Accessibility and Creative Spaces: Where to Start?

May 19th is Global Accessibility Awareness Day! There are many factors to consider for inclusive, accessible creative spaces; from making a physical space wheelchair accessible and ensuring ASL interpretation for public events, to all-gender restrooms and sliding-scale ticketing, there are many opportunities to ensure creative spaces are accessible.

Improving the accessibility of a space depends on the different structures in place across four operating models that arts organizations and their spaces generally work within:

  1. Space is independently owned and operated 
  2. Space is privately owned and independently operated
  3. Space is government owned and independently operated 
  4. Space is government owned and  operated

Organization size, funding structures, and general organizational needs are all factors that impact how spaces define accessibility. 

So, where to start?

ArtsBuild Ontario has created a toolkit to provide you and your organization with a place to start in making accessible creative spaces. In this toolkit, we provide some basic resources about accessibility legislation in Ontario, including the AODA and Design of Public Spaces Standards, Ontario Building Code and Human Rights Code. Additionally, resources are available that help to provide accessible communications and service providers for American Sign Language (ASL) and interpretation, audio descriptions, closed captioning, and transcriptions. 

This toolkit is also available in both English and French. 

For more resources on making your space more accessible, check out this webinar ABO presented in and learn how to assess, communicate, and put venue accessibility into practice.

PASO-OPSA Coalition Identifies Provincial Arts & Culture Policy Priorities

ArtsBuild Ontario is a member of  PASO-OPSA , a coalition of Ontario Arts Service Organizations that, collectively, acts as a conduit to over 272,000 creative workers, and artists across the province, as well as to thousands of organizations, large and small, that create and support artistic expression in Ontario.

The coalition has collectively identified key priorities for Ontario’s arts sector around which it is aligned, and will champion, as we move though the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, PASO-OPSA recommends that the Government of Ontario:

1. Commit to Truth and Reconciliation in arts and culture.

The Government of Ontario should establish a permanent $10 million annual fund for Indigenous artists, cultural leaders, organizations, groups and collectives that is designed and managed by Indigenous artists.

2. Increase investment in the Ontario Arts Council (OAC).

Funding for the OAC has fallen dangerously behind the growth of the sector. When inflation and population growth are taken into account, to simply keep in line with 1991 investment levels, the OAC requires a permanent base budget of $110 million in 2022. In 2021, the OAC’s base budget was $60 million.

3. Embrace the role of the arts in a range of areas of provincial jurisdiction, and facilitate connections between ministries to accomplish this.

The Government of Ontario should leverage the powerful creative and innovation assets of Ontario’s arts community by acknowledging its contributions to, and ability to advance, fields such as health, mental health, education, entrepreneurship, and to engage with other sectors to address crises such as systemic racism, and others.

4. Ensure that anti-racism, and principles of fairness and justice, are embedded in all provincial programs and services.

This includes: recognizing that artists who identify as members of equity-seeking groups, as well as grassroots arts initiatives, have disproportionately faced systemic barriers to accessing support, and require low-barrier and accessible funding; working in partnership with arts organizations to hear and learn from smaller grassroots arts and cultural initiatives with the intention of informing the development of province’s arts and cultural priorities and policies. The next Government of Ontario can ensure the Ontario Human Rights Code is being upheld by evaluating the systemic barriers and exclusions that exist in, and may be perpetuated by, its investments and programs.

5. Foster the advancement of young people to participate, and provide vision and leadership in the arts.

This includes: mentorship opportunities for new-generation artists and cultural leaders, intergenerational connections between established and emerging arts leaders; supporting connections between grassroots groups and major institutions that encourage learning and transformation for all participants.

6. Work towards reducing Ontario’s carbon emissions and environmental impact.

The Government of Ontario should acknowledge that reducing emissions requires not only policy and legislation, but large-scale cultural and paradigm shifts by investing in cross-sectoral collaborations between the arts sector and Indigenous communities, climate researchers, social and behavioural scientists, industry leaders, organizations advancing awareness of environmental issues, and others. This also includes supporting the arts and culture sector to research, design, and implement sustainable and energy efficient venues and buildings; and develop strategies for sustainable touring and large-scale production.

7. Recognize the need for, and current lack of, appropriate physical and digital infrastructure.

This includes: establishing a permanent funding program to support renovations, capital projects, and new builds for arts and culture organizations. This program should also provide grants for organizations and smaller groups to support short term access to space, support the capacity of organizations to digitize collections and present digitally, and support upskilling and training. The government must also address the lack of broadband internet access which disproportionately impacts Northern Ontario communities.

8. Increase investment in arts education in Ontario’s publicly-funded schools.

The Government of Ontario should engage arts sector stakeholders to maintain, design, and update curricula that is contemporary and relevant to Ontario’s diverse population, and ensure sufficient physical and human resources are in place to deliver them. It should also investigate the current disparities in publicly-funded specialized arts schools, and ensure equitable access for racialized students and students from low-income households.

9. Amplify the majority of Ontarians’ voices by working toward a Federal Basic Income Guarantee.

This includes: advocating and working with the Federal Government on the development and implementation of a Basic Income Guarantee; shifting existing provincial income support systems toward Basic Income principles that require less conditionality and provide recipients with more autonomy; implement an Ontario Basic Income demonstration program targeting low-income artists, gig-workers, and other precariously employed Ontarians for inclusion.

We are available to provide additional details on each of this recommendations, and we encourage the Government of Ontario to work in concert with PASO/OPSA members to envision the path forward for Ontario’s vibrant arts community.

For more information, please contact:

Jason Samilski, Managing Director, CARFAC Ontario |

PASO/OPSA Coalition Members

  • Alliance culturelle de l‘Ontario
  • Artist-Run Centres & Collectives of Ontario (ARCCO)
  • ArtsBuild Ontario
  • Association des auteures et auteurs de l’Ontario français
  • Association des professionnels de la chanson et de la musique (APCM)
  • Association for Opera in Canada
  • Bureau des regroupements des artistes visuels de l’Ontario (BRAVO)
  • Canadian Alliance of Artists – East Chapter
  • Canadian Artists’ Representation / Le front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC Ontario)
  • Canadian Music Centre
  • Choirs Ontario
  • Craft Ontario
  • Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO)
  • Dance Ontario
  • Dance Umbrella of Ontario
  • Directors Guild of Canada (Ontario)
  • Folk Music Ontario
  • FUSION – The Ontario Clay and Glass Association
  • Galeries Ontario / Ontario Galleries (GOG)
  • Ontario Culture Days
  • Ontario Presents
  • The Association for Opera in Canada (
  • Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada
  • Réseau Ontario
  • Théâtre Action
  • Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA)
  • WorkInCulture

Environmental Sustainability in Cultural Venues

April 22nd is celebrated as Earth Day by many across the globe. Created in 1970, Earth Day is dedicated to raising awareness over climate change issues. Now, each year we are reminded of our own environmental impact and our desire to do more to help our planet. In addition to making more sustainable choices in our homes, we can still care for the environment in our professional spaces too!

Have you ever considered how the physical workspace might have a negative impact on the environment? You would turn off the lights in your bathroom before leaving your own home, so why leave them on at work? The Canada Green Building Council reveals that: buildings generate nearly 30% of all greenhouse gases. 35% of landfill waste comes from construction and demolition activities, and up to 70% of municipal water is consumed in and around buildings.” 

If you work in the arts, creative spaces also play a role in our environmental impact. Consider purpose-built spaces vs non-purpose built art spaces: many museums and art galleries operate out of buildings that were not initially designed to specifically house artifacts and/or art pieces in an environmentally-conscious way. In recent years, climate change has also been a central theme around environmental awareness for many exhibitions, workshops/webinars, and conferences in the arts and culture sector. By focusing on the spaces we work in, small but significant steps can be taken to reduce our waste output. 

Here are some building modifications and energy-saving tips that can help art galleries and museums reduce their environmental impact:

  • Changing from halogen light bulbs to LEDs
    • LEDs are free of hazardous materials, and they last up to 20 times longer than traditional lighting
  • Green roof or green wall
    • These can help regulate a building’s internal temperature, reduce stormwater runoff, and offer significant economic benefits, including a longer roof life and heating and cooling energy savings.Upgrading your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning to decrease energy costs
  • If possible, becoming LEED-certified
    • LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a universal green building rating system
  • Installing a composting toilet
    • A composting toilet is a type of dry toilet that treats human waste by the composting process, decomposing organic matter into compost-like material
  • If you are engaging in building or renovating an arts space, integrating sustainable alternative materials (such as bamboo, recycled plastic, wood, hempcrete, and papercrete) into your building plan
  • Reducing waste produced in a space, such as using less plastic bottles
  • Using renewable energy sources, such as solar energy

In Canada, many organizations have integrated some more sustainable methods into their spaces. Here are a few examples: 

The Canadian Automotive Museum, based in Oshawa Ontario, underwent a capital project in 2015 to refresh their facility and invest in maintaining the historic structure of the building. The project saw the Museum reduce their environmental impact by upgrading their HVAC system, as well as installing new doors and safety lighting to improve the exterior facade.

The McMichael Canadian Art Collection became the first LEED-certified art gallery in Canada gaining silver certification in 2010. The gallery switched over to sensor faucets and water-saving fixtures throughout, and they consulted closely with Enermodal Engineering and LEED auditors to install a new LED lighting system. Today, 80% of the gallery’s lighting system uses LEDs.


In Winnipeg, Manitoba, 245 McDermot is an arts hub that features a composting toilet to more efficiently manage and reduce their waste and water use.

To help get you started, ArtsBuild Ontario has several resources to support you in your sustainable creative space journey. Check it out!

Creative Green: The Creative Green Tools were created by Julie’s Bicycle. They are widely used in the UK and other parts of Europe, and are recognized globally as the gold standard for carbon footprinting tools that serve the arts and culture sector. They are being adapted so they can be used all across Canada, and this adaptation is scheduled to launch in 2022. 

Julie’s Bicycle: Julie’s Bicycle (JB) is a pioneering not-for-profit, mobilizing the arts and culture to take action on the climate and ecological crisis. JB’s website is filled with resources, news and tools – all relevant to Ontario’s creative spaces. 

The Green Cube: This article, written by Chris Hampton and featured in Canadian Art, speaks to the amount of waste exhibitions produce and the impact creative spaces have on the environment. Museums and galleries are platforms where societal issues or ideas are shared, but the facilities which house these culturally significant exhibitions could be more environmentally-friendly.

“6 Adaptive Reuse Projects in Toronto”: Featured on Green Ribbon, this article explores the idea of adaptive reuse, which is a growing trend in architecture, placemaking, and urbanism. Chances are, you are familiar with a space that has transformed from its original purpose (old factories into lofts or office buildings). Check out six examples of these kinds of projects in Toronto!

Celebrating Black Creative Community Spaces

As February comes to a close, we reflect on and celebrate the many Black individuals who have and continue to shape history. Across Ontario, there are many arts-based community organizations creating safe and supportive spaces for Black creatives. Here are several examples of Black-owned/operated organizations doing important work that manage creative spaces in Ontario.

Nia Centre for the Arts

The Nia Centre for the Arts is a Toronto-based not-for-profit organization supporting artists and community members through artistic cultural experiences. Their mission is to “support, showcase and promote an appreciation of arts from across the African Diaspora.” Born from a need for more safe spaces for African-Canadian communities, the centre recently received a capital project grant of up to $480,000 to support the construction of an accessible, energy-efficient indoor and outdoor multi-use space at their new facility. 

Nia Centre for the Arts will eventually hold programs, events and provide space for artist studios and galleries. The funds will also support the construction costs to develop a co-working space, a roof-top patio, enhanced Wi-Fi infrastructure and upgrades to building accessibility.

Visit their website.

Wildseed Centre for Art & Activism

Wildseed Centre for Art & Activism developed through the work of Black Lives Matter activists. The centre is a multipurpose space designed to provide a safe space for “radical Black experimentation and creation”. Wildseed provides skill-building and professional development opportunities for Black creatives through their programmings, such as their Black Arts Fellowship 20 month program for Black visual, movement, and performance artists.  

Visit their website.

Black Artists’ Networks Dialogue – BAND

The mandate of the Black Artists’ Networks Dialogue (BAND) is to support, document and showcase the artistic and cultural contributions of Black artists and cultural workers both in Canada and internationally. BAND also offers a variety of programs including their Emerging Artist Exhibitions (solo professional exhibits) , Performing Arts Series (emerging and established artist showcase), and Canadian Culture Series (presentation and speaking series).

Visit their website.

Creative arts initiatives and contributions of Black-led organizations continue to make a vital impact on Ontario arts communities. We support and honour the work done, and the great work to come. 


Creative Space Projects During COVID-19 Recording

In this 2 part webinar on Creative Space Project During COVID-19,  the panelists shared their experiences and advice around capital projects in pandemic times, focusing on successes and challenges with project planning, timeline/adjustments, contingencies and risk management, funding, and overall recommendations for creative space project development.

The featured panelists were:

  • Janis Monture, Executive Director of Woodland Cultural Centre
  • Paul Fujimoto-Pihl, Project Manager at the Grand Theatre

Please note that the second portion of the webinar served as a mandatory check-in point for mentors and mentees of ABO’s Creative Spaces Mentoring Network (CSMN) 2021-22.

To View Part #1

Creative Space Projects During COVID-19 – Panel Portion:

To View Part #2

Creative Space Projects During COVID-19 – CSMN Mid-Program Webinar Portion: