Success Stories from ABO’s Accessibility Webinar Series

This past year, ArtsBuild Ontario presented six webinars in the Learning Series aimed at supporting creative spaces in understanding and going beyond the Design of Public Spaces Standard as part of the Accessibility for Ontarians Act (AODA).

We are excited to share some success stories from different arts leaders across the province who have applied key learnings from these webinars to their organization or practice!  Have a read through them all below:

Success Story #1: Informing Accessibility Plans

“The [webinar] was presented in a different perspective with more of a real connection to day-to-day ways of interpreting visitor needs.  It was overall, very informative and helpful as we all work toward goals of inclusion and accessibility.

This webinar has created a good way to re-assess our current accessibly plan and is a reminder that we should evaluate the plan on a more regular basis-including input from those whose needs should be met in a public space. As there are people of many different abilities, there always seems to be more to learn in the area of accessibility. Putting that information into the context of creative spaces definitely added to my current level of knowledge and the mindset needed to actually think about and implement solutions”.
– Participant from Webinar: Let’s Talk About Disability and Creative Space

Success Story #2: Deepening Discussions with Clients

As an architect, Sandra Iksandar is more than familiar with building codes and provincial legislation. Participating in the webinar Best Practices for Architects, Designers & Creative Spaces on Accessibility served as a reminder of the value added that comes with going above the legislation to create accessible and inclusive spaces. Demonstrating how accessible buildings can be stylistically creative and visually appealing, speakers provided examples that were transferable to her clients. She was able to bring this information to her clients, and communicate the importance of considering accessibility in the planning phases of a renovation project and specifying accessibility in the Request for Proposals (RFP) process.

Success Story #3: Implementing Accessible Signage

For Lisa Wacheski, this webinar series has had a direct impact on the Canadian Transportation Museum and Heritage Village’s upcoming renovation project. Board approval has recently been given to go forward with a grant application for the replacement of signage in the museum. While they are still in the planning stage, information has been shared with board members on the need to adjust the signage to better reflect those with varying accessibility needs in terms of sight and language. As a result, the creation and installation of new signs will include both English and French, larger font, better lighting and appropriately displayed based on lines of sight, to take into great account the variety in abilities of their visitors.

Success Story #4: Transforming Spaces

From this webinar series, two underlying messages resonated with Michelle Alderson, Production & Event Coordinator at the Al Green Theatre.  Firstly, she appreciated the examples that demonstrated how organizations have implemented creative designs to eliminate barriers in their facilities and remain a thriving community hub. Secondly, she was pleased the webinars highlighted the importance of forward facing customer service, consulting patrons with lived experiences and asking patrons how a space can better suit their needs.

As a member of her facility’s Accessibility Committee, she has shared lessons learned and resources provided with the committee, and will be applying them to an upcoming renovation project at the theatre. Along with plans to lower the information desk, they will soon be transforming the old box office room in their lobby into a designated area to support individuals with visible and invisible disabilities. As a multi-use space, it will be used as a quiet zone for individuals with sensory processing concerns and as a designated space to identify and make requests for access needs. It will also be equipped with assistive devices to help individuals communicate with staff if needed. As individuals of varying demographics and abilities frequent their public lobby, these facility upgrades are intended to insure their space is accommodating and inclusive.

Success Story #5: Improving Experiential Accessibility

In the webinar: Invisible Disabilities and Creative Spaces, presenters Alex Bulmer and Andrew Gurza highlighted practical solutions to empower creative spaces to better welcome and accommodate invisible disabilities. These included processes such as extending the time limits of online ticketing platforms; offering scent free spaces and the importance of making patrons feel comfortable expressing their access needs either in person or through digital platforms.

A participant from the webinar notes “we can update our approach to encourage a better and more inclusive level of customer service through some of the suggested practices mentioned in the webinar. We will update our orientation and training for staff and volunteers to reflect as many of these key points as we can.”

Announcing Accessibility Webinars for Creative Spaces!

ArtsBuild Ontario is excited to announce upcoming accessibility webinars in the Learning Series! These webinars will focus on accessibility and creative spaces based on the Design for Public Spaces Standard, as part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA). The webinars will explain how creative spaces need to meet accessible building standards and explore ways creative spaces can go beyond the standards.

The webinars will be supported by a toolkit for creative spaces around the topic of accessibility, which will be released in Spring 2019.

ABO would like to thank its accessibility advisory committee for informing the webinar topics, speakers and upcoming toolkit for creative spaces in Ontario. This project is supported by the Government of Ontario.

