What is an Arts Service Organization and What Do We Do?

Starting a career in the arts can be daunting and overwhelming. How do you get funding? How do you write a grant? How do you make your organization stand out? Arts service organizations (ASOs) can provide guidance and tools to help you succeed in the arts and culture sector.

ASOs are typically nonprofit groups that support artists and creative industry groups with a range of different tools and resources. There are different types of ASOs, and each can provide assistance based on your organizational needs. Some ASOs support a specific group such as performers or artists, while others can support disciplines such as theatre or music. Arts Service Organizations can provide:

  • funding or funding resources
  • fiscal assistance
  • advocacy 
  • professional development & networking
  • conferences
  • membership based models

So what kind of ASO are we? ArtsBuild Ontario is an ASO who focuses on supporting artists and their organizations in finding long-term space solutions for their creative practice. We encompass several different areas of support to arts organizations by providing programs, research, tools and resources. We have professional development opportunities, free and paid resources, as well as advocacy support for space needs. We support the development and management of creative spaces such as theatres, galleries, concert halls, museums and other creative spaces. 

Our 3 core programs:

Creative Spaces Mentoring Network

This is a mentoring program for leaders in Ontario’s arts and heritage sectors focused on strengthening business and management skills needed to successfully oversee, renew and develop creative spaces.

Asset Planner for the Arts 

Make better decisions and produce accurate capital forecasts for your arts facility with Asset Planner for the Arts – a tool that tracks your facility’s condition and replacement costs for key building components.

Learning Series

Our learning series includes free and paid webinars that cover a range of topics such as  accessibility, asset management, capital project support, energy efficiency, managing creative spaces and space rentals. 

There are more ASOs who support Ontario’s arts sector! 

While ArtsBuild Ontario targets building, managing, and financing needs for creative space, there are several other organizations across Ontario dedicated to different needs in the sector. Check them out! 

A Day at the Theatre! Touring the Tom Patterson Theatre in Stratford

ArtsBuild Ontario recently had the pleasure of visiting the newly built Tom Patterson Theatre. After completing the $70-million capital project, the Stratford Festival was forced by the pandemic to cancel its 2020 season and delay the grand opening of the new building. Fortunately for fans eager to see the award-winning facility, the Festival began welcoming the public for tours in the summer of 2021, ahead of the official opening now rescheduled for 2022. 

The tour began with a land acknowledgment recognizing that the theatre is located on territory governed by two treaties. The first is the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant of 1701, made between the Anishinaabe and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an agreement to set violence aside and peacefully share and care for the land in the Great Lakes Basin. The second is the Huron Tract Treaty of 1827, an agreement made by eighteen Anishinaabek Chiefs and the Canada Company, an agency of the British Crown. 

As we began our tour, we learned about Tom Patterson and his significance to the Festival and Town of Stratford. In 1952, Tom Patterson received a $125 grant from the City Council to bring a 6-week Shakespeare Festival to life. Almost 70 years later, the festival has evolved into a world-renowned destination for theatre experiences, welcoming half a million tourists each year (28 million since it opened) and driving the local economy. 

The original Tom Patterson Theatre facilities were much different from the newly minted building we were standing in, which has just been awarded the international Architecture Masterprize. The theatre was previously housed in an adaptive reuse space, which included a community hall and a former curling rink. The old photos on display from the City’s archives of the former theatre spaces conveyed a rich history between the Festival and its community. The photos also illustrated how much the Festival has grown over six decades.

The Stratford Festival had leased the old Tom Patterson Theatre space from the City of Stratford since the 1970s but when the need for facility upgrades to the theatre became pressing, Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino and Executive Director Anita Gaffney spearheaded a project that envisioned an entirely new, architecturally important building for the Festival. The provincial and federal governments contributed $20 million each to support project and the Festival raised an additional $60 million from private donors. In 2018 it purchased the community centre site from the City for $4.9 million and work began.

A worldwide search for architects was held. Several core elements needed to be met in the winning proposal. These included: maintaining the original intimacy of the old theatre space and creating outdoor gardens that would enhance the site. The project was awarded to Siamak Hariri, of Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini Architects, who had a vision for the new theatre to be a “shimmering jewel” on the water and engage with the ebbs and flows of the Avon river, which runs alongside the building. Standing inside and outside the new theatre facility, it’s clear this vision has come to fruition. 

In addition to its beauty, three features of the Tom Patterson Theatre project also caught our eye. 

Rentable Space 

Photo: Suede Productions

The new facility has three spaces available to rent.  

Spriet Members’ Lounge: This beautifully furnished space, complete with an impressive marble bar and fireplace is used during performances, with member only access. Outside of Festival Performances, the Lounge is available for hosting special events.

