Our Board of Directors

2017 Board of Directors

Portrait of Susan Crocker, Chair

Susan Crocker, Chair 

Susan Crocker is a volunteer board leader and strategic advisor.  She is passionate about community development and social justice, which she pursues through her involvement in education, leadership development and strengthening the cultural sector.

Susan Crocker is the recent past Chair of the Toronto Arts Foundation and has been a Toronto Arts Council Board member since 2011.  She sits on the Board of the Gardiner Museum, and has previously served as Co-Chair of the Advisory Board of the Institute for Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Trustee of the ROM, Chair of the Canadian Stage Company and Chair of the Board of Management of St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.  In 2011 – 12 she served on the City of Toronto Mayor’s Arts Task Force.

Susan was appointed Chancellor of St. Francis Xavier University in November 2015.  She is a past member of the Board of Governors of the University and serves as the Chair of the Advisory Board of Coady International Institute.  In 2012 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from St. FX.

Susan began her professional career in the global financial sector with CIBC.  She joined Ernst and Young Management Consulting as a partner in 1995.  She worked for the Toronto Stock Exchange as Senior Vice President of Equity and Derivative Markets before being named President and CEO of the Hospitals of Ontario Pension Plan.  Upon leaving the financial services industry in 2001 she assumed a number of corporate board positions, and engaged in volunteer board leadership, strategy consulting and fundraising.

Portrait of Nova Bhattacharya

Nova Bhattacharya, President 

Recognized as one of the leading dance artists of her generation Nova Bhattacharya is the former Chair of the Toronto Arts Council’s Dance Committee and has been a member of Toronto Art Council’s board of directors since 2011. An impassioned advocate for the arts she is a founding member of South Asian Dance Alliance Canada; past treasurer and co-chair of Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists – Ontario Chapter. Nova dedicates many volunteer hours to initiatives that promote the value of the arts in society.

Bhattacharya began her career with the Menaka Thakkar Dance Company and as an independent dance artist appeared with a number of Canadian companies. Her powerful, humanistic dance works have been described as “transforming bharatanatyam dance vocabulary into stunning contemporary dance” (Globe & Mail). In 2008 she founded Nova Dance, the company’s productions have been presented from coast to coast in Canada and in Germany and Japan, they have garnered 5 Dora Mavor Moore Award Nominations. Nova was the recipient of the 2012 Victor Martyn Lynch Staunton Award for outstanding artistic achievement in dance.

Karen Tisch, Past President 

Long-time arts manager and programmer, Karen's past positions include Executive Director of Ashkenaz Foundation, Managing Director of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Grants Officer at the Canada Council for the Arts and the Toronto Arts Council, Programming Director of the Images Festival of Independent Film and Video and President of A Space Gallery. She has worked as a film programmer and critic (radio). She currently runs an independent arts consultancy practice. Karen is a graduate of the National Ballet School of Canada and the Ontario College of Art and Design. Karen Tisch was President of Toronto Arts Council from 2007 - 2013 and a member of the Board of Toronto Arts Foundation during this time.

Andrew Walker - Secretary

Andrew is a business, entertainment and media lawyer at Taylor Oballa Murray Leyland LLP.  He commenced his legal career at McMillan LLP and enjoys assisting not-for-profit corporations and charities with corporate governance and operations.  As a passionate, lifelong resident of Toronto, he is committed to combatting poverty and fostering arts and culture in the city.

Harold Chmara, Treasurer 

Harold is an experienced financial executive with over 25 years experience in a public company environment. His most recent focus is tax technology, tax process improvement, risk and governance. He previously moved through a series of progressive roles at Deloitte’s Business Tax Consulting group, Hudson’s Bay Company, last as Vice-President Tax and Risk Management. His areas of expertise are tax technology solutions, financial reporting, strategic planning, risk and insurance, acquisitions and disposals, tax, and pensions. He has served on the boards of Tapestry New Opera, Hudson’s Bay Charitable Foundation, and served as Director of Hudson’s Bay History Foundation. Mr. Chmara is acknowledged for his successful leadership of multiple teams of professionals working with complex issues.

