The staff of Toronto Arts Council are a team of 20 people, often increased by interns and volunteers, working together to support, promote and advocate for the arts in Toronto.
Claire Hopkinson, M.S.M, Director & CEO
Since Claire's appointment to Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation in 2005, both organizations have experienced significant growth in funding and impact, innovation in strategy and delivery, and greater understanding of their roles in the community. Early in her tenure, Claire developed the direction Creative City: Block by Block, an overarching vision to have the arts accessible by all Toronto residents.
A graduate of McGill University in English Literature (Honours), Claire then spent approximately 25 years commissioning, developing and producing works of opera and theatre, and running several arts organizations. An agent of change, she was instrumental in moving contemporary opera from the outskirts of the field to the revitalised centre. Claire also invested considerable time and energy into developing support for and getting Canadian artists onto international stages. Her evolution into policy-maker and advocate – from arts producer – was a logical progression from her volunteer work as Founding Chair of Opera.ca, Vice-Chair of Opera America, and co-founder and President of Creative Trust. She is committed to the value of collaboration and to developing partnerships across sectors to deepen the impact of the arts.
Much of the impetus for Claire's work in cultural policy is to understand and communicate the impact of the arts in society, and most particularly the vital role of that the arts play in city-building in the culturally vibrant city of Toronto. In May of 2001, Claire won the national M. Joan Chalmers Award for Arts Administration in recognition of her contribution to Tapestry New Opera and the arts in Canada. In 2006, she was recognized by Theatre Ontario with the Sandra Tulloch Award for Innovation in the Arts. She served as Co-Chair for the International Society for the Performing Arts 2011 Annual Congress in Toronto, which attracted the largest gathering of arts presenters in ISPA’s history.
Susan Wright, Deputy Director
Susan has been in a management role with TAC and the Foundation since 2000. As Deputy Director, Susan works closely with Claire on policy and planning as well as advocating for support for artists and arts organizations with City Council. Currently, she is a member of the Steering Committee of CADAC (Canada Arts database), and sits on a number of external committees including IRAFF (Intergovernmental Forum for Arts Funders and Foundations) and Beautiful City Alliance. Susan’s other responsibilities at TAC include financial management and general operations. Prior to joining TAC, Susan spent five years as General Manager of Toronto Artscape, and many years as an arts consultant and manager of small arts organizations.
Andrew Suri, Director of Granting
Andrew joined TAC in 2010. He studied philosophy and biology (B.Sc. McMaster University, M.Sc. University of Victoria) and had commenced doctoral research before he crossed over to the arts and worked as a photographer and filmmaker, and as a performer and educator of the South Asian performing art of banethi. Since then, Andrew co-founded IMPACT (Indian Martial & Performance Art Collective of Toronto), and has coordinated community arts projects across Toronto and in India. He has served TAC as Community Arts Officer, as well as Manager, TAC Grants Online. Working to improve access to TAC programs for under-represented cultural and community groups, Andrew led the development of several new grant programs and granting processes, including the Newcomer and Refugee Arts Engagement and Mentorship programs, and as head of the TAC Equity Steering Committee led the implementation of equity initiatives such as the TAC Accessibility Grant and Application Support, and helped develop and refine TAC's online granting system. Andrew also currently manages the TAC Large Institutions program. Andrew became Director, Grants Management in 2017 and was named Director of Granting in 2019.
Leah-Simone Bowen, Theatre Program Manager
Leah has been working in Toronto as a theatre producer and arts administrator for over ten years. As a producer she worked with the Luminato Festival, Cahoots Theatre, Gwaandak Theatre, New Harlem Productions and Native Earth Performing Arts. Leah was the Artistic Producer of Obsidian Theatre, one of the leading culturally-specific theatre companies in Canada dedicated to the Black voice. Leah was a member of the PACT Diversity committee, was a board member of STAF (Generator) and has sat on numerous advisory panels and granting juries for the Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council and was a previous member of the Toronto Arts Council Theatre Committee. As a writer, performer and Dora-nominated director, her work has been seen across Canada. She has been a resident artist at Volcano Theatre, Playwrights Workshop Montreal and the Stratford Festival of Canada. Leah is committed to expanding equity of all forms in cultural spaces and to giving a platform for underrepresented artistic voices. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s Theatre program.
