums.

In Spring 2017, the guild was launched with a 8-week Folklore Theatre Program funded by ArtReach & Toronto Arts Council and she’s currently developing a few other programs and workshops. Her plays and poetry have been published in Black Solo I & 2 and From The Root Zine. She was nominated as an Emerging Artist finalists for the 2017 Premier’s Excellence in the Arts Award and recently performed in Barbados at Carifesta XIII as a representative of the Canadian-Caribbean Contingent and appeared in the award-winning play LUKUMI by d’bi young anitafrika. She’ll be presenting a workshop of her play Black MOon in June 2018 and coming soon she’ll be launching 30 Days of Storytelling, a project by The Walking Griot which will feature 1-story a day for 30 straight days.

In November, Sashoya was one of six facilitators at Next Stages – a six-part theatre-focused ESL program for youth. This initiative was funded by Art Reach and TAC; presented in partnership with North York Arts; and supported by Cono Ser, Teach 2 Learn, and Casa Maiz.

Written by: Sashoya Shoya Oya

Social Media: @sashoyasimpson

Snapd Artist Feature: Sharona Bookbinder

Snapd Artist Feature: Sharona Bookbinder

Sharona Bookbinder, B.Sc., DTATI, MBA, OATR, RCAT, RP

Sharona is the founder and CEO of InnerArt Inc. Sharona practices as a Registered Psychotherapist & Registered Art Therapist and is recognized as a clinical art therapy supervisor. She is a presenter, author, educator, innovator and leader in healthcare and small business. Practicing for 24 years, she has specialized in geriatric, palliation, cancer care, stroke care, cognitively impaired (dementia and otherwise), developmental delays, and Autistic populations. Recognizing the need for a holistic mind-body approach in the healthcare sector, and having a finite amount of time, Sharona decided to promote Art Therapy through a company that provides the services of qualified & professionally insured art therapists. Public and private organizations continue to employ these professional services. Sharona is always seeking better ways to promote knowledge and education to inform all of the benefits of Art Therapy. With her recent completion of an MBA, Sharona will be focused on growing InnerArt Inc. in a sustainable manner with close attention to quality services. Sharona is the Treasurer of the Canadian Art Therapy Association and is working on her Doctorate of Art Therapy, with the goal of helping to improve client access to art therapy services.

Within the doctorate program, Sharona is able to explore her own creativity and pursue her love of art.  The program is designed to use art as research, so students engage in art-making to inform their theories, concepts and ideas.  Some of the art she made this summer is included.  They represent the incubation of fragile ideas that will come to fruition over time. Images of trees, nests and eggs are the symbols of knowledge, nurturing and fragility of new ideas. Sharona’s favourite art media are textiles, Gelly Roll pens on black card stock, felting and hand-built pottery. She enjoys using her hands to create new and enriching images and objects that express her thoughts and feelings.

Last month, Sharona was a facilitator at North York Arts’ four-part professional workshop series Beyond Access Beyond the Creative (Oct 20 – Nov 28). Titled “Arts & Wellness”,  Sharona and other facilitators led participants in the role and impact of the arts in healthcare. Arts & Wellness was presented in partnership with Sunnybrook Hospital Creative Arts Therapies program (Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre).


Snapd Artist Feature: The Real Sun

Snapd Artist Feature: The Real Sun

I am an Artist of Purpose. I am an Artist Educator. I weave words, sounds, and movement through my body and consciousness to create new possibilities, to bring light to the world, and to be a living example of standing in truth. My True Inner Purpose is to serve humanity through the arts and education.

Authenticity is my foundation, my offering. It is what I seek to bring out in all those who I have the privilege of sharing time and space with, and through my work.

I create art through poetry, music, and dance. I use these artforms to teach and facilitate deep processes of self-actualization. I ask the students under my guidance to reveal themselves. I ask them to dig deep into their understanding of who they are, why they’re here, to explore their connection and contribution to the world, and to examine the current state of their well being.

In 2005, I embraced my career as a Professional Artist and Artist Educator. Since then I have had the pleasure of co-creating many inspiring and award-winning community arts organizations in Toronto. I have performed/taught on 5 continents, from main-stage audiences of thousands to intimate gatherings of just a few, from under-resourced community centres to prestigious universities and schools. I have sat on grant review committees, and provided keynote addresses at many conferences and events geared towards the arts, transformative education, and social justice.

No matter the setting or context, I have always offered my work as a means for raising consciousness and invoking the evolution of humanity towards positive change.

My latest project is no exception.

I have embarked on a mission to support Artists in serving humanity to their fullest potential and to the highest degree. I am meeting this purpose by offering two streams of Professional Development Training for Artists in the areas of:

Creative Entrepreneurship

Branding & Marketing in alignment with True Inner Purpose – a social justice based approach to business for artists.

Artist Educator Training

Skills in facilitation, curriculum design, lesson planning, grant writing, project management, and community/school/institutional partnership strategies for artist educators.

ANNOUNCEMENT: I am so pleased to offer Free and Open Access to my training programs in Creative Entrepreneurship this October, with No Cost of Enrollment for All Artists.

My work is about embodying your own authenticity. Stepping into the fullness of who you are, finding yourself, and owning your power. This work is not just my own, but in truth is created for all of us, to support us in our collective growth. I am open and ready to give and receive. I am here, I am here, I am here.


Instagram: @suntherealsun to register for the Free Training Online. Email for free access to in-person workshops.

Snapd Artist Feature: Patrick Walters

Snapd Artist Feature: Patrick Walters

Patrick Walters was born in 1993 at East York General hospital to Joanne and Lloyd Walters . Shortly after his second birthday, he and his family moved back to St. Kitts where his parents still live today. He came back to Toronto at 19 years old, having done a full schooling up to college in St. Kitts and attaining an Associate humanities degree. He started York University in 2012 and graduated with a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Psychology in Fall 2015. During that time, he also began his poetry and arts education career with his focus being on bringing light to social issues and mentoring youth in self expression and identity.