Portrait of Kelvin Browne

Kelvin Browne  

Kelvin is the Executive Director and CEO of the Gardiner Museum in Toronto. The Gardiner Museum is Canada’s national museum of ceramics, and one of the great specialty museums in the world.  Prior to joining the Gardiner Museum in November 2013, Kelvin held several positions at the Royal Ontario Museum - Canada’s largest museum of both culture and nature – beginning in 2004 when he became the Managing Director of the Institute of Contemporary Culture.

Here he produced exhibitions and other programs connecting the museum’s collections with contemporary themes. Kelvin subsequently became the Vice President of Marketing, and then the Vice President of Marketing and Major Exhibitions where his portfolio included marketing, sales, public relations, membership, major exhibitions, and all aspect of design at the museum.

Neera Chopra

Neera is a passionate supporter of the Arts, providing thoughtful leadership on several cultural platforms.  Neera brings a global perspective to cultural integration issues we face in Canada, having travelled extensively across Europe, Asia and the Middle East with a keen sense for cultural linkages and parallels with Canada. She has been a pioneer in creating cross cultural awareness of South Asian art and culture through her volunteer work with various arts organizations including the ROM and Luminato and has chaired the Arts Parents Council and Parents' Organization at Upper Canada College.  She currently serves on four volunteer committees at the ROM and is particularly proud of engaging the public as a Gallery Interpreter.

Portrait of Gary Crawford

Councillor Gary Crawford

Gary Crawford is City Councillor for Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest and Budget Chief for the City of Toronto. Gary Crawford brings a passion for the arts to his role and played a key part in securing increased funding for Toronto Arts Council in 2013.  He is a professional artist (landscape and portrait painter) with a BFA Honours Degree in Fine Arts from York University. Gary sits on a number of Boards in addition to Toronto Arts Council including the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts and the Dora Mavor Moore Awards. As Trustee for the Toronto District School Board from 2003-2010, Gary was instrumental in making the vast Art, Archive and Historical artifact collection more accessible to students.

Portrait of Joe Cressy

Councillor Joe Cressy

Joe Cressy is City Councillor for Ward 20 - Trinity-Spadina.

David Dacks

David Dacks is a Toronto-based advocate of creative music in all its forms. He became Artistic Director of the Music Gallery in January 2012 and has since produced five seasons of “remarkably informed artistic directorship” (Toronto Star) featuring innovative, cross-cultural programming. Prior to joining the Music Gallery, David was editor of Exclaim Magazine’s coverage of jazz, R&B, music from around the world, reggae, and experimental music. His writing has also appeared in the Grid, CBC Music, Huffington Post, Weird Canada, BlogTO, Paste and Musicworks. He has an extensive background in radio as a programmer and host at University of Toronto radio station CIUT-FM for 25 years, and as a producer of four documentaries for CBC Radio.

David’s unique musical expertise has been acknowledged with appointments to Juno Award and Polaris Music Prize juries. He was a Grand Juror for the Polaris Prize in 2011 and today is a member of the Polaris Heritage Prize jury and Toronto Arts Council Music Committee. Further musical activities include teaching at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies and the International Academy of Art And Design, as well as many years of live performance, DJing and audio recording.

Cara Eastcott

Cara Eastcott is a multidisciplinary performance artist and creative producer whose main objective is to contribute to socially conscious artistic endeavors. Cara has developed a wide range of skills that fuse community development and the arts through her work on documentary films, ensemble theatre projects, and youth arts programs. Such initiatives include The Youth Documentary Project (The City of Toronto), Urban Griots Project (Art Starts) and Emerge 2008: Kenya, Canada and Brazil (Schools Without Borders). In addition to contributing to a developing youth driven community arts scene in Toronto, Cara has also worked on community arts projects in India. Currently Cara is the Program Director - Tangled on Tour with Tangled Art + Disability and the Chair of Toronto Arts Council's Community Arts Committee. 

Portrait of Charles Falzon

Charles Falzon 

As an international media and entertainment executive, educator and cultural strategy leader, Charles Falzon has been developing and marketing Canadian talent, and creating high-quality cultural experiences through diverse platforms and transmedia for more than three decades. Today, Charles is on the forefront of change for the cultural sector in Canada -- empowering creators to connect with audiences in new and disruptive ways through creative and commercial innovation.

Charles is currently the Dean of the Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD) at Ryerson University, home to nine of the country’s leading schools in media and creative industries. In this role, he is a central figure in Ryerson’s curricular innovation, entrepreneurship education and city-building mission, with a focus on maximizing the impact of the creative industries as a catalyst for collaboration, digital innovation and civic engagement.

