Getting Ready for …

 Work In Culture and The Toronto Public Library presents:

Enriching Your Work in Culture

WorkInCulture leads a four-week series that demystifies the language of business for creative professionals from any discipline. This course is designed and delivered in collaboration with cultural insiders who will share tips and exercises to help you create a thriving, life-long career.

Topics include: envisioning the future of your creative business; overcoming financial hurdles like pricing and negotiating; making social media work for you; how to be resilient to survive and thrive in the long-term. Space is limited so reserve your spot– Call 416-393-7686 for more information.

6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. on recurring dates listed below

90 mins

Parkdale Auditorium


Upcoming Dates:

Wed Oct 03
Wed Oct 10
Wed Oct 17
Wed Oct 24


DYPP: Take A Sick Day On August 18

Take a Sick Day! is an August 18, 2012 event organized by the Disabled Young People’s Project. Read on to learn more about DYPP’s objectives, motivations and inspirations.

What is DYPP all about?

We’re all about Youth + Art + Community

Take a Sick Day! Video Trailer

Video trailer courtesy of Disabled Young People’s Project; all rights reserved. Click video to watch.

Disabled Young People’s Project centers the experiences of young people of colour with disabilities through arts based initiatives and community events. The objective of DYPP is to connect young people with disabilities. We are a diverse group of racialized people who identity with or find disability concretely relevant to our everyday lives.

It’s hard to say where the project began, it’s as if it’s always been happening but it started out with the recognition that there is an urgent need for a space that addresses the impact of disability, the ways in which it is framed and understood in our society, in our homes and within our communities as well as and the impact that this framing has had on our lives as people concretely affected by disability. DYPP is a part of recognizing that our communities have always been talking about disability but that the way the growing disability discourse as we know it is largely shaped by whiteness and the west, and white supremacy in activist spaces, in academic institutions and in global policy and actions that seek to address and measure “disability” so that it is as if we are “new” to the scene.

The project stems out of an urgent need to address the fact that disability is contested and has always been – historically, within our city limits and transnationally – and that we must began to do something about it. It’s about recognizing the past, the work that has been done by those that have come before us in our communities and moving forward. We recognize that it is an old tool of colonization and domination: divide and conquer to keep our communities as well as communities of resistance siloed and separated from one another. To that end, we seek to take action in anyway we can to end discrimination and oppression against people with disabilities. For us, this project is very much about saying that race is not a separate issue from disability; neither is queerness, neither is gender, neither is labour and work, neither is education and poverty and access to education.

Take a Sick Day! Flyer

One important thing to mention is that we recognize that we are operating in a nonprofit industrial complex within a neoliberal socio-economic system and so we are trying to think of ways to do the work that we recognize ought to be done with the resources that we have available to us. We are a very new project. We do not know how long we will be here for but while we are here we hope to create safer spaces for our communities to gather in dialogue to  and to discuss what it means to be told that we are ill, sick, or unwell and what it means to have different bodies from those around us who have claimed normal for themselves.

One of the things that we feel we can do right now is to create room for nonjudgmental dialogue and learning and education among members of our community. Many of us have faced extreme isolation in our everyday lives as we’ve tried to deal. It has been very painful, it has been very costly. We know that that this is not ok, and so Take a Sick Day! was born.

Why ‘Take a Sick Day’?

The event is called Take a Sick Day! as a way of calling attention to and honoring the ways in which many racialized, poor and working people with disabilities too often are forgotten or erased from conversations about disability, especially in western contexts. We wanted to draw attention to all the ramifications of the associations of health and disability.

We recognize that an insistence on the careful disassociation of disability from health by many disability scholars and activists is actually a very dominant theme in Euro-American white disability scholarship and activism. Overwhelming emphasis is put on separating disability from health and illness – mainly by social model advocates….We think that the initial insistence was due to saving disability from the domination and authority of medical expertise and discourse, but unfortunately it was done at the expense of many disabled people, by erasing/ignoring one of the main reasons of disablement, namely timely access to adequate health care on a global level.

We no longer find this useful and don’t understand the point of separating “health” from disability, in that they function along the same lines to oppress different bodies and impose very costly – to those labeled as such – ramifications, such as institutionalization and criminalization.

The name Take a Sick Day! is also about the false constructions of merit and labour, the idea that sick days are extravagant, a luxury and cost in a society that has a way of devaluing the constructions of the “disabled body”.

Take a Sick Day! is one event, and we recognize that much more is needed. For some of us, this is just the beginning. Some of us are going because we’ve felt removed from the disability community or didn’t feel like we were a part of one. Others, because it would be nice to be around other youth of colour with disabilities, to learn from each other as a refreshing change. There are lots of giveaways, swag bags and art. The food, the TTC Tokens… come because you want to!

