Lawyers for the Arts Workshop (March 2016)

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Are you an artist who wants to ensure you are paid fairly for your art? Do you want to learn how to create solid contracts for your work? Do you want to understand how your artistic income affects your taxes?

Two of the most important things you can do for yourself as an artist are to ensure that you are paid fairly for your work, and that your administration is up to date. This workshop, led by lawyers through Pro Bono Ontario, walked participants through some of the important legal issues that you should understand as a practicing artist. The workshop focussed on how to: create contracts that ensure you are paid fairly for your work, understand important legal elements about your arts business practice, and ensure that you have the correct and up to date paper work for your arts business practice to thrive.


Branding 101 Workshop (February 2016)

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Photos from our Branding 101 workshop at CSI Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park on February 24th, 2016

Your brand is your identity. As an artist, your brand is important whether you get a contract, grant, or even a spot in a gallery. This dynamic workshop trained artists on how to develop their brand in a way that captures their creative identity and professionalism all in one package. They learned how to create their brand identity, wrote a professional artist statement, and developed their CV and professional portfolio. We shared basic tips and tools on how youth can expose their work and their brand as a professional artist, in order to make a living off their art. Participants were given access to artists and brand strategists who taught best practices in building a brand strategy, and how to take a brand to the next level.


ArtReach x RISE x TYES: Youth Arts Town Hall (January 2016)

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::Watch video::

The Town Hall was an opportunity for youth artists and arts groups to learn more about the City of Toronto’s arts initiatives and to discuss issues impacting the youth arts community.

This event was hosted by Paulina O’Kieffe, spoken word artist and Director of ArtReach and Randell Adjei, spoken word artist and founder of RISE Edutainment, with special guest Councillor John Filion, Mayor’s Advocate for the Arts. We were also joined by special guest Andrea Raymond-Wong, Community Cultural Coordinator, Arts Services, Toronto Arts & Culture.

The event was organized by the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy (TYES), AVNU (a network providing workshops, mentoring and network opportunities made up of: ArtReach, Toronto Youth Cabinet, Neighbourhood Arts Network, Nia Centre for the Arts, Manifesto, Sketch and Schools Without Borders) and RISE Edutainment.


Creative Spaces T.O. (November 2015)

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On November 2nd, 2015, ArtReach participated in the Creative Spaces Partnership Exchange, a cross-sector networking and capacity building event. The Exchange was a unique opportunity for individuals and organizations to connect with potential partners working on current and future creative space projects outside of Toronto’s core. Click here to learn more about this event.

Our amazing director, Paulina O’Kieffe was also a featured panelist, speaking on ‘Leadership from Grassroots to Government”, about developing leadership and support for ventures,  communicating programs, proposals and outcomes effectively to government and other key stakeholders, and approaches to framing an organization or an initiative so that it resonates with external stakeholders.


Youth Opportunities Fund x ArtReach: Celebration of YOUth (June 2015)

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On Tuesday June 23, 2015, we hosted an event at CSI in celebration of ArtReach x YOF’s partnership.

This event was filled with great food, great people, and great vibes! Grantees from OTF’s Youth Opportunities Fund were able to present a snapshot of the amazing work they had been doing in their communities. The event was hosted by Randell Adjei from RISE, and featured performances by the amazingly talented Domanique Grant and Toronto’s foremost b-girl crew, Keep Rockin You.


Tides Top 10 Changemakers Awards (April 2014)

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In April 2014, Tides Canada named ArtReach among its Tides’ Top 10 – a national annual award honouring some of Canada’s most innovative social change efforts that inspire people to take action, think in new ways and make the world a better place.

“Our Tides Top 10 award is an opportunity to shine the spotlight on some of Canada’s most innovative social and environmental initiatives,” said Ross McMillan, President and CEO of Tides Canada. “Each of this year’s recipients has demonstrated innovation, creativity and impact while working at the intersection of social, ecological and economic considerations. We’re pleased to recognize and celebrate their collective dedication to social change.”

“We are honoured to receive this recognition,” said shahina sayani, ArtReach Toronto’s Director. “ArtReach is dedicated to supporting young leaders who create access to arts and culture and who have taken a stand to promote equity and social justice. This award reinforces the power of youth engagement and the arts.”

Click here to learn more about this!


Cultural Careers: Bazaar Bazaar Bazaar! (December 2013)

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On December 14th, 2013, ArtReach hosted BAZAAR BAZAAR BAZAAR- curated and hosted by Miracle Thieves and Singhnature! This event was a pop-up market with an array of Toronto artists bringing all kinds of fashionable, hand-crafted one-of-a-kind goods.


Dominique Grant Profile – 2013

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Governor General Dialogue on Youth Arts (September 2010)

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ArtReach Toronto, in partnership with Manifesto Festival of Community and Culture, Toronto City Summit Alliance (now known as CivicAction), Remix Project, and the United Nations Association in Canada hosted a youth dialogue between over 500 youth, stakeholders and Her Excellency the Governor General Michaëlle Jean. The event, part of the Governor General’s national “Can We Talk” series, took place on Monday, September 20, 2010 from 5:00 – 7:00pm at 99 Sudbury, right before ArtReach’s third annual Youth Arts Pitch Contest.

The Governor General chose Toronto as her last stop on national Youth Dialogues tour commemorating the United Nations’ International Year of Youth. The International Year of Youth is intended to increase dialogue and understanding across backgrounds and lifestyles. It aims to facilitate participation in problem-solving on the local, national, and international levels. “Where better to celebrate the power of community arts than here: one of the most multicultural cities in the world”, the Governor General noted in her opening speech.

The “Can We Talk” Youth Dialogues series saw the Governor General address young people in Ottawa, St. John’s, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and Montreal. In Winnipeg, she visited Graffiti Gallery, a urban arts organized working across neighbourhoods to address issues confronting youth. Like ArtReach, such organizations aim to harness the power of arts and culture to empower, transform, and create meaningful arts opportunities. During the evening, the Governor General spoke about “the power of arts and culture…to carry us to a better place”.

A key aspect of the Honourable Michaëlle Jean’s tenure as Governor General was about “encouraging decision-makers and philanthropists of every stripe to reach out, support and include young people”. As a follow-up to that priority, the Governor General announced the creation of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation. The Foundation has been set up to support youth initiatives, and encourage networking between like-minded organizations across Canada.

Once the floor was open, numerous young people took the microphone to share their experiences, ask questions, and describe the challenges and opportunities they face. The live feedback provided by individuals is that it’s crucial for young people and their individual and institutional supporters to “continue working together, in Toronto and across Canada”.

Following the dialogue, the Honourable Michaëlle Jean took the time to meet the contestants in the ArtReach Toronto Youth Arts Pitch Contest. Check out the pictures!

ArtReach Toronto thanks the Honourable Michaëlle Jean for her commitment, time, support and passion for youth arts. We wish her the best of luck in her new role as Special Envoy for Haiti for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.


Learning Circle Event (March 2009)

“ArtReach has been a fertilizer to grow my organization and my own personal skills.”  -Coordinator, ArtReach Toronto Funded Project

On March 11, 2009, members of all ArtReach Toronto-funded projects were invited to participate in a Learning Circle event at the youth-run Whippersnapper Gallery. The purpose was to bring together all the projects funded by ArtReach Toronto to share stories, network and to discuss ways the program has supported benefited them as individuals, as well as their communities.

David MacCoy of First Leadership Ltd worked alongside two coordinators of ArtReach funded projects, members of the Grant Review Team and the ArtReach program manager to design the agenda and the process for the 45 young attendees. Appreciative Inquiry, an engagement approach that aims to encourage imagination, innovation and flexibility, and build on existent positives was the approach used. Two ArtReach Toronto grantees, Helena Shimeles (Young Diplomats) and Mario Murray (Beatz to da Streetz), were trained in the application of Appreciative Inquiry by the evaluator and facilitated the event.

Shahina Sayani, Program Manager, kick-started the event by reviewing feedback from the 2007 Learning Circle event and updating participants on changes already implemented to improve the ArtReach Toronto program. For example, at the previous Learning Circle people expressed an appreciation for the youth arts information that ArtReach used to forward to artists throughout the week however, they requested that the information be compiled and sent out weekly. As a result, ArtReach developed a weekly mailer called “Post-it” – a collection of information about youth arts events, funding, workshops, job opportunities and much more. Currently, approximately 1000 young artists, youth arts organizations, youth groups, funders and various stakeholders subscribe to “Post-It”.  

Participants reported that overall their ArtReach experience had been positive and supportive. Of those that completed a survey, over 90% reported increased confidence as artists, increased number of positive relationships, as well as increased engagement in community activities and connections to other artists. Similarly, over 90% reported that they received valuable advice and support from ArtReach staff and found the workshops to be helpful. A common concern that arose was finding solutions to lack of core funding to keep these organizations and initiatives afloat so these young leaders can continue to do the work they have started.  Some grantees described ArtReach as a “bridge” that shortens the gap between them and arts councils as well as other funders.

