The Indigenous Creative Spaces Project


The Indigenous Creative Spaces Project brings together a network of communities to support the development of Indigenous sovereign spaces across Ontario. Guided by an Indigenous Advisory Circle and supported by ArtsBuild Ontario, the project aims to build a framework of knowledge and experience within a cultural context, and determine the needs and recommendations for future infrastructure development across the ecology of Ontario.

Paddling Upstream

The Indigenous Creative Spaces Project (ICSP) began in 2019 with the goal of prioritizing Indigenous self-determination in cultural spaces across, what we now call, Ontario. The foundation of this project has always been to support Indigenous-led arts spaces, stepping away from Western artistic paradigms that predicate the design, operation, and governance of arts and heritage spaces, and make way for Indigenous autonomy and connection with the land.

Since the beginning, this project has been guided by an Advisory Circle and Co-Conveners, while supported by ArtsBuild Ontario. In 2020-22, we started the project journey with Community Gatherings and Legacy Stories. Community Gatherings brought together Indigenous artists, arts organizations, and community members across the province to speak about what is needed to seed and cultivate Indigenous creative spaces. In the Legacy Stories, we heard community members share lived histories and relationships to their current and future spaces.

These Community Gatherings and Legacy Stories formed the roots of Paddling Upstream. This document, compiled by Dr. Terri-Lynn Brennan, CEO of Inclusive Voices Inc., illustrates three years of project work, including over 35 hours, 700 pages of recorded transcripts, and 183 voices who contributed to this living document. Within this work, four key bundles became apparent, all within the umbrella of self-determination.

The bundles focus on Land; Individual, Family, and Community Health; Funding, Training and Mentorship; and Reciprocity.

This document is intended to give voice to Indigenous creators across Ontario and the depth of struggles and accomplishments in building and sustaining spaces for Indigenous artists. To learn more about the integral work that needs to be done in order to support the Indigenous arts ecology in Ontario, read Paddling Upstream here:

Paddling Upstream English

Paddling Upstream French

In addition to the document, we invite you to watch a corresponding conversation with Dr. Terri-Lynn Brennan, CEO of Inclusive Voice Inc., and collaborators JP Longboat, Artistic Director of Circadia Indigena and Alex Glass, Executive Director of ArtsBuild Ontario to further explore the pathway to creating this document as well as the core bundles Paddling Upstream highlights.

The Indigenous Creative Spaces Project is supported by the Department of Canadian Heritage and Canada Council for the Arts.

The Ecology of Indigenous Creative Space & Allyship Workshop

Join Dr. Terri-Lynn Brennan and JP Longboat, alongside ArtsBuild Ontario, for a working session dedicated to the intersection of allyship, Indigenous creative spaces, and self-determination. Held at the Native Earth Performing Arts Aki Studio, in Tkaronto (Toronto), on March 25th from 1pm – 4pm, this session welcomes all arts organizations to rethink their organizational structures toward building relationships as an ally and creating safe and enabling spaces rooted in Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination.

Informed by Paddling Upstream and principles platformed by the Two-Row Wampum as guides, we will explore how to actively support and amplify Indigenous voices, address systemic challenges, and foster environments of equally empowered collaboration. We will unpack how Paddling Upstream can be used to support spaces in learning to navigate conversations with Indigenous artists and community, and embrace an approach to developing deeper respect and humility toward Indigenous ways of thinking, being and living.

Register today as registration is open until March 24th, 2024 at 5pm EST.

Generously supported by the Department of Canadian Heritage and Canada Council for the Arts

Community Gatherings

Gathering Circles were held for Indigenous artists, arts organizations, and community members across the province. Communities were invited to speak about what is needed to foster development of Indigenous creative spaces. Gatherings took place in Kingston, Six Nations of the Grand River, Manitoulin Island, North Bay, Thunder Bay, Temagami, and Toronto.

Legacy Stories

Legacy Stories explore where the spaces begin, where they are going, to where they hope to be. These conversations were transcribed and shared internally with each organization and their communities to protect cultural  knowledge that emerged from each Circle.

New Moon Dialogues

New Moon Dialogues is a series of online conversations for Indigenous communities to share their knowledge, learnings, and journey in creating Indigenous creative spaces. The dialogues are taking place from November 2022 – June 2023. The dialogues will discuss themes such as:

  • Uplifting the relationship to land, water and territory
  • Individual, organizational and digital sovereignty
  • Systemic barriers in developing Indigenous creative spaces
  • Space-based conversations with Woodland Cultural Centre, Friday Creeations and Debajehmujig Theatre Group

The audience and accessibility for each dialogue is determined by the lead speakers. Some conversations are meant to be internal among the pre-determined audience. The public dialogues are listed below. Please note the information shared in public dialogues may not be extracted for any reasons other than personal knowledge.

Looking Towards the Next 50 Years

March 15th, 2023

Debahjemuhjig Theatre Group: Developing the Creation Centre

May 3rd, 2023

Creating and Maintaining Culturally Safe Creative Spaces

May 3rd, 2023

Culturally Based Training and Indigenous Spaces

June 8th, 2023

Navigating the Canoes: Return to Community

Since September 2023, Circle Co-Conveners and the ABO team have visited four communities, all of whom held gatherings in the first two years of the project. Members of the Advisory Circle from Aanmitaagzi (North Bay), Debajehmujig Theatre Group (Manitoulin Island), the Agnes Etherington (Kingston), and Bear Island (Temagami) have hosted host epilogue sessions, in which the future of Indigenous creative spaces in their territory was discussed in relation to Paddling Upstream and the four Bundles of Knowledge: Land, Community Health, Funding and Resources, and Reciprocity. 

The remaining two gatherings will take place at Woodland Cultural Centre (Six Nations) and Native Earth (Tkaronto).

The gatherings have been unique to each community, with a shared need for self determination to move forward in the sector.

A workshop for settler arts organizations on allyship and space will be taking place on March 25th, 2025 in Aki Studio at Native Earth. 


The Indigenous Creative Spaces Project respects the First Nations Principles of OCAP (Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession). Project materials are shared privately for Indigenous artists, arts organizations, and community members participating in the project. This protection creates a sovereign digital space for communities to connect and learn from the knowledge shared in this project. Access of this website is fully determined and managed by the Indigenous Advisory Circle.


The private website is located at: If you are interested in learning about the password, please contact

Project Partners

ArtsBuild Ontario thanks the Department of Canadian Heritage, Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for supporting this project.