Through this, he has  had the opportunity to perform on many important stages and share his story to a larger audience. In 2015, he spoke to a university class in York about the importance of dreaming and following what is important to you. He also travelled to Montreal, Quebec in October 2015 to speak and perform at the International Association for Youth Mental Health Symposium (IAYMH). There, he was able to share his story and his experiences with mental health and psychology and the importance of self identity for young people living with mental health illnesses. In 2016, he performed at TEDxUTSC with his poetry collective “TheUncharted” with a series of poems that asked the audience to “Dare To Know” themselves better in their communities.

Much of his work as a spoken word artist is personal and looks deeply into his experiences growing up in the Caribbean and how being biracial has defined a large part of who he is as an individual. He speaks on societal issues and shares scenes from his childhood that give you a window to his soul. He explores the intersectionality between race and culture and shares the stories of his life that have come to define him. He uses poetry as an outlet of expression for his issues with society and with self. Through the honesty and vulnerability of poetry, he has been able to find himself and actively take charge in defining the person he is today.

My City My Six North York Exhibition

My City My Six North York Exhibition

For the past eight months, Torontonians have been sharing their six word stories through the My City My Six participatory public art project. Led by Toronto Arts and Culture, the initiative aimed to reveal Toronto and its residents in celebration of Canada’s 150th. Now, as the initiative is coming to a close, North York Arts is thrilled to present the incredible stories from the North York community in an public art exhibition.

Taking place at the Toronto Centre for Arts’ lower gallery this month, the My City My Six North York exhibition will be a culmination of stories from a range of residents. Not only have stories been submitted online, but they have also been gathered through workshops and events.

One workshop in particular was a 4-week multimedia and spoken word program for youth at the Downsview Hub. Throughout the workshop, students had the opportunity to explore what the city means to them through various artistic platforms including a Drum Circle led by Adele Passmore a Pop up exhibition by Dreamation, and Spoken Word performances by Sociphoria.

Another successful event was the collaborative photography exhibition “Finding Home,” which sought to explore the different ways through which the concept of home is formed. Professional photographer Maha Munaf lead and curated the exhibition, asking participants to share their six word stories.

Beyond the North York exhibition, Torontonians can enjoy the initiative throughout the city. A jury, including Toronto’s Poet Laureate Anne Michaels, will select stories to appear in the city-wide exhibition taking place September 27 at City Hall. Other spaces will include transit shelters, transit interiors, billboards, and spaces provided by the city’s other Local Arts Service Organizations.

The My City My Six has been a true celebration of individuals and community alike. We can’t wait to share the amazing people and stories from North York!

For more information and details about the My City My Six city-wide exhibition visit:

Snapd Artist Featre: Ahuri Theatre

Snapd Artist Featre: Ahuri Theatre

Ahuri Theatre is an award winning international collective of artists that strive to bring together that which is usually separated, and to discover the likeness between things which are thought unlike. Led by Haruna Kondo in Japan and Dan Watson in Canada, the collective creates live performances that have the capacity to include everyone in the room regardless of language, culture and ability. The collective has collaborated with hundreds of artists and organizations around the world, and has garnered 17 Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations, winning 3 awards, most recently winning Outstanding Production and Ensemble for their newest creation This is the Point.

Dan Watson
Dan is an award winning artist who has created and performed theatre across Canada, Europe and Japan. He is a co-founder of Ahuri Theatre, Artistic Producer of Edge of the Woods Theatre in Huntsville (Nuit Blanche North), and was a member of Compagnie Houppz! (SplasH20, Mouving-Winner- Eloize Prize, Outstanding Production). Dan has worked with Jumblies Theatre, Theatre Smith Gilmour, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, FixtPoint, Bad New Days, Why Not Theatre and is currently artist in Residence at the Theatre Centre. He also is Producer of live events and is happy to be producing both Cultura Festival and Sunday Serenades in North York this summer.

Haruna Kondo
Haruna has been acting in theatre since she was twelve years old. In 1997 she began studying psychology at St-Paul’s university, Tokyo. She holds a degree in psychology from St. Paul’s University in Tokyo and a master’s degree in performance from Royal Holloway, University of London. She also is a graduate of l’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris. Since returning to Japan, she has worked with the Setagaya Public Theatre and the National Theatre of London. She has studied Noh theatre under Noh Actor, Reijirou Tsumura, taken workshops in Nihon Buyo and singing as well as giving workshops in physical theatre in Tokyo, Montreal and Toronto. In October 2006, she adapted Peer Gynt for the 100th anniversary of Henrik Ibsen’s death, and co-created and performed in Yabu No Naka: Distruthted in 2007. Currently she is working as a  collaborative actor at the Yokohama Boat theatre, training in Noh theatre under Kanze Tetsunojo and Karate. She gives workshops for actors at Yokohama Boat  theatre, as well as leading theatre projects with teenagers with psychological & physical difficulties.

New Canadian Global Music Orchestra to perform at Cultura Festival

An exciting opportunity to celebrate Canada 150 is coming to North York this month –  a performance by The New Canadian Global Music Orchestra. This incredible band is set to perform at the 8th annual Cultura Festival on July 14th at 8pm at Mel Lastman Square.

Created by the Royal Conservatory of Music, The New Canadian Global Music Orchestra explores and celebrates the cultural diversity and pluralism of Canada. The ensemble consists of 12 New Canadians who, since forming the band, have been able to share each other’s cultures while creating a novel sound for Canada’s 150th.

Now on an Ontario tour, the orchestra is making a stop at North York’s Cultura Festival. Cultura is a free family-friendly outdoor festival happening Friday July 7, 14, 21 & 28 from 6pm – 11pm. Co-presented with Councillor John Filion and North York Arts, the festival is showcasing Music, Buskers, Dance, Food and Film.

