Session Descriptions




  • Justin Langlois, Co-Founder & Research Director, Broken City Lab; Assistant Professor, Emily Carr University of Art and Design
  • Sean Martindale, Artist & Designer
  • Farrah-Marie Miranda, Artist, Educator, Consultant
  • Asad Raza, Producer & Curator
  • Shawn Van Sluys, Executive Director, Musagetes
  • Moderated by Lorella Di Cintio, Assistant Professor, School of Interior Design Ryerson University

HOW CAN ART DRIVE PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT AND HOPE? It is increasingly recognized that art, as a series of guiding principles and means of communication, can be harnessed to improve the creation, design and delivery of socially innovative initiatives by connecting individuals.

Creative Connections focuses on the role of art in building connections on an individual (micro), group (mezzo) and societal (macro) level. In a world where individuality is often prioritized at the expense of community, art becomes a shared language through which we can foster dialogue and bridge disciplines. Art is important to social change insofar as (i) it provides a collective and safe space to problematize and examine issues through a creative lens, and (ii) it catalyzes awareness through aesthetic "non-rational" channels.

This panel examines the iterative artistic processes aimed at strengthening communities and cultivating lasting social engagement.



  • Michael Murray, Music & Arts Service Organizations Officer, Ontario Arts Council
  • Pru Robey, Vice President, Artscape; Director, Creative Placemaking Lab
  • Sheila Sampath, Principal & Creative Director, The Public; Editorial & Art Director, Shameless magazine
  • Kristyn Wong-Tam, City Councillor, Ward 27, City of Toronto
  • Moderated by: Maggie Flynn, Artist; Researcher; Co-Director, Whippersnapper Gallery

HOW CAN ART INSPIRE NEW SOCIAL ECONOMIES? The discussion around the role of creativity and culture has reached somewhat of a noisy consensus: the expressive activities of arts and culture is now recognized as 'one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy, stimulating the economy and animating creativity in a city (UNESCO, 2013). Researchers are increasingly interested in the tangible and measurable outputs of creativity and culture – but, does arts and culture really ‘fit’ within a system that values financial return above all else? Creative Systems looks at the current ecosystems in place that support artists and art-making in the world today.

This panel addresses the tangible realities and systems related to artists, like current funding and support models in Canada, and how artists can contribute to change broader social systems like capitalism, neoliberalism and the social economy. Creative System also addresses current issues and trends, and examines possible alternate systems that can be ushered in to properly support and nurture artists.



  • Linh Nguyen, the Bodhi Collective, Ryerson University
  • Vanessa Timmer, Executive Director, One Earth
  • Greg van Alstyne, Professor, OCAD University
  • Annie Wong, Young Mammals Director, Mammalian Diving Reflex
  • Moderated by Laurie Petrou, Associate Professor, Ryerson University

HOW CAN ART IMAGINE BETTER POSSIBLE FUTURES? Creative Futures examines the generative role of artists as visionaries and futurists. Through "artistic license”, artists can imagine and anticipate possible futures, disrupting the norm with new frames for understanding the world. Artists are often the first in experimenting with new ideas by challenging conventions and stimulating debate, inspiring questions as much as answers.

If we challenge and critique current models in Creative Systems, here we ask how artists can advance new, more sustainable systems that can not only support artists and art-making, but also position artists as key players in changing the world.

This theme explores how art can both inspire and empower new generations, and foster hope and innovation through the creative inclusion of young people in the civic sphere. In addition, Creative Futures discusses the game-changing and democratizing impact of the digital age on the creative sphere, and how artists can communicate a more socially-minded approach to increasing technocentrism.

Breakout Session 1 (Concurrent Sessions)

A. Artist Talks: Facilitating Social Connections through Public Interventions


  • Timeanddesire (Denise St. Marie & Timothy Walker), Artist Collective
  • Patricio Davila & Dave Colangelo, Media Artists Artist

This breakout session explores the motivations behind the work of two artist collectives, and examines how large-scale public interventions can connect people to one another and to social issues.

Timeanddesire’s practice explores new-genre public art, text art, signage, interventionism and socially engaged installations. Their work looks to provide the viewer a break from their well-established expectations or routines by highlighting the absurd, the psychological, the philosophical and the poetic.

Patricio Davila and Dave Colangelo’s practice can be described as mixture between public data visualization and counter-monumentality. Through the use of LED facades and large-scale projection, they create emphatic interfaces between people, place, and information. Their works interrogate a site for its political, narrative, and social content, and augment the possibilities for collective awareness, action, and debate through technology.

B. Multiplying Voices: Storytelling through Art


  • Gilad Cohen, Executive Director, Jayu: Human Rights Film Festival
  • Suelyn Knight, Project Manager, Black Experience Project, Environics Institute
  • Suruthi Ragulan, Women's Sexual Health Coordinator, Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention

This panel brings together three unique organizations who are creating art and using artistic practises in order to share the stories and experiences of individuals.

Jayu's Hashtag Street Photograph Project connects six of Toronto's top mobile photographers with ten at-risk and homeless youth from Horizons for Youth. The project aims to engage at-risk and homeless youth to spark creativity, share stories through photography and empower participants to become creative leaders in their communities.

Environic Institute’s Black Experience Project (BEP) collaborated with the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and NIA Centre for the Arts to present the Scratch & Mix Project. The Scratch & Mix Project brought together eleven emerging artists from the GTA’s black communities to create art around the theme of “Empowering the Black Community.” The exhibition was presented at the AGO and included a youth solidarity forum and a community-driven youth-action project.

The Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention uses a creative storytelling model in its women's programs both in print and online to engage South Asian women on social issues. One of their initiatives, More Than Fiction is an anthology of stories by POZ South Asian women living in the GTA. These narratives highlight the profound isolation that living a secret life can entail but also give voice to the self compassion and resilience that such challenges engender. In this anthology, participants use storytelling and arts based methodologies to share their experiences.

C. Planning with Art: The Artist Role in City Building


  • Jennie Suddick, Multidisciplinary Artist, Professor, OCAD University
  • Sara Udow, Urban Planner, R.E. Millward & Associates

Cities are social and aesthetic environments. As such, collaborative and socially innovative solutions are increasingly used to address many of our cities’ issues, whether it is searching for creative approaches to community engagement or developing new designs for underutilized spaces. Jennie Suddick, a visual artist/educator and Sara Udow, an urban/community/cultural planner, are increasingly interested in the role artists can play within city building. They will discuss how their different paths converge as they collectively explore how people experience our environments and reflect on their roles in shaping the future of our cities.

Jennie and Sara will also introduce an interactive workshop in the form of an artist studio, focusing on an urban problem and posing the questions: What would it look like if artists and the public helped to determine how our cities look and feel? How can we collectively develop new ideas to plan for the experiential?

D. Public Space ARTivism


  • Alexis Kane Speer, Founding Director, STEPS Initiative
  • Mojan Jianfar, Stakeholder Relations, STEPS Initiative
  • Vera Belazelkoska, Manager of Community Projects, STEPS Initiative
  • Brent Fairbairn, Project Development, STEPS Initiative

Through an overview of the STEPS Initiative’s projects, this session will demonstrate how the engagement of stakeholders and space users is crucial to the production of art that will be celebrated by the community-at-large, and the process STEPS utilizes to do this. Session participants will then be led on a brief walk during which they will identify opportunities for public art in Ryerson and surrounding areas.

STEPS’ projects range from world record-breaking murals to temporary space activations, some led by internationally celebrated artists, others by youth arts collectives, and others yet that transformed the way residents experience urban development; all these have engaged the public. “Bring to the Table”, a multidisciplinary Nuit Blanche 2014 installation invited Torontonians to become part of the installation itself, through participating in activities that fostered dialogue on how public space is the home of the community, along with locally relevant social and environmental issues.

E. Transforming Healthcare through Art


  • Dr. Jennifer L. Lapum, Associate Professor, Ryerson University
  • Christine Harris, Founder & Chief Innovator, Articulate Health; Advisory Chair, North York Arts

This series of talks highlight the role of art in innovating and bettering our healthcare system.

Dr. Jennifer Lapum, researcher at Ryerson University, employs arts-based and narrative methods of research. Her arts-informed study has taken form in a 1700 square foot art installation that is nine feet tall, entitled “The 7,024th Patient.” Designed like a labyrinth, the installation provides an immersive and sensory space to enter into the patient’s experience. Likewise, the performance goal is to prompt imagination, reflection, and trigger emotive and embodied responses to enhance capacity for empathetic awareness of patients’ experiences.The ultimate goal of her work is to ensure that no patient feels like the 7,024th patient when they enter and exit the healthcare system.

Christine Harris is an arts and health practitioner whose personal experience of living with a chronic illness shaped her into a strong patient advocate. She is developing an arts-based framework of pain measurement and communication to help improve the pain assessment process. This project will bring together patients, health practitioners, artists and arts therapists to embark on this quality improvement research project. Through a process of “artistic translation," this exploration aims to lead to a new and common language of pain for patients and health practitioners.

Breakout Session 2 (Concurrent Sessions)

A. Disruptive Imaginings: Catalyzing Social Innovation by Bridging Arts, Futures, and Sustainability


  • Vanessa Timmer, Executive Director, One Earth; Curator, Cities for People
  • Shawn Van Sluys, Executive Director, Musagetes

This is an interactive session in which we engage participants in exploring the potential in the intersection among the fields of art, futures and sustainability as a response to pressing challenges and the need for social innovation.

