Leah Houston, Artistic Director, MABELLEarts

Councillors Campbell, di Ciano, Mihevc, Nunziata:

My name is Leah Houston and I am the Artistic Director of MABELLEarts.  Thank you so much for this opportunity to let you know about the incredible impact Toronto Arts Council funding is having in two of Etobicoke’s most needy neighbourhoods.

The first (Mabelle) is a high-density Toronto Community Housing complex home to thousands of low-income newcomers to Canada. For the past 10 years, MABELLEarts has been working with thousands of residents of the Mabelle neighbourhood located in Councillor Di Ciano’s ward (5) to transform a public space in the center of the complex, transforming it from a neglected thoroughfare into a vibrant park and heart of the community.

The Toronto Arts Council has been with us from the very beginning. 

Over the past ten years, the Toronto Arts Council has helped MABELLEarts bring dozens of professional artists (often at the top of their chosen discipline) to the Mabelle community to create with people of all ages.  Participants let us know that this creative exchange has increased their sense of personal wellbeing and connection to their neighbours in a time of rapidly accelerating social isolation. 

Every day, Mabelle youth show us the profound impact of TAC funding – many Mabelle youth have been participating in MABELLEarts projects since they were four and five years old. Now fourteen and fifteen, these young people continue to work and play at MABELLEarts – thanks to our TAC supported youth program.  Many of these at-risk young people have their first employment experience at MABELLEarts – they assist with workshops and provide translation and childcare because they know the impact MABELLEarts has had on their own lives and they want to share that impact. Youth receive college and university prep support and connect to local leaders through our mentorship program – all funded by the Toronto Arts Council.  And it’s making a difference.

Two years ago Toronto Police Services invited MABELLEarts to begin a new project in Etobicoke’s West Mall neighbourhood.  The first year of our project coalesced with the Syrian crisis.  Many Syrian new Canadians were settling in and around the West Mall and we knew MABELLEarts needed to be involved.  The Toronto Arts Council’s newly developed Art In The Parks program offered an incredible opportunity to reach out to these new Torontonians by funding programming that effectively engaged with over 600 Syrian individuals and families.