TAC Leaders Lab Fellows: 2019 Cohort

This exciting program has been created by TAC and The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity to enhance leadership capacity in Toronto’s arts and culture sectors. The program is designed for mid- to senior-level arts professionals who have demonstrated the potential to lead change in their organizations, communities or arts sectors.

Jessa Agilo is an integrated arts manager, producer, researcher, educator, creator, changemaker, and social entrepreneur with a three-decade career uprooting systemic barriers for small, community-engaged artists and producers across Canada, including 12 years in Toronto. As an arts manager, Jessa has helped grow the impact of such diverse companies as Ontario Culture Days, Workman Arts, Music @ The Banff Centre, Queer Arts Festival, Dreamwalker Dance, lbs/sq” performance, Kaeja d’Dance, Dance Umbrella of Ontario, and many more. As founder of the multi-arts services organization ArtsPond, since 2014 Jessa has led the evolution of pioneering efforts to address gentrification (Groundstory.ca), digital transformation of arts services (DigitalASO.ca), the emergence of Shared Charitable Platforms (Arts Working Group), and Platform Cooperatives (Artse United).

Shenaz Baksh has been working for over 24 years in film and television production, and media arts education in Guyana and Canada. Over the last 15 years, she has been the Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT), and an independent contractor for media arts projects. Throughout her time at LIFT, she has made significant contributions towards expanding and reinvigorating the organization’s education department. Her community outreach work provides specialized hands-on training and mentorship for diverse groups and arts organizations across the Greater Toronto Area. Recently, she was also a teaching faculty at Humber College School of Media Studies for Visual Storytelling, Video Production and Lighting Fundamentals. Her production work includes shooting and editing mainly for news, documentaries, children’s and lifestyle programming, commercials and special events. Shenaz is a graduate of Humber College’s Film and Television Production program, as well as their post-graduate program in International Development. As a filmmaker, she experiments with different visual techniques, both on analogue and digital formats, to tell stories. Her focus is to provide successful sustainable community support and development, through media arts education, for individuals, groups and organizations. www.linkedin.com/in/shenaz-baksh-7156358

Noa Bronstein is a curator and writer based in Toronto. She has contributed to such publications as Prefix Photo, Canadian Art, Border Crossings, The Journal of Curatorial Studies, and C Magazine. Noa has held several roles in the arts, including Director of Public Programs and Acting Curator at the Design Exchange and Executive Director of Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography. Recent curatorial projects include When Form Becomes Attitude at Contemporary Calgary, bust/boom at The New Gallery (Calgary), With an instinct for justice at Doris McCarthy Gallery (Toronto), Aleesa Cohene’s solo exhibition I Don’t Get It at Gallery 44 (Toronto), The Rooms (St. John’s) and Western Front (Vancouver). Noa is currently the Senior Curator of Museums Mississauga and the Small Arms Inspection Building.

Sergio Elmir is an arts professional based in Toronto, Canada with over a dozen years of experience working with local, national and international artists for both small and large-scale institutions. In 2017, he worked as a programming supervisor for the City of Toronto's Official Canada 150 celebration, which spanned four days over four different sites (to nearly 250,000 overall attendance) Prior to working for the City of Toronto, Sergio spent four years at Harbourfront Centre, working on idea-based, multi-arts, year-round programming. In 2018, Sergio launched Futuro Libre Creative Agency with a focus on music consulting and curation for a variety of cultural institutions, including Harbourfront Centre, the Aga Khan Museum, The Toronto Fringe Festival, TD Jazz Fest, RPM Live, The Music Gallery and others. Aside from festival and event programming, FLCA also works in artist and audience development for a variety of Canadian artists, including The Mariachi Ghost, LOLAA, New Tradition Music, Los Poetas, Kirk Diamond and D'Bi & the 333.

Cathy Gordon is a performance-maker, independent curator and producer. Her multidisciplinary practice has spanned the gamut from intimate one-on-one performances to large-scale participatory spectacles. Her seminal piece, ON MY KNEES – a public divorce ceremony (2007), marked her departure from experimental theatre/dance performance and her foray into durational performance. Since then, her work has included social practices, moving between theatre, dance, and performance art. As the former Managing Director & Community Liaison of The Theatre Centre, Cathy helped establish the groundwork for the company’s dynamic new facility. While there, she conceived and produced Block In One Spot, the sprawling community-building art party that brought together artists of various disciplines and neighbourhood personalities. Later, she became the curator for Live Art at SummerWorks where she supported the presentation of over 20 site-specific productions. She currently produces for both SummerWorks and the Luminato Festival, with a focus on productions that offer unique audience experiences. Community engagement and advocacy is an essential part of her practice. Cathy has guided community-based projects within Ontario, Quebec, Ireland, and France. Since 1996, she has served as a board member for a variety of organizations, including FADO, Buddies In Bad Times, and fFIDA (fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists). For five years, she was a volunteer co-Artistic Director of artist-run centre hub14 art and performance works in Toronto. http://cathygordon.com