In addition to The New Canadian Global Music Orchestra, Cultura’s Mainstage performances will consist of Korean musical group Coreyah (July 7), Juno award winner Okavango African Orchestra (July 21) and multi-award winning Fiddler Donnell Leahy (July 28). Featured films will follow the music including Hidden Figures, Arrival, La La Land and Moana. Visitors can also enjoy tasty international street food, explosive buskers and dance, and interactive art activities from 6-8pm.

With the many opportunities to celebrate Canada’s birthday around the city, The New Canadian Global Music Orchestra at Cultura Festival is one you won’t want to miss!

The New Canadian Global Music Orchestra was conceived by Mervon Mehta, the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Executive Director of Performing Arts, and is led by Artistic Director David Buchbinder.

To learn more about The New Canadian Global Music Orchestra visit:

For program details at Cultura Festival visit:



Snapd Artist Feature: Benjamin Hackman

Snapd Artist Feature: Benjamin Hackman

Benjamin Hackman is a poet, composer, and percussionist living on Toronto Island. His poetry has appeared in periodicals across the country including Canadian Literature, Carte Blanche, and The Literary Review of Canada.

Creatively, what interests him most is the intersection between words and music, and the ways in which songs serve as emotional containers for lyrical content. This preoccupation is intimately explored within his multi-genred ensemble, The Holy Gasp. Their first record, The Last Generation of Love, was released in 2015 by Arachnidiscs Recordings, and funded by the Toronto Arts Council. It was regarded as “a future cult-classic debut” by The Toronto Star; as “undoubtedly one of the best Canadian albums of the year” by Grayowl Point; and as “one of the best albums to come out of Toronto in 2015” by Toronto Music Reviews.

Presently, Benjamin is Composer-in-Residence at the Church of St. Andrew by-the-lake, where he has just finished work on an original film score to the 1925 silent comedy, The Freshman, which was performed live by The Holy Gasp at the Christie Pits Film Festival on June 25th, and is scheduled for an encore performance at Parkway Forest Park on August 26th. A new record by The Holy Gasp is scheduled for release in late autumn.

Headshot photo by Karol Orzechowski

Performance shot photo by Roy Cohen

Finding Home featured on CBC Our Toronto

Finding Home featured on CBC Our Toronto

As Canada’s 150th anniversary approaches, we reflect on how we have made this country our home. In a place with such diversity, every Canadian brings a unique perspective on what home means to them.

The collaborative photography exhibition “Finding Home,” presented last month at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, sought to explore the different ways through which the concept of home is formed. Through several public workshops, “home” became a term that shifted depending on the person who was defining it at that moment.

The exhibition was lead and curated by professional photographer Maha Munaf and was presented by The Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival (the largest photography event in the world). This year, the festival aimed to focus on Canada while exploring diverse subjects, motivated by artistic innovation and critical discourse locally, nationally and internationally.

As part of the exhibition, the group took part in the city-wide initiative called My City My Six. This participatory public art project asks Torontonians of all ages and backgrounds to share something essential about themselves in six words. Funded by the City of Toronto, My City My Six will culminate in a public exhibition in the fall of 2017 to Celebrate Canada’s 150th.

Through it all, “Finding Home” showcased the amazing outcome of collaboration between organizations, initiatives, and individuals, and reminded us of the incredibly unique stories each one of us has to offer.  

Snapd Artist Feature: Kelly Gammie and Queenie Seguban

Snapd Artist Feature: Kelly Gammie and Queenie Seguban

School Of Groove

Created by professional dancers Kelly Gammie and Queenie Seguban is School of Groove – a dance training and mentorship program dedicated to nurturing strong and confident young female dancers.

School of Groove acts as a bridge – connecting dancers to like minded peers, mentors and the larger dance community. Their mission lies in giving emerging talent a holistic approach to the learning experience and the tools they need in order to refine their practice and find success on their personal dance journey.

Kelly Gammie

Kelly Gammie is a seasoned performer, passionate instructor and a lover of the choreographic process. She currently performs with and co-choreographs for the all-female, hip hop crew DEUCEnDIP (most notably featured on five episodes of Much Music’s NML Dance Battlez) and with Toronto based dance group ABS Crew. She is also the founder of the Invictus Dance Project, a collective that brings together dancers of various backgrounds to create unique contemporary performances.

Dance has been central to her personal development and evolving self. Such lessons greatly inform her creative process and are embodied in her teaching philosophies. She aims to inspire her students to perform and create with confidence in one’s artistic voice. She currently teaches in Toronto (Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, Bayview School of Ballet) and has had the honour of guest teaching and choreographing for dancers in various parts of the country. Additionally, she has worked with social outreach, arts-based programs such as Just Bgraphic and Outside Looking In.

Queenie Seguban

As far back as she can remember,  Queenie Seguban was always singing and dancing when she heard good music. She was born in the Philippines but grew up in Canada since the age of 11.  Fortunately, music and dance are universal languages that transcend barriers. Since then, dance became a means of expression, escape and belonging. Dance had become such a huge part of her life that what was once only a ‘hobby’ had finally become her purpose and drive.

She aims to share what she has learned in her own dance journey to the next generation of young female dancers – to help them discover themselves through dance and to equip them with the necessary skills and mindset to become successful in their own dance journeys.

Snapd Artist Feature: Dana Prieto

Snapd Artist Feature: Dana Prieto


I am an Argentine artist and educator based in Toronto with a BFA in Drawing and Painting from OCAD University.

My work circles around the mundane through the creation of spaces, images and actions that propose uncanny participatory experiences. I meticulously research ordinary domestic materials such as food, litter and kitchen cloths in order to reflect on both intimate and social-political issues around migration, belonging, gender and power. Throughout my work, I employ techniques stemming from art installation, performance art, drawing and printmaking as well as historically female creative practices such as cooking, sewing and embroidering.

