The staff of Toronto Arts Council are a team of eighteen people, often increased by two or three interns and volunteers, working together to support, promote and advocate for the arts in Toronto.
Claire Hopkinson, M.S.M, Director & CEO
Since Claire's appointment to Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation in 2005, both organizations have experienced significant growth in funding and impact, innovation in strategy and delivery, and greater understanding of their roles in the community. Early in her tenure, Claire developed the direction Creative City Block, Block by Block, an overarching vision to have the arts accessible by all Toronto residents.
A graduate of McGill University in English Literature (Honours), Claire then spent approximately 25 years commissioning, developing and producing works of opera and theatre, and running several arts organizations. An agent of change, she was instrumental in moving contemporary opera from the outskirts of the field to the revitalised centre. Claire also invested considerable time and energy into developing support for and getting Canadian artists onto international stages. Her evolution into policy maker and advocate – from arts producer – was a logical progression from her volunteer work as Founding Chair of Opera.ca, Vice Chair of Opera America, and co-founder and President of Creative Trust. She is committed to the value of collaboration and to developing partnerships across sectors to deepen the impact of the arts.
Much of the impetus for Claire's work in cultural policy is to understand and communicate the impact of the arts in society, and most particularly the vital role of that the arts play in city building in the culturally vibrant city of Toronto. In May of 2001, Claire won the national M. Joan Chalmers Award for Arts Administration in recognition of her contribution to Tapestry New Opera and the arts in Canada. In 2006 she was recognized by Theatre Ontario with the Sandra Tulloch Award for Innovation in the Arts. She served as Co-Chair for the International Society for the Performing Arts 2011 Annual Congress in Toronto, which attracted the largest gathering of arts presenters in ISPA’s history.
Susan Wright, Deputy Director
Susan has been in a management role with TAC and the Foundation since 2000. As Deputy Director, Susan works closely with Claire on policy and planning as well as advocating for support for artists and arts organizations with City Council. Currently, she is a member of the Steering Committee of CADAC (Canada Arts database), and sits on a number of external committees including IRAFF (Intergovernmental Forum for Arts Funders and Foundations) and Beautiful City Alliance. Susan’s other responsibilities at TAC include financial management and general operations. Prior to joining TAC, Susan spent five years as General Manager of Toronto Artscape, and many years as an arts consultant and manager of small arts organizations.
Andrew Suri, Director, Grants Management
Andrew joined TAC in 2010. He studied philosophy and biology (B.Sc. McMaster University, M.Sc. University of Victoria) and had commenced doctoral research before he “crossed over” to the arts and worked as a photographer and filmmaker, and as a performer and educator of the South Asian performing art of banethi. Since then, Andrew co-founded IMPACT-Indian Martial & Performance Art Collective of Toronto, and has coordinated community arts projects across Toronto and in India. He has served TAC as Community Arts Officer, as well as Manager, TAC Grants Online. Working to improve access to TAC programs for under-represented cultural and community groups, Andrew led the development of several new grant programs and granting processes, including the Newcomer and Refugee Arts Access program and the TAC Accessibility Grant, and helped develop and refine TAC's online granting system. Andrew was named Director, Grants Management in 2017.
Leah-Simone Bowen, Theatre Officer
Leah joined TAC as the Theatre Officer in 2016. She has worked across Canada as an improviser, playwright, director, and arts advocate. Before joining the TAC, Leah worked with Obsidian Theatre for eight years first as a playwright and eventually becoming the Artistic Producer in 2010. In 2015, Leah was the artist in residence at Cahoots Theatre, a producer for the Luminato festival and a member of the Stratford Festival playwright’s retreat. Leah is originally from Spruce Grove, Alberta.
Margo Charlton, Research and Impact Manager
Margo is a theatre director, dramaturge and producer who has worked for numerous theatre companies in Western Canada. She was the founding Artistic Director of Popular Theatre Alliance of Manitoba, a company dedicated to theatre for social change, and one of the founders of Queer Stages a collective focused on producing work by the LGBTQ community. Margo has been invited to make presentations on community-engaged theatre at conferences and festival across Canada, in Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, and Brazil. She has been the Theatre Officer since 2002, has worked for Manitoba Arts Council, and has been a consultant for Canadian Public Arts Funders, Ontario Arts Council, City of Toronto, and Urban Arts. She has served on advisory committees for ArtReach Toronto, Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, Neighbourhood Arts Network, and City of Toronto’s Community Arts Action Plan. She holds a BA in English/Dramatic Studies and a Masters in Environmental Studies focused on evaluating community arts practices.
