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.

Wrap Up of the 2023-24 Creative Spaces Mentoring Network


As the 2023-24 Creative Spaces Mentoring Network comes to a close, we are happy to reflect on this past year and all of the accomplishments that the 72 mentees and mentors were able to achieve. For the first time, the program took place across two different provinces, and we have been thrilled with the level of participation and engagement from everyone involved. 

The Wrap-Up Webinars in both Ontario and Calgary provided a wonderful opportunity for each cohort to come together one final time and share their experiences and achievements. We enjoyed hearing the mentees share their projects and collaborations, highlighting not just their program goals but also the personal growth they experienced throughout the mentorship journey. 

Some participants achieved their initial goals, while others found that their goals shifted as the year progressed. Regardless of their individual paths, it was clear that the mentoring relationships forged through the Creative Spaces Mentoring Network were powerful and impactful. This program goes beyond just skill development; it’s about fostering trust, navigating the arts and culture sector, overcoming challenges, and building a supportive network. Now in its 9th iteration, the Creative Spaces Mentoring Network continues to connect Ontario’s creative community that will continue to grow, even after the program concludes. We also look forward to returning to Alberta for another year in Fall 2024! 

During the Ontario Wrap-Up Webinar, the cohort participated in an Arts and Culture Sector Trivia Game, testing their knowledge of the arts sector. If you’re curious about your own knowledge, you can take the quiz too! Participants also shared their concluding thoughts about the program, and we wrapped up with some tips on how to close off the mentorships.

Meanwhile, the Calgary Wrap-Up Webinar featured a thought-provoking talk by guest speaker Cory Nespor, co-founder of  Nvrlnd Arts Foundation. From a program survey, we learned that mentees were particularly interested in focusing on business/strategic planning and building community relationships. Cory was able to provide valuable insights on the evolving landscape of creative spaces and how to best support artists in Calgary. 

As we look back on the past year, we are amazed by the growth and success stories that emerged from the Creative Spaces Mentoring Network. The relationships formed between mentors and mentees extended beyond professional collaborations, with many evolving into new friendships. We are excited to welcome the 2024-25 cohort and see what new creative projects are emerging in the sector!


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.

As the final component of the Indigenous Creative Spaces Project, this workshop marks the culmination of a four-year journey. This project has been instrumental in bringing together Indigenous artists and leaders from across Ontario, creating a relational framework and network to support the work that happens in these very important self-determined spaces. Led by the Indigenous Advisory Circle and supported by ArtsBuild Ontario, the project has fostered an ecology of knowledge informed by and for Indigenous communities. Through a combination of recorded and oral documentation, the project exists to support the inter-related development of Indigenous creative spaces throughout the Province. As we move forward, we must create new models and enhance current Western approaches to build a brighter future.

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.

Capital Grant Informational Webinar with OTF and ABO

Join ArtsBuild Ontario for an information session on the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Capital Grant on Thursday, January 25 at 2pm EST with Program Managers Hélène Duquette and Natalie Normand as we talk about OTF’s new grant investment framework, eligibility criteria, and other Capital Grant related questions. 

Ontario Trillium Foundation Capital Grants provide funding to help organizations respond to the needs of Ontario’s communities.

Capital Grants help organizations:

  • Maintain or increase access to a program or service
  • Extend the life of a facility or space (updates to buildings or enhancement of spaces)
  • Purchase equipment
  • Improve a facility or space to make it more accessible

Ontario Trillium Foundation will be accepting applications for their Capital Grant stream, with applications available from February 7, 2024 until the deadline of March 6, 2024 at 5 PM ET. 

Learn more about OTF’s Capital Grant, and register today

ABO 2023 in Review

2023 has been another busy year for ABO! Let’s look back at all the activities we did this past year.

In January we welcomed a new member to our team; Helena Ciuciura who joined as the Marketing and Community Coordinator at the beginning of the year to support our marketing, communications, and 44 Gaukel creative hub.

Creative Spaces Mentoring Network

In February, the ABO team traveled to Calgary for the Creative Spaces Mentoring Network 2023 Kick-Off Workshop in partnership with Calgary Arts Development and cSpace Marda Loop. We welcomed 34 participants from Calgary! We hosted the Ontario Kick-Off webinar in March also with 34 particpants,with projects ranging from visioning a new space to being mid-way through construction.