I have exhibited in venues including Sur Gallery, Walnut Contemporary, Trinity Square Video, Xpace Cultural Centre, Blank Canvas and Harbourfront Centre. Since my arrival to Canada I have avidly fostered creative collaborations to work in the intersections of my art and social practice. This path has led me to partner with inspiring organizations such as Sketch Working Arts, Neighbourhood Arts Network, North York Arts, Scarborough Arts, Blank Canvas, Pendulum Project, Younger Than Beyoncé, Feminist Art Gallery and the Indigenous Visual Culture Office at OCAD University. Furthermore, I have founded and coordinated several award-winning collaborative art projects working within diverse communities in Toronto, Halifax, Buenos Aires, Rawson, Quito and Belize.


A popular proverb commonly used in Spanish speaking countries states that “dirty cloths are washed at home”, or that “you can wash your dirty linen with…” a particular person or group of people. A similar but rather constricting motto is rendered in English as “you don’t air your dirty laundry.” Allegories about washing or airing our dirty cloths suggest the longing to share messy, unsuccessful, intimate and at times traumatic domestic stories.

Inspired by diverging interpretations of this popular saying, my work focuses on an exhaustive exploration of used cloths donated by more than 200 women of my family, friends, acquaintances and strangers. Both intimate and universal, rags are used across classes and cultures, becoming unique palimpsests that are embedded with substantial stories from our lives. The donated cloths are then delicately assembled and incorporated to my work in the creation of a large-scale immersive textile installation that the audience in invited to enter.

The work’s mundane, worn and pungent elements complicate romantic representations of the female identity creating an experience that is at the same time welcoming, mesmerizing and abject. Commonplace re-frames and reenacts the ordinary cloths into affective materials, actions, and spaces that embody female narratives of alliances and disconnections with cleaning and sustenance. Overall, this piece expands on my research around residues and femininity, urging us to reflect on the leftover pieces of unclean stories that rightfully shape us.

Bringing Communities Together with Nowruz

Bringing Communities Together with Nowruz

Kicking off the springtime holiday season was Nowruz, the New Year celebrated in at least 19 countries and a holiday that is widely observed throughout Toronto. To celebrate, Airsa Art & Thought Association, a young North York-based arts organization, brought a diverse group of artists and patrons together reiterating the importance of sharing and celebrating our cultures with the community.

The event, which took place this past March at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, was a multicultural art exhibition called Nowruzgan. The exhibition featured the incredible work of 13 local newcomer artists, both visual and performance-based, each bringing their own interpretations of spring, renewal, and rebirth. Patrons were enthralled by the variety of works and left with plenty of new insights about Nowruz. After a week-long showcase, Nowruzgan successfully shared this important holiday with over 100 individuals.

“I curated this exhibition to bring communities together,” Said Aitak Sorahitalab, Artistic Director and Project Manager of Arisa Art & Thought Association. “Art has the power to create social dialogues and helps nurture relationships between diverse groups of society. Nowruzgan allowed attendees to envision a world in which we deserve to live – one with no war, no conflict, more acceptance and more appreciation.”

Airsa Art & Thought Association has grown immensely since its inception just two short years ago. With each new program, the organization continues to reach its goal of familiarizing people with the arts and supporting newcomers and newcomer artists. Through partnerships, cultural events, training opportunities, and community art initiatives, we can’t wait to see what else Airsa Art has in store!

Nowruzgan was run in partnership with Local Arts Service Organization, North York Arts, community arts organization Art Starts, and was supported by a Toronto Arts Council Platform A grant.

For more information about the Airsa Art & Thought Association visit

Photo taken by Pavel K.

Snapd Artist Feature: Paola Gomez

Snapd Artist Feature: Paola Gomez

Biographical Statement:

Paola Gomez is a trained human rights lawyer, community organizer, public speaker, artist facilitator, writer and dreamer. A member of PEN Canada’s Writers in Exile and an advocate, Paola is involved in causes such as ending violence against women and forced migration. Her works integrate arts, community engagement and anti-oppressive frameworks. 

Paola is the co-founder and director of Sick Muse Art Projects. In this role, she has developed an innovative way of integrating conversations about identity, inclusion and community engagement into community art programs. 

Paola writes poetry, essays and short stories. As a community leader, researcher and emerging curator, she has contributed to the access and visibility of other Latin American artists in the Toronto arts scene. Paola is part of the TAC 2017 Cultural Leaders Lab and is a well known well known community arts facilitator who develops a variety of community art programs aiming to support newcomers, refugee kids and women where topics such as identity and inclusion are at the centre of the arts engagement. 

Artist Statement: 
I always had big dreams; I always looked at the world through my very particular lenses; I was different and felt like I never fit in. I always questioned why a child would need to live in a state of fear and anxiety. I wondered why being a girl was so hard. I asked myself why there was so much violence around me. I certainly never played with princess dolls or tried to be one. I was quiet, and most of the time, I was fearful or sad.

During my teen years and while reaching adulthood, I realized that it was time to speak up. I knew that my role was to be an instigator of change. I promised myself I was going to be a voice for those who did not have one, and if I could not fulfill that mission, at least I was going to make sure to have my own voice heard.  

Canada has taught me about generosity. It’s also taught me about the importance of being socially and civically responsible. As a member of this society, I have the obligation to check my own privileges and I have the responsibility of being an ally—an ally in amplifying the voices of those who have experienced violence and oppression.

By being declared a refugee, Canada has offered to protect my life and my family. I am forever thankful. I am aware of the privilege of protection that was given to me and that many of my brothers and sisters did not and will not have access to it.

I will continue to build community through art and I will always be a friendly neighbour willing to say “welcome” to newcomers.

We still need many more allies. We still need more people to believe that social justice is for all and that change is necessary. This is a process that is done one reader, one heart at a time. I hope you can join me…. in never being silent when witnessing injustice.

Stitching Our Stories

Stitching Our Stories

Legacy Collective, a North York-based senior engagement initiative, found inspiration in Arpilleras of Chile and other Latin American textiles, and the results were extraordinary. The artwork, showcased in March at The North York Community House, told the important personal stories 20 Latin American Women.

Partnered with North York Arts and Neighbourhood Arts Network, Legacy Collective celebrates creativity and wisdom through peer-to- peer learning, storytelling, and art-making. The members, which are made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds and languages, participate in activities that seek to break down barriers of social isolation and depression by using the arts as a tool to foster a network of community support.

Over the past several months, the participants worked alongside artists Paola Gomez and Dana Prieto to tell their stories and explore themes of identity using textiles. According to Gomez, “[We] were particularly interested in creating space for senior women to share their wisdom and to feel pride for their latinx identity as part of the diaspora living in Toronto”.

As an extension of the project, the collective is also participating in the city-wide initiative My City My Six. This participatory public art project asks Torontonians of all ages and backgrounds to share something essential about themselves in six words. Funded by The City of Toronto, My City My Six will culminate in a public exhibition in the fall of 2017 to Celebrate Canada’s 150th.

After such a successful program, we’re looking forward to more Legacy Collective initiatives. With the generosity of the Government of Ontario, members of the collective will continue to participate in workshops lead by emerging and newcomer artists across Toronto.

Photo credit to Alex Usquiano (

Snapd Artist Feature: Benjamin de Graaf

Snapd Artist Feature: Benjamin de Graaf


I have decided to create a world where everything is about music and people two things I love

Benjamin de Graaf has executed over a 300+ successful events ranging from weddings, corporate leadership series, fundraisers and community events through his DJ business. He is an aspiring DJ, husband, father, sports fanatic and creator of a music and leadership program that uses the arts to make learning fun for kids called The Love

Music Initiative – with a focus on DJing, drumming, dance and spoken word.


Music has always been an art form that I have grown to love and am very passionate about. Seeing how music touched people at events I produced is where my desire to DJ grew. Growing up I couldn’t even play a recorder but took DJ lessons and the rest is history. Within 8 years I have gone from practicing in my den nightly to my biggest show last December was 800 people!

“What’s my sound?
When I mix I am looking to create a night musically with bounce, musical surprises and leave people tapping their feet on the way out- every night is fresh I don’t use pre-set playlists. DJ’ing to me is like a painter with a fresh canvas. The songs I select are like my paintbrush and the canvas is the dance floor!”

My passion for music also led me to create an alternative education based and TDSB approved program called The Love Music Initiative. It’s a program that we use to empower kids, youth and adults by using urban music, hip hop/pop culture to make learning fun for kids. Our end game is to help kids have a greater sense of self identity, self regulation, self expression and self awareness. We use music as a tool to tackle common issues that youth face such as school disenfranchisement and help them to get better connected to self and awakening their mind to the possibilities that they have in their lives.

We perform workshops focused in small class settings and also big assemblies.

In interacting with youth we have found that music, sports and pop culture are things that grab their attention so by using these platforms it gives us an in to have deeper conversations with youth about issues of race, social injustice and everyday issues that youth face

Benjamin can be reached at for more info or workshop availability.

Snapd Artist Feature: Razak Pirani

Snapd Artist Feature: Razak Pirani


Razak Pirani is an emerging tabla player and artist in Toronto who has studied the North Indian classical percussion instrument under master Ritesh Das for the last eight years. In 2011, Razak joined the Toronto Tabla Ensemble as an apprentice and over the years has become one of the Ensemble’s principal performers. He is now responsible for directing Ensemble rehearsals before concerts and mentoring apprentices. Razak has taught the tabla for the last four years training over 40 students at beginner to intermediate levels and helping develop curricula and formal examinations for the Toronto Tabla Ensemble academy. Having completed his B.Sc. at the University of Toronto, Razak is now actively pursuing the arts as a tabla performer and teacher with the Ensemble and through other independent projects.

Over the next year, Razak will continue his leadership role with the Toronto Tabla Ensemble through their concerts, recordings, and educational activities. He will feature as a performer in the collaborative concert between the Ensemble and Japanese Taiko group Nagata Shachu on April 15 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts presented in partnership with North York Arts. He will also perform in the Ensemble’s collaboration with modern dance group, Kaeja d’Dance, and in their album release concert, both to be presented at the Harbourfront Centre in 2017. Razak will be involved not only as a musician, but in the composition and production of the Toronto Tabla Ensemble’s upcoming album, Bhumika, scheduled for release in 2017.

Razak has pursued projects as a tabla soloist, accompanist, and composer through collaborative works presented at venues including Harbourfront Centre and Aga Khan Museum. This year, Razak is working on a collaboration with Persian Traditional musicians Ostaad Javad Bathaie and Mr. Ehsan Ghaffari, masters of their respective instruments Santur and Tar. They are planning to present a full concert as a trio in spring 2017. This year Razak also collaborated with choral artist, Hussein Janmohamed, and his recently established Awaaz Ensemble, contributing to the composition of a choral piece incorporating elements of the North Indian rhythmic system.


Artist Statement

The tabla is an incredible instrument steeped in thousands of years of history and culture. By studying and performing the tabla, I have learned a lot about my heritage and about myself as a person. It is important to me that this tradition be passed on to the next generation of Canadians and I am honoured to be able to contribute to this process through my role with the Toronto Tabla Ensemble. I have been active in writing grants for the Ensemble’s concerts and recordings, helping with fundraising drives to support the Ensemble’s Centre, and developing youth workshops and retreats to foster artistic and community development.