What do you hope will grow out of this event?

Community and a space for youth of colour to discuss disability amongst ourselves. We are not sure what that will look like yet.

Who are the local artists who inspire you?

There are many local artists, groups, scholars, writers who have inspired us as a collective. Aside from the inspiration we draw from ourselves we have to shout out some special people to us.

Artreach Toronto for their unrelenting patience and support for this Project, for maintaining accessible and youth friendly funding structure and for cheering us on all the way! Annu Saini at Frequency Feminisms for her extraordinary art and facilitation skills and amazing show at Radio Regent;Esther Ignani and Critical Disability Studies at Ryerson;Rachel Gorman, Assistant Professor at Critical Disability Studies for quietly and confidently believing in DYPP and creating the most accessible classroom ever for many of us; Robertha Timothy for her outstanding scholarly contribution to race and disability studies; Andrew LaRose for his amazing music from his upcoming album ‘Playground’; Leroy Moore and Sins invalid,Pauline Hwang at,Golshan Abdmoulaie, Tess Vo at the reachOUT Program, Griffin Centre,Isabel Mackenzie Lay, Darcel Bullen at METRAC (Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence against Women and Children), Jayson Gallop Photography,Cory Silverberg, Yaya Yao, Bessie Head; all the members of our advisory board and the numerous other folks who have been our friends and allies and made this day happen!

DYPP logo

Check out the Disabled Young People’s Project’s ‘Take a Sick Day’ at the AGO on August 18, 2012.

For more info, please visit

Youth Arts Pitch Contest: Call for Artists

ArtReach Toronto, in partnership with City of Toronto Cultural Services, Art Gallery of Ontario and Manifesto invites you to participate in a pitch contest. If you are a young artist or a group of artists, between the ages of 16 and 29, we want to hear from you!

We want to discover and support some of Toronto’s finest innovative talent and encourage community participation through the arts!

Win $5,000 to support your community youth arts project, start your arts business or take your career to the next level!

The arts are a powerful and motivating way that youth can be involved in their communities. Whether it’s in someone’s basement, or through a community program – young people are creating art all over this city. ArtReach Toronto, City of Toronto Cultural Services, Art Gallery of Ontario and Manifesto want to support youth aspirations in the arts. We invite you to submit your ideas to us, which could land you a spot in front of an esteemed panel of judges for a live and interactive pitch contest!

To apply:

  • You must be an artist or part of a group of artists
  • You must be between the ages of 16 and 29
  • Developing an artistic project or are serious about your arts initiative
  • Have experienced barriers and those who are increasing access to the arts

ArtReach Toronto encourages artists working in a broad range of art forms to apply, including dance, drama, music, carnival and circus, film and video, TV and radio, new media, fashion, creative writing, visual arts, crafts, hip hop, design, multi-media, urban arts and more.

Nine lucky submissions will be chosen to pitch their ideas live on Friday September 21, 2012 for a chance to win one of three $5,000 prizes awarded to participants in the following categories:

  • Community Arts (i.e. theatre groups, collective of filmmakers etc.)
  • Creative Enterprise (i.e. singers, poets, MC’s, clothing designers etc.)

Exciting runner up prizes will contribute to bringing awareness to your project or art!


  • To enter, you must submit a two page (maximum) proposal answering the series of questions listed below, pitching your idea to the committee by the deadline of Friday August 17, 2012.
  • The nine lucky finalists chosen to make their pitch will be announced on August 30, 2012!  ALL finalists are required to attend a two-part workshop series entitled How To Make a Pitch. These sessions will be held on Wednesday, September 5thand Wednesday, September 12th, 2012.
  • Finalists will then pitch their ideas LIVE on Friday September 21, 2012 making a creative, energetic, inspiring and convincing presentation, pitch or performance in less than 5 minutes!!
  • A panel of knowledgeable, high profile judges will provide on the spot feedback to all finalists and award three winners with the grand prizes of the PITCH CONTEST!

Deadline for Entries: Friday August 17, 2012
Submissions are to be placed online.
The submission form is here:

If you have any questions, please feel to email us at or call Derick at 647-347-0086

Spotlight on St. James Town

This past April, Toronto Arts Foundation and the Neighbourhood Arts Network sponsored workshops for artists living in St. James Town. The initiative was part of the Foundation’s Arts Impact Study, a research project to better understand how Toronto residents interact and engage with the arts at a local level.

