Path of Possibilities: Exploring the Arts Sector in Toronto is a one-day symposium produced by Art Starts in consultation with Airsa,  Arts & Thought taking place At the North York Central Library this fall. We will be offering workshops and networking opportunities to newcomer artists living in Toronto and emerging artists from the ethno-cultural communities Art Starts serves. This event will consist of 8 program hours, including 6 roundtables and a panel discussion. Workshops will explore topics such as starting an art-based business, accessing arts employment, grant opportunities, and mental health & social resources for arts professionals. Community arts professionals will lead workshops and roundtables and be available to answer questions from participants. The symposium will conclude with success of stories and Q&A featuring professional artists who are newcomers and/or from ethnocultural groups in Toronto.

  • Roundtables
  • Creative Workshops
  • Panel Discussion
  • Networking




Annie Wong

Literary Arts

Annie Wong is a multidisciplinary artist, community organizer, and writer. Wong uses various platforms of participation, social engagement, and collaboration to explore the intersections of the poetic and political in everyday life. Wong has been presented by The Gardiner Museum, The Art Gallery of Ontario, Gallery 44, Intersite: Visual Arts Festival (Calgary, AB), and Third Space (Saint John, NB). Her most recent writing can be found in Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, Canadian Art, Performance Research Journal (UK), and MICE Magazine. Formerly as the Artist in Library, Wong led a series of experimental poetry workshops to produce The Poetry Circle, an anthology of new poetry featuring emerging intergenerational writers. She holds a BA with Honors in English and a MA in Communication and Culture at York University.


Ely Lyonblum


Active as an arts educator and producer, I am currently the Research Grants Officer at the Faculty of Music, University Toronto, and have recently completed a PhD in Music at the University of Cambridge.

My projects, largely focusing on arts and cultural equity, have covered the history of sound recording, American Sign Language performance art, West African storytelling through song, traveller and folk music in the UK, and spoken word poetry in maritime Canada. I trained as a documentary filmmaker at the Centre for Visual Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London, where I founded ART/E/FACT, a publication and event series. In 2015 I convened Sound Studies: Art, Experience, Politics at the Centre for Research in the Arts Social Science and Humanities. Most recently, I have been a co-producer of various arts and culture festivals and conferences across the City of Toronto, as well as contributed to the development of bridging and training programs for newcomer artists as Chair of the Board of Directors at Airsa Art & Thought Association.

My work has been presented and exhibited by the MIT Media Lab, CBC Radio 1, the Smithsonian Institution, the British Library, and various universities in the EU and North America.


Paola Gomez

Community Arts

Paola Gomez a trained Human Rights lawyer, Community Organizer, Public Speaker, an Artist Facilitator, a writer and a dreamer; member of PEN Canada’s Writers in Exile, Paola is involved in causes such as Ending Violence against Women and Forced Migration as well as Community engagement. She was awarded with the 2008 Toronto Community Foundation VITAL PEOPLE for her contribution to the better of our City through her community initiatives. Canadian Centre of Victims of Torture CCVT awarded Paola with the Amina Malko Award for her work in supporting Refugee Women in Canada. Recently, Paola was awarded with the Constance E. Hamilton, 2016 City of Toronto Human Rights Award.

Paola writes poetry, essays and short stories. As a researcher and emerging curator Paola has contributed in many aspects to the access and visibility of other Latin American artists into the Toronto's artistic scene; she has co-curated the Art of Non-Violence Collective Art Exhibit, For Love to Frida and other women and “Mientras Las Hojas Caen” among others.


Tasneem Dairywala

Visual Arts & Media

Tasneem Dairywala is an award-winning Visual Artist, the Executive Director of Art Ignite, and a graduate of OCAD University’s 2015 Drawing and Painting program. She believes that paint loaded brushes can illuminate all the nitty-gritty corners of the expected, the ordinary and the sane. With them in hand, she feels empowered to change the unease from facing any crisis into the pleasure of unraveling it.

Outside of her personal art practice, Tasneem works as an Arts Educator to bring inclusive visual arts programs to the Flemingdon Park neighbourhood. Her work stems from the belief that art has the power to overcome ethnocultural boundaries that divide us. That is why she finds it so important to use her knowledge as an artist to connect and empower people.