Emily Gove is a practicing artist, educator and arts administrator. She is currently the Director of Xpace Cultural Centre, a not-for-profit artist-run centre dedicated to supporting emerging artists, designers, curators and writers, within an anti-oppressive environment that welcomes all. Her artistic work is inspired by subculture, folk art, craft, horror and kitsch, and often includes collaboration and community engagement. Emily has worked extensively with various communities, including post-secondary students, children and youth, adults and seniors. She has an MFA in Studio Art and her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. http://emilygove.com


Omer Ismael has worked as a project lead, in both the role of manager and coordinator in the fields of community development, arts administration, 21st-century education and social enterprise. Omer is excited the most by projects at the intersection of culture and sustainable development. Graduating from York University with a Bachelor of Arts, Omer has led collaborative organizations as Manager of AVNU, a Studio Y Fellow at Mars Discovery District, and current leading creative entrepreneurship programming at Artscape Daniels Launchpad. Currently, Omer sits on the Research Advisory Committee at MLSE Launchpad, and serves as a board member of Ukai Projects. He has had the pleasure of facilitating over 100 workshops to youth on behalf of the Royal Ontario Museum, Luminato Festival, the City of Toronto and other arts organizations. http://omerismael.com

Mojan Jianfar is an urban and cultural planner working at the intersection of arts, culture and planning. She is driven to build better cities with inclusive systems and processes that approach city-building in an interdisciplinary manner. She is passionate about creating places influenced by human-centred design, arts, culture, health and psychology that consequently improve the built environment. In her role as a planner, Mojan has developed policy, strategies and programs that support arts and culture development, including Mississauga's first public art strategy, a busking strategy and program, and the creation of a cultural district in Port Credit. More recently, Mojan developed a 10-year visionary Culture Master Plan and is currently leading the development of a city-building strategy for downtown Mississauga. Previously, Mojan worked in the public art sector, directing and managing large-scale, multi-stakeholder public art installations in Toronto, including an award-winning 32-storey mural in St. James Town, the TO2015 People’s Cauldron commissioned by the TO2015 PanAm/Parapan Am Games, as well as numerous public art installations at various development sites throughout Toronto. She also led public art programs and projects that sought to better connect people to public spaces and developed a skills-training and capacity-building public art program for youth in St. James Town. Mojan is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the STEPS Initiative. www.linkedin.com/in/mojanjianfar

Matt McGeachy is Company Dramaturge at Factory Theatre, Canada's leading theatre for intercultural work, where he leads the new work development program and works closely with Artistic Director Nina Lee Aquino in season planning. Select recent theatre credits include: Lucky (Next Stage Theatre Festival); trace, Little Pretty and The Exceptional, and acquiesce (Factory Theatre); and What Linda Said (SummerWorks). He has worked with theatre artists such as Carmen Aguirre, Rachel Blair, Yolanda Bonnell, Ronnie Burkett, Jeff Ho, Carson Kreitzer, Martyna Majok, Kat Sandler, Priscila Uppal, Colleen Wagner, and David Yee, among others, and has worked with such theatres as the Guthrie Theater, The Playwrights Center, and Workhaus Collective (Minneapolis, MN); Canadian Stage, York University, SummerWorks (Toronto); and from 2011-2014 was assistant director of the Kennedy Center's New Play Dramaturgy Intensive under Mark Bly (Washington, D.C.). He has taught and led workshops on new play writing and dramaturgy at the University of Toronto, Humber College, Brock University, and Theatre Ontario. He is a member of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) and Treasurer of LMDA Canada.

Parul Pandya has worked in non-profit in various roles through the past decade, including as a community-builder, consultant, programmer, and producer, specializing in using arts for social change. After finishing managing in community granting for the largest government funder in Canada, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, she seamlessly transferred her knowledge, passion and skills to open her own consulting practice. Community Impact Non-Profit Consulting strategically enables community engagement and equitable innovation. She is also a queer South Asian freelance writer/poet, and an activist for over a decade. She has a deep passion for ethics and social justice, which she also teaches at Centennial College.


Asad Raza programs and produces cultural projects primarily for public space, often to bring opposite forces to a shared border. For the last 8+ years, he was one of the programmers of Nuit Blanche Toronto. He has also been fortunate to produce large-scale public art projects throughout the GTA. Curious about the poetic and politic possibilities of performance, he is currently working as General Manager of Necessary Angel Theatre, a seminal experimental theatre commissioning company in Toronto.