As the year comes to a close we are looking forward to the Wrap-Up webinars with both the Calgary and Ontario cohorts, to hearing from the pairs how the program has helped them develop as leaders in the sector, and to see where their projects are in comparison to the beginning of the program. We are excited to meet the new mentees from Ontario and Calgary in the new year.


The Indigenous Creative Spaces Project

2023 marked the third year of the Indigenous Creative Spaces Project. We wrapped up the New Moon Dialogue series between March and June with four discussions; Looking Towards the Next 50 Years, Debahjemuhjig Theatre Group: Developing the Creation Centre, Creating and Maintaining Culturally Safe Creative Spaces, and Culturally Based Training and Indigenous Spaces.

The New Moon Dialogues touched on themes including uplifting the relationship to land, Indigenous sovereignty, and systemic barriers in developing Indigenous creative spaces.

In June, Paddling Upstream was released. This document shares the journey that summarizes the work of the Indigenous Creative Spaces Project (ICSP) over the past three years. If you have not yet read the document, you can access it now on the ICSP project page! This document presents how this project came to be, the journey of discovery and knowledge, and four Bundles of Knowledge that offer guidance for building sovereign and sustainable Indigenous creative spaces. ABO supported the Paddling Upstream: Indigenous Creative Spaces Project Webinar in August with author Dr. Terri-Lynn Brennan, CEO of Inclusive Voices, and collaborators, JP Longboat, Artistic Director of Circadia Indigena.

The work of Paddling Upstream continued throughout the year as the ABO team hit the road to continue the conversations from the project’s initial travels in 2020. The Return to Community Gatherings focused on the Bundles of Knowledge in Paddling Upstream with the conversation self-determined by each community. The sessions revolved around the evolution of organizations and their spaces since the beginning of the project and their plans for the future. The gatherings were held with Aanmitaagzi in North Bay, Debajehmujig in Manitoulin Island, Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, and Friday Creeations in Temagami. We look forward to visiting the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford and Native Earth in Toronto in the new year. We will also be hosting an in-person workshop, The Ecology of Indigenous Creative Space & Allyship in March 2024. Subscribe to our e-news for registration details in January.

Webinars and Professional Development

We hosted a number of webinars and workshops over 2023. In April we were joined by Tara Mazurk and Elizabeth Seip from PAA Advisory | Conseils for a conversation on Green Infrastructure Initiatives for Arts Organizations and the latest federal funding investment in green buildings. We spoke about the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings Program, the Deep Retrofit Accelerator Initiative, and outlined how these supports can integrate with existing programs such as the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund.

We partnered with STEPS Public Art for the Mentorship in the Arts Panel, a free virtual panel with Elle de Lyon, Bruno Canadien, Quentin VerCetty, and Bruce Pitkin in which we explored the importance of mentorship and the different types of mentoring seen in the arts.

In addition, our Executive Director, Alex Glass, participated in Ontario Presents’ Cedar Tea Break and the Arts Network Ottawa for the Community Engagement Session: Empowering Voices: Indigenous Relations and Self-Determination in Arts Organizational Development both with Artistic Director of Circadia Indigena JP Longboat.

We rounded out the end of the year with our sixth online auction in partnership with the KW Rotary Club. We had some amazing donations and thank all who supported us by donating and bidding on ABO’s items.


This busy year comes to a close with several exciting projects on the horizon in the New Year. ABO would like to thank all of the project partners, donors, and arts organizations that we have formed relationships with in 2023 for making this year an incredible success. And thanks to our network for your continued support. We wish you all the best this Holiday Season!

ArtsBuild Ontario’s Online Auction November 2023

Looking for the perfect Holiday gift? Look no further- ArtsBuild Ontario’s Sixth Online Auction has some dream gifts for your loved ones this season.

By purchasing items from our annual fundraiser, you can help support our work toward building and sustaining Ontario’s cultural infrastructure in communities across the province which includes over 3,000+ spaces!

With amazing experiences, luxury dining, and awesome arts and culture items, there is sure to be something for everyone! Check out items from our amazing donors:

Through your contributions to ArtsBuild Ontario’s auction items, we are able to benefit communities in exponential ways and continue to provide resources to support arts organizations in Ontario. Thanks to KW Rotary Club for the platform – keep bidding until November 18th at 10pm EST!

Bid now!