Mao Correa opens Solitary Portraits Exhibition at the Toronto Centre for the Arts

Mao Correa opens Solitary Portraits Exhibition at the Toronto Centre for the Arts

Newcomer Toronto based artist Mao Correa’s unique exhibition will be on display at the Toronto Centre for the Arts from February 9th until February 25th.

Solitary Portraits exhibition’s opening reception and artist-led tour will be held on Thursday, February 9th from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Supported by North York Arts, Neighborhood Arts Network, and RBC Arts Access Fund, SOLITARY PORTRAITS is the result of a profound artist’s reflection on the immanence of the absence in his immigration process to Canada.
SOLITARY PORTRAITS, is the most extensive solo exhibition presented by Mao Correasince his arrival in Canada in 2013. The exhibition reflects MAO CORREA’s art-action of fusing artistic expression with environmental consciousness; done by creating unique pictorial pieces made exclusively from recycled and recovered materials.
For MAO CORREA, SOLITARY PORTRAITS “…is the expression of how absence, it is a vital feeling, and is inseparably attached to our being as immigrants … for me, this series reflects the existential displacement from the white to the black, from the presence of all colours to the nothingness of light, from the exuberance of the tropics to the timidity of the winter… SOLITARY PORTRAITS is definitely a confused cry between nostalgias and presents full of senses.”

For more images, more information, and RSVP for the opening reception, please contact:
Adriana Salazar 647-863-0408 /

Snapd Artist Feature: Sean Cisterna

Snapd Artist Feature: Sean Cisterna


Sean Cisterna is a feature film and television director. He directed and produced the 2011 road trip comedy Moon Point, which played the international festival circuit to great success, winning several awards. In 2013, the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival supported his feature documentary, 30 Ghosts, which is currently available via the National Film Board of Canada.

Sean’s 2015 project Full Out, starring Ana Golja and the iconic Jennifer Beals (Flashdance), is a feature based on the true story of gymnast Ariana Berlin. The film debuted at the top of the Canadian ratings when it debuted, aired on close to 200 US television stations leading into the Summer Olympics, and is now available worldwide on Netflix.

Sean’s latest feature film, Kiss and Cry, is a romantic drama based on the true story of Carley Allison, an up-and-coming figure skater and singer who finds love just as she is diagnosed with a rare 1 in 3.5 billion form of cancer. The film stars Sarah Fisher, Luke Bilyk, and celebrated singer Chantal Kreviazuk.

The film’s hometown premiere is at the Toronto Centre for Arts on Saturday, February 4th at 8:00pm.


We went to great lengths to make sure Kiss and Cry was as true to Carley Allison’s story as possible. We shot the movie at The Cricket Club where she trained, at Bayview Glen where she studied, at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre where she was treated, at the Air Canada Centre where she performed for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and at Carley’s actual home, including her bedroom. In fact, Carley is played by Sarah Fisher, her real-life best friend. It’s a truly meaningful production in every possible way.


Facebook @seancisterna

Twitter @seancisterna

Instagram @seancisterna

This Spot is Hot: Downsview Library Photo Project

This Spot is Hot: Downsview Library Photo Project

Last Month, North York Arts and Snapd North York continued with our community Snapd photo project initiative with youth from Downsview Library! As part of Cultural Hot Spot North York, youth learned the basics of photography in a one day workshop facilitated by professional photographer Brittany Carmichael. Brittany is a Canadian Born artist currently living in Toronto. She recently graduated from School of Visual Arts in New York City with an MFA in Photography, Video, and Related Media. Her work has taken her from the library to the boxing ring, across borders and into many communities around the world. Participants took photos of their community and hub spaces, showcasing their community through their eyes. They received hands-on training and feedback from Brittany throughout the day. Big thanks to Brittany Carmichael for all her help and of course to our three youth participants Alicia, Marco, and Brianna for all their amazing shots!

Snapd Artist Feature: Hussain Alismail

Snapd Artist Feature: Hussain Alismail

Artist Statement:

Correlative action between different groups of people in one community or group of communities is essential to establish identity and culture, which are being interchanged today.

The various nexus that tug at our social connections, which are made up of everyday events, ranging from social to economical to religious to political, etc., create a halo of doubts surrounding customs and traditions. Time governs the sequence of events and the production of culture, while it simultaneously ends their continuation through some conclusive or changeable event, which gives birth to a new matrix of events. The voice which once traveled short distances through various means and the use of carrier pigeons would arrive at its destination only to have been gradually diminished. However, today’s voice has turned up its volume to travel across continents and soar to the satellites in outer space. Contemporary languages are communicated through connection: by understanding one another, the expression: to classify our understanding, and action: which proves our existence.

We wake up every morning to pursue our daily routines which we or others have established. We dress up and have some coffee or any other beverage with breakfast. Some skip breakfast, hop in the car, listen to or read the news and dash off to work or idleness till the end of the day. Will a new invention or addition create a pattern in our lives or diminish in a limited amount of time before luck strikes and it becomes a pattern?! The fun lies in our future deeds.

Short Bio

Hussain Al Ismail is a Saudi artist who devoted himself to express his thoughts, societal issues through arts since 2007. He started from Theatre Club and fine art club in college and had a great opportunity to work as a cartoonist with the university media center. Later, he occupied different positions with private companies in the creative industry. His last occupation was the gallery manager in Desert Designs Gallery in Alkhobar before he moved to Canada in 2015 to study fine arts.

Learn more about Hussain Alismail at:

North York Arts Announces Incorporation and Inaugural Board of Directors

North York Arts Announces Incorporation and Inaugural Board of Directors

On Tuesday, September 13, 2016, North York Arts announced its incorporation and inaugural Board of Directors at the Toronto Arts Foundation Annual General Meeting. The organization celebrates its 5th anniversary of bringing art and community together in North York.