Free Webinar: Let’s Talk About Disability and Creative Spaces
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST
Presenters:  Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments and Sage Lovell, Founder of Deaf Spectrum 
Register Here

Free Webinar:  Design for Public Spaces 101: Where do Creative Spaces Start?
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST
Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments
Presenters: Jay Pitter, Placemaker, Author & City Building, and Yvonne Felix, Senior Manager at CNIB and public/community artist
Register Here

Free Webinar: Design for Public Spaces Advanced: How can Creative Spaces Go Beyond the Standard?
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST
 Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments
Presenters: TBD & Lorene Casiez, Accessibility Strategist, Practice Lead with Human Space
Register Here

Free Webinar: Best Practices for Architects, Designers and Creative Spaces on Accessibility
Tuesday, March 26, 2019 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST
Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments
Presenters: Amy Potier, Accessibility and Building Code Specialist with Gensler as well as Corey Timpson, Principal at Corey Timpson Design Inc and former Vice President of Exhibitions at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Register Here 

Free Webinar: Safety, Fire Codes and Accessibility for Creative Spaces
Tuesday, April 23, 2019 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST
Host: Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments
Presenters: Martin Day, President of Safety Media Inc. and Marnie Peters, Accessibility Specialist
Register Here

Free Webinar: Invisible Disabilities and Creative Spaces
Tuesday, May 14, 2019 | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST
Host: Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments
Presenters: Alex Bulmer, Accessibility Consultant & Actor, Writer and Director as well as Andrew Gurza, Disability Awareness Consultant
Register Here

Registration is available through Eventbrite and webinars are delivered through Adobe Connect with closed captioning. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation to register or participate in our webinars, please call 519-880-3670 ext. 101 or email in advance of your participation.

Paddling Upstream – Read Now!


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 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.

Register now for the Paddling Upstream: Indigenous Creative Spaces Project Webinar on Thursday, August 3rd, 2023 from 1:30-2:30 PM EST.

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

Register for the Final New Moon Dialogue: Culturally Based Training and Indigenous Spaces


There are many systematic barriers for Indigenous artists and organizations to overcome towards creating and producing self-determined work. Funding opportunities for Indigenous training organizations have suffered especially, even before the Covid pandemic. Mainstream training funding often excludes Indigenous organizations, and Indigenous artists are forced to work within colonial structures and evaluation frameworks.

In order to disrupt this cycle, thinking about different models and systems to support self-determined work can empower Indigenous artists to move forward. The speakers in this session will share the ways in which they are creating new models and enhancing current western approaches to building a new future that offers culturally based training for Indigenous artists. By focusing on how to support training and professional development, Indigenous artists and organizations can be uplifted through self-determination and agency.

The Indigenous Creative Spaces Project brings together a network of communities to support the development of Indigenous sovereign creative 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 and historic context, and determine the needs and recommendations for future infrastructure and sustainable development across the arts ecology of Ontario. As part of this project, a series of online dialogues will take place within Indigenous communities throughout Ontario.

The Indigenous Creative Spaces Project respects the First Nations Principles of OCAP (Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession). The intended audience for these dialogues are Indigenous artists, arts organizations, and community members participating in the project. If you are interested in listening to this dialogue, please remember that this is a sovereign digital space for communities to connect and learn from the knowledge shared in this forum and within this project.

Note: These dialogues may explore culturally sensitive material. The information shared today may not be extracted for any reasons other than personal knowledge. The audience is encouraged to witness and reflect, space will be open for interactive dialogue and questions during the session.

Register here.

Register Now! New Moon Dialogue Series


Join us for the fourth and fifth sessions of the New Moon Dialogue Series! You can register now for the two sessions happening on Wednesday, May 3rd.

Session 1: Debahjemuhjig Theatre Group: Developing the Creation Centre lead by Lynda Trudeau

Debahjemuhjig Theatre Group create original theatre/live performance productions that represent Indigenous world views, language, culture, and histories. Recently, Debajehmujig Theatre Group embarked on a project to develop their Creation Centre. General Manager, Lynda Trudeau will speak on the journey from conception to present use and future plans.

Register here!

Session 2: Creating and Maintaining Culturally Safe Creative Spaces lead by JP Longboat 

In the creation and development of fully Indigenous creative and cultural spaces, how can Indigenous creators navigate mainstream venues and systems of engagement? When settler spaces/organizations need to do the work of Truth and Reconciliation leading to true inclusion, how can Indigenous creators offer guidance and knowledge to sensitize and Indigenize these spaces? JP will give a voice to the lived Indigenous experiences and talk about the needs and recommendations that are currently affecting the sector.

Register here!

Note: These dialogues may explore culturally sensitive material. The information shared in these sessions may not be extracted for any reasons other than personal knowledge. The audience is encouraged to listen. Questions will be taken at the end.