Art City in St. James Town Mural

Extending from Sherbourne to Parliament and Bloor to Wellesley, St. James Town is a neighbourhood at the heart of Toronto. In the 1950s the area was transformed into Toronto’s first community of high rise apartment buildings. Today, St. James Town is one of the most densely populated areas of Toronto with 19 residential towers in a 32 acre area. In addition to the spatial density of the neighbourhood, St. James Town is also an area of incredible diversity: the 15 000 tenants speak more than 50 languages and are twice as likely as other Toronto residents to have come to Canada within the past five years.  The density and diversity of the area creates unique challenges for people in St. James Town but also offers opportunities for community engaged arts.

Several arts-focused programs have made an ongoing commitment to the neighbourhood. Art City is a not-for-profit organization committed to providing free and accessible, multidisciplinary art programs to the children and youth of St. James Town (check out our previous post on Art City). Similarly, UforChange combines skills development with an exploration of the arts. Working with new Canadian and low-income youth living in and around St. James Town, UforChange uses  arts-based programs to inspire youth and give them the tools to succeed by providing support and resources to pursue higher education, volunteering, job shadowing and/or employment opportunities.

Alejandra Higuera is an artist who has lived in the area for almost five years. She is currently studying film and animation at OCAD, and works primarily in the west end. Despite the range of programs for children and youth she finds it difficult to connect with other adult artists in St. James Town:  “There are a lot of art programs available here for youth, but nothing for adults. There’s tons of potential for community projects though…there’s such a rich history here, and so many different stories to be told.”

Community Café is one example of a meeting place for artists and other residents of St. James Town.  This project started in the summer of 2011, when local residents and organizations began working toward a vision of forming a community-based social enterprise to promote social inclusion and food security in the neighbourhood. Community feasts are organized every couple of months and usually include an arts component, from performance to art classes. Miguel Camacho is an artist and NAN member who contributed to a recent event.

Community Matters is also working to create arts opportunities for adults through their Artists of St. James Town Initiative, run by local resident and artist Neudis Abreu. The St. James Town Banner Project invited residents to submit their artwork and 25 entries were chosen by a panel of local artists. They are displayed as banners attached to lampposts along Rose Avenue.

Lisa Simpson’s Banner on display in St. James Town

Banner creator Lisa Simpson is a graphic designer and painter living in the area. As a graduate of UforChange and volunteer at Art City in St. James Town she is aware of the connection between art and community development. “St. James Town needs to be upgraded: people deserve better than the current conditions. It needs more colour, it needs to feel safer…Arts events and projects would help with that, something to bring us together and showcase everything we have to be proud of.” Local artist and Banner Project judge, Iftikhar Ahmed, confirms the potential of creativity in St. James Town: “Art links us as a community, and adds colour and warmth to the neighbourhood.”

In addition to several community-engaged arts organizations, St. James Town is also home to many individual artists. Learn more about how NAN members are active in their community as winners of the Community Matters Banner Contest and as artists in a variety of disciplines.

Raj Sandesh recently emigrated from India where she worked as an Ayurvedic doctor. Now living in St. James Town, she pursues her passion for art while raising her children. Art is central to Raj’s impression of her community. “When I first moved to St. James Town, I saw a wall sketch of a dog right off of Wellesley towards the Food Basics. I just loved it.” The neighbourhood continues to contribute to her artistic practice. “I like finding different combinations within my drawings, find inspiration here (in Toronto).” Although Raj says that “I don’t have many friends who have the same interest,” she recognizes that community connections can enrich her work as an artist. “I would like to see more art classes and shows take place in the library and community centres. I would also like to have a chance to show my own artwork somewhere in the city.” Raj participated in the St. James Town Banner Project.

Paul Byron’s Banner Design

Paul Byron is an emerging artist, educator and writer whose large scale paintings straddle the line of representation and abstraction. He submitted the winning entry in the St. James Town Banner Project. He is originally from Hamilton and has been living in St. James Town for the past three years. The diversity of St. James Town intersects with Paul’s interests as an artist. “I am very interested in the diversity in this building. I am very interested in language. It is really great when you can engage with all of the cultural, linguistics and different kinds of things going on…I think it has had a lot to do with my interest in presenting a more complex and specific narrative moving away from traditional portraits.” However, Paul also feels isolated as an artist in St. James Town. “I know fewer people here and there is more of an anonymous feeling. It is difficult to make acquaintances. I have a circle of associates who are active in the artistic and academic community in Hamilton.” Even without the kind of network that he was familiar with in Hamilton, Paul is interested in connecting with arts organizations and contributing to art programs in the neighbourhood. “I have been involved with the Cabbagetown Art Community Centre. I will give a workshop here or teach a class at the library…these kinds of things. There should be more art classes. I don’t even know if there are places in the neighbourhood where this service is available. I was even speaking with the people at Community Matters about workshops or even volunteering time.”

Binod Dhungana, Musician and NAN Member

Binod Dhungana is a singer in the Eastern classical music tradition who participates in a Nepalese community in St. James Town. The active Nepalese music community influenced Binod’s decision to move to the area. He explains: “We get together quite often and have cultural events every two months. There are three or four groups and they perform a variety of songs and dancing…The group was actually one of the main reasons why I moved over here. I knew most of the people from back home in Nepal. There are not a lot of Nepalese people in Mississauga.” Binod’s activities as an artist build on his training in Eastern classical music however he is generally optimistic about the arts in St. James Town. Discussing his dreams and hopes for the neighbourhood he says: “There is such a diverse community and everyone can come together for these community events.”

Banner Design by Iftikhar Ahmed, one of the judges of the St. James Town Banner Project

Iftikhar Ahmed is an established artist who is passionate about making a name for himself in the Toronto arts community. He has been practicing mixed media, collage and painting for over thirty years. Iftikhar finds that the gallery system in Toronto is limited. “There are so many artists, including myself, who are underrepresented. I just think it’s a shame that the AGO is not representing the culture within its city. Artists need freedom to create and this is impossible if the system is not supporting them.” However he is encouraged by community projects and participated in a show at the nearby Strong Communities Gathering Place.  “They really take an initiative to exhibit some local artists, which is great. It’s a small gallery in the Daniels Learning Centre.” Moreover, Iftikhar thinks that the arts play a positive role in St. James Town. “I have seen many murals on the wall. I think that there is a lot of art happening in the area. We just have to search a little bit harder than in other places. This area is very suitable for me and it would be great to do something for the community.” Iftikhar was one of the judges of the St. James Town Banner Project.

Laya Mainali’s Banner Design

Laya Mainali is an established artist who recently emigrated from Nepal. Laya has an MFA and Ph.D in sculpture and has been teaching sculpture at fine arts colleges for 25 years. He has made more than 24 portraits and busts of distinguished persons and has exhibited his paintings and sculptures around the world. Laya won fourth place in the St. James Town Banner Project. Laya’s banner shows his sculpture “Internal Peace.” Laya hopes that this image will encourage people to find peace inside themselves.

 The Arts Impact Study is a project of the Toronto Arts Foundation, in partnership with Art Starts, OCADU and York University. Funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Arts Impact Study researches how arts are created and enjoyed in neighbourhood settings. The study is part of TAF’s Creative City: Block by Block Program designed to advocate for the arts and to support and foster collaboration between artists, community organizations and local residents.

Written by Amy Goudge and Emily Macrae

Emily Macrae is the Neighbourhood Arts Network 2012 Summer Intern.

Supporting Our Youth & Pink Ink


Supporting Our Youth (SOY) is a community development program designed to improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgendered youth in Toronto through the active involvement of youth and adult communities. SOY works to create healthy arts, culture and recreational spaces for young people; to provide supportive housing and employment opportunities; and to increase youth access to adult mentoring and support.

Recently, I sat down with with fellow George Brown student, Ryan Singh, who just recently finished up a placement with Supporting Our Youth Toronto. We covered quite a bit of ground regarding SOY’s use of arts programming in its work with LGBTQ+ youth as well as his own growth as a community worker throughout his time with SOY. He points out that SOY has allowed to him to utilize and expand upon his facilitation skills as well as operate within a diverse group environment. Individually, he is also very involved in the performing arts and we spoke about what SOY offers in terms of current programming. From April 7th through July 7th, SOY is offering a writing program called Pink Ink. It is facilitated by local Toronto musician and author, Vivek Shraya. In the past, participants have produced zines, poetry, short stories, essays, and more. More information about this program can be found below.

Pink Ink

Offered to queer, transgender, Two Spirit, and questioning youth (ages 14-29) who are interested in writing. It focuses on editing, performance, publication, and more! This program is also a great opportunity to meet other queer and trans individuals from all over Canada. In the past, participants have produced a variety of items including zines, poetry, short stories, essays, and more.

Ryan summed up his time with SOY as such: “It is great to work in an environment that is not only queer friendly and/or queer accepting, but queer. Everyone involved with SOY really lives the principles and values. It is living and celebrating positive queer values; being positive with positive people.”

ImageTo learn more about Supporting Our Youth and their services, visit them online at

Alex Pollard is the 2011-2012 Neighbourhood Arts Network intern.