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Speakers 2020

Melissa Foster joined North York Arts in 2014 and has since worked on numerous initiatives to provide opportunities for artistic participation within the community. Melissa has over 10 years of working in various roles throughout the public sector. In her career, she has collaborated on several community arts projects and facilitated arts programs both abroad and within Toronto. Her primary focus is on the development and implementation of professional support services for artists; looking towards creating sector-wide collaborations and community-driven, participatory arts-based programming. Melissa holds a BA (Hons) in Theatre Studies as well as a Community Arts Practice Certificate from York University. She also holds a post-degree diploma in Arts Management from Western University.

Sean Martindale

Sean Martindale is an internationally recognized and award-winning interdisciplinary artist and designer based in Toronto, Canada. His interventions activate public spaces to encourage engagement and often focus on ecological and social issues. His playful works suggest alternate possibilities for existing spaces, infrastructures and materials found in urban environments. Frequently, Martindale uses salvaged goods and live plants in unexpected ways that prompt conversation.

Recently, Martindale was Harbourfront Centre’s inaugural Visual Artist-in-Residence, and alongside collaborator JP King, he was also the first Artist-In-Residence with the City of Toronto, Solid Waste Management Services.

Kevin Matthew Wong

Kevin Matthew Wong is a theatre creator, producer, performer, projection designer, and environmentalist. He is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Broadleaf Theatre, which merges environmentalism and live performance, and his ongoing work The Chemical Valley Project is a multimedia solo-performance about environmentalism and reconciliation that has toured across Canada and to Germany. Kevin has been lucky to work and create with Cahoots Theatre, the Koffler Centre, Music Picnic, Kitchener-Waterloo Youth Theatre, Carousel Players, Why Not Theatre, and the social justice residency The Gardarev Centre, among others. He’s currently an Associate Producer at Why Not Theatre and is a Producer on Mahabharata, premiering at the Shaw Festival in August 2020.

Ilana Altman is a cultural planner and designer who has a background in art and architecture. In her role as Co-Executive Director, she works with the community to implement innovative and engaging programming, revealing new possibilities for public space and cultivates the best visitor experience possible.

Prior to joining The Bentway team, Ilana worked for a number of notable design firms including Studio Daniel Libeskind and Diller Scofidio + Renfro in New York and KPMB Architects in Toronto. She has led the curation and design of exhibitions and installations at the SFMOMA, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Additionally, she has worked closely with artists to realize public art installations for Toronto’s Nuit Blanche. In 2014 Ilana founded the Artful City, a Toronto collective that aims to advance public art research, policies, and imaginations.

Additionally, Ilana founded and served as the Executive Director of the Pavilion Project from 2015-2017.

Christine Moynihan has spent the past forty years actively working in the performing arts  – as an actor, producer, technician, administrator, and executive director. From 1976 – 1988, she worked as an actor in theatres across Canada. She was the Artistic Producer of Equity Showcase Theatre (EST), from 1988 – 2002 and the Executive Director of the Dance Umbrella of Ontario (DUO) from 2002- 2012. She has received both the Brenda Donoghue Award for Outstanding Service to the Theatre Community and The Harold Award, also for Outstanding Service to the Theatre and Dance Community. In 2016, she was the Rehearsal Director and Production Manager for the Art Monastery Project in Caramanico, Italy and, while there, created The Wild Boars project.

Victor Pokinko is an award-winning producer, actor, and theatre-creator who has entertained audiences on stages ranging from parks to museums, from stone amphitheaters to the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, India.

As an Artistic Producer of Bad Hats Theatre and the Creative Producer of Bad New Days, his interest lies in carving out and supporting space for new, inventive, multidisciplinary work to be developed, explored, and shared. Alongside his work with Bad Hats and Bad New Days, he has produced and consulted with Pea Green Theatre, Theatre Rusticle, The Cave Collective, and ARC (Actors Repertory Company) at venues ranging from small breweries to independent tours of national festivals and theatres, to Soulpepper Theatre’s Family Festival, and recently, an international webcast/production of a ground-breaking multidisciplinary song-cycle, The Cave, dreamed up by visionary Canadian artists John Millard, Tomson Highway, and Martha Ross.

As a performer, he is best known to Toronto audiences for his work in Bad Hats Theatre’s flagship Peter Pan, which headlined Soulpepper’s Family Festival for the third year this past Dec/Jan, and in Pea Green Theatre’s critically-acclaimed Three Men in a Boat and Three Men on a Bike, which both continue to tour after five consecutive years. He is known for his highly physical and absurdly minimalist work on stage.

Victor is a graduate of Sheridan College and the University of Toronto.

Joss Monson

Joss Monzon has helped all kinds of organizations tell their story to the world, from brand storytelling to filmmaking, producer and artist. His job is to focus on the creation of integrated connections between brands and consumers in converging media. Joss has helped companies to find their story and identity through branding, storytelling, design and animation work within the commercial, entertainment industries, and non-profit organizations. Joss also speaks at seminars and conferences around the world.

