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 Spaces Mentoring Network 2021-22 Conclusion Blog Post

The Creative Spaces Mentoring Network 2021-22 (CSMN) is coming to a close at the end of June! 

CSMN 2021-22 provided an opportunity for leaders in the arts sector who are responsible for their spaces, focus on capital-related issues, or were seeking space, to come together with a mentor and develop their creative spaces project over the course of one year.

We wanted to extend our thanks to everyone who participated in the program: we have been so grateful to hear about how participants have developed their creative space projects over the past year! CSMN 2021-22 featured 16 mentor/mentee pairs, with pairs connecting virtually over Zoom from Haliburton, Hamilton, Lindsay, London, Toronto,  Vancouver, and more!

As the conclusion of this program draws closer, we would like to offer some reflections from mentors and mentees in this current iteration on their experience with the Creative Spaces Mentoring Network:

“This was a wonderful experience working with Ed Finlan 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, Mentor and General Manager of the Orillia Opera House

“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, Mentee and Executive Director of Heart Comonos

“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, Mentor and Executive Director of the Art Gallery of Northumberland

The next iteration of the Creative Spaces Mentoring Network will be launched in Fall 2022: keep updated by checking the program webpage and subscribing to our e-news for more info!

National Indigenous People’s Day: Indigenous Creative Spaces in Ontario

Today we celebrate National Indigenous People’s Day and honour the different languages, cultures and ceremonies that take place in communities across the country. 

We are reflecting on the history, resilience, diversity, and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples in Canada. 

ArtsBuild Ontario continues to work towards creating an equitable and inclusive sector in which all communities can thrive. Today is an opportunity for Canadians to come together and learn how to be an ally in the journey forward. 

Three years ago, in hopes of finding a way to serve Indigenous communities in Ontario, the vision for the Indigenous Creative Spaces Project began to take shape. The project emerged out of a need to connect an ecology of artists, spaces and knowledge for Indigenous spaces in Ontario. To celebrate National Indigenous People’s Day, here are some of the organizations and spaces participating in the project! 

Debajehmujig Theatre Group

Debajehmujig was the first – and remains the only – professional theatre company located on a Reserve in Canada. They create original work based on an Anishnaabag/Chippewa Nation worldview and builds bridges between cultures, generations, and territories. They also support the development of Aboriginal artists in remote rural areas as well as cities. Since 2009, they have operated a purpose-built multi-arts centre in downtown Manitowaning.

Learn more about Debajehmujig Theatre Group.

Nozhem: First Peoples Performance Space

Nozhem is located in Peterborough on the campus of Trent University. Nozhem is unique to other performing venues in that their theatre is intended to be used “for ceremony, as a vessel to pour forth and nurture Aboriginal oral tradition, language, and knowledge.” Through this intimate setting, audience members are invited to develop an up-close and personal relationship with the many artists, singers, dancers, and performers.

Learn more about Nozhem First Peoples Performance Space.

Woodland Cultural Centre

Woodland is a multidisciplinary space which preserves, documents, educates and promotes the values, practices, language, national treasures and articles of both the past and contemporary First Nations of the Eastern Woodland area peoples. They offer a many programs and resources related to their museum, art gallery, and and library. 

Learn more about the Woodland Cultural Centre here. 

Aanmitaagzi/ Big Medicine Studio

Aanmitaagzi began through the convergence of the personal and professional histories of its core members, with the initiating vision of its co-founders. They determined tha Nipissing could be a home for research, development and creation of new works in dance, theatre and cross-disciplinary arts with both professional and community artists. Aanmitaagzi Collective was officially formed in 2008, and in 2010 it was incorporated as a provincial, not-for-profit organization.

Learn about Anamitaagzi here

Centre for Indigenous Theatre (CIT)

CIT is an institution offering a unique Indigenous cultural, theatre and performance training program. CIT contributes to the advancement of an Indigenous cultural economy and the arts, helping to mould young talent and professionals, organizing community presentations and workshops. They also work closely with alumni to share their learnings and their craft in a culturally appropriate and inviting setting.

Learn more about CIT here

Native Earth

Founded in 1982, Native Earth is Canada’s oldest professional Indigenous theatre company. For the first time in their history Native Earth is managing and operating their own vibrant venue: Aki Studio. The 120 seat black box theatre is situated in Daniels Spectrum, the revitalized arts and cultural centre in Regent Park. 

Learn about Native Earth here.

Celebrating Pride and 2SLGBTQIA+ Creative Spaces in Ontario

June is Pride Month; a time to celebrate members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ * community. 

