CEO, Toronto Arts Council
Magic Moment: Arts in the Parks was launched 5 years ago as part of my vision for a Creative City, Block by Block. This initiative, accomplished through Toronto Arts Foundation with the support of the Mayor and many corporate donors, creates access to the arts in communities outside the downtown core, many of which have few cultural amenities. Everyone deserves access to the arts. Moreover, the arts foster connections and understanding among people, and build thriving neighbourhoods. With a scarcity of cultural space, particularly outside the downtown area, the park system has become a welcome venue hosting hundreds of talented artists per year. Seeing local residents and community organizers engage with our first Arts in the Parks event brought me great joy.
Key Influence: One of my early influencers was the fearless Billie Bridgman, who was my artistic counterpart at an experimental opera company.
While we were very different, we brought out the best in each other, allowing each other to dream big and to tackle complex challenges. We trusted each others’ instincts while forging ahead with innovation and experimentation. Billie later became the first Executive Director of Artscape, which has since made Toronto a world leader in placemaking through the arts.
From a very early age I was either my own boss or served a board of directors as the company leader. While it afforded me incredible learning experiences, there were few role models. Moving on in my career, I looked for mentorship and advice from many different colleagues, in Canada, USA and Europe.
In a number of cases, as colleagues and competitors, we voluntarily formed work groups to tackle challenges facing our organizations and our sector, and we made significant gains. It taught me that collaboration and joint advocacy can be very effective.
Next Big Challenge As An Industry: Toronto truly is an amazing city, particularly in its rich diversity and its vibrant arts scene. The success of arts-based placemaking, leading to city building and gentrification has also made it increasingly unaffordable for artists, and others, in which to live and work. We need to design a city that respects the environment, that embraces humanity, that sparks connections, and fosters tolerance and understanding.
Secret Talent: Very few people know that my earliest vocation was that of an actor. The work ethic of the theatre, the power of storytelling, the need to both trust one’s instincts and to collaborate in a team, while valuing the audience, has informed the work culture that I
try to nurture.
On Championing Others… I believe in celebrating accomplishments and potential. I hosted the first annual Mayor’s Arts Lunch 15 years ago to celebrate those in the arts who deliver so much to Toronto’s success. It is always an inspiration. I also enjoy mentoring, and have learned much myself through this and have developed wonderful friendships by doing so.
One word that captures you: Determined. I rarely give up, even if I have to re-approach a challenge from different perspectives over a long period of time.