2015 TAC Cultural Leaders Lab Fellows
David Abel | Executive Director, Art of Time Ensemble
Toronto Arts Council (TAC) is pleased to announce the 18 inaugural Fellows selected to participate in the TAC Cultural Leaders Lab.
David Abel is a 25-year veteran of the arts management industry, with significant experience in producing large-scale commercial and not-for-profit theatre, managing large and small organizations, and consensus building within the national arts community. He is the former managing director of Canadian Stage, where he managed a $10 million budget. He spent six years as Director and Executive Committee Member of the Board of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT). In 2013, Mr. Abel was awarded the Mallory Gilbert Leadership Award, which recognizes outstanding leadership in Canadian theatre.
Mahlikah Awe:ri | Independent Artist/Educator, Music and Literary Arts
Mahlikah Awe:ri is an international First Nations (Haudenosaunee Mohawk/Mi'kmaw) drum talk poetic rapologist; poet, musician, hip-hop MC, arts educator, radio host, curator, the Deputy Executive of the Toronto Centre for Community Learning & Development in Regent Park, based in Tkaronto, Ontario. She is a founding member of Red Slam Collective, an Indigenous hip hop movement nominated for the TD Diversity Award in 2013. After almost six years of live performances and 100 workshops from coast to coast, including opening for Martha Redbone in 2010, Kinnie Starr in 2012 and Tanya Tagaq in 2015, Red Slam is working on a full-length studio album. The 2015 first single and video release "Right Level" continues to gain in international popularity with air play on radio stations in Australia, Florida, Mexico and the UK. Awe:ri is a KM Hunter OAC Literary Arts Award 2013 nominee, released the spoken word EP Serpent's Skin in 2011, and is currently published in five literary anthologies. Recent projects include The Web of Life Arts Education Project with the Ontario Arts Council; Poetry Saved Our Lives PAN-AM Poetry Slam for Youth, with Toronto Public Library; Expressing Native Culture Through the Arts, with the Toronto District School Board Aboriginal Education Centre and the Art Gallery of Ontario; and curating for the 2015 National Aboriginal History Month Indigenous Arts Festival at Fort York.
Franco Boni | Artistic Director, The Theatre Centre
Franco Boni recently led The Theatre Centre in a major capital campaign and the building of its permanent home in the former Carnegie Library on Toronto’s Queen Street West. He is a recognized cultural innovator, facilitator and community builder with a demonstrated track record of restoring financial and artistic credibility for local art organizations and festivals for over two decades. Franco previously served as Festival Director of the Rhubarb Festival and Artistic Producer of the SummerWorks Festival. He has received the inaugural Ken McDougall Award for emerging directors, the Rita Davies Cultural Leadership Award, and the George Luscombe Award for Mentorship in Theatre.
Menon Dwarka | Managing Director, 918 Bathurst Centre for Culture, Arts, Media + Education
Menon Dwarka’s career as an arts administrator, curator and composer has been shaped by his unique cultural and geographic heritage. Born in Guyana, with paternal Indian lineage, his family moved to Canada when he was one year old. He devoted his early life to musical composition, which took him to New York City for graduate studies. He has worked in the New York cultural sector for 18 years, composing music professionally and running community arts programs at 92nd St. Y, Harlem School of the Arts and Greenwich House. His post-colonial heritage informs his work, where he has invested his focus on supporting hyper-local communities to achieve artistic representation, administrative capacity and financial support from institutional partners.
Liz Forsberg | Managing Director, Art Starts
Liz Forsberg is the Executive Director of Art Starts, an award-winning organization that uses the arts as a tool for inspiring and cultivating social change in Toronto neighbourhoods. Prior to joining Art Starts in 2009, Liz spent a decade honing her skills as a community-engaged artist leading initiatives in group homes, treatment centres, women’s shelters and with the Art Gallery of York University. She holds a Master’s degree from York University with a research focus on community-engaged arts and public space and her writing has appeared in “The State of the Arts: Living with Culture in Toronto,” and GreenTOpia: Towards a Sustainable Toronto.” In 2012 she was named one of Toronto's Vital People by the Toronto Foundation. Liz is also a musician who has recorded and performed with several Toronto indie bands.
Brendan Healy | Artistic Director, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Originally from Montreal, Brendan began his artistic career as an actor, before an internship under Richard Maxwell of the New York City Players led to his decision to exclusively direct. Since moving to Toronto a decade ago, Brendan has established himself as a central figure in the city’s theatre scene and his work has been presented across Canada. His productions have garnered multiple Dora Mavor Moore Awards and he is a recipient of the Ken McDougall and Pauline McGibbon awards for directing. Brendan is a graduate of the National Theatre School’s Directing Program, where he continues to be a regular instructor in addition to his role as Artistic Director of Buddies in Bad Times.