North York Arts was founded as an initiative of the Toronto Arts Foundation in 2011, as part of their vision for a Creative City: Block by Block. North York Arts is one of six Local Arts Service Organizations in the City of Toronto, with an aim to celebrate and foster arts programming outside of the downtown core.

“We are so grateful to the Toronto Arts Foundation for their leadership and support during our incubation phase,” said Lila Karim, Executive Director, North York Arts. “Being a part of the Toronto Arts Foundation allowed us to establish our organization from the ground up, foster new relationships with artists and arts organizations in North York and evolve as a champion and leader in the Toronto arts community.”

“NYA’s accomplishments in these five formative years are impressive: strong partnerships, signature events, engagement with a broad spectrum of artists in North York and now a fully committed Board of Directors. Congratulations! We couldn’t be more proud,” said Claire Hopkinson, Director and CEO, Toronto Arts Foundation. “Kudos to Councillor John Filion who inspired us to launch NYA and to the strong team who have flourished under the leadership of Lila Karim.”

Comprising the North York Arts Board of Directors are cultural, business and community leaders from across the city, with expertise in finance, governance, marketing, programming, and fundraising: Joe Borowiec, Fallon Butler, Kristopher Dell, Councillor John Filion, Yonni Fushman, Christine Harris, Jason Ho, Afarin Mansouri, David Oliver, Diana Panagiotopoulos, Francesca Perez, Kathleen Sloan and Nina Zaslavsky.

“North York Arts has great plans and initiatives for the next phase of growth as an organization. Joining us are new board members that share in our vision for the future of North York Arts, as a place where art and community connect outside the downtown core of Toronto,” said Christine Harris, Chair, Board of Directors. “We look forward to developing more partnerships and opportunities with all of our community stakeholders.”

Celebrating five years of bringing art and community together, North York Arts will showcase local talent in music, dance and film at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, as part of the public closing event of the City of Toronto’s Cultural Hotspot North.

North York Arts 5th Anniversary and Cultural Hotspot North Closing Event
Toronto Centre for the Arts
5040 Yonge Street
October 28th, 2016
4:00 pm – 8:00 pm

This Spot is Hot: Fairview Library Photo Project!

This Spot is Hot: Fairview Library Photo Project!

On August 20th, we continued our Snapd Photo project with youth from Fairview Library!

As part of Cultural Hotspot North York, youth learned the basics of photography in a one day workshop facilitated by a professional photographer Brittany Carmichael. Participants took photos of their community and hub spaces, showcasing their community through their eyes. They received hands-on training and feedback from Brittany throughout the day.

Brittany Carmichael is a Canadian born artist currently living in Toronto. She recently graduated from School of Visual Arts in New York City with an MFA in Photography, Video and Related Media. Her work has taken her from the library to the boxing ring, across borders and into many communities around the world.
Fairview is part of the Don Valley Village, a diverse neighbourhood that includes many new Canadian citizens of Armenian, Chinese, East Indian and Middle Eastern backgrounds. The Don Valley Village features an eastern view of the sprawling hill and dale that forms the nearby Don River Valley to the east.

Snapd Artist Feature: Jesus Mora

Snapd Artist Feature: Jesus Mora

Snapd Artist Feature: Guggenheim Fellow Jesus Mora brings Mayan Culture to North York

This September, Jesus Mora’s Cosmovision Maya will exhibit at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Supported by North York Arts, a Fellowship from The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and a grant from the Ontario Arts Council, Mora’s series of painting explore the teaches of Mayan cosmology he has learned from Martolo Alvarez, a K’iche’ elder of the community.

Using the ancient texts of the Pop Wuj, a series of paintings were created using Mayan iconography. Mora writes: “The subjects of my work have a life cycle of their own, within which are contained reality, fantasy, the microscopic world and the universe. This represents a constant conversation between ourselves and our surroundings not only in the material world but also in the subconscious one.” You can see paintings from Cosmovision Maya at the Toronto Centre for the Arts in the Lower Gallery from September 8th to the 28th.

Learn more about Jesus Mora at:

North York Arts to celebrate Willowdale’s Lee Lifeson Art Park

North York Arts to celebrate Willowdale’s Lee Lifeson Art Park

This October, North York Arts and Hotspot Signature Projects will celebrate the inaugural season of the Lee Lifeson Art Park in Willowdale – Toronto’s first park offering performing and visual arts to the public.

Nestled in the heart of North York (Ward 23), the park provides a beautifully landscaped green space providing full accessibility to an open air performance space, with ample room for programming of arts markets, as well as seasonal and temporary installations, with programming including festivals, bi-weekly events and workshops.

The Lee Lifeson Art Park is intended to encourage creative activities and give visitors and residents the opportunity to enjoy arts programming in a beautiful setting. It will be an active oasis that functions as part of a linear park as well as offering a location for site specific arts events and exhibitions.  Programming in the park will be offered at no charge to visitors.

Geddy Lee told the Toronto Star in August, 2014 that:

“I know my mom is very happy! … [Willowdale] is where I met my best friend and bandmate…We were humbly honoured by the suggestion to name the park after us…On tour and during our travels…we get to visit and enjoy so many parks around the world and really appreciate having that communal green space that is so important to a vibrant city.”

On October 1st, 2016, from 1-6pm, join North York Arts and Hotspot Signature Projects in celebration! Programming includes Toronto Recycling Arts Eco-Arts Exhibition, a Mayan Dance Workshop with Jesus Mora, a Youth Arts Showcase featuring Elite Dance Squad with Ephraim’s Place Community Centre, music from Arts Starts, and spoken Word with Patrick Walter.

“Nothing but Blue Sky: North York Arts and the Toronto Centre for the Arts”

“Nothing but Blue Sky: North York Arts and the Toronto Centre for the Arts”

North York Arts and the Toronto Centre for the Arts are a picture-perfect model of what a partnership can (and should) be. They mutually benefit each other, with North York Arts animating the fantastic, grandiose space of the Toronto Centre for the Arts, helping it establish itself the true epicenter of the North York community. In return, North York Arts is able to execute their planning from a dynamic, welcoming space that allows them to operate and flourish as a prominent, visible community organization. We sense nothing but blue skies ahead for this duo.