Luke Reece

Luke Reece is a theatre producer, playwright, spoken word poet, and arts educator. He is the Producer for Canada’s leading culturally specific theatre company, Obsidian Theatre, and a Member of the Toronto Poetry Project. Through his work as an artistic leader within the national arts community, he advocates for engaging and nuanced storytelling that challenges Canadian audiences. Luke is one of Toronto’s most decorated slam poets, becoming the Toronto Poetry Slam (TPS) Grand Champion in 2017, winning the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word as the captain of the TPS team and then again in 2018 as the team coach. In 2018 he placed 2nd in Canada individually which earned him a spot representing the country at the 2019 World Cup of Poetry Slam in Paris France where he placed 4th.

Umair Jaffar

Umair Jaffar is the Executive Director of Small World Music, one of Toronto’s pioneering and most significant presenters of culturally-diverse music. Since arriving in Toronto in 2014, he has worked in curatorial and management roles at major cultural institutions including the Aga Khan Museum and Harbourfront Centre. In 2017, recognizing his contributions to Toronto’s arts sector, he received the Cultural Leaders Lab fellowship from the Toronto Arts Council and Banff Centre.

Prior to immigrating, he was the CEO & Artistic Director for IPAC (Institute for Preservation of Art and Culture), a Pakistan-based non-profit social enterprise that focused on developing sustainable solutions for preserving and promoting indigenous and traditional performing arts. 

Umair also serves as a board member for several non-profit art organizations including CAPACOA (Canadian Arts Presenting Association), North York Arts and Musiconnect Asia. He has a MBA from the University of Adelaide, Australia and a MSc in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Oxford, UK.

Lindy Kinoshameg

Lindy Kinoshameg is a Community Engagement Facilitator – Young People’s Theatre (YPT) Odawa nation (Pike clan), raised in Wiikwemkoong Unceded First Nation, the last 10 years has been focused on Indigenous cultural awareness and breaking stereotypes through the arts. Always striving to discover that new art-form, incorporating Indigenous values and teachings into his everyday practice, and sharing his knowledge with others.

Parul Pandya

Parul Pandya has been skillfully working in non-profit in various roles through the past decade, including as a community builder, consultant, programmer and producer. After managing in community granting for the largest government funder in Canada, she seamlessly transferred her knowledge, passion, and skills to open her own consulting practice. Community Impact Non-Profit Consulting strategically enables community engagement and equitable innovation. 

Her attraction to advocacy emerged with her work as a Queer South Asian freelance writer/poet, over a decade ago. She strongly believes representation matters and it’s important to share stories. She has a deep passion for ethics and social justice, which she teaches at Centennial College. She feels fulfilled when using community arts as a tool for community engagement and colourful expression.

Izzie Colpitts-Campbell is an artist, designer and creative technologist whose work inhabits the interfaces between the body, leather and computational fashion. Her work explores gender and queer bodily experience primarily through hard/soft material juxtaposition and designing augmentations for the bodily experience. Originally from Halifax NS, she now lives in Toronto and holds a BFA in software and electronic arts with a specialization in wearable technology from OCAD University.

Izzie’s creative praxis centres creating space to share and critically engage with technology, which is crucial to her own practice and that of her community. Through her work as president of Dames Making Games and a member of the board at the Toronto Media Arts Centre, she is devoted to supporting and educating artists interested in software and electronic arts. She is a founding organizer of the game-art conference Damage Camp, now in its 3rd year running and has curated exhibits of game-art Internationally.

Izzie has been exhibiting work since 2008, most recently as part of Wired to Wear at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. She has given talks internationally on wearable tech, VR, tech-art, alternative education, community development and the points at which all these things intersect.

Yara El Safi

Yara El Safi (AKA Fatima Noor El-Deen Mahmoud) is a Queer, Neuro-divergent, Lebanese Muslim artist and performer born in Abu Dhabi and raised in Tripoli, Lebanon. El Safi immigrated with her family to Windsor, Ontario, Canada in 2002 in search of better education and better economic standing. El Safi completed her BFA Honours and minor in Women’s Studies at Western University in 2016. Currently based in Toronto Ontario, her BFA Specialization in Studio Art aided with the establishment of her artistic discipline informal studio practice, while her background in Women’s Studies informed her foundation to understand herself within a Canadian context and the intersections of identity in her ongoing practice.

Yara El Safi’s artworks and performances speak to the fragments of intersectional identities that polarize and erase each other as being queer and Muslim or religious and sensual in one body. El Safi’s work focuses on conflicting and unfixed identities that live in two different places; realities, universes. El Safi attempts to reconcile these identities by creating a dialogue of reclamation of the body, traditional symbols, dialects and, resistance of the dominant Canadian narratives.  El Safi uses specific Arab and Muslim iconography, such as Fatima’s Hand, the hijab and Islamic clothing along with with Arabic and English phrases allowing for multiple interpretations of the work. El Safi’s paintings focus on small communities and groups of people painted together like families. The dialogue is in the details, in the faces, in the background and the foreground, her paintings are in constant movement so the eye can always find something new to latch onto. El Safi’s paintings attempt to create a dialogue with the feelings of displacement, immigration, and the preservation of traditions. All these elements intertwine to discuss inter-sectional identity and historical preservation as the means to contest the assimilation of the dominant understandings of queer Muslim individuals.

Click here to see our itinerary and find out more about which activities our speakers will be hosting!

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