In her most recent work, Metamorphic Reflections, Tasneem explores the differences and similarities between people by initiating conversations with strangers. Their expressions, as they talk about the most important moments in their lives, are the inspirations behind the paintings. Through her work, Tasneem wants to break through the socially constructed stereotypes and biases we have about others.


Victoria Mata


Venezuelan-Canadian choreographer-dancer with a background in urban planning. Mata’s sensibility to inclusion and passion for border stories is due to her eclectic upbringing in three continents. Mata’s career was first sculpted by pedagogic, self-directed training, which proceeded with local and international with internationally renowned choreographers leading her to showcase her repertoire throughout out the Americas. An active member of Toronto's progressive arts community and the abolishment of violence against women, Mata's aspiration is to continue being a catalyst for artistic curiosity.  Her Masters in Contemporary Choreography propelled dialogue between performance and embodied cultural memory, which awarded her the recognition of 2016 Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award finalist.

Yvette Martin

Yvette Martin

Performing Arts

My Passion for the Arts have made it possible for me to work extensively in Canada, USA and internationally as an Actress, Arts Educator, Forum Theatre Specialist, Director, Writer, Multi-disciplinary-artist, Program Manager, Marketing, Entrepreneur, Event Manager, & Stage/Production Manager.

I have over 25 years of experience of bringing arts to thousands of learners in the TDSB, TCDSB, Private schools and Communities across Ontario as an actress, writer, stage manager and arts educator, either working as an individual or in association with various theatre companies and community organizations including Art Starts. Since 2002, I've been conducting my "Standing Stronger" workshops in schools, providing quality programming to learners K to 12, made possible by the aid of the Ontario Arts Council’s Artist In Education Grant. In addition to teaching school age students, I've facilitated many workshops to colleges, universities and teachers, through York University Virtual Learning Program, Peel District School Board and ACSI Early Childhood Conferences. The last 20 years my main focus is using Forum Theatre as an interactive art form to aid learners to extract, analyze and explore issues, as to problem solve.

I facilitate to all age groups, gender and race with dignity, respect and most of all joy!

Panel Discussion


Derya Ozparlak

Sculptor and Installation

Derya Ozparlak is a Toronto-based artist working in sculpture, mixed media and installation. She graduated with a BFA in Sculpture from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Anadolu University in Turkey with an honours degree.
Derya has participated in numerous groups, solo exhibitions, art fairs  and symposiums in Toronto, Turkey, Chicago, Almeria of Spain, Beirut, Berlin, NYC and Italy.
She also received various awards from the artistic community in Turkey and Spain.
She has been bringing artworks into life as a full-time artist since 2006.Her works bring various character types to life and create various identities discovered in everyday people.The body language of these sculptures express the over-existence of their social issues. For instance, in one of her works titled “Mobbing”, the sculpture of a woman, who is hanging from her tongue, shows how she has surrended herself to the balloons to take her away from this land. Despite looking well-educated and professional, the sculpture`s face illustrates an immense frustration from the status quo.Derya believes after she turns a piece of cold metal to one of her sculptures, the material obtains an extramundane value,meaning that the cold metal now is expressing some sort of a metaphor; therefore, it is warmer in nature. The figures in Derya`s artworks depict an urge for communication; however, their body parts are tied to the balloons which are symbols of shackles. Metaphorically, conflicts of life have chained these figures to these balloons and it is as if there is no way out.


Gabriela Casineanu

Award-Winning Author

A multidisciplinary artist, award-winning author, and professional coach, Gabriela considers life as a self-discovery journey worth exploring. While her career started in engineering, her creative and curious soul found a way to turn things around through artistic expressions: art photography as a powerful metaphor that connects nature with human nature … photo-coaching books inviting to self-reflection ...  artsy necklaces from the pure desire to find her own her style … while her spiritual journey led to intuitive painting! A grant recipient of the Ontario Arts Council, Gabriela loves to explore life with the curiosity of a child. More details: GabrielaCasineanu.com/Artist

Jin Jeu

Jieun Kim

Visual Artist

Jieun June Kim (b. 1986, Seoul, Korea) is a painter and muralist who lives and works in Toronto. She studied at the Washington University in St. Louis, graduating in 2012. In her painting, Kim explores different ideas of “home” using colourful patterns and dynamic natural forms.
Jieun June Kim has exhibited her work at numerous art galleries in North America and S. Korea. Since moving to Canada in 2016, her works has been shown at multiple art galleries in Toronto. Also Kim has been commissioned to paint a mural for Dundas West BIA (2017 and 2018) and has selected multiple times for Bell Box Mural Project.


