Mapping Northern Creative Spaces

In Fall 2020, ArtsBuild Ontario (ABO) partnered with NORDIK Institute for the Mapping Northern Creative Spaces study. ABO and NORDIK Institute completed detailed case reports on four northern communities – Wawa, Kenora/Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, Sault Ste. Marie, and Timmins. These reports focused on the creative space needs of the communities and identified potential capital projects. The four regions included in this study are a sampling of the vast artistic and cultural potential of northern communities. There is a clear need identified in the reports for more designated space for the continuation of cultural development.

The economy of Northern Ontario has been largely based on resource extraction. This focus on resources like forestry and mining contributed to prosperous economic development. For a long time, other local assets and resources, such as community and cultural development, were not part of community development initiatives. ABO and NORDIK Institute decided to explore the potential of northern areas to better understand what these communities are missing. While each community report is unique, there are several key underlying connections among all four regions. All of the organizations and individuals who participated in the study surveys felt under-resourced, undervalued, underdeveloped and underutilized. All communities also felt isolated as though they are a separate community within the broader whole. Due to a lack of funding, their northern location, and politics, these communities feel that they are unable to fulfill capital projects to develop their creative spaces.

Having a physical space for operations allows for the continuum of creative processes and allows for networks to emerge and grow. The physical space and operationalizing are what drive this sector forward. With these reports, we hope that a framework for developing future capital projects can be considered and used to support the arts and culture sector in Northern Ontario.

We would like to thank our program partners at NORDIK Institute for their collaborative efforts with each community and ABO throughout the project. Thank you to all the communities involved in this project.

This program was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts. 


The Beat Goes On!

With the pandemic taking the forefront of our lives and conversations, many of us have felt a loss of inspiration and a fatigue of continually being faced with the unknown.  In order to reinvigorate your creative space energy, ArtsBuild Ontario has created a playlist just for facility managers and your creative workspaces!  If you are looking for 56 minutes of songs about buildings, check out this playlist.

What music have you been listening to for inspiration?


Spotify: Spotify – ArtsBuild Ontario Playlist

Apple Music:

Reflecting and Reopening: Three Arts Spaces on COVID-19 and Step 3

There is no doubt that the COVID 19 has hit the arts and creative businesses hard. The pandemic brought hardship and loss not only in business and revenue, but also in creative production and presentation. As Ontario is in the midst of Step 3 on the Roadmap to Reopening, we decided to catch up with Debajehmujig Theatre, the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (KWAG), Akin Collective to reflect on the past year and see what reopening looks like for them.How has your organization evolved with COVID?

Debajehmujig Theatre:COVID came at a time when we were developing a digital adaptation strategy. As things began to evolve, our operations utilized the hybrid model where we had some in person audience members, and some online. Through the year we had several events. At Easter, there were two festivals over the weekend, at halloween there was a Horror storytelling, and in winter, an online winter cabaret was developed. The team is innovative so we created ways to ensure we remained active, relevant, and responsive to the communities we serve. It was important to us to maintain our core concept of sharing and educating on Indigenous culture. Furthermore, being provocative and courageous in that work.”  

KWAG: “KWAG transitioned to the work-from-home model while delivering activity online. That included developing a new digital tool on our website to host exhibitions, like our annual student exhibition. We also changed the way we used our blog and e-newsletter to provide more story-driven content. We developed more virtual programs for kids and families, developed a Summer Art Camp program based on take-home art kits, created downloadable lesson plans for teachers and schools to replace our in-school programs, and hosted Artist Talks on Zoom. We have been combining on-site exhibitions (even small-group tours) and outdoor programs with virtual offerings ever since. 

Akin: As an organization offering in-person arts programming, and providing workspace to artists in open-concept shared working environments, we had to adapt our services quickly. We launched our Studio Rent Relief Fund at the very beginning of COVID-19 to support artists facing financial hardships with covering their studio rent. Our staff was able to work from home quite readily. We did have to adapt our intake process for new members as we stopped doing on-site in-person tours. We switched to virtual meetings only, increased the frequency of mental-health check-ins and generally practiced more patience and care with each other.  We lost many of our studio members during COVID-19, who chose to work from home exclusively rather than keep a rental studio. While this was the best and safest option for many, we have had to close 5 of our studio locations since early 2020: Akin Lansdowne, Akin X Collision Gallery, Akin River, Akin Sunrise and Akin Lakeshore. Because of our membership loss and studio closures our organization has taken a huge financial hit as a result of  COVID-19 and we are grateful to have been able to continue operating despite that.”


How are operations changing with COVID restrictions beginning to loosen up?

Debajehmujig Theatre:What works for Debajehmujig is the focus on our strategic and operational plans, assessments post event, and building upon consumer confidence and trust being a priority. The creation process will continue to evolve and productions will adapt to the changing times. However the roots will remain the same.”

KWAG:We are allowed to operate Summer Art Camps during this time, but are maintaining the hybrid model we developed over the last year so we have both virtual camps and outdoor-focused camps on-site with a much smaller group of campers. We’ve installed our new summer exhibition, a wave in other words, with a very minimal crew of exclusively KWAG staff.

Akin: “Although the virtual programming did the trick, the in-person element is missing from our community.  Upcoming events include a live Art In The Park session, an outdoor Show & Tell (for members to show new work in a peer-supported environment), and if all goes well a group exhibition opportunity.”


What changes are here to stay?

Debajehmujig Theatre:We made adaptations for hybrid events, contactless payments and bookings, as we developed our production. We will have to adapt for custom sets, which include maintaining and building consumer and operational confidence. Other holistic practices such as wellness check-ins will likely stay, adaptation to work from home at times if required.

