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.

Apply Now! Experience the Value of Mentorship

Are you looking to expand your knowledge, grow your skills and make connections focused on strengthening business and management skills? The Creative Spaces Mentoring Network might be for you! This program is an opportunity to connect with leaders in the arts sector.  The program is designed to pair cultural workers who are responsible for their spaces, focus on capital-related issues, or are seeking space, to work with a mentor and develop their creative spaces project over the course of one year.

Last year, we had 16 mentor/mentee pairs, with pairs connecting virtually over Zoom from Haliburton, Hamilton, Lindsay, London, Toronto,  Vancouver, and more! Participants described the program as:

The program is also an opportunity to create lasting relationships with your mentor/mentee. We would like to share some reflections from some mentees and mentors over the last few years. The program was described as:

“This was a wonderful experience working with Ed Finlan (Siku Hall Arts Centre) as a mentee as I learned about the project he and his committee are working on as well as how their community is working towards an inclusive arts space.  I learned just as much as I hope he did.”

-Wendy Fairbairn, General Manager of the Orillia Opera House | Mentor

“Heart Comonos is a startup non-profit community engagement organization in Cooksville-Mississauga. We create events for all ages that are fun and fulfilling – like music, art and dance, park and neighbourhood cleanups, discussion groups, and projects that support people who are hurting. In the last 18 months, about 1500 people participated in approximately 45 events. We understand the value of mentorship as questions and issues come up about staff, volunteers, governance, funding, planning, programming, and long-term sustainability; thank you ArtsBuild Ontario for the gift of encouragement, and wise counsel through the mentorship of Olinda Casimiro over this very fast-paced start-up phase.”

-Hardy Steinke, Executive Director of Heart Comonos | Mentee

“Working closely with Hardy Steinke and the team at Heart Comonos has been a gift. Heart Comonos is an organization located in Cooksville-Mississauga communities, they are an inclusive, street-level organization that uses a community model of caring to walk alongside people who are hurting, lonely and isolated.  As a new grassroots organization who initiated a ‘pop-up hub’ concept to facilitate connection, they have started the conversation and are becoming a Neighbourhood Support Network where strategies – including support for mental health and wellness and promote social engagement and emotional healing through hands-on creative activities – all contributing to personal and community wellness. Their programs are making a difference – as they help to eliminate disparities in their community. I am grateful to have been connect to Hardy and his team –  thank you ArtsBuild Ontario!”

-Olinda Casimiro, Executive Director of the Art Gallery of Northumberland | Mentor

I’m had a great experience connecting with my mentee to contribute to their growth and shared insights on the highs and challenges of establishing a viable arts destination.  The CSMN program provides a wonderful opportunity for both parties to gain perspective and furtherdefine what success means in the arts and cultural sector. I’m proud to be part of this program for a second year.

-Nadine Baker, former Facility Manager of The Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning | Mentor

We are thrilled to be part of this program and we are truly looking forward to working with Tim Jennings, CEO of the Shaw Festival. His great expertise in capital projects will be of extraordinary value to us as we move forward in all the different steps of getting ready for our infrastructure project.

-Camille Mauran, Corporate Liaison Manager & Ghislain Caron, Managing Director for Théâtre français de Toronto| Mentees

We look forward to welcoming this year’s cohort! We are now accepting applications until November 25th at 5pm. For more information, visit our website

We’re hiring! Two positions available


ArtsBuild Ontario (ABO) is looking to hire two positions to join our team to support our services and operations at 44 Gaukel Creative Workspace. We are currently looking to hire:

ArtsBuild Ontario is an organization that is working to embed the values of individual and group differences within its working environment. We strive to embrace the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives of our staff, members, arts community, and partners. Indigenous peoples, people of colour, and people across the spectrums of gender, sexuality, age, and abilities are encouraged to apply.

Applicants are welcome to submit a resume and cover letter until Wednesday, November 9 to Alex Glass, Executive Director at No phone calls please.

ABO’s Strategic Plan 2022–2025

For over 20 years, ABO’s services have supported arts organizations, artists, and municipalities. We are unique in that we support arts organizations of all disciplines with their cultural infrastructure needs. Over the course of the pandemic, ABO has reflected on the current state of the arts in Ontario as the use and need for physical space has evolved.

We are excited to share with you today our new Strategic Plan for 2022-2025. The plan will guide ABO for the next three years with a re-energized Mandate, Mission and Vision:

Mandate: ArtsBuild Ontario provides the leadership and expertise needed to operate small to medium-sized arts and creative spaces in Ontario.

Mission: ArtsBuild Ontario supports small-medium-sized organizations across Ontario to build, finance, and manage their arts and creative spaces.

Vision: ArtsBuild Ontario strives for a thriving cultural sector with vibrant arts and creative spaces that are accessible to everyone.

The plan is guided by the following strategic directions:

  1. Increase ABO’s relevance and impact by strengthening its connections to arts communities

  2. Leverage existing successes and explore new approaches for creative spaces

  3. Reflect the sector’s diversity to foster organizational growth

  4. Demonstrate a healthy and robust financial position

Over the next three years, we will build on existing successes and develop our services around new models including digital infrastructure. We will strive to listen, reflect and deepen our connection with Ontario’s diverse communities to improve our services and cultivate partnerships alongside underrepresented groups. To support these goals, we will establish a healthy financial position to sustain ABO’s growth in the years to come.

We invite you to read and share ABO Strategic Plan 2022-2025.

We hope you will stay connected with ABO and be a part of the journey forward.

A Day in the Life: Featuring 44 Gaukel Creative Workspace

A Day in the Life is a blog series spotlights arts managers and their unique day to day experiences operating creative space. 

Author: Tatiana Doucette, Program Manager at ArtsBuild Ontario

Image Credit: John Spaulding Photography

As a non-profit arts organiztion, ArtsBuild Ontario (ABO) wears many hats. We’re an arts service organization that delivers programs, takes onprojects and advocates for the sector – but we also operate 44 Gaukel Creative Workspace, in partnership with the City of Kitchener. Each day brings a range of wins and challenges, , and while many spaces move through a third year of the pandemic,we thought we would share our  “day in the life” with our network of creative space managers!

I arrive at Gaukel at 8:30 each morning. After turning on all the lights, I head upstairs to brew a fresh pot of coffee andI do my morning walk through of the building. I check that our shared spaces like the Community Space and Rehearsal Space are returned back to normal from the previous nights rentals, make sure garbages are emptied, check the vending machine is stocked and make sure the building is tidy and ready for our renters and tenants.

Image Credit: John Spaulding Photography

With coffee in hand, I head back down and continue with our weekly to do list. Charging security cameras, checking custodial supply stock, and printing off weekly booking sheets are all part of maintaining smooth operations. Sometimes the building needs some extra love and we will put in a facilities request to the City of Kitchener if something needs a repair.

After that, time to answer emails. I respond to both ABO and 44 Gaukel emails and make sure that any tenant needs are taken care of. On average, we recieve approximately 30 emails per day from tenants, renters and the community. Ding dong! We get a ring at our doorbell. We accept mail and package delieveries for r tenants. I hand out whatever mail gets delivered and usually run into a tenant or two to chat with. I love getting to know tenants and listening to what they are working on. 

As the pandemic restrictions have eased, we have been very busy with tours and onboarding new tenants. This week alone, I had five tours of our space! If I have a tour, I am usually running around the building showing all of the different spaces, murals, and amenities 44 Gaukel has to offer. After a lunch break and (sometimes) a walk around Victoria Park, there is usually a meeting or two somewhere throughout the day. ABO has some new projects in the works and we are working on the next phase of the Indigenous Creative Spaces Project and preparing for round nine of the Creative Space Mentoring Network Program set to launch this Fall. 

Other adminstrative work includes making communications plans, social media posts, and e-news content. Around 3pm I like to stretch my legs and do another stroll around the building. We have tenants, like Artshine, who package their subscription boxes in the common area. Other tenants, like Good Company Productions, sublease other spaces in the building for video and photo shoots. Some days we have artists creating new music or teaching lessons. Other days, it might be quiet with no tenants around. We also often have street markets or other community events happening on Gaukel street. This summer, the City of Kitchener has been hosting events almost every weekend. No day or week is ever the same. 

By 4:30pm I wrap up.I leave the building and wonder what the next day will bring…


OTF Capital Grant Overview with DoGood Fundraising

ArtsBuild Ontario (ABO) is committed to connecting our network with opportunities to access resources that increase capacity for the development of cultural infrastructure. 

On July 15th, 2022, ABO, along with our partners at DoGood Fundraising presented a webinar with an overview of the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Capital Grant. Rohit Mehta, DoGood Fundraising’s Founder and President, discussed how arts organizations can leverage this capital grant with best practices for project proposals and preparing applications. 

This session was offered independently and in addition to OTF’s application supports, which include webinars and coaching calls.