As we continue our 30th Anniversary celebrations, we once again look to the past by interviewing one of the organization’s founding members. Kerri shares with us the very earliest days of Art Starts and gives us a picture of how her involvement in the organization shaped her career as an artist and arts administrator.
Kerri MacDonald is a co-founder of Art Starts along with Robin Pacific, Elizabeth Cinello and Kristen Fahrig. Kerri was an administrator and programmer for the first four years of the organization’s existence at the original storefront location at Dufferin Street and Eglinton Avenue.
During her time at Art Starts, Kerri supported theatre productions for the Somali, Latino, and Filipino communities as stage manager, director, dramaturge, and producer. She also ran seniors drama workshops and projects in partnership with the Macauley Child Development Centre among many other projects and programs.
Kerri’s work history includes arts administration and event management at Harbourfront Centre and Trinity Square Video, as well as freelance work directing theatre, teaching and community arts programming. She currently works in Special Events with the City of Toronto.
Kerri is passionate about arts and culture, particularly theatre. Her other interests include women’s issues, education, dogs and animal welfare, reading and writing, film, and her friends and family.
We asked Kerri to share some memories from Art Starts early years. Read on and take a trip down memory lane with us.
What is your most memorable experience with Art Starts?
My most memorable experience occurred after the first year when our funding increased due to our partnership with MacCaulay Child and Family Services. At that point we were able to take on a number of projects that had only been dreams before that. One of those was to work with the latin and south American community to create a play that dealt with being newcomers in Canada. The play ended up being in English, Spanish and Tagalog (a Filipino language). We ended up being able to tour the play and also engaged with our own community. It was a great ensemble of theatre professionals from a number of cultures. I was just starting out in the community arts world but had come out of the theatre world and it was a perfect time. The truth is there were so many memorable experiences, it’s hard to pick just one.
Everything I’ve done since then has been informed by Art Starts. Working with communities, diverse cultures, diverse ages, building and maintaining partnerships. I have carried with me to every job and experience.
Also being part of the founding team of Art Starts gave me a lot of confidence and I had less fear about taking risks after that. I learned that from the other collective members. I also made mistakes at Arts Starts which I tried to learn from during my career. I also realized that I wasn’t just a theatre person because I worked on projects from many different genres as well as fusion projects. I also took many of the workshops. I remember taking the collage one with my mom who was also an Art Starts volunteer. So I feel like I learned a lot from dealing with artists in other genres as well as from different communities.
I think that I also learned to communicate with others and really listen. That’s something I’ve worked on my whole life, especially the listening part.
What would be your wish for the future of Art Starts?
My wish is that Arts Starts continue doing the valuable work they have been doing for the last 30 years for many more years. I also think it’s important that new energy, new vision and younger people become involved. When you found an organization it’s hard to leave but we all did eventually and I think that was a really important thing to do. This is essential to the organization’s evolution and growth. I hope that all the artists and staff that work there now have fun every day and realize how valued they are. As we learned in the pandemic, sometimes people don’t realize that something is so valued and so necessary until they don’t have it anymore.