KWAG:We’re committed to maintaining a hybrid model of on-site and online programs for the long term, now that we’ve seen the benefits of improved reach and accessibility with our virtual programs. While KWAG is always going to push for in-person engagement, we see great potential in retaining our online audience, especially for folks who tune in for Artist Talks, to create engagement across the country and from the comfort of one’s own home.”

Akin: Virtual meetings and an adapted intake process for new members like sharing studio visuals virtually before scheduling  in-person tours will definitely stay. We will also keep offering the Studio Rent Relief Fund to our members indefinitely as long as our continual fundraising efforts for the fund are successful. We also plan to keep some aspects of our virtual programming to help audience reach”

As we continue to recover from COVID-19, ArtsBuild Ontario has resources, such as upcoming COVID relief funding opportunities, that might be useful for you and your creative space! Check out our website for more information on learning, building, and managing your creative space! 

The quotes in this article have been edited for length. We would like to thank Stephanie Vegh from Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery, Lynda Trudeau from Debajehmujig Theatre and Jen Pilles from Akin Collective for their response and contributions to this blog.

Covid19 Relief Funds

Check out these recently released funding opportunities that might benefit you and your creative space! 

Tourism Relief Fund

The Tourism Relief Fund, administered by Canada’s regional development agencies and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), supports tourism businesses and organizations to adapt their operations to meet public health requirements while investing in products and services to facilitate their future growth. With a budget of $500 million over two years (ending March 31, 2023), including $50 million specifically dedicated to Indigenous tourism initiatives and $15 million for national initiatives, this fund will position Canada to be a destination of choice when domestic and international travel is once again safe by:

  • empowering tourism businesses to create new or enhance existing tourism experiences and products to attract more local and domestic visitors
  • helping the sector reposition itself to welcome international visitors by providing the best Canadian tourism experiences we have to offer the world.

Tourism Relief Fund projects will focus on:

  • product development: For example, projects that enhance tourism experiences; help tourism businesses adapt to the “new normal”, to modernize their offerings; and, encourage the adoption of more environmentally sustainable and inclusive practices.
  • destination development: For example, projects that position communities to take advantage of post-pandemic opportunities through strategic planning for medium- to long-term investments, as well as supporting destination development prospects in line with objectives set out in the Federal Tourism Growth Strategy.

Learn More here.

Indigenous People Resilience Fund

The Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund (IPRF) is built upon the resiliency of, and guided by, Indigenous Peoples to support Indigenous communities through this current public health crisis. This fund is different, guided by Indigenous Peoples from the East, South, West and North. The goal is to provide needed resources as you navigate this stage of the pandemic. The Fund is governed by an Indigenous Advisory Council that approves all governance, resilience fund projects, communications and fund‐raising strategies and recommendations related to the work of fulfilling the purpose of the IPRF.

Applicants who are seeking support are asked to reflect back to their customary way of life of living off the land, using the resources provided by taking only what you need, ensuring resources are left for those who follow you. In this period of COVID19, through this fund, support would be provided to assist as many communities as possible. Support ranges from $5,000 to $30,000. 

This fund is available to:

  • any Indigenous-led organization working to foster resilience in Inuit, Metis and First Nations communities anywhere in Canada

Learn more here. 

Ontario Trillium Foundation Resilient Communities Fund

OTF is investing in projects of eligible non-profit organizations to aid their medium to longer-term recovery efforts, help with their stabilization and build their capacity and resiliency in the aftermath of COVID-19.
This fund is providing a flexible range of activities to address the diverse needs of organizations and to support them where they are at in their recovery and rebuilding.Next Deadline:
December 8, 2021 at 5 PM ET

Term Length:
Maximum 12 months

Amount Awarded (per year):
Minimum $5,000
Maximum $150,000

Learn more here.

Creative Spaces and Step 2 of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopening 

Creative Spaces and Step 2 of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopening

Creative Spaces and Step 2 of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopening 

At midnight on June 30, 2021, the province will move into Step 2 of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopening. This is hopeful news as arts organizations can look forward to increased audience size for outdoor offerings and a gradual reopening of indoor arts spaces. While most of the province moves ahead to Step 2, Waterloo Region and Porcupine Health Unit will remain in Step 1.

The earliest Ontario can move to Step 3 would be on July 20, twenty-one days following Step 2. Organizations can start planning for this next phase of reopening by reviewing the Reopening Ontario webpage.

Step 2 Highlights for Creative Spaces


  • Maximum 25 people for outdoor gatherings
  • Outdoor events at 25% capacity
  • Outdoor cinemas, performing arts, live music events and attractions at 25% capacity


  • Maximum 5 people for indoor gatherings
  • Space Rentals: Indoor meeting and event spaces closed, with exceptions for certain purposes, including viewings for a potential booking of a future event.

Commercial Film and TV Production

  • Open with no audience, and other restrictions

Performing Arts 

  • Indoor closed, permitted only for the purpose of rehearsing or performing a recorded or broadcasted event – spectators not permitted
  • Outdoor open, including live music, with spectator capacity at 25% and other restrictions


  • Indoor closed
  • Outdoor open with spectator capacity at 25% and other restrictions

Museums and attractions

  • Outdoor waterparks open with 25% capacity and other restrictions
  • Outdoor amusement parks open with 25% capacity and other restrictions, including on rides

Photography studios and services

  • Outdoor and limited indoor open with restrictions

Drive-in and drive through events

  • Open with restrictions


  • All construction open

Read the full Provincial Order for Step 2 Regulations for more details.

ArtsBuild Ontario supports #SupportVisualArtsON and #FairnessForTheArtsON. We continue to advocate for a more equitable recovery pathway for Ontario’s extraordinary arts sector. We call for regulatory fairness for the live performing arts, galleries and museums whose future planning has been impacted by Step 2 in this roadmap. Learn more here.