Christine Jackson | Program Coordinator for the Arts, Toronto District School Board (TDSB)
Christine Jackson has worked in a variety of arts education contexts including Program Coordinator for the Arts at TDSB, Education Officer at the Ontario Ministry of Education, and Instructor at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). Christine has developed numerous curriculum resources for teachers and artist-educators and has partnered with a wide range of artists and arts organizations to increase opportunities for artists in TDSB schools. As a frequent guest speaker, Christine advocates for the arts as a tool for building strong communities and a unified, dynamic city. She has partially completed her PhD in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, with a focus on the arts and youth empowerment.
Heather Kelly | Founder/Director, Bloor St. Culture Corridor / Director of Marketing, Performing Arts Division, The Royal Conservatory of Music
Heather Kelly is an award-winning marketing professional with a twenty-year history of creating success for some of Toronto’s most significant cultural organizations. She founded and leads the Bloor St. Culture Corridor, which brought together 14 of Toronto’s cultural organizations to create one of the city’s most vibrant and diverse arts districts. Heather has launched critically acclaimed Toronto arts destinations, including Ryerson Image Centre at Ryerson University and Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music. She is also a consultant and educator, and the Founder and CEO of HKC Marketing, an arts and culture marketing company established in 2002. In 2014, Heather earned a certificate in Organizational Leadership.
Natalie Lue | Vice President, Production and Visitor Experience, Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
Natalie Lue is one of an eight member leadership team at TIFF, where she leads a division of approximately 50 full-time and hundreds of seasonal staff responsible for producing the annual festival, as well as a number of year-round activities at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Prior to joining TIFF in 2005, Natalie held several senior positions at Harbourfront Centre, including Facilities Manager and Director, Planning, where she managed major festival such as World Stage, Today’s Japan, International Festival of Authors, and World Leaders. She has also participated as Chair or Board member of The Fringe Festival Toronto, First Night Toronto, Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, the Toronto Arts Council and, currently, the Entertainment District BIA.
Joel McConvey | Independent Artist, Media Arts and Literary Arts
Joel McConvey is a writer and producer, whose documentary film production and journalism explores the link between nature and culture. With his company FilmCAN, he created and produced The National Parks Project (NPP), a cross-platform exploration of landscape and creativity featuring collaborations between 52 musicians and filmmakers, which screened at festivals around the world and was honoured with a Gemini, a Genie and a Favourite Website Award. In 2012, his follow-up project, Northwords, was named Best Documentary at the Banff International Pilots Competition. His latest production, the space documentary Mission Asteroid, aired on CBC Doc Zone in 2014 and was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Science or Nature Documentary. In 2013, he published an e-book, “The Last Ham”, through House of Anansi Digital, and he contributes to The Globe and Mail, The Walrus and other publications. He is currently planning digital content strategies for the 2017 traveling dome project, SESQUI.
Scott Miller Berry | Executive Director, Images Festival
Scott Miller Berry has been working with artist-run and not-for-profit arts collectives and organizations for over 20 years. He has worked for Images, the largest festival in North America for experimental and independent moving image culture, for 14 years and has shepherded numerous special projects including national and international tours. Scott is committed to Board service, mentorship and volunteerism. He is currently Vice Chair of the Media Arts Network of Ontario and sits on the Board of the national Independent Media Arts Alliance, as well as the Advisory Boards of AluCine and Rendezvous with Madness Film Festivals. Scott holds an MA from the New School for Social Research, New York and maintains an independent filmmaking and programming practice.
Natasha Mytnowych | Managing Director, Artscape Youngplace
Natasha Mytnowych is an award-winning arts leader and theatre director, currently responsible for the programming, facility and administrative management for Artscape Youngplace, a new cultural community hub in the West Queen West area. Her artistic leadership was acknowledged with an Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence as an emerging artist, and the Toronto Arts Foundation’s inaugural Mayor’s Arts Award for an Emerging Artist. Natasha was at Canadian Stage for over seven years, most recently as Associate Artistic Producer. She has sat on advisories and boards including Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, The Artists Mentoring Youth Project, the Laidlaw Foundation’s Arts Advisory Committee and was was an inaugural member of Toronto’s DiverseCity Fellows Program.
Jacob Niedzwiecki | Independent Artist, Dance, Media Arts
Jacob Niedzwiecki (pronounced nidge-vee-et-ski) is a choreographer, film director, and software developer whose work fuses movement, media, and code into inventive new forms. He trained as a classical and contemporary dancer at Canada’s National Ballet School and performed for several years with the National Ballet of Canada. Jacob’s iPhone app-based immersive work Jacqueries, Part 1 received the Vanguard Award for Risk and Innovation at the 2014 SummerWorks Festival and has begun touring internationally. In 2014, Jacob directed and produced the National Ballet of Canada’s four-hour section of the World Ballet Day livestream, a 20-hour international partnership with YouTube that also featured the Royal Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet. As a web and iOS developer, Jacob has worked with in lead technical roles on some of Canada’s largest web and e-commerce sites.
Phyllis Novak | Artistic Director, SKETCH Working Arts
Phyllis Novak is the Founder and Artistic Director of the award-winning organization SKETCH Working Arts, a community arts enterprise engaging young people living homeless and marginalized to experience the transformative power of arts. Now in its 19th year, SKETCH fosters skill building, economic self-sufficiency, and environmental and social change through the arts. SKETCH has created three arts hubs and pop-up studios across Toronto and Phyllis has taken arts-based practices in youth engagement to Thailand, Central America, the Yukon, Ottawa, Hamilton and Northern Ontario. Celebrated as a Global TV Everyday Hero, Phyllis’s work reframes how we view people living on the margins and posits that art and culture is the primary way to respond to homelessness and poverty, and to build equitable and vibrant communities.
Kevin A. Ormsby | Artistic Director, KasheDance
Arts marketing consultant, choreographer, facilitator, and movement coach, Kevin A. Ormsby is the Artistic Director of KasheDance and the 2014 recipient of the Canada Council Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award for outstanding achievement in dance by a mid-career artist. Kevin’s interest in both creative and administrative practice in dance have fuelled his work for various companies and projects in Canada and the US. He has been a company member of Garth Fagan Dance, New York, and has worked for organizations including Ballet Creole, Living Arts Centre, and Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO). Kevin is a Board member of Prologue to the Performing Arts, NIA Centre for the Arts and is Chair of the National Standing Council (Dance) at Canadian Dance Assembly.
Tim Whalley | Associate Director, Government and Community Relations, Luminato Festival
A passionate advocate for arts access, one of Tim Whalley’s roles at the Luminato Festival is to ensure that the multi-disciplinary festival remains accessible to all through its transformation of Toronto’s theatres, parks and public spaces, and through hundreds of creative cultural events. Prior to joining Luminato, Tim served for almost six years as the Executive Director of Scarborough Arts. He has taught in the Gallery and Art Museum Management program at the University of Western Ontario – Continuing Studies and his visual art and curatorial projects have been featured in venues throughout Toronto. Tim has served on the Board of Fuse Magazine and the Advisory Committee at the Doris McCarthy Gallery, and was a recipient of a 2014 Vital People grant from the Toronto Foundation.
Gein Wong | Independent Artist, Interdisciplinary
Gein Wong is a prolific interdisciplinary director, curator, writer and video artist of Asian and First Nations descent who creates expansive performance experiences that enhance emotion, feeling and understanding. She is the recipient of the Ken McDougall Director’s award. Gein conceived and directed Say Their Names, Remember, a 500-person performance piece that opened the Ai Wei Wei exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. In 2014, she was commissioned by World Pride to create a large scale immersive performance experience that commemorated the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Gein is the Artistic Director of the interdisciplinary performance company Eventual Ashes, and the community arts minded Asian Arts Freedom School. She is a co-owner of the world’s oldest queer bookstore, Glad Day Bookshop, and curates the iconic Insatiable Sisters with Kim Katrin at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
d’bi young anitafrika
d’bi.young anitafrika is an internationally celebrated African-Jamaican-Canadian dub-artist, arts-educator and theatre director, whose work explores themes of identity, gender, sexuality, class and the human experience. d’bi is a Canadian Poet of Honour who was recently featured as a Top Ten Poet on CNN and awarded a Vital People accolade by Toronto Community Foundation for her tireless commitment to social justice through the arts. She is also a recipient of two Dora Awards, a KM Hunter theatre award, and a Mayor’s Arts Award. She has worked and lectured extensively internationally and has published numerous plays, writings, and dubpoetry albums. d’bi is the Founder & Artistic Director of Canada’s Watah Theatre Institute, where she is developing an anti-oppression framework called the Sorplusi Method.