Councillor John Filion

Councillor John Filion was first elected to political office in 1982 as a member of the North York Board of Education.  He has been a City Councillor, representing his local Willowdale ward, since 1991, first for North York and, following amalgamation, for the City of Toronto.  Councillor Filion is known for involving the commuity in government decision making. Among his many accomplishments; as a School Board Trustee he established child care in schools; as a North York Councillor he added new parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities; as a Toronto Councillor and Chair of the Board of Health he introduced a restaurant rating system and a ban on smoking in restaurants.  He is a strong advocate for the arts at City Hall and an active supporter of North York Arts and Toronto Arts Council.

Portrait of Mary Fragedakis

Councillor Mary Fragedakis

Mary Fragedakis is City Councillor for Ward 29 - Toronto-Danforth

Portrait of Dina Graser

Dina Graser

Dina Graser was most recently the Director, Community and Stakeholder Relations at Metrolinx, where she managed its first community relations team, and oversaw public and stakeholder engagement for the organization. Prior to joining Metrolinx, Dina worked as a communications lawyer at a major Bay St law firm, as a community organizer, and as an independent producer of live shows, arts festivals, conferences and events.

She co-founded a citizens’ group, People Plan Toronto, which advocates for stronger community engagement in the planning process, and sat on the board of Toronto Artscape, which develops affordable live/work space for artists, for six years. She has a BA from McGill University, an MFA from the City University of New York, and an LLB from the University of Toronto.

Lauren Howes 

Lauren Howes has been the Executive Director of the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre since 2006. Prior to that she was the Distribution Manager of Video Out Distribution in Vancouver. Through her work in distribution she attends numerous film festivals and media art markets worldwide promoting Canadian media art. She has presented curated programs in Dublin, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Hamburg, Paris, London, Berlin and Seoul and Buenos Aires. She graduated in 1996 with a BFA in Film Production from Simon Fraser University. Howes is the Chair of the Media Arts Network of Ontario Board of Directors, a past Board member of the Independent Media Arts Alliance, and co-chair of Toronto Arts Council’s Visual/Media Arts Committee.

Portrait of Louis Laberge-Cote

Louis Laberge-Côté

Louis Laberge-Côté is a Toronto-based dancer, choreographer, teacher, and rehearsal director. An acclaimed performer, he has danced nationally and internationally with over 20 companies, and has been a full-time member of Toronto Dance Theatre (1999-2007) and the Kevin O’Day Ballett Nationaltheater Mannheim (2009-2011).

He has created over 60 choreographic works, which have been presented and commissioned in Canada and abroad. His work has garnered him a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Choreography, as well as six other nominations for Performance or Choreography. NOW Magazine named him “Dance Most Valuable Player” in 2006 and “Best Male Dancer” in 2014. A sought-after pedagogue, he has taught classes and workshops all across the country and is currently on faculty at Ryerson University. He currently shares the Vice-Presidency at the Canadian Dance Assembly and is the Chair of the Dance Committee at the Toronto Arts Council.​

Portrait of Richard Lee

Richard Lee

Richard Lee is an award winning actor, fight director, sound designer and theatre producer, who has worked extensively in both film and theatre.  In his career he’s had the joy of playing many interesting roles.  His work has garnered him multiple Dora Mavor Moore nominations out of which he has received three: One for his Sound Design work on paper series (Cahoots Theatre Company) and Two in performance Sultans of the Street & Cinderella: A Ratical Retelling ( both for Young People’s Theatre).  In 2013 he received the infamous Harold Award, a theatre award that celebrates the outstanding and often under-recognized dedication on or off the stage of an individual.

Portrait of Ayo Leilani

Ayo Leilani 

Ayo Leilani (Etmet Musa) is a queer, Ethiopian/Eritrean, singer/songwriter, the Co-Founder and Director of Toronto based music and multi media collective/ label 88 Days Of Fortune, a member of feminist based electro dub hop group, Above Top Secret (fka Abstract Random) and a solo artist under the name Witch Prophet.

