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.

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:


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 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 or 519.880.3670 ext. 103.