Murry Peeters' 'Woman Meets Girl' set for world premiere at the Toronto Black Film Festival & Queer Screen's 30th Mardi Gras Film Festival

TORONTO, ON (January 30, 2023)— Process Entertainment is pleased to announce that Woman Meets Girl, written, directed & executive produced by Murry Peeters and starring and produced by Enuka Okuma (Workin’ Moms, Rookie Blue), will premiere at the Toronto Black Film Festival and Queer Screen's 30th Mardi Gras Film Festival on February 18, 2023. The short film is an emotionally charged Queer story about the unlikely connection between two seemingly opposite protagonists. Okuma stars as quiet and introverted Annabelle, alongside the wild and daring Tessie, played by Chelsea Russell (SkyMed, See), who recently received accolades for her performance in TO Live and Soulpepper Theatre’s ‘da Kink in My Hair.

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The exhibit will live in Union Station from February 6 – May 31, 2023

TORONTO, (February 6, 2023) ⎼⎼ Union Station is partnering with Toronto-based arts organization MakeRoom Inc., and artist Gloria Swain to present this year’s art exhibition, I Am Still Here: Black Joy is Resistance, sponsored by TD, to kick off Black History Month.

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Call for applications: bCurrent Performing Arts offers month-long theatre devising workshops for young creatives

Toronto, Ontario, December 19, 2022 - bCurrent is thrilled to announce the inaugural application call for Reclaiming Black Canadian History, a month-long theatre intensive for creative and imaginative youth between 14-18 years of age. The jumping off point for these workshops will happen after the participants watch the digital production Meet Chloe by Cameron Grant. Inspired by the life of Chloe Cooley, an enslaved Black woman who was the catalyst for John Graves Simcoe introducing the Act Against Slavery in Upper Canada, Meet Chloe is a digital performance that centers around three grade 10 history students during the covid-19 pandemic. As a result, this show takes place entirely on Zoom during one History class period.

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Toronto, ON (April 21st, 2022) - Today, the late jazz and blues icon Salome Bey gets her rare and classic self-titled debut album Salome Bey reissued, exactly 52 years after it first made waves and opened up the eyes and ears of the Canadian music industry. Bey, the American-born, Canadian singer-songwriter, composer, and actress who was affectionately known as “Canada’s First Lady of the Blues", was both a GRAMMY and JUNO Award-nominated singer who sang with her iconic brother Andy and sister Geraldine as Andy & the Bey Sisters across the US, Europe and Canada, and recorded and released albums on the RCA Victor and Prestige record labels. The group was featured in the classic Chet Baker film Let's Get Lost. After moving to Toronto in 1964 and playing the jazz club circuit, she became known as "Canada's First Lady of the Blues". A larger than life arts and culture figure whose music, artistic output and influence was felt across the world, in both music and theatre, her broad list of multi-disciplinary art achievements and accolades was unprecedented and included two album projects with jazz legend Horace Silver; two Dora Mavor Moore awards for Indigo, a history of black music she conceived, wrote and starred in; a GRAMMY nomination for Best Cast Recording, with her castmates, in Broadway’s Tony Award-winning Your Arms Too Short to Box with God

"We are excited to announce the digital release of Salome Bey’s first self-titled solo album," explains the Salome Bey estate.  "This album was originally recorded in 1970 and released through the Canadian Talent Library.  It features Bey’s signature performances of standards like George Gershwin’s "Stardust", the Canadian classic Gilles Vigneault's "Mon Pays", standout original composition, Rick Kardonne’s "Hit the Nail Right on the Head, and original compositions by Russ Little and Rick Wilkins". Bey's light continues to shine brightly less than two years after her passing, as she was honoured today with a special commemorative Canada Post stamp and video tribute

The release of Bey's debut recording provides an opportune time for jazz and blues music enthusiasts, fans, broadcasters, DJ's, and music historians to both discover and rediscover her rare musical gems that led to a very long list of industry and societal accolades over the years, including being made an honorary member of the Order of Canada in 2005, and in 2021 was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame. Legendary hip-hop producer Larry Smith (Run DMC) played bass for Salome Bey during the late 70s and early 80s, and Bey also contributed vocals to the 1985 charity single "Tears Are Not Enough" recorded by a supergroup of Canadian artists that included Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, Bryan Adams and others, to raise funds for the 1983-85 famine in Ethiopia. 