Emerging Artist Brings his Work to North York Festival

Emerging Artist Brings his Work to North York Festival

For the fifth year in a row, we at North York Arts were thrilled to be part of Cultura Festival, an incredible summer event that brings arts and culture to the North York community. Created by Councillor John Filion, Cultura presents music, film, dance, and food, free for all ages at Mel Lastman Square. Our organization was among the many groups that provided activations throughout the festival; each year we have presented a craft activity. This year, however, we decided to do something different – we showcased Pradeep Anurag Reddy, an emerging artist who creates incredibly detailed sculptures out of chalk.

Pradeep, a former intern at North York Arts and a recent graduate from the Centennial College Arts Management program, moved to Toronto from India a year and a half ago to pursue his art. Not only did we provide Pradeep a space for his first public showing, but the space gave him an opportunity to connect with members of the community; both children and adults were excited by his art and demonstration. “The kids inspired me with their interest in learning the skill (how to sculpt chalk),” said Pradeep, “Thank you North York Arts for this wonderful opportunity.”

As an arts service organization, we are always looking to provide services and programs to support local emerging and established artists. We are focused on growing our organization by connecting with artists and arts organizations to develop new programs for the community.


For more information on Pradeep’s artwork:

Instagram: @anurag_art


Newcomers Learn from Each Other Through the Arts

Newcomers Learn from Each Other Through the Arts

This August, Airsa Art & Thought Association invited newcomer artists to participate in My Art, My New Land, a series of improvisation workshops to help overcome challenges faced when arriving in a new city. Throughout the month, these workshops help to build communication skills in a series of dynamic situations. Newcomers learned skills in adaptiveness, network and effective communication, collaboration, marketing and promotion. Working with leading artists and established newcomer artists, each participant received a collection of handbooks and guides to learn more about art organizations across Toronto, and received personalized feedback and guidance on content, physical behavior and body language.

Located at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, this project is a part of the SPARK Cultural Hotspot program in partnership with the City of Toronto, Neighbourhood Arts Network, North York Arts, and North Toronto Local Immigration Partnership.

Airsa was founded in 2003 in Iran as an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) with a community of artists. In 2015, the organization was registered in Ontario as a non-profit organization. Airsa is an old Persian word, meaning Rainbow.


This Spot is Hot: Flemingdon Park Photo Project!

This Spot is Hot: Flemingdon Park Photo Project!

In July we continued our Snapd Photo project with youth from Flemingdon Park! As part of Cultural Hotspot North York, youth learned the basics of photography in a one day workshop facilitated by a professional photographer Maha Munaf. Participants took photos of their community and hub spaces, showcasing their community through their eyes. They received hands-on training and feedback from Maha throughout the day.

Experimenting with her camera, Maha always saw the world differently through her lens. Maha has taken her camera with her as she travelled the globe and captured images from colorful India all the way to the Everest Heights.

Flemingdon Park is a multicultural community bordered by Eglinton Avenue East and the Don River. The community derives its name from its original owner, Robert John Fleming, the mayor of Toronto from 1892–1893 and 1896–1897. The neighbourhood is home to a vibrant community of newcomers. Flemingdon Park is home to some of the city’s best attractions, such as the Ontario Science Centre and the Aga Khan Museum.

North York Arts Presenting Sunday Serenades 2016

North York Arts Presenting Sunday Serenades 2016

Sunday Serenades is back for another year with incredible bands! This free outdoor concert series will feature some of Ontario’s best live swing, big band, and jazz acts.

Taking place every Sunday between July 3 and August 14 from 7:30pm – 9:00pm at Mel Lastman Square (5100 Yonge St.), you’ll find a number of bands, both new and returning, getting audiences on their feet to dance the night away.

This year, the city of Toronto has partnered with local arts service organization, North York Arts, to present the series.

“This is a really exciting partnership and a wonderful opportunity,” said North York Arts Managing Director, Lila Karim, “we’re thrilled to be a part of such a long-standing event to celebrate music in North York.”

North York Arts is an arts service organization designed to address the needs and interests of North York artists, arts organizations and residents. Throughout the past five years, the organization has grown immensely and, with programs such as Sunday Serenades, only plan to expand further.  

To kick off Sunday Serenades, the Advocats Big Band will perform, celebrating their 25th anniversary, followed by the nine-piece jazz band, York Jazz Ensemble.

In the following weeks, performances will include 10-piece dance band, Uptown Swing; student ensemble, JAZZFM.91 Youth Big Band; returning bands, Philips Westin Orchestra and Toronto All Star Big Band; and the 21-piece orchestra, Metro Big Band.

For more information about the series and a full program list, click here

This Spot is Hot: Ephraim’s Place!

This Spot is Hot: Ephraim’s Place!

In May we introduced Snapd Photo project to youth from Ephraim’s Place! As part of Cultural Hotspot North York, youth learned the basics of photography in a one day workshop facilitated by a professional photographer Adeyemi Adegbesan. Participants took photos of their community and hub spaces, showcasing their community through their eyes. They received hands-on training and feedback from Adeyemi throughout the day.

Ephraim’s Place Community Centre is a place where programs and services give children, youth and families the skills and tools needed to build successful futures and bring about positive personal transformation to the Jane-Finch-Sheppard communities. As a combined effort between Ephraim’s Place and North York Arts, youth participants back in the spring, learned the basics of photography in a one day workshop facilitated by professionals. Participants then took photos of their community and hub spaces, through their eyes and received hands-on training and feedback from the facilitator. Last month, we featured five of the six participants, please enjoy their work!