Isidra Cruz, Indigenous Arts Projects Officer
Isidra is a Mexican, Cree, African American, and French arts administrator and costume designer. She is a graduate of Ryerson University’s Theatre Production program where she received a BFA with Honours, specializing in theatre administration and costume design/construction. Isidra has focused her attentions on working in the Indigenous arts community. Through her work with imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival she has helped to educate the general Canadian public on issues facing the Indigenous population of Canada.
Christy DiFelice, Music Officer
Appointed in 2010 to the position of Music Officer, Christy came to TAC from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where she was the Manager of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra. A graduate of York University (MA, Ethnomusicology/Musicology; 2008), her studies focused on musics and cultures of the African Diaspora, with a specialization in North American Jazz and Blues. In addition, she has previously worked with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Fine Arts Cultural Studies Department at York University, and as a music copyist. Since its inaugural season (2008), she has sat on the Board of Directors of the Brantford International Jazz Festival. She is particularly passionate about advocating for diversity, arts education, and community development through the arts.
Catalina Fellay-Dunbar, Dance Officer & Literary Arts Officer
Catalina is excited to join the TAC after many years as a dance artist, educator and advocate. Her professional dance experience, although varied, has long focused on a personal heritage in Flamenco and Classical Spanish dance. Catalina’s academic interests prompted the pursuit of a BFA and MA in Dance Studies at York University, an MA from the Drama Centre at the University of Toronto, and certification in Movement Analysis from the Laban Institute for Movement Studies. As a PhD candidate in Dance Studies at York University, her research examines the intersections between cultural policy and dance arts from fluid, pluralistic perspectives. Catalina comes to the TAC after serving as co-chair of the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists - Ontario Chapter.
Sarah Gladki, Communications Manager
Sarah has been involved in the arts in Toronto for much of her life. She is a visual artist who works with drawing, photography, and moving images. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University where she studied Art History and World Religions, and a Masters of Fine Arts degree from Ryerson University’s Documentary Media Program.
Erika Hennebury, Grants Officer, Strategic Programs
Erika is a planner and cultural producer from the Wabanaki Territories (aka Nova Scotia). She has a Masters in Environmental Studies, Planning, from York University. Erika has been as a theatre artist, curator and cultural producer in Toronto for over 20 years and has worked with Public Recordings Performance Projects, Small Wooden Shoe, Secret Theatre, hum dansoundart, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, the Rhubarb Festival, Les Vaches, OOMPH Group, and Canadia del'Arte. Erika is a member of Friends of the Green Line.
Natalie Kaiser, Stakeholder Relations Manager
Fluently bilingual in English and French, Natalie brings experience in strategic communications, project management and cultural policy analysis, as well as a deep appreciation of the vibrant and innovative artistic community in Toronto. Prior to this position, Natalie was Research Coordinator at ArtExpert, a cultural consulting and strategic analysis firm based in Montreal, where she developed her passion for working in arts and culture. She holds a B.A (Honours, 2008) and M.A (2010) in cultural geography from McGill University, where she studied in Havana, Cuba.
Armen Karapetyan, Finance Officer
Armen Karapetyan has extensive working experience with numerous non-profit organizations, predominantly in administration and finance. Prior to moving to Toronto, Armen lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he held a position at the Barthelmes Conservatory of Music; a rewarding and enjoyable experience he recalls with a sense of accomplishment and pride. Immediately upon his arrival, Armen immersed himself into the Toronto art scene by volunteering with local arts organizations, including the Toronto Summer Music Festival, The Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra, Canada’s National Ballet School and b Current Performing Arts, where he assisted with administrative, marketing and accounting duties. Armen holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and currently serves on the Board of Directors with Sinfonia Toronto.
Peter Kingstone, Visual/Media Arts Officer
Peter Kingstone is a Toronto-based visual artist and curator, working primarily in video and photography. As an independent artist, Peter’s installation pieces have been shown across Canada and internationally, and he was awarded the Untitled Artist Award in 2005 for his installation The Strange Case of peter K. (1974-2004). Peter holds a degree in Philosophy/Cultural Studies from Trent University in Peterborough and a Masters of Fine Art focussing on video and new media from York University in Toronto. Peter has presented at many conferences on the ideas around storytelling and social engagement. Peter started in September 2012 as the Acting Visual/Media Arts Officer at Toronto Arts Council.