Green Infrastructure Initiatives for Arts Organizations

How do cultural projects align with green infrastructure initiatives and how can arts organizations prepare for new avenues of federal funding? Join us on Tuesday, April 11th from 1 pm-2:30 pm for a conversation with Tara Mazurk and Elizabeth Seip, from PAA Advisory | Conseils and explore the latest federal funding investment in green buildings.

In this session, we’ll look at programs such as the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings Program, the Deep Retrofit Accelerator Initiative, and learn how these supports can integrate with existing programs such as the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund.

Tara and Elizabeth lead the federal cultural infrastructure work at PAA Advisory | Conseils, helping arts & culture organizations navigate public investment for venues, retrofits, new builds and upgrades, especially in light of public policy priorities in inclusive communities and the green transition.

Tara Mazurk, Director, Arts & Culture: Tara brings 10 years of experience in arts management and cultural policy, with a particular focus on the not-for-profit and charitable sector, network stewardship and coalition-building. Her expertise in policy writing, strategic monitoring, and stakeholder engagement helps clients easily understand and navigate relevant federal policies and programs. Outside of her work at PAA, Tara helped co-found Mass Culture, a Canadian cultural research network. She also regularly guest lectures at universities and colleges to support the next generation of professionals. Tara holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Arts Management and Studio Art from the University of Toronto.

Elizabeth Seip, Advisor, Arts & Culture: Elizabeth is an Advisor with the Arts and Culture Group. She has experience in policy development, and emerging issues in Canada’s arts and culture sector. Additionally, Elizabeth provides logistical, strategic, and research support to her team and clients. Prior to joining PAA, Elizabeth worked as a Special Assistant to a Member of Parliament focusing on policy development and community outreach. She has previous experience with government relations, specifically with the arts and culture sector. Elizabeth has volunteered for numerous non-profit organizations that support women’s rights and gender equality in Ottawa and is involved with an organization that supports Indigenous communities in British Columbia. She has campaign experience, as she volunteered for her local Member of Parliament’s federal campaign. Elizabeth received her Bachelor of Arts with an Honours double major in political science and history at the University of Ottawa, specializing in mid 20th century American history and Canadian politics. She was accepted into the international exchange program at the University of Galway in Ireland where she focused on Irish economic history. Elizabeth holds a Master of Political Management from Carleton University.

Register Now! 

Kick Off in Calgary! The Creative Spaces Mentoring Network Calgary Begins

On February 14th, ABO launched our Kick Off Workshop in Calgary, Alberta. We partnered with  cSpace King Edward and Calgary Arts Development to bring our core program, the Creative Spaces Mentoring Network out West!

cSpace King Edward Interior

We started the day with a welcome by cSpace at their recently renovated Studio Theatre. cSpace provides shared spaces for artists and the creative sector within Calgary. They offer tenant spaces, venue rentals, innovative programming,and local art exhibitions. During the opening, we also heard from Calgary Arts Development, and listened to a brief overview of some relevant initiatives and grants for the Calgary arts community.

Next, we met our cohort! CSMN Calgary is made up of 19 wonderful mentees from a variety of different arts disciplines. This year, our mentees are:

Atelier Artista One Big JAM
Big Art Riverstation Retreat
Bonny Boom Inc Sankofa Arts & Music Foundation
Buckingjam Palace Snapshot Studios
Canopy Studios Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
Casa Mexico SpanicArts
City of Camrose Springboard Performance
Hispanic Arts Society The Alcove
Legacy House Tribe Artists Society
Turtle Island Multicultural Centre

The projects range from the visionary phase of embarking on a creative space project to working on space specific challenges. We are so excited to hear how these projects progress with their mentor matches. 

Our main panel for the day began after our mentee introductions. Moderated by Joni Carroll, Arts Spaces Consultant with Calgary Arts Development we heard from Kathi Sundstrum, Executive Director of Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, Alex Sarian, CEO of Arts Commons and Sabrina Mueller, Production and Operations Manager at Pumphouse Theatre. Each of these community leaders have embarked on capital projects for their facilities. From large, medium and small scale projects, each panelist spoke to their successes, challenges, and words of advice for our program mentees. With the overarching theme of recovery, recalibration and renewal, the panelists spoke to the need for collaboration within the arts sector. In order to sustain the survival of the arts, there needs to be an underlying trust within partnerships and the community.

Panel Discussion moderated by Joni Carroll with Alex Sarian, Kathi Sundstrom, and Sabrina Mueller

After lunch, we heard an overview of cSPACE and Calgary Arts Development’s Meanwhile Lease pilot project. This project connects real estate professionals with interim tenants active in the creative economy. This pilot project mobilizes the use of under-utilized real estate inventory to the benefit of the real estate and arts sectors.

CSMN afternoon training

Finally we ended the day with some program specific training and goal setting. We are very excited to have launched this program in Calgary and we can’t wait to see how the projects and collaborations unfold.