Artists have always played an integral role in reimagining our world. Given the challenges ahead, we believe this role is more important than ever. While many solutions exist to our most pressing problems, the political will to enact deeper change is severely lacking.

The hypothesis behind Disruptive Imaginings is that this inaction is, in part, because we lack imaginative foresight— i.e. compelling, creative, alternative visions to the status quo that engage us fully as human beings.

Our belief is that if people — leaders, change-makers, citizens— could experience and have access to a rich body of work representing more positive futures, we have a stronger chance of finding more sustainable pathways forward.

We believe artists are especially skilled at bringing these new possibilities into the world, and that their voices and works should be central to world-changing discussions and decisions that will impact generations to come. In a phrase, we believe that through better world-making, we can get better at world-changing.

B. Future of Precarious Work: Issues around Art and Labour


  • Carole Condé, Artist
  • Karl Beveridge, Artist
  • Maggie Flynn, Artist; Researcher; Co-Director, Whippersnapper Gallery
  • Nahed Mansour, Artist; Director, Mayworks Festival

Cultural capital enthusiasts tout the socio-economic benefits of artists in our cities as drivers of innovation. However, this draws a problematic contrast to how the current systems recognize, compensate and support artists as contributors and service-providers in society. While inroads have been made through organizations such as CARFAC, artists in Canada still face precarious working conditions with little access to income redistribution mechanisms such as employment insurance. They are also generally excluded from the protections of collective bargaining and the benefits of union membership.

This panel examines issues relating to art and labour and asks questions involving the nature of artists' work, collective bargaining, and what reforms (policy, institutional, cultural) are needed, if any, to adequately support artists. In addition, the panel seeks to explore the broader implications of around individuals and labour policies, especially with the increasing rise of temporary workers in all sectors.

C. Speed Ideating


  • Ella Cooper, Manager, Neighbourhood Arts Network
  • Naty Tremblay, Field Placement Coordinator, SKETCH
  • Phyllis Novak, Artistic Director & Founder, SKETCH

Speed Ideating is an opportunity for creatives to break away from the traditional methods of brainstorming in the boring boardrooms, and take up an opportunity to discover and build new ideas with old and new friends. Led by Neighbourhood Arts Network, SKETCH and AVNU, this Speed Ideation session is one of many collaborations between these three organizations.

Too many creators, too little time. The Toronto arts community is a large daunting world. Sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one not in the loop, not in the know, not in the cool crowd. Well here’s your chance to knock a whole lot of dramatic birds with one stone, with Speed Ideating, hosted by the Neighbourhood Arts Network (NAN), SKETCH and AVNU. This is an opportunity for creative minds to meet, share, and learn from others in the community through speedy 2 minute discussions. Fast-paced, creative minds, thought provoking talks.

D. Transitions in Progress: Making Space for Place


  • Roberta Buiani, Researcher, Activist, Media Artist
  • Elena Basile, Researcher, Teacher, Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto

Roberta Buiani and Elena Basile are part of Transitions in Progress: Making Space for Place (TiP), a collaborative project between poet/translator Elena Basile, interdisciplinary artist Roberta Buiani and filmmaker Valentina Sutti. Using a multimedia mobile lab and a series of participatory techniques, our goal is to explore alternative ways of making sense of how one experiences dwelling, travel and displacement in the city of Toronto. In this interactive presentation we will introduce the concept behind our installation Transitions in Progress (TiP) and audience members will have a chance to interact and give feedback on the TiP Lab’s modular design and its different components.


E. Weathering Climate Change: Bridging Art and Innovation


  • Ross Curtner, Co-Founder, Adjacent Possibilities
  • Scott Baker, Co-Founder, Adjacent Possibilities
  • Filiz Klassen, Professor, Ryerson University

These talks look at how we can meaningfully connect the worlds of innovation with art and culture to address complex social issues like climate change.

 Co-founders Ross Curtner and Scott Baker share their experience starting Adjacent Possibilities and their work building multi-disciplinary buy-in for an exhibition at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto which partnered installation artists and cleantech entrepreneurs to spark a new conversation on climate change. In addition, they’ll present recent work curating an Artist Round Table (A.RT) on New Economies with the Musagetes Foundation and offer lessons learned for other models of engagement between artists and non-artists alike.

Artist, researcher and professor Filiz Klassen uses weather as a vehicle to question ideas of enclosure and shelter, as well to reveal built environments’ impact on climate change and energy consumption. This topic and its diverse creative output, ranging from performances to exhibition/installations, continues to be her long-term creative research umbrella. Her research/creative projects provides a ‘laboratory’ for dealing with current challenges as well as imagining the future of built environments within the context of climate change.