Jennifer Maramba, Grants Assistant
Jennifer brings a great range of experience spanning office support, program coordination, client relations and arts advocacy. Over that past few years she has worked as the first point of contact for the Center for Babaylan Studies, supporting their team to develop and organize international symposia and conferences involving the Filipino diasporic community. She is also a community organizer and arts educator with the Kapwa Collective. Jennifer has an BA in Art & Art History from the University of Toronto, as well as a diploma in Social Service Work from Sheridan College.
Sarah Miller-Garvin, Grants Assistant
Sarah first came to the Toronto Arts Council in 2010, after graduating from the University of Toronto, where she studied Drama and Women & Gender Studies. For a year, she worked with the brand new Neighbourhood Arts Network, creating videos focusing on arts organizations across the city and their impact. Since then, while working as a playwright, director and media artist, Sarah has worked as a producer and arts administrator for organizations such as the Paprika Festival, Aluna Theatre and the Toronto Fringe. Sarah comes to the TAC after 2 seasons working in events for Yonge-Dundas Square. Having grown up in downtown Toronto, Sarah is dedicated to this city and cause of promoting arts and culture within it.
Michelle Parson, Office Manager
As Office Manager, Michelle’s duties include administration, reception, web- and copy-editing, among other responsibilities. She’s been a part of Toronto Arts Council’s team since 1997, previous to which she served as Ballet Creole’s General Administrator and as Human Resources Clerk in her homeland’s Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago. Michelle’s skills as a performing artist and administrator are widely recognized in her Caribbean community, having performed with Ballet Creole, COBA, Canboulay Dance Threatre, Inner Stage Theatre, Naked Mask Productions and La Petite Musicale, among others. She’s a lead vocalist in a number of active bands and a member of her church choir. Michelle has recorded lead and background vocals on a number of music albums, for artists and bands such as MOKA, Kobo Town, Dick Lochan (RIP) and most significantly, on the highly successful and award-winning album "Far From Home" by the renowned Calypso Rose. Michelle serves on TAC's Equity Steering Committee and as an in-house Human Resources liaison.
Kevin Reigh, Community Arts Officer
Kevin has over 14 years experience working in the arts/not for profit sector having previously worked at dance Immersion, the Canadian Music Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) and Unity Charity in various administrative, fundraising and outreach capacities. He also founded Mosiah Grant Writing + Creative Communications to help independent artists and smaller not-for-profit organizations navigate the world of grant writing and proposal development.
As a writer and spoken-word artist, Kevin has released one album (Ground Provisions) and a volume of poetry (Love. Universes. All Things.) and has collaborated with numerous musicians and dancers throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Kevin also contributed a spoken word piece entitled “The Real Deal”, to Paranoid Jack’s acclaimed album of electronic and house music The Last of the Funky Cyborgs and his work was also included in T-Dot Griots: An anthology of Toronto’s Black Storytellers.
Mohammad Rezaei, Technical Assistant
Beginning January 2017, we are delighted to welcome Mohammad Rezaei to our team. Mohammad is a web developer and designer, arts administrator, interdisciplinary artist and curator. He graduated from Alberta College of Art and Design in 2012 with a BFA in Media Arts and Digital Technologies, and finished HackerYou’s Web Development Immersive in 2016. Mohammad has worked with arts organizations in different capacities to drive their programming, including project consultation, curation, administration and management. From 2013-16, Rezaei worked as the Director of Programming at Whippersnapper Gallery in Toronto. He has curated, consulted and administrated exhibitions and projects for organizations such as the Drake Hotel, Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, Trinity Square Video, and Truck Contemporary Art in Calgary, and has also developed digital content for various advertising agencies and media outlets in Canada.
A new position for TAC, the focus of Mohammad’s role is: to provide back-end configuration support for TAC Grants Online; to help monitor, document and refine TAC’s grant processes; and to assist in grant related data generation and analysis.
Rupal Shah, Grants Officer, Strategic Programs
Rupal has worked in Toronto as an arts manager and producer since 2005 with organizations such as Summerworks, Nightswimming, Obsidian Theatre, Theatrefront and Harbourfront Centre. Through a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, she participated in the 2015 IETM Plenary in Bergamo, Italy and in 2016 attended Berlin Art week as part of an international arts delegation invited by the German Foreign Office. Since starting at TAC, Rupal has collaborated on the creation of several new initiatives including the Newcomer and Refugee Artist Mentorship program and the TAC-FCAD Digital Solutions Incubator, a partnership with Ryerson University’s Faculty of Communications and Design.