Christy DiFelice, Music Program Manager
Appointed in 2010 to the position of Music Program Manager, Christy came to TAC from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where she was the Manager of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra. A graduate of York University (MA, Ethnomusicology/Musicology; 2008), her studies focused on musics and cultures of the African Diaspora, with a specialization in North American Jazz and Blues. In addition, she has previously worked with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Fine Arts Cultural Studies Department at York University, and as a music copyist. Since its inaugural season (2008), she has sat on the Board of Directors of the Brantford International Jazz Festival. She is particularly passionate about advocating for diversity, arts education, and community development through the arts.
Catalina Fellay-Dunbar, Dance & Literary Arts Programs Manager
Catalina is excited to join the TAC after many years as a dance artist, educator and advocate. Her professional dance experience, although varied, has long focused on a personal heritage in Flamenco and classical Spanish dance. Catalina’s academic interests prompted the pursuit of a BFA and MA in Dance Studies at York University, an MA from the Drama Centre at the University of Toronto, and certification in Movement Analysis from the Laban Institute for Movement Studies. As a PhD candidate in Dance Studies at York University, her research examines the intersections between cultural policy and dance arts from fluid, pluralistic perspectives. Catalina comes to the TAC after serving as co-chair of the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists – Ontario Chapter.
Sarah Gladki, Communications Manager
As Communications Manager, Sarah brings her lifelong passion for the arts and strong communication and administrative skills to Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation. An active member of the arts community, Sarah is a visual artist who works in many mediums, including drawing, photography, moving images and clay. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from McGill University where she majored in both Art History and World Religions, and a Masters of Fine Arts from Ryerson University’s Documentary Media Program. (Please note: Sarah is currently on parental leave.)
Erika Hennebury, Strategic Programs Manager
Erika is a planner and cultural producer from the Wabanaki Territories (aka Nova Scotia). She has a Masters in Environmental Studies, Planning, from York University. Erika has been a theatre artist, curator and cultural producer in Toronto for over 20 years and has worked with Public Recordings Performance Projects, Small Wooden Shoe, Secret Theatre, hum dansoundart, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, the Rhubarb Festival, Les Vaches, OOMPH Group, and Canadia del'Arte. Erika is a member of Friends of the Green Line.
Armen Karapetyan, Finance Officer
Armen Karapetyan has extensive working experience with numerous non-profit organizations, predominantly in administration and finance. Prior to moving to Toronto, Armen lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he held a position at the Barthelmes Conservatory of Music, a rewarding and enjoyable experience he recalls with a sense of accomplishment and pride. Immediately upon his arrival, Armen immersed himself into the Toronto art scene by volunteering with local arts organizations, including the Toronto Summer Music Festival, The Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra, Canada’s National Ballet School and b Current Performing Arts, where he assisted with administrative, marketing, and accounting duties. Armen holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and currently serves on the Board of Directors with Sinfonia Toronto.
Rachel Kennedy, Executive Assistant
Rachel is an arts administrator and indie theatre producer based in Toronto’s east end. After graduating from York University with specializations in Devised Theatre, Playwriting and Directing, she went on to work for Playwrights Guild of Canada (PGC) as their Outreach and Development Coordinator. She then took a position at Theatre Ontario as the Professional Theatre and Education Manager, overseeing various grants, education, and professional development programs, before finding her way to the TAC/TAF team. Her evenings are often spent producing for local theatre and dance companies, as well as running the Crème de la Femme cabaret series which she co-founded with fellow York graduates Shauna Sloan and Julia Matias. Rachel is passionate about advocacy, equity, and amplifying local creative voices – and is thankful to have found so many opportunities for work that embraces and furthers these values.