Mafa Thomas Makhubalo


Mafa Makhubalo started dancing at the age of five and continued his training with Tony Campbell, founder and director of ZAPAC (Zamdela Performing Arts Centre) in South Africa. Mafa obtain a three-year National Diploma in dance at Tshwane University of Technology. After moving to Toronto, he completed a two-year training program at Ballet Creole School of Arts. Mafa in Toronto had the opportunity to work with choreographers like Milton Myers, Danny Grossman, Debbie Wilson, Gabby Kamino, and also company member of, Collective Of Black Artist, Ballet Creole, OMO Dance Company, Nyata-nyata in Montreal and Mafa Dance Village. Mafa has presented his works in varies events, Ontario Dance Weekend, International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) in Toronto, Body Percussion Festival, Dance Immersion Show Case, Contemporaneity series 1.0. He was invited for the 2008 Choreographers Lab program at the school of Jacob’s Pillow (Lee, Ma, USA), 2009 apprenticeship program Stagecraft and Six Weeks Dance program at American Dance Festival (Durham, NC, USA. When not on stage Mafa is actively involved in community outreach programs that help youth realize their potential goals through the arts and has Jury for Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council. He has been invited by Canada Ballet Jorgen as a choreographer for Solos & Duets, Summer Intensive program annual series from 2013-2017, Toronto Rhythm Initiative Summer Youth Intensive workshop, after school program provided by Arts Start and Dance Immersion Youth Arts Program.

Marta Keller

Marta Keller-Hernandez

Arts Administrator

Originally from Spain, Marta Keller-Hernandez is an arts administrator who moved to Toronto in 2012. She holds Degrees in Tourism and Humanities, a Masters in Social Media Marketing from the University of Alicante (Spain), and became an international student of the Culture and Heritage Site Management program at Centennial College in 2013. In Toronto, Marta has worked with a wide range of arts and culture organizations such as Black Artists’ Networks Dialogue, Latin American Canadian Art Projects and Sur Gallery, Heritage Toronto, and Art Starts. Currently, she is Managing Director at Mural Routes and a 2018 Toronto Arts Council Leaders Lab fellow.

Marta is the co-founder and Director of Programming of Paralia Newcomer Arts Network, a Toronto-based non-profit that supports and promotes newcomer artists by providing them with the skills and resources needed in order to establish an artistic presence in Canada. She is also the recipient of the Newcomer and Refugee Artist Mentorship grant from the Toronto Arts Council in the capacity of mentor.

Special Guests

Bio Pic 4 (5)

Elisa Hatton

Creative Workshop Lead Artist

Elisa has more than two decades of rich experiences living, loving and working in the Arts, Culture and Wellness sectors of Toronto. She has been an active mobilizer and organizer for award-winning identity based projects and community based organizations that seek to improve the lives of marginalized community members and communities, since 2002. Currently, in addition to coaching and consulting, she can be found in a variety of roles around Toronto and beyond, offering creative yoga, meditation, movement and dance programs, workshops and retreats, and exploring her own creative and spiritual emergence through her personal healing practices which weave together mindfulness, meditation, creative movement, creative writing, art and nature.

Elisa will be demonstrating various approaches to short, easy, practical and adaptable meditation practices. These practices can be used to strengthen your ability to deal with some of the common challenges and/or difficult situations that artists face, such as performance anxiety or to deepen into the creative process. There will be an opportunity to experiment with different practices and brief overview of how meditation works to support, empower and strengthen your creative process and expression.

Elisa’s special passion and expertise is in working with Emerging, Re-Emerging & Established Artists, Creative Professionals and Heart-Based Entrepreneurs. Her own experiences as a creative professional navigating the highs and lows of the creative process, inter-sectional identities and systemic barriers led her to realize how valuable and important it is to have a solid, informed and supportive guide to witness and encourage the 'the process'. She is committed to offering engaging, empowering and practical tools and practices that support artists and creative folks to strengthen their capacity to deal with difficult situations and barriers to their success with more ease, courage and personal power. Her professional coaching practice draws upon a background in acting for film and theatre, yoga, movement and dance, expressive arts and a life-long commitment to anti-oppression and social justice frameworks. Elisa is the Founder and Creative Director of Tortuga Life Coaching, a dynamic and transformative coaching and consulting practice that blends practical strategies, embodied wisdom practices & creative expression. Along with being a Life Coach, she is a Transformational Dance Facilitator and Hatha Yoga Therapy Instructor.


Jacquie Comrie

Creative Workshop Lead Artist

Jacquie Comrie is a Toronto- based contemporary artist, whose vibrant body of work continues to transform communities in Canada and worldwide, into colourful, inclusive spaces in service of social healing, mental health and wellness through colour.

For over ten years, whether on buildings, large scale structures or canvases,  her colour therapy installations combine contemporary art with a wellness approach, utilizing scale, movement, and properties of colour as essential components to physically transform spaces while making an impact on human emotion.   Through colour therapy research her palette is deliberately orchestrated aiming to uplift, repair, heal and inspire.
Colour is the language of emotion and with mental health issues on the rise in communities across the globe, her work is a contribution to  mental health, aiming to  improve quality of life, and mental wellbeing of all individuals.

Juan Cajiao

Juan Cajiao


Over 11 years of experience doing comedy. Doing stand up comedy since 2014. More than 250 shows in 7 countries (Colombia, Mexico, USA, Canada, Costa Rica, England and Spain), and has worked with the top comedians in the Latin industry. Participated in 3 of the most important Stand Up Comedy festival in Latin America, and was invited to participate in Comedy Central Latin America. Awarded with the title of “Best Latin Comedian” in Canada in 2017, and nominated for “Best Latin Comedian” in Canada 2018 in the Latin Awards and in the Caribbean Awards.

Juan co-founded @MalPensando (with his business partner, comedian Stephan Dyer), the first and only Spanish Comedy & Public Speaking school in Canada. Through Malpensando Juan teaches public speaking workshops, leadership workshops, comedy workshops, resume critique workshops and other workshops that help people become better persons and leaders.

Juan & Stephan have kicked off their 3rd international Stand Up Comedy tour through 7 cities in Mexico, Central and South America. For more info, follow @Juan Cajiao Comedy everywhere!


Maria Montejo

Timekeeper & Indigenous Storyteller

Maria Montejo (Deer clan) is a member of the Jakaltec/Popti (Mayan) community of Indigenous people who reside in the Xajla territory of Guatemala. In addition to her formal schooling, Maria has been mentored from a young age by various Elders, Medicine people and Traditional Teachers on Turtle Island and from Central and South America. Maria has had the privilege of being exposed and participating in various ceremonies and traditional cultural practices that have fueled her passion to develop programming that will bridge the Newtonian/allopathic model of wellness and an Indigenous/multi- dimensional approach. Maria has worked for many years as a mental health and addictions treatment worker and provides education and consulting to various organizations and institutions in Canada. Maria also facilitates the R.E.A.L School Youth Leadership and Native Wilderness Survival Skills Development program in various Indigenous communities around the world and is the manager of Dodem Kanonhsa’ Indigenous Education and Cultural Facility in Toronto.


Onika Powell

Guest Speaker | Dancer & Arts Admin

Born and raised to dance in Toronto, Neeks has been dancing for over 25 years. Trained in Caribbean Folk under the care of SCYDE andHip-Hop with RUKUS Dance Troop, she shares a natural talent and passion for Reggae andDancehall. A graduate of York University alumni, Neeks has performed across North America, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean.

Since the wake of her dance career, Neeks touredwith Sean Paul and was theChoreographer/Dancer for Kardinal Offishall. She was fortunate to be under the study of Diana Webley and Luther Brown; and has worked closely with choreographers such as JaeBlaze, Fatima Robinson, HiHat, Tanisha Scott and JaQuel Knight. Blessed by her talents, Neeks has graced the stage alongside Nicole Scherzinger, Black Eyed Peas and danced in videos for Drake, Rihanna and Puff Daddy, to name a few. From the live stage to film, Neeks has been featured in Honey, How She Move and Percy Jackson.

Upon her return overseas, Neeks has since started a children & youth dance company, titled D'LYFE. When she is not teaching, she enjoys working alongside the staff of VIBE Arts, as the Artistic Director. Her years of experience and passion for the arts, keeps her in demand within (and outside) the art sector. Grateful the lessons learned and thankful for priceless opportunities, Neeks remains humble, always ready to learn and teach others. Neeks is definitely a part of the Toronto dance movement and continues to be a role model for female dancers (and music lovers) worldwide.


Paola Solano

Creative Workshop Lead Artist

I was born in Bogotá, Colombia, where I studied Law and Visual Arts at Javeriana Univesity. I have a Diploma in Children´s Books Illustration at Jorge Tadeo Lozano University (Colombia) and another in Independent Illustration at Seneca College (Canada). I wanted to combine my interest in human beings with my passion about art. After a while working as a lawyer I decided to become a full time illustrator and moved to Canada where I currently live.
I love life and stories. Everywhere I go I bring my sketchbook and pencils with me to draw what I see. I paint and write since I was a child and I love to imagine new worlds and characters. I enjoy sharing with others through workshops what I´ve learned about life and art.
In my free time I love to share with my family and friends, walk in nature, practice Yoga and travel to new places.

Peter Kingstone

Peter Kingstone

TAC | Visual/Media Arts Program Manager

Peter Kingstone is a Toronto-based visual artist and curator, working primarily in video and photography. As an independent artist, Peter’s installation pieces have been shown across Canada and internationally, and he was awarded the Untitled Artist Award in 2005 for his installation The Strange Case of peter K. (1974-2004). Peter holds a degree in Philosophy/Cultural Studies from Trent University in Peterborough and a Masters of Fine Art focussing on video and new media from York University in Toronto. Peter has presented at many conferences on the ideas around storytelling and social engagement. Peter started in September 2012 as the Acting Visual/Media Arts Program Manager at Toronto Arts Council.

Photo by Carlos Bolivar - www.carlosbolivar.com

Stephan Dyer


Stephan Dyer is an international bilingual, award-winning stand up comedian born in Costa Rica with more than 200 shows in 6 countries, 14 cities. His weekly shows in Spanish and English in Toronto, sold out Spanish comedy workshops, as well as his numerous awards in Public Speaking by Toastmasters International earned him the Latin Comedian of the Year Prize by Latin Awards Canada (2017). Stephan recently received a full-scholarship for Second City's Diversity Fellowship Program - a master professional development program in improvisation and comedy - and is currently nominated for "Best Latin Comedian 2018" by Latin Awards Canada and Caribbean Awards Canada. For more info, follow @stephandyer everywhere!


April 17-2

Aitak Sorahitalab

Executive Director | Airsa Art & Thought Association

Aitak is a visual artist, art educator, and art administrator. She holds a MDes from the University of Art of Tehran, and had held several exhibitions of her artwork, and was commissioned to create public art, Ceramic Murals installations, all around Iran. She worked as a Manager of Art and Creation Department, at KANOON (Institute for Intellectual Development for Children and Young Adults); lecturer at University of Applied Science Technology; and as an art director at an NGO, worked with UNICEF, UNODC and Royal Museum of The Netherland. Since immigrating to Canada in Oct 2013, she has had seven group exhibitions and one solo, and continued teaching and creating art at and worked with diverse art organizations. Based on past experience in Iran and passionate about social development, she has co-founded a non-profit organization, Airsa, to help and support newcomer artists in Toronto. She is leading this organization as Executive Director and is creating art initiatives and programs for newcomer artists since 2015 while practicing her art as an individual visual artist.

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