Building inclusive spaces goes beyond physical spaces. Fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for all communities, including 2SLGBTQIA+ helps individuals feel included, seen and welcomed. 

Cultural venues have an important role to play in offering spaces that prioritize 2SLGBTQIA+ artists and communities. There are several organizations that prioritize access to space and opportunity within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Here are just a few great examples of spaces in Ontario!

Pride Toronto Creative Studio & Artist Residency Program 

The Pride Toronto Creative Studio & Artist Residency Program was developed to address the continuously growing gap in safe and affordable Queer & Trans creative spaces after speaking first hand with 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. These spaces have been created to fill a need to reflect diverse communities, amplify marginalized artists, and give greater visibility to diverse forms of 2SLGBTQ+ creativity.

To learn more about the Pride Toronto Creative Studio and these programs, click here

The 519

The 519 is committed to the health, happiness and full participation of the LGBTQ2S communities. A City of Toronto agency with an innovative model of Service, Space and Leadership, the 519 strives to make a real difference in peoples’ lives, while working to promote inclusion, understanding, and respect. They provide accommodating and non-judgemental space where individuals, organizations, and non-profit groups can meet, organize, and work towards their goals.

Learn more about the 519 here.

The Intergenerational LGBT Artist Residency

This program is the first intergenerational artist-in-residency program for 2SLGBTQIA+ visual artists in Canada. The residency offers studio space, travel support, and free room and board to juried applicants for the duration of the two-week residency. Residents also receive mentoring and studio visits from critically acclaimed artists and curators.

Learn about this program here.

We celebrate the work done by the amazing organizations across Ontario dedicated to creating safe, affordable, and community driven space for 2SLGBTQIA+ community members. 

*We recognize that the acronym 2SLGBTQIA+ does not encompass all sexualities, gender identities, and expressions. ArtsBuild Ontario recognizes that there is a wide spectrum and are committed to  making our programs and initiatives, as well as our physical space at 44 Gaukel Creative Workspace, safe and accessible for all.



ABO Staff Update

After two and a half years at ABO, it is bittersweet to announce that our Program Manager, Amy Poole will be moving on from ABO. 

Amy has made so many wonderful contributions to ABO during her time here. She successful executed the Learn It | Build It | Manage It series (2019-2021), the Creative Space Case Study Project, two rounds of the Creative Space Mentoring Network program, facilitated many webinars, and guided the administration for the Indigenous Creative Spaces Project, resulting in the completion of phase 1 of the project. 

In her new role with the Hamilton Community Foundation (HCF) Amy will be working as an Administrative Assistant with Philanthropic Services. The Hamilton Community Foundation (HCF) is part of a network of over 191 Canadian community foundations who contribute time, leadership, and financial support to initiatives that benefit their community most, based on an intimate understanding of local needs and opportunities

Amy’s new team will greatly benefit from her exceptional organizational skills, attention to detail, and positive attitude.

Tatiana Doucette will be moving into Amy’s role as Program Manager effective June 9, 2022. 

The Indigenous Creative Spaces Project Update!

Over the past two years, the Indigenous Creative Space Project has grown and developed in so many ways. Guided by an Indigenous Advisory Circle and supported by ArtsBuild Ontario, the project aims to build a network of knowledge and experience within a cultural context and determine the needs and recommendations for the development of Indigenous sovereign spaces across the ecology of Ontario.

Participating communities include:

  • Friday’s Point Temagami (Temagami/Bear Island)
  • Kingston
  • Manitoulin Island
  • North Bay
  • Six Nations of the Grand River
  • Thunder Bay
  • Toronto

Community Gathering Circles

Seven Community 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 the development of Indigenous creative spaces.

Legacy Stories

Legacy Stories highlight the stories of six Indigenous creative spaces in Ontario, exploring where the spaces begin, where they are going, and where they hope to be. These conversations were transcribed and shared internally with each organization and their communities to protect the cultural knowledge that emerged from each Circle.

Project Materials and OCAP

The Indigenous Creative Spaces Project respects the First Nations Principles of OCAP (Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession). Project materials are shared on a private website 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 to this website is fully determined and managed by the Indigenous Advisory Circle.

Looking Ahead

In the year ahead, the Indigenous Creative Spaces Project will see the development of the online series “I Have More to Say”, which will feature dialogues and learning opportunities around emerging themes from Community Gatherings. Additional material known as “Guidance from the Circle” will also be released in early 2023, illustrating the needs and recommendations from each community around developing sustainable Indigenous arts spaces.

We would like to thank the Indigenous Advisory Circle and Co-Conveners for their guidance and shared insights in this project work.

If you have questions about the project or would like more information about the project, please email