When asked what they value most about ArtReach Toronto, the most common responses were capacity building and technical supports, dedication to young artists,  provision of feedback on grants applications), working from the “inside-out” as a change agent, and feeling trusted. Participants cited that the biggest impacts of ArtReach on them were included being taken seriously, having the ability to make art for a living, as well as having access to resources and skill building opportunities (i.e. grant writing supports). The youth artists wished for more jobs and opportunities to connect them to jobs in the arts sector; increased security and sustainability; concrete connections to other funders; increased organizational development and having ArtReach as a permanent trailblazer in the funding community.

The event was a great success and ended on a high note with an inspiring discussion about the groups’ most exciting outcomes which included the ability to transform ideas to projects, personal growth, increased life skills, and witnessing real change in ArtReach funded program participants.

“Young people in our organization, who are part of the program now, as opposed to calling themselves marginalized, underprivileged and at-risk.. instead of identifying themselves with these labels, they are now calling themselves artists.” – Coordinator, ArtReach Toronto Funded Project


ArtReach Youth Profile Series – 2009

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ArtReach Toronto: Learning Circle Event (November 2007)

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On November 14, 2007 all 34 funded-projects of ArtReach Toronto were invited to participate in an evaluation event held at the youth-run Whippersnapper Gallery. The purpose of the event was to gather more information on the experiences and needs of the funded groups, and provide them funding information, resources and an opportunity for networking.

Approximately 60 people attended the event, and most were young artists and participants of ArtReach funded-projects. The event began with “funder speed dating” and also involved small group work and larger discussions facilitated by a youth from an ArtReach funded-project. Performances by 3 funded-projects were held in the break and at the end of the day. A networking dinner ended off the session.

The first activity was a practice in networking and forming relationships with the Arts and Youth funding community. “Funder stations” were set up with groups of approximately 3-4 youth at each station. Groups moved to each station where the funders had four minutes to describe their programs, the types of projects they fund, and answer quick questions. This activity gave ArtReach funded projects a chance to meet face to face with other funding bodies and start a dialogue on how their ideas and projects could be supported further. The following funding organizations were present: Youth Challenge Fund, Toronto Enterprise Fund, Laidlaw Foundation, Toronto Culture, Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council and the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

The whole group participated in a discussion on their experience with ArtReach Toronto. A learning circle participant and youth leader from an ArtReach-funded project facilitated a discussion with the whole group to explore and document people’s wishes for ArtReach, their experience with the applications process, their contact with ArtReach and their thoughts on the workshop series.

Wishes for ArtReach included that it be “self sufficient” and hold a place at major decision making tables. Groups asked that the workshop series be documented and made available on-line. The group was also interested in more events such as the ArtReach Toronto Pitch Contest, supported by Toronto Culture, and held at the Ignite Youth Arts Forum on June 12, 2007, as well as a showcase in order to reconnect with all the groups present in a setting that celebrated the diversity of art forms they practice.

Participants expressed that their contact with ArtReach was personal, open, respectful and authentic. “It’s what it should be like” said one participant, “that support had a huge impact on us because it was genuine and tailored for my needs”.

Groups also said that they found the workshop series useful in that it provided information on other kinds of grants, provided printed material and linked them to people working in the youth arts sector with real relevant experience, people who understood the challenges and needs because they had been through the process themselves.

The next activity explored the experiences of artists and leaders in the projects that they ran. In small participant-led groups of ArtReach-funded project staff, artists and program participants, everyone wrote down their top high points, the impact they felt their projects had, what they valued the most about them and their wishes for their projects in the future. Each point was posted on the wall and all participants were asked to place a sticker beside the 3 points that were of the highest importance to them.

“I loved that discussion” said one participant. “So many people in the room have similar amazing experiences with their projects and really believe in what they were doing. We also faced many of the same struggles trying to make our ideas happen. It’s really validating being part of this community and seeing everyone here together. Straight up, ArtReach is an institution that supports the people and ideas that it says it supports”.

So what did people say about their experiences? High points with the most stickers ranged from “performing internationally”, “getting a review in NOW magazine” and “getting the grant” to “learning from and teaching youth”, “getting the chance to be a leader” and “transforming a life”. Groups also saw their impact on their neighborhoods by noting that they had actively encouraged youth entrepreneurship, created a space for expression and really mobilized their community.

The things that were marked as the highest in value included “positivity”, “breakthroughs”, “seeing self sufficient youth in the work force actually doing what they want”, “building relationships and developing leadership’, “seeing the youth’s artistic vision physically manifest” and of course, “the youth in our programs”.

What do ArtReach funded groups wish for? It all has to do with the ability to keep growing, creating and moving forwards. People expressed the importance of the longevity of their projects and having access to space. Groups want to be connected with active listeners from policy and funding community, and the opportunity to be at the decision making table. Why? More security would mean a chance to be self reliant and have time to do what we do best: ART!