As the Co-Founder and Director of 88 Days Of Fortune she has helped organize, host and sustain an artistically diverse, bimonthly showcase of local and international talent, financed music videos and albums, and provided a platform for musicians and artists to showcase their talents since 2009. As an artist, she has shared the stage with and opened for acts like: Diana King, Shad, Njena Reddd Foxxx, Rae Spoon, Zaki Ibrahim, Lido Pimienta, Kae Sun, TheeSatisfaction, Shabazz Palaces, LAL, Lucas Silveira and Michie Mee. Toured Europe twice; playing shows in Paris, Amsterdam, London and Berlin, as well as performed at music festivals like: Black Women Rock, Manifesto, Wavelength, Pride Toronto, Soul Of Brooklyn, Montreal Jazz Festival, Ottawa Capital Pride, Allied Media Conference, Afro Punk, CMW, Inside Out, Under The Volcano and International Women’s Fest. Leilani has independently released two mix tapes “Bonjour” 2009 and “Ayo x Exile” 2010. Along with a handful of singles from 2013-2015.

She also has written songs and sang on two Abstract Random albums “Disrupt Dis Reality Bluuuurd’ 2010 and “Siren Songs” 2012 and has additional vocals on the Shad album “Flying Colours” 2013. Currently, her band Above Top Secret released their self titled album via Daps Records + 88 Days Of Fortune with distribution through Outside Music in July of 2016. Her solo projects “H.P.B” and “The Golden Octave” as Witch Prophet, are due for release fall of 2016 + Spring of 2017.

Rob MacKinnon

Rob MacKinnon is the Principal of Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute and of Greenwood Secondary School (a high school for newcomer Canadians).  Rob was also the Principal of Etobicoke School of the arts, where he worked closely with students, staff, guest artists, city arts venues, arts organizations, and college and university arts programs for six and a half years to enhance ESA students’ learning experience.   These groups included artists, organizations and institutions in the fields of Film, Music Theatre, Visual Arts, Dance, Instrumental Music and Drama.  In his present role, he continues to work with these groups to provide arts opportunities for students in the East End of the city and for newcomer Canadians.  Rob has also worked on projects (to name a few) with the University Health Network, Kids Help Phone, and sat as a Board Member of Fife House (which provides supportive housing for people living with HIV and AIDS). As Principal, Rob oversees human resources, budget, fundraising and capital projects in his schools.  He has been a school Principal in Toronto since 2003 and has been recognized by The Learning Partnership as one of Canada’s Outstanding Principals (2013).  

Portrait of Soheil Parsa

Soheil Parsa

Soheil Parsa is an award-winning director, writer, actor, dramaturg, choreographer and teacher, whose professional theatre career spans thirty-two years and two continents. In his native Iran, Soheil completed studies in Theatre Performance at the University of Tehran and began a promising career as an actor and director. Arriving in Canada with his family in 1984, Soheil completed a second Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies at York University and then went on to establish Modern Times Stage Company, one of the most innovating theatre companies in Canada.  In 1995 Soheil received a New Pioneers Award by Skills for Change for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts by a recent immigrant to Canada.

Soheil Parsa is a co-founder of Modern Times Stage Company. His artistic direction at Modern Times has been recognized with five Dora Mavor Moore Awards, a Chalmers Fellowship in 2002, a senior artist creation grant from the Canada Council, as well as a number of international prizes and master class requests. In 2007 and 2010, he was short-listed for the Siminovitch Prize in Theatre Celebrating Directors, the highest honour in Canadian theatre. Most recently, Soheil has been awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contribution as a theatre artist to Canadian society. Soheil is Chair of Toronto Arts Council's Theatre Committee.

Portrait of Anthony Sargent

Anthony Sargent

Anthony Sargent is the CEO of the Luminato Festival.  He is currently the elected chair of the New York-based International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA), the leading international network for performing arts. He has presented the last seven editions of ISPA’s celebrated artistic commissioning pitch session, New Works Now, in New York, São Paulo, Bogotá, Seoul, Wrocław, Toronto and later this month, in Malmö.

For the past 15 years, he was founding general director at Sage Gateshead, an uncompromisingly ambitious arts centre for music performance and education in England, recognized internationally for its world-class performance and its inclusiveness, accessibility, and social engagement. Other highlighted past experiences include 16 years with the BBC in a range of roles in Arts and Current Affairs, Artistic Projects Director as part of South Bank Centre’s fresh senior management team as an independent organization, Head of Arts for Birmingham City Council, and much more.