Luke Reece is a Toronto-based artist who strives to share authentic and engaging stories with audiences through his work as a theatre producer, playwright, poet and educator. He is the Producer for Canada’s leading culturally-specific theatre company, Obsidian Theatre, and the Artistic Director of Little Black Afro Theatre. After becoming the Toronto Poetry Slam (TPS) Grand Champion in 2017, Luke went on to captain the 2017 TPS team that were national champions at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, and coached the 2018 national champions as well. He also competed at the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam in Vancouver in in Vancouver in 2018 and placed second in the country. www.lukereece.com


Olivia Shortt (Anishinaabe-irish from Nipissing First Nation) is a Tkarón:to-based saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist, composer, theatre artist and producer. She had her Lincoln Center (NYC) debut performing with the International Contemporary Ensemble, her film debut playing saxophone in Atom Egoyan’s upcoming film Guest of Honour, and recorded an album two kilometres underground in the SnoLAB (Neutrino Lab in Sudbury, Ontario) with her duo Stereoscope. Past engagements have included performing as the opening act for Arcade Fire’s violinist Sarah Neufeld and performances with Polaris Prize-winning Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq. She is a member of The Velvet Crystals, Dialectica Saxophone Quartet, Stereoscope Sax Duo, and The Element Choir. Olivia was awarded a Metcalfe Foundation Performing Arts Internship grant and is interning in producing with Brittany Ryan at Nightswimming Theatre and Signal Theatre. She is also part of Native Earth Performing Arts’ Animikiig training program and has participated in the Montreal Contemporary Music Lab, Banff Centre for the Arts’ Ensemble Evolution, and the Bang On A Can festival. As an activist, she works in a number of capacities as a consultant, was a member of the 2018 cohort of the artEquity facilitator training program (New Orleans), and is an organizer of the Toronto Creative Music Lab (TCML). www.olivia-shortt.com

Aitak Sorahitalab is a visual artist, art educator, and art administrator. She holds an MDes from the University of Art of Tehran, had held several exhibitions of her artwork, and was commissioned to create public art in Iran and Canada. She worked as a lecturer at University of Applied Science Technology in Tehran, as Manager of the Art and Creation department at KANOON (Institute for Intellectual Development for Children and Young Adults), and worked with UNICEF, UNODC and Royal Museum of The Netherlands. Since immigrating to Canada, she has continued working as an artist, art teacher, and administrator. Passionate about social development, Sorahitalab has co-founded a non-profit organization, Airsa, to support new Canadian artists in Toronto.


Michael Vickers is an artist and Co-Director of the local arts organization AKIN Collective, providing affordable studio space to over 300 artists across 9 locations in downtown Toronto and a year-long calendar of free or low-cost community arts events across the city. Vickers' artistic practice exists in the space between sculpture, painting and installation. His recent work investigates the limits of different materials and presentation methods – painted, curled and bent forms made of painted aluminum and steel, etched and engraved stone and marble works, and installations that activate the exhibition space in different ways. Vickers holds an MA in Art History from the University of Toronto and an Honours BA in Visual Arts & Communications and has exhibited locally and internationally, including presentations at Volta Basel, Mercer Union, Clark House Mumbai, Division Gallery, DesignTO, Patrick Mikhail Gallery and collaborative installations at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Gardiner Museum. www.michaelvickers.org

Amy Wong is an Angry Asian Feminist disguised as an oil painter. She is the founder of Angry Asian Feminist Gang, a collective dedicated to dialogue centred on diaspora Asian concerns. Foregrounding care labour, Wong conditions spaces for thinking through together to aspire towards feminist and decolonial ways of being. Wong’s paintings, drawings, mixtapes, healing soups and other performative actions layer diverse references, oscillating between different systems of representation to evoke non-linear narratives. She often works with what she considers a bad idea or a cliché in order to redefine them on her own terms. Wong completed her BFA at Concordia University in Montreal, an MFA at York University in Toronto, and post-graduate studies at De Ateliers in Amsterdam. Recent projects include AAFG x Art Metropole at the Toronto Art Book Fair, Institutional Critique at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, and Alimentary at Obrera Centro in Mexico City. www.amy-wong.net

Deanna Wong has more than 25 years’ experience in the not-for-profit cultural arts sector in Canada. Since moving to Toronto in 1997, she has served on the boards of Dreamwalker Dance Company, the Regent Park Film Festival, and the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, where she was recently appointed as Executive Director for a second term, having previously led the festival between 2005 and 2008. From 2011 to 2018, Deanna was the administrative director for REEL CANADA, an organization that brings Canadian films to high schools across the country. She is also a copy editor and writer and has contributed to such publications as RealScreenPlaybackToronto LifePrefix Photo, and the Canadian documentary, film and television magazines POV and Montage.