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Recognized for pushing boundaries and finding solutions to everyday issues

Ottawa, March 15, 2022 – The Canada Council for the Arts is pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 Killam Prizes. With this announcement today, the work of five distinguished researchers, who have actively devoted their careers to pushing the boundaries of knowledge and finding solutions to the issues we face every day, is being recognized and rewarded.

“The scientific advances achieved by the winners of the 2022 Killam Prizes have greatly contributed to our development as a society. Their visionary research has made our lives easier, improved our living conditions and even saved lives. I would like to congratulate them warmly for their commitment to making the world a better place.”

Simon Brault, Director and CEO, Canada Council for the Arts

“As trustees, we are assured of Canada’s future every year, when we meet the Killam Laureates, who are dedicating their lives to knowledge and research to take ideas from inception to impact. The Killam Trustees are pleased to congratulate the recipients of the 2022 Killam Prizes for their dedication and graciously welcome them as Killam Laureates.”

Bernard F. Miller, QC, Managing Trustee, Killam Trust 

The Killam Prizes

The Killam Prizes honour eminent Canadian researchers in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, health sciences and engineering. The work of these researchers has had and continues to have an outstanding impact on the lives of Canadians and people around the world. A prize of $100,000 is awarded to each researcher.

The 2022 winners

Humanities Françoise Baylis

Françoise Baylis is a university research professor at Dalhousie University. For over 30 years, Baylis has made outstanding contributions to ethical debates on research involving humans, assisted human reproduction, transplantation, deep brain stimulation and genetic enhancement. She has also been acclaimed in the research community for her contributions to the field of humanities and bioethics as a Black Canadian woman scholar. In recent years, she has written intentionally for the public with a view to improving our understanding of ethics so that we can all take part in important public debates.

Engineering Jeff Dahn

Jeff Dahn is a professor in the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science and the Department of Chemistry at Dalhousie University. With a simple goal to “do something useful” in his lab, Dahn has consistently merged science and engineering in masterful ways to achieve his vision. He is recognized worldwide as a pioneer of the batteries now used to power everything from power tools to electric vehicles. He currently holds NSERC’s Tesla Canada Industrial Research Chair—the only research partnership that Tesla has entered into with any university anywhere.

Social sciences Carl E. James

Carl E. James holds the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora at York University. James has spent his career studying how to create a more equitable society and was among the first to tackle and name issues of racial inequity. His groundbreaking interdisciplinary research on identity, race, class, gender, racialization, immigration and citizenship has reshaped how the academic community researches and understands these issues. James is also a scholar who has had a direct impact on individuals and communities. In 2017, he co-produced the first community-led study, capturing the perspectives of Black community members, parents, students and educators about issues of inequity. The study has been used to influence government educational policies and programs across Canada.

Natural sciences Geoffrey Ozin

Geoffrey Ozin is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Toronto and a giant in the world of nano- chemistry. Ozin’s work has inspired the development of lithium-ion batteries, supercapacitors, fuel cells and photovoltaics (to name a few)—technologies that are used today in products as diverse as cell phones and electric vehicles. He has taken his scientific knowledge well beyond academia and has written books that general audiences can appreciate—most recently, The Story of CO2: Big Ideas for a Small Molecule, and Energy Materials Discovery for a Sustainable Future.

Health sciences Salim Yusuf

Salim Yusuf is an internationally renowned cardiologist and epidemiologist. He holds the Heart and Stroke Foundation Marion W. Burke Chair in Cardiovascular Disease and is a Distinguished Professor of Medicine at McMaster University Medical School (Hamilton Health Sciences). Best known for programs such as INTERHEART, INTERSTROKE and PURE, his work has substantially influenced the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease for millions of patients around the globe through the improvement of the medical community’s knowledge about the biological, behavioural and societal causes of heart disease and stroke.