Governor General of Canada and ArtReach Toronto
Host Event to Support Young Artists (April 2007)

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On April 28 2007, ArtReach Toronto hosted a meeting with the Governor General of Canada and young artists at the Whippersnapper Gallery in Toronto, a youth-run gallery funded by ArtReach. The event was an opportunity for Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean to discuss the importance of the arts in the lives of young people.

Over 100 young artists from across the City of Toronto attended the event. The Governor General participated in a discussion with invited guests on the needs of young artists and the importance of the arts in young people’s lives. The event concluded with a short set of performances by singer Mario Murray, aka The Voyce, spoken word artist Samatar and a video presentation by Schools Without Borders, all involved in projects supported by ArtReach Toronto.

“This event was an amazing opportunity for young artists to come together to share their experiences, innovative practices, and to discuss their challenges and needs with the Governor General of Canada,” said Shahina Sayani, ArtReach Program Manager. “It is important that the voices of youth are heard and that the work they are doing in our communities is valued.”

The discussion focused on the ways in which art can be used to improve life in our neighbourhoods and highlighted the critical importance of the arts as a means of expression, release, connection, and creative outlet for participants. Those in attendance included young leaders who are running arts projects that are changing lives across the city. Political representatives also attended, including Minister of Children and Youth Services Mary Anne Chambers, and representatives from cultural industries including Factor and CBC.

The critical need for funding to support youth arts was central to the discussion, as well as the need for capacity building supports, and access to training, mentorship, space and production facilities.

Participants spoke of the need for more youth arts creation and performance spaces that are accessible, safe and promote creativity and community. The discussion also showed strong support for collaboration through developing stronger connections across communities and working together.

Other themes included the importance of role models and mentors, and the importance of creating opportunities for youth in a range of careers related to the cultural industries. Business and entrepreneurial skills are important for youth working in urban arts.

The message that art can save lives came through strong, as many participants told personal stories about the importance of art in their lives. As one participant put it: “Never, ever give up – when you show that you have the ability to be successful, everybody wants to jump on board.”

The Governor General is a passionate advocate for youth arts, and was moved by the discussion. She is working towards spreading the message that youth arts is important to community building, a guiding principle of ArtReach Toronto.


Launch of ArtReach Toronto Funding Program (August 2006)

::View photos from ArtReach Launch::

ArtReach Toronto was successfully launched on August 22, at the youth-run Whipper Snapper Gallery. The event was well attended by over 150 young people, community organizations, youth workers and funders.

Those in attendance were surrounded by art created by young people, representing a range of art forms. A showcase of young artists was presented, including: the Trethewey Youth Photography project, The S.T.E.P. U.P. dub poetry collective, DJ Michael Murray, and Colanthony Humphrey performing a live graffiti demonstration.

Special guest speakers included Amina Yassin-Omar, Chair of the Grassroots Youth Collaborative (GYC), a collective of culturally and racially diverse youth-led organizations, working in under-served communities. GYC was consulted on the design of ArtReach Toronto. Amina shared how pleased the GYC are that many of their key recommendations were implemented, including giving priority to youth-led initiatives.

Hip hop producer and songwriter Solitair spoke in support of the program and on the broader topic of youth engagement through the arts. He delivered a message from one of Canada’s most successful hip hop artists, Kardinal Offishall: “I am glad that art is once again being recognized as a strong component for our youth’s future. I am proud to havebeen one of the many artists who feel that a change is needed, and this is a great start.” Solitair relayed a message from Kardinal about his positive experience with the Fresh Arts program of the 80’s, why arts programs are needed in Toronto, and how the arts are a great way to engage youth.

Shahina Sayani, program manager for ArtReach Toronto, spoke about her passion for the new initiative, because it recognizes the potential in young people. Shahina said: “It appreciates different forms of art for having value in and of itself – that arts lets you express yourself and be who you are. It also recognizes the power of using art as a tool to engage the most hard-to-reach youth”. She concluded with saying, “…it’s investing in youth, believing in them and supporting and empowering them to do what needs to be done that will effect long-term change. That’s what ArtReach Toronto is all about…”

Young artists who participated in the event spoke out in support of the new program that values the participation of young artists in all aspects of the granting process, “WHIPPERSNAPPER GALLARY WAS OFF THE HOOK! It was more than just an outreach – it was people coming together and realizing that the youth are the future and we can accomplish great things by doing what we do best and that’s getting out there and getting LIVE! Thanks to ArtReach Toronto for having S.T.EP.U.P. perform and get out there with our goods”.