Lazaridis Hall: Suitable for solo shows, cabarets, spoken word, panels, discussions and other small-scale events, with seating for up to 200, this space overlooks the beautiful Avon River through the glass and bronze curtain that surrounds the theatre.

Dinner Rooney Workshop: This space is used for the Festival’s educational programs and production needs, but is also available to rent. It is situated next to Lazaridis Hall and offers similar views.

State of the art lighting and audio

Photo: Doublespace Photography
Photo: Doublespace Photography

The Festival’s own staff informed the technical design of the auditorium, which seats 600. The new audio system is one of few in the world designed to immerse audiences. Details of the design include speakers along the outside of the base stage and throughout the auditorium, allowing sound to follow the actor’s movement and a hidden catwalk. 

The design also includes a lighting system called RoboSpot. These are small lights that are controlled remotely, allowing greater creative opportunities and making the jobs of the lighting techs less arduous during productions. 

They bought a forest!

After much research and experimentation, it was decided that Canadian birch was the ideal choice for building the stage floor. One-thousand square feet were required, but with a shortage of lumber during the pandemic, there was not enough Canadian birch to be found to complete the build, so…the Stratford Festival purchased their very own wood lot! Now for generations to come, actors who tread the boards at the Tom Patterson Theatre will do so on locally sourced, sustainable Canadian wood, not Russian birch.

Throughout the creation and development of the new Tom Patterson Theatre, the original spirit of the old building still remains. Whether you wish to see a performance or dine in their new cafe along the river, the new theatre facility does not disappoint. 

Discover the New Tom Patterson Video Series 

Discover the New Tom Patterson Video Series Trailer 

A Space of Significance

Machinery of Magic

Beyond Beautiful

Inside the Jewel

Upcoming Webinar: Creative Space Projects & COVID-19

Join us on December 8th at 1 pm (EST)for our upcoming webinar on navigating creative space capital projects during a pandemic! Panelists will share 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.

Panelists include:

  • 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 will serve as a mandatory check-in point for mentors and mentees of ABO’s Creative Spaces Mentoring Network (CSMN) 2021-22.

Once the second portion of this webinar begins, we ask that all mentors and mentees of the CSMN program remain on the Zoom call.

Register now!


About the Speaker

Janis Kahentóktha Monture is Mohawk Nation, Turtle Clan from Six Nations of the Grand River. Janis returned as the Executive Director of Woodland Cultural Centre, one of the largest First Nations- run cultural centres/museums in the country. Previously, Janis was appointed the Director of Tourism and Cultural Initiatives for the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation. Janis attended the University of Western Ontario where she attained a Bachelor of Arts in History and received a Museum Studies diploma from Algonquin College. Janis continues to volunteer in her community at Six Nations and in Brantford.

About the Woodland Cultural Centre’s Capital Project

Save the Evidence is a campaign to raise awareness and support for the restoration of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, and to develop the building into an Interpreted Historic Site and Educational Resource. As a site of conscience, the final goal is to create a fully realized Interpretive Centre that will be the definitive destination for information about the history of Residential Schools in Canada, the experiences of Survivors of the schools, and the impact that the Residential School system has had in communities. After the Mohawk Institute closed in 1970, it reopened in 1972 as the Woodland Cultural Centre, a non-profit organization that serves to preserve and promote First Nations culture and heritage.

About the Speaker

Paul Fujimoto-Pihl is currently serving as Project Manager at the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario. He has been with the Grand since 2012, and was previously Technical Director and Interim Production Manager. Prior to the Grand, he was Technical Director at Tarragon Theatre and The Blyth Festival. He has mentored five Apprentice Technical Directors while at the Grand, and is proud to be part of a ‘teaching theatre’. Paul sits on the Program Advisory Committee for Humber College’s Theatre Production Program, is Chair of the Ontario Section of the Canadian Institute for Theatre Technology, and is director of PMArts.

About the Grand Theatre’s Capital Project

The Grand Theatre is nearing completion of a $9.5 million renovation to its front- and back-of-house spaces. The work over the past year has completely transformed the interior of the theatre. The 2020-21 year allowed for the theatre to undertake significant renovations including more accessible bathrooms, upgraded lighting and sound systems, upgraded HVAC controls, refreshed artists spaces and more.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Amy Poole, Program Manager, at amy@artsbuildontario.ca or 519-880-3670 x 102.

Information Session: Making Cultural Spaces Safe During COVID-19 Initiative


About this event

ABO is pleased to host an upcoming information session on November 22 at 1:00 PM on the Making Cultural Spaces Safe During COVID-19 Initiative from the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund, Department of Canadian Heritage.