Peter Kingstone, Visual/Media Arts Program Manager
Peter Kingstone is a Toronto-based visual artist and curator, working primarily in video and photography. As an independent artist, Peter’s installation pieces have been shown across Canada and internationally, and he was awarded the Untitled Artist Award in 2005 for his installation The Strange Case of peter K. (1974-2004). Peter holds a degree in Philosophy/Cultural Studies from Trent University in Peterborough and a Masters of Fine Art focusing on video and new media from York University in Toronto. Peter has presented at many conferences on the ideas around storytelling and social engagement. Peter started in September 2012 as the Acting Visual/Media Arts Program Manager at Toronto Arts Council.
Sarah Miller-Garvin, Grants Support Coordinator
Sarah first came to the Toronto Arts Council in 2010, after graduating from the University of Toronto, where she studied Drama and Women & Gender Studies. For a year, she worked with the brand-new Neighbourhood Arts Network, creating videos focusing on arts organizations across the city and their impact. Since then, while working as a playwright, director and media artist, Sarah has worked as a producer and arts administrator for organizations such as the Paprika Festival, Aluna Theatre and the Toronto Fringe. Sarah comes to TAC after two seasons working in events for Yonge-Dundas Square. Having grown up in downtown Toronto, Sarah is dedicated to this city and cause of promoting arts and culture within it.
Sumedha Mongia, Finance & Grants Assistant
Having moved from India, Sumedha began her career in Toronto at Toronto Arts Foundation/Council as a volunteer intern. She took on a summer project assignment in 2016 as a part of Arts in the Parks, a new initiative by the organization, and has since been associated with Toronto Arts Council, consistently expanding her role. Sumedha gained extensive experience in public relations and cultural exchange while working at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (Ministry of External Affairs, India), working on soft diplomacy initiatives and promoting an international exchange of culture and ideas. She has had the opportunity to use these skills during her employment at the Singapore High Commission, New Delhi. Prior to that, she worked with Indian television channels in the challenging environment of programming, features and events.
Sumedha is a post-graduate in TV Journalism, as well as Management, bringing in varied experience in administration, events coordination and planning, television production and research. She is also a trained dancer, having worked with communities, youth and women for nearly 20 years. She has an immense passion for building and bettering communities through dance.
Tash Naveau, Indigenous Arts Program Manager
Tash Naveau is an independent artist and media maker, with an MFA from Ryerson University in Documentary Media. Her past experience in advocacy, administration, media-making and project coordination has taught her the value of building community from within as well as supporting the voices of artists within communities. Included in this past work is coordinating and assisting for short-form film projects; editing videos for non-profit organizations and projects within the local Indigenous community. Tash is keenly interested in collaborative processes within her own art-making and the combining of mediums in projects. From the Deer Clan, she is from the Anishinaabe community of Mattagami First Nation, Ontario, and is of mixed Dene and eastern European heritage.
Shawn Newman, Research & Impact Manager
Shawn comes to TAC and Toronto Arts Foundation with a background in concert dance performance and creation, as well as academia. He holds a PhD in Cultural Studies from Queen’s University, and his past research and teaching in film and media, gender studies, and performance studies has focused on de-colonial and anti-racist methodologies in creative practice, embodiment and identity. Most recently, Shawn was the Managing Editor of PUBLIC: Art | Culture | Ideas, and the Executive Director of Public Access. In these positions, Shawn initiated the re-design of PUBLIC’s digital presence through accessibility- and disability-centered approaches. He continues to do project-based work through Public Access as a member of the Public Projects Collective. Currently, Shawn is organizing PostScript: an International Symposium on Accessible Digital Publishing, to be held in May 2020. In his role as Research and Impact Manager, Shawn is responsible for overseeing the evaluation of TAC grants programs and Foundation initiatives by providing expertise, guidance, and standards for planning, measuring and evaluating the two organizations’ activities, and initiating research projects that support strategic plans.
Michelle Parson, Office Manager
As Office Manager, Michelle’s duties include administration, reception, web- and copy-editing, among other responsibilities. She’s been a part of Toronto Arts Council’s team since 1997, previously serving as Ballet Creole’s General Administrator and Human Resources Clerk in her homeland’s Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago. Michelle’s skills as a performing artist and administrator are widely recognized in her Caribbean community, having performed with Ballet Creole, COBA, Canboulay Dance Threatre, Inner Stage Theatre, Naked Mask Productions and La Petite Musicale, among others. She is a lead vocalist in a number of active bands and a member of her church choir. Michelle has recorded lead and background vocals on a number of music albums, for artists and bands such as MOKA, Kobo Town, Dick Lochan (RIP) and most significantly, on the award-winning album Far From Home by world-renowned singer Calypso Rose. Michelle serves on TAC's Equity Steering Committee and as an in-house Human Resources liaison.
Kevin Reigh, Community Arts Program Manager
Kevin has over 14 years of experience working in the arts/not-for-profit sector, having previously worked at dance Immersion, the Canadian Music Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) and Unity Charity in various administrative, fundraising and outreach capacities. He also founded Mosiah Grant Writing + Creative Communications to help independent artists and smaller not-for-profit organizations navigate the world of grant writing and proposal development.
As a writer and spoken-word artist, Kevin has released one album (Ground Provisions) and a volume of poetry (Love. Universes. All Things.) and has collaborated with numerous musicians and dancers throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Kevin also contributed a spoken-word piece, The Real Deal, to Paranoid Jack’s acclaimed album of electronic and house music, The Last of the Funky Cyborgs, and his work was also included in T-Dot Griots: An Anthology of Toronto’s Black Storytellers.
Mohammad Rezaei, Digital Systems Coordinator
Mohammad is a web developer and designer, arts administrator, interdisciplinary artist and curator. He graduated from Alberta College of Art and Design in 2012 with a BFA in Media Arts and Digital Technologies, and finished HackerYou’s Web Development Immersive in 2016. Mohammad has worked with arts organizations in different capacities to drive their programming, including project consultation, curation, administration and management. From 2013-16, Mohammad worked as the Director of Programming at Whippersnapper Gallery in Toronto. He has curated, consulted and administrated exhibitions and projects for organizations such as the Drake Hotel, Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, Trinity Square Video, and Truck Contemporary Art in Calgary, and has also developed digital content for various advertising agencies and media outlets in Canada.
A new position for TAC, the focus of Mohammad’s role is to provide back-end configuration support for TAC Grants Online; to help monitor, document and refine TAC’s grant processes; and to assist in grant-related data generation and analysis.
Rupal Shah, Strategic Programs Manager
Rupal has worked in Toronto as an arts manager and producer since 2005 with organizations such as Summerworks, Nightswimming, Obsidian Theatre, Theatrefront and Harbourfront Centre. Through a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, she participated in the 2015 IETM Plenary in Bergamo, Italy, and in 2016 attended Berlin Art Week as part of an international arts delegation invited by the German Foreign Office. Since starting at TAC, Rupal has collaborated on the creation of several new initiatives, including the Newcomer and Refugee Artist Mentorship program and the TAC-FCAD Digital Solutions Incubator, a partnership with Ryerson University’s Faculty of Communications and Design.
Tabassum Siddiqui, Interim Communications Manager
Tabassum is a multimedia journalist with more than 15 years of experience as a reporter, editor, and producer for newspapers, magazines, digital and radio. She has written, edited, and produced for most major Toronto media outlets, including CBC, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Maclean's, Toronto Life, NOW Magazine, and many more. Her communications experience includes roles as senior media relations officer at York University and senior publicist at Dundurn Press. Tabassum has deep roots in Toronto’s arts and culture scene, particularly as a longtime music critic who serves on the Polaris Music Prize and Prism Prize juries.
Cole Stevens-Goulais, Grants Assistant
Cole is an Ojibwe artist, originally from Nipissing First Nation. Cole’s recent positions have included Technical Assistant at LIFT, Indigenous Initiative Coordinator at Coalition for Music Education, and Indigenous Arts Programs Coordinator for Paprika Festival. He is a recipient of the Ken and Ann Watts Memorial Scholarship, the James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award, and the LIFT/imagineNATIVE Mentorship. He is a graduate of the Video Design and Production program at George Brown College. Cole’s films have been screened at various film festivals, including imagineNATIVE and Toronto Queer Film Festival. Cole is grateful to represent his community in all of his artistic pursuits.