The staff of Toronto Arts Council are a team of seventeen people, often increased by two or three interns and volunteers, working together to support, promote and advocate for the arts in Toronto.
Claire Hopkinson, 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.
Beth Reynolds, Director Of Grants
Beth joined Toronto Arts Council in 1986 when it was a small operation with only three full-time staff. As TAC grew, so did Beth’s role within the organization change and grow. Over her years at TAC, she has worked with hundreds of organizations and volunteers and has been instrumental in the development of TAC grant programs and policies. She was named Director of Grants in 2000.
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.
Sarah Gladki, Communications and Outreach
Sarah has been involved in the arts in Toronto for much of her life. She is also 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 thrilled to join the team at the Toronto Arts Council and to help bring art to Toronto’s parks. Currently a Masters candidate in Environmental Studies, Planning, at York University, her major research is on Community Land Trusts. She has been as a cultural producer for over 20 years and has worked with Public Recordings Performance Projects, Small Wooden Shoe, Secret Theatre, hum dansoundart, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and directed the Rhubarb Festival from 2006 to 2010. Erika is also a member of Friends of the Green Line.
Natalie Kaiser, Executive Assistant
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, including MOKA, Kobo Town, Dick Lochan and most recently on the newest collection of hits by the renowned Calypso Rose.
Rupal Shah, Grants Officer, Strategic Programs
Rupal has worked in Toronto as an arts manager and producer since 2005 with organizations such as Summerworks Performance Festival, Nightswimming, and Obsidian Theatre. She was a member of the Canadian delegation to the 2015 IETM Plenary (international network for contemporary performing arts) in Bergamo, Italy and in 2016 attended Berlin Art Week as part of an international group of arts leaders invited by the German Foreign Office. She is a member of the George Cedric Metcalf Foundation’s Advisory Committee for the Creative Strategies Incubator, and since 2012 has served on the Board of Directors at the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention.
Timea Wharton-Suri, Dance Officer & Literary Arts Officer
Timea received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from York University and performed for a number of years with companies such as Ballet Creole and Canboulay Dance Theatre, before completing a Master of Business Administration. At the Schulich School of Business she specialized in Arts & Media Management, with studies in the publishing industry, non-profit management, entrepreneurship and organizational leadership. Since then, she has held revenue development and communications positions in both the private and non-profit sectors, including at TVOntario. From 2005-2011, Timea managed her own dance fitness facility, and served as a member of the Board and Special Awards Committee of the Dancer Transition Resource Centre. Since joining TAC in 2013, she has participated in the early development of the Cultural Leaders Lab, Performing Arts Facilities, and Animating Toronto Parks programs, and implemented the Long-Term Dance Projects program, the What's Your Story literary outreach initiative, and the Toronto Lit Up literary dissemination initiative for local authors.