Portrait of Ana Serrano

Ana Serrano 

Ana Serrano is the Chief Digital Officer of the Canadian Film Centre and Founder of CFC Media Lab, the world-renowned institute for interactive storytelling created in 1997.  Serrano is driving the digital transformation of the CFC into a unique blend of talent, product and company accelerator and creative production house.  Most recently, she launched Canada's first digital entertainment accelerator IDEABOOST and serves as its Managing Director. To date, Serrano has directed the development of over 130 digital media projects, mentored over 50 start-ups, and has received numerous awards from the digital media, film, and theatre industries in both Canada and the U.S., including a Digital Media Trailblazing Award in 2015 from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television.

Gaëtane Verna 

Gaëtane Verna is the Executive Director of the Power Plant gallery. Previously, Gaëtane was director of the Musee d’art de Joliette. She was also a member of the Conseil des Arts de Montréal. She has, among other degrees, an MA in art history from the Sorbonne in Paris.  Gaëtane is Chair of Toronto Arts Council's Visual and Media Arts Committee.

Portrait of Jesse Wente

Jesse Wente

Jesse Wente is Head of Film Programmes at TIFF Bell Lightbox, where he oversees year-round on-screen programming, including theatrical releases, TIFF Cinematheque and series programming.  He also oversees Film Circuit, TIFF’s national outreach programme, which assists with screenings in over 170 communities coast to coast. Jesse has worked for the CBC as a broadcaster for 18 years, and is currently the pop culture critic on Metro Morning in Toronto. He has also appeared regularly on Q, CBC Radio's national arts and culture show and on TVOntario's Saturday Night at the Movies. Jesse is a former Board member and programmer of the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. He is also past president of Native Earth Performing Arts, Canada's oldest Aboriginal theatre company.

Gein Wong 

Gein Wong is an interdisciplinary director, curator, writer and video artist of First Nations and Asian descent.  Her works focus on obvious things like gender, class and race, as well as things a little less obvious like gender, class and race.  Her more recent works focus on Indigenizing minds and spaces. She is an inaugural member of the TAC Cultural Leaders Lab where she is a part of Revolution City, a project that seeks to centre Indigeneity in the city. Gein has also co-developed this summer’s, “Water is Our Womb”, a water retreat that centres Indigenous water teachings and outdoor artistic creations. She is a recipient of the 2014 Ken McDougall Director’s Award and 2015 CCGSD Canadian Youth Role Model Lifetime Achievement Award.  She was a 2012-13 Canadian Stage Director in Residence, a 2013 Harbourfront Centre Resident Artist, a two-time Philadelphia Asian Arts Initiative Resident Artist, the inaugural resident artist at fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre, and collaborated on a New York HERE Arts Centre Residency.  Gein is Artistic Director of Eventual Ashes, the community arts organisation, Asian Arts Freedom School, a co-owner of the world’s oldest LGBT bookstore, Glad Day Bookshop. Gein creates large scale performance experiences that empower and elicit empathy.  She conceived and directed “Say Their Names, Remember”, a 500 person performance art piece which will opened the Ai Weiwei exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. 

Portrait of Alissa York

Alissa York

Alissa York is a Toronto writer. Her novel Mercy, Effigy was short-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and Fauna was short-listed for the Toronto Book Award. Her essays and articles have appeared in such periodicals as The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire and Eighteen Bridges. York has been teaching and mentoring writers since 2007, working with the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, The Banff Centre's Wired Writing Studio, the Toronto Public Library and Diaspora Dialogues. Her new novel, The Naturalist, is due out in 2016. Alissa is Chair of Toronto Arts Council's Literary Committee.

Maayan Ziv 

Maayan Ziv is a fashion, portrait and street photographer based in Toronto, Canada. Focusing on black and white emotive portraiture, editorial fashion, and gritty street scenes, Maayan has been recognized as an influential Canadian talent. A Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal recipient, her work has been featured on television, in galleries and magazines. Sitting on a wheelchair gives Maayan a unique perspective that is evident in her work and as a freelance artist. Her goal is to bring awareness to disabilities and the arts - something she prides herself to work on every day.

Arts Advisory Panel

Margaret Atwood ● Atom Egoyan ● Mallory Gilbert ● Norman Jewison ● Molly Johnson ● Karen Kain ● David Mirvish ● Joyce Zemans