The Initiative will provide 1-time project-based support to arts and heritage organizations to upgrade their space to safely reopen. The Initiative seeks to increase the number of cultural facilities able to re-open safely to the public.

In this information session, Regional Manager of Arts Programs Valerie Hopper and the Canada Cultural Spaces team will share further details on the Initiative, including project examples, eligibility, and timeline. Following the presentation, there will be time for Q&A with participants.

The presentation and Q&A will be offered in both English and French.

Register here!

For any questions about this information session, please contact ABO Executive Director Alex Glass at alex@artsbuildontario.ca or 519.880.3670 ext. 103.

ArtsBuild Ontario’s Vaccination Policy

Effective September 22nd, 2021, all staff, short-term renters and visitors of ArtsBuild Ontario will be required to be fully vaccinated in order to access our rented spaces within 44 Gaukel Creative Workspace. Proof of vaccination status will be required and must show the individual to be fully vaccinated* a minimum of fourteen (14) days prior to accessing the building. Proof of vaccination must be in the form of a Ministry of Health official form or a vaccination passport once they come available.

*Fully Vaccinated – Full vaccination status is defined as receiving two valid doses of a Health Canada recognized COVID-19 vaccine. Note that full vaccination status may be subject to change based on changes in the Ministry of Health guidelines.

ArtsBuild Ontario Staff

All staff at ArtsBuild Ontario must be fully vaccinated in order to report to work. Staff who require an accommodation under the Human Rights Code, that has been approved by the Executive Director, will be required to undergo regular antigen testing taken within 48 hours of reporting to work. Only staff members who receive a negative result will be permitted to work.

The cost for this testing will remain free of charge to the staff member or volunteer only as long as the tests are provided free of charge by the Government of Ontario, once they are no longer being provided free of charge, the individual will be responsible for the cost of the test.

All staff are required to take the passive screening test at the entrance of 44 Gaukel Creative Workspace each day before entering the building.

Renter Access

All renters and their attendees of ArtsBuild Ontario’s rental spaces, within 44 Gaukel Creative Workspace, will be required to be fully vaccinated for a minimum of fourteen (14) days prior to accessing the building. The renter or organizer is responsible for ensuring their guests are aware of and in accordance with the ArtsBuild Ontario’s Vaccination Policy. Attendees will be required to show proof of full vaccination along with photo identification upon entering the building. Those who cannot provide proof of vaccination will not be permitted access.

In the absence of proof of full vaccination status, we will require those who wish to access the building to provide proof of a negative antigen test within 48 hours of attending the event. This negative test result will be required to be shown along with photo identification upon entering the building.

All renters and their attendees are required to take the passive screening test at the entrance of 44 Gaukel Creative Workspace each day before entering the building.

Children 11 Years of Age and Younger

Effective September 22nd, 2021, children not yet eligible for vaccination may access 44 Gaukel Creative Workspace as long as they are accompanied by parents who have provided their own proof of vaccination. Children 11 years of age and younger are also exempt from antigen testing. Parents are asked to closely monitor their children for COVID-19 symptoms and must submit that they have self-screened their unvaccinated child prior to entering 44 Gaukel Creative Workspace.

All parents of children not yet eligible for vaccination are required to take the passive screening test at the entrance of 44 Gaukel Creative Workspace each day before entering the building.


ArtsBuild Ontario will comply with its human rights obligations and accommodate visitors who are legally entitled to accommodation under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Any visitors being accommodated in this manner will be subject to face-covering rules indefinitely. We will also require those who are unable to get vaccinated to provide us with proof of a negative antigen test result within 72 hours of attending 44 Gaukel Creative Workspace.

If you should require accommodation, please send an accommodation request to alex@artsbuildontario.ca. This request must include one of the two supporting documents:

  • A letter on letterhead from your Primary Care Physician indicating that there is an underlying medical condition that deems it unsafe for you to receive the vaccine.
  • A letter on letterhead from your religious leader indicating that your faith disallows you to receive the vaccine.

For the period between September 22 and October 12, 2021, in accordance withprovincial regulations, people accessing ArtsBuild Ontario’s rental spaces will be able to provide a negative rapid antigen COVID-19 test from no more than 48 hours beforethe event as an alternative to proof of vaccination. Once supporting documentation is received your request will be evaluated by the Executive Director for approval.

Privacy Statement
ArtsBuild Ontario takes the privacy of its renters, visitors and staff seriously and will take appropriate steps to comply with applicable privacy laws. An individual’s vaccination status is personal information that will not be shared with individuals outside of those authorized to have access for the purposes of enforcing the Vaccination Policy.