About the Killam Program

The Killam Program was established in 1967, with the creation of the Killam Research Fellowships, and the Killam Prizes were inaugurated in 1981.

The Program’s awards are part of a larger set of Killam Trusts. In total, the Killam Trusts are valued at over

$500 million, of which the Canada Council portion is $70 million.

The Killam Prize winners are selected by a peer assessment committee.

Previous winners include renowned scholars such as Brenda Milner, Victoria Kaspi, Mark Wainberg, Molly Shoichet, John Borrows, Yoshua Bengio and Nobel Prize winners Arthur McDonald and John Polanyi, to name but a few.

In August 2021, the Killam Trusts, the Canada Council and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding for the transfer of the administration of the Killam Program to the NRC.

In the spring of 2022, the NRC will be working alongside the Killam Trusts and the Canada Council for the Arts to support the promotion of the 2022 Killam Prizes, before taking over the administration of the program, beginning with the 2023 competition cycle. In addition, the NRC will engage with key stakeholders and lead the redesign of the Killam Research Fellowships to relaunch the program in spring 2022.

About the Canada Council for the Arts

The Canada Council for the Arts is Canada’s public arts funder. The Council’s grants, services, initiatives, prizes, and payments contribute to the vibrancy of a creative and diverse arts and literary scene and support its presence across Canada and abroad. The Council’s investments foster greater engagement in the arts among Canadians and international audiences.

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Toronto, ON – April 15, 2021: Soulpepper Theatre Company and Toronto History Museums are delighted to announce the five selected members of the Awakenings Mentorship – Augusto BitterSamuel DavilmarAria EvansJay Northcott, and Racquel Rowe. The five artists will be working alongside the five Soulpepper Academy Artists — Samantha BrownLiz DerDaniel KrmpoticAhmed Moneka, and Natasha Adiyana Morris — and will be mentored by Weyni MengeshaEsie Mensah, and d’bi young anitafrika. The program will include a new focus on civic engagement, furthering participants’ understanding of the relationship between the arts and the City of Toronto.

“Awakenings is shining a light on the stories and history that belong in our city’s collective narrative. Soulpepper is proud to be collaborating to support artists in sharing these stories, and with the mentorship program, ensuring the next generation of artists play a key role in building our collective culture,” said Weyni Mengesha, Artistic Director. 

Throughout the process of the mentorship, participants’ work and exploration will be documented by the City of Toronto, and the footage will be used for a mini documentary series chronicling the program. The first phase of the program will involve workshops along with the Soulpepper Academy, focusing on site-specific and immersive works. Workshop leaders include mentors mentors Weyni MengeshaEsie Mensahd’bi young anitafrikaLucius Dechausay and Rachel Forbesfrom the team who came together to create the inaugural Awakenings performance piece A Revolution of Love. Participants will also be receiving private workshop sessions with internationally renowned immersive theatre company Punchdrunk (Sleep No More).

The artists will all be creating site-specific performance art related works that speak to the anti-colonial, anti-racist, anti-oppressive messaging behind the Awakenings philosophy. The program will include site-visits to Toronto History Museum locations: Spadina HouseColborne LodgeMackenzie HouseMontgomery’s InnScarborough MuseumGibson HouseFort York Visitor CentreMarket GalleryTodmorden Mills, and Zion Schoolhouse. This period of workshops and creation will culminate in a sharing hosted at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts to present the work thus far.

“Toronto History Museums is excited to be expanding its reach by creating programming that shares space and authority with community partners, such as Soulpepper Theatre Company. The Awakenings Artist Mentorship program gives new energy and vitality to the City's historic sites and provides opportunities for BIPOC artists to be supported by established BIPOC artists,” said Cheryl Blackman, Acting General Manager, Economic Development & Culture, City of Toronto.

Toronto History Museums are a group of 10 museums owned and operated by the City of Toronto that bring Toronto’s history to life for residents and visitors. More information is available at www.toronto.ca/museums. For information about Soulpepper visit: soulpepper.ca/awakenings



“I am honoured to be a part of the Awakenings Artist Mentorship. ‘A Revolution of Love’ allows me to dive deep into long-time curiosities about my processes and work in a non-traditional performance environment. I can’t wait to connect with new artists and new spaces in a city that inspires me every day,” said Augusto Bitter.

Augusto Bitter is a Venezuelan-born, Dora Award-winning performer, writer, facilitator and artistic producer based in Toronto. They have been a Resident Artist at Canadian Stage, Aluna Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, and hub14. They’ve trained with Teatro delle Radici, Manifesto Poetico, Canada's National Voice Intensive, Aluna Theatre's Interpretation Lab, and the University of Toronto. Augusto’s first play, CHICHO (Pencil Kit Productions/TPM/Aluna) is being produced into a short film, and they’re developing a second dance-theatre piece, Reina, with musician Y Josephine. Augusto has made three short video-poems, Reina (in isolation), cannibal and golden girl, with the support of TO Live, Toronto Queer Film Festival, and Glad Day Lit’s Naked Heart Festival. They’ve been an artist educator with Soulpepper and the Paprika Festival, and facilitate creative-writing workshops across the GTA with Story Planet. 


“To be awakened is to meet the unforgettable. We know pain to be unforgettable but we often forget, love and healing can do the same. I’m ecstatic to bring this narrative to Toronto History Museums and share my visions of Black triumph,”said Samuel Davilmar.

Samuel Davilmar is Canadian born Dancer, Choreographer, and Actor. His versatility as a dancer/creator has granted him many opportunities within the performance industry. Samuel’s choreography is a fusion of dynamic movement and storytelling. With strong experience in the commercial industry, he has had the pleasure of working with Juno nominated artist KAPRI. Acting film credits include Workin’ Mom’s on Netflix, Coroner on the CBC Network, and Lock & Key on Netflix. Selected credits include: Toronto Pride, Netflix, Fashion Art Toronto, Disney +, Universal Music Group Canada, The CBC Network, USA Network, and Inside Out Film Festival.


“Awakenings proposes such a beautiful way to imagine the future; through the lens of love. I am excited to activate one of the History Museums with the life and energy of dancing bodies. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the team of mentors and really uncover the stories that are buried and waiting to come alive and be reimagined to be relevant and urgent today,” said Aria Evans.

Aria Evans is a queer, Toronto-based, award winning interdisciplinary artist who’s practice spans dance; creation, performance and film. Aria draws on their experiences with Afro-Indigenous and settler heritage to capture meaningful social and cultural themes through their interactive art. With a large-scale vision, collaboration is the departure point to the work that Aria creates under their company POLITICAL MOVEMENT. Advocating for inclusion and the representation of diversity, Aria uses their artistic practice to question the ways we can coexist together. 


“I can't stop thinking about all of the possibilities the Awakening program has to offer. My imagination keeps going in so many directions, we have an opportunity to devise and present something unique to each person and each space. It's kind of a once in a lifetime chance and I can't wait to see what we create together!” said Jay Northcott

Jay Northcott (they/them) is a multidisciplinary artist; director, playwright, burlesque dancer, and producer. Jay works to decolonize their art and practice with storytelling, movement, and gesture to create a foundation for their work. They continue to grow and make it their mission to uplift projects that put BIPOC Queer artists in the spotlight. They create and develop communities that are run by and for racialized and queer artist. With their Post-Britney2007/Hyperpop Aesthetic, Jay develops techniques and experiences that questions: Why theatre is still relevant?


“As a performance artist when I saw the call for Soulpepper x Awakenings ‘A Revolution of Love’ I instantly knew this was a project I wanted to participate in. Not often does an opportunity to create site specific work at a Historic Toronto site present itself. As an artist interested in exploring the history of marginalized people and untold stories I cannot wait to embark on this unique opportunity,” said Racquel Rowe.

Racquel Rowe is a performance artist who explores the way history has shaped modern day depictions of Black women, culture and thus how these things affect her lived experience. Rowe is based in Waterloo, Ontario but hails from the island of Barbados where she draws most of the inspiration for her artwork.


“I am excited to explore new approaches. I am looking forward to expanding my own definition of acting and theatre. My hope is to develop an outlook that is expansive asking questions like: ‘If there were no limitations or fear based thoughts what could this become?’. I am excited for the unknown and the possibility,” said Samantha Brown

Samantha Brown is a mixed race Anishinaabe and European settler storyteller, from Onaping in Northern Ontario. She came to Tkaronto to study in the Acting Conservatory at York University. Her past theatre credits include: Amy in the Arc theatre production of Oil, A Storyteller in the Soundstreams and Signal Theatre production of Two Odesseys: Gállábártnit/Pimooteewin, Joanna in the Soulpepper production of August: Osage County, Kilawna in the WCT, The Cultch, Persephone and Gordon Tootoosis Nīkānīwin Theatre production of Kamloopa, among more.  


“I am most excited to broaden my storytelling approaches and skillset in learning from an incredible and diverse cast of teachers and fellow attendees. I hope to come away with an increased confidence in my artistic voice and process and a robust practice to back it up,” said Liz Der

Liz is a mixed-race performer and theater maker. She was born in Women’s College Hospital with her twin brother in 1994 and has called Toronto home ever since. She graduated from the University of Toronto with Honors, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Drama and History in June 2017. Liz is particularly interested in how theatre can be used to unpack personal and cultural complexities of identity and belonging. She is grateful to her Ying Ying, Granny, Mum, and Sister for their wisdom, tenacity, and stories. She thinks her Ya Ya, Granddad, Dad, and Brother are pretty great, too. Liz is beyond thrilled to be a part of Soulpepper’s 2021 Academy and can’t wait to get to work.  

Past performance credits include: Mi Casa de Incienso (Soulpepper Queer Youth Cabaret), meintras tanto // 缺口(Rhubarb Festival), All’s Well That Ends Well (Dauntless City Theatre), Shadow Girls (Pencil Kit Productions), and Crave (Pure Carbon Theatre).  


“I am beyond thrilled to learn from and be challenged by the wonderful team at the Soulpepper Academy and to create new friendships with my fellow classmates. I hope to gain a newfound understanding of my role within the theatrical landscape and it's future,” said Daniel Krmpotic

Born in Hamilton, ON, Daniel spent the majority of his childhood in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Zadar, Croatia. After returning to Canada to complete his secondary education, Daniel graduated with a B.F.A Performance Acting degree from Ryerson University. 

Following this, he was accepted into the Stratford Festival's Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre, a two-year professional training program aimed at preparing actors for the demands of classical text & Shakespearean drama. During his training, Daniel had the opportunity to train with many wonderful Canadian instructors; as well as Kristin Linklater at the Linklater Voice Centre in Orkney, Scotland. Upon completion, Daniel starred in The Festival's 2019 productions of OthelloThe Merry Wives of Windsor and The Front Page. He was set to star in The Festival's 2020 season as the Marquis of Dorset in Richard III, as well as appear in Hamlet 9-1-1 and understudy in Three Tall Women. Most recently, Daniel is excited to premiere in his first feature length film - Albatross.


“I’m excited to be a student again, to collaborate and learn from my favorite theatre-makers in Canada. I hope to improve my writing and directing skills and expand my connections to produce shows for Canadian audiences, and be acknowledged as a local artist,” said Ahmed Moneka

Ahmed Moneka was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq and arrived in Toronto five years ago and has since collaborated with many artistic institutions including the Canadian Opera Company, Tarragon Theatre, Aga Khan Museum, Tafelmusik, Driftwood Theatre Group, Toronto Jazz Festival, Koerner Hall, Modern Times Stage, Jabari Dance Theatre, Toronto Laboratory Theatre, Theatre Centre, Aluna Theatre ,and TRIA Theatre. He is one of the founders of the band Moskitto Bar and is the creator and leader of Moneka Arabic Jazz – a 2019 Stingray Rising Stars Finalist at the Toronto Jazz Festival. 

In Baghdad, Ahmed studied theatre at the Institute of Fine Art and then at the prestigious Academy of Fine Art. During his formative years, he also learned Afro-Sufi singing and drumming in the tradition of his family, who came to Iraq from Kenya in the 8th century. He was the first Black Iraqi to host a television program, the youngest member of the Iraqi National Theatre, and he played Romeo in Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad at the Royal Shakespeare Company in England. Other performances with The Forum Theatre, Iraqi Theatre Company, Street Art Company, and Baghdad Theatre Company took him to Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, and many other festivals. He co-wrote and starred in the film The Society which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and resulted in his exile from Iraq because of its subject matter of homosexuality. His family was later exiled to Turkey and after waiting for four years the family has finally been reunited in Toronto, Canada. 


“Soulpepper is an artist-led company that continues to set the bar for quality production, developing original work, and training the next generation of theatre artists. I am excited about the commitment to inclusivity and future readiness. Not only was the performing arts directly affected by the global pandemic, theatre may have been one of the least prepared. We have been resisting change with more lip service than action and the figurative barriers are collapsing with great speed. From an ensemble framework, it is an honour to be a part of reimagining how we pave new paths for the longevity of this industry,” said Natasha Adiyana Morris.

Natasha Adiyana Morris is a soft spoken, dramatic storyteller, who is drawn to wordplay and a healthy dose of satire. Born in Winnipeg and raised in Toronto's West End—in the most encouraging and full up Jamaican household—Natasha was able to explore her craft and hone her voice from a young age. Recognized for founding PIECE OF MINE Arts, a platform for presenting works-in-progress by Black play creators, she owes a great deal to the esteemed tutelage of b current, anitafrika! dub theatre, Obsidian Theatre, and Volcano Theatre. Natasha was most recently Dora nominated for the Outstanding New Play award for her debut theatre production, THE NEGROES ARE CONGREGATING (PIECE OF MINE Arts, Theatre Passe Muraille). The timely play touches on internalized racism and has been produced internationally including Canada, the United States, and Europe.  

Located in its multi-venue home, the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto’s Distillery Historic District, Soulpepper is Toronto’s largest not-for-profit theatre company. Founded and guided by artists, Soulpepper has an integrated mission which includes: industry-leading youth and community outreach initiatives; artist training and mentorship programs; and a year-round diverse repertory season which is grounded in the classics and committed to the creation of new works, new forms, and innovative practices. 

The artists and staff of Soulpepper and the Young Centre for the Performing Arts acknowledge the original caretakers and storytellers of this land - the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe, and the Wendat First Nations. We commit to honouring and celebrating their past, present and future. Soulpepper believes all people have a right to express their individuality, to experience creative freedom, to feel safe at all times, and to be treated with dignity and respect. 

Tickets for Soulpepper Productions and Concerts start at $25. Tickets are available by calling the Young Centre Box Office at 416.866.8666 or by visiting soulpepper.ca. All ticket prices include a Young Centre facility fee, service charge and HST. Pricing is subject to change. 

Soulpepper gratefully acknowledges annual operating support from the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts. Soulpepper is pleased to recognize the donors of transformational gifts to its Creative Capital Campaign: The Slaight Family; The Government of Ontario; and Kevin and Roger Garland. 

Support for the Soulpepper Academy is provided by the RBC Emerging Artists Project, the Government of Canada through the Arts Training Fund, and Sylvia Soyka.

Soulpepper is grateful for the major and lead support of: Scotiabank; The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation; CIBC; TD Bank; Sun Life Financial; BMO Financial Group; Diane Blake & Stephen Smith; and Sylvia Soyka.

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TORONTO (October 16, 2020) — This afternoon, Nia Centre For The Arts unveiled plans for their $7.5-million capital project which will transform their 14,000 square foot facility into Canada’s first multi-disciplinary professional arts space dedicated to showcasing art from the Afro-diaspora.

Located at 524 Oakwood Avenue, just south of Eglinton Avenue West, Nia Centre will house a range of multimedia learning spaces, a performance area, artist studio, co-working space, and a safe, culturally affirming place for Black youth to explore their creative talents. These upgrades to the facility and location in a historic neighbourhood will position Nia Centre as a key destination for Toronto’s Black communities to gather and for Black artists to showcase the full range of their creative expression to audiences year-round.

“Today we start building a legacy for our community. A consistent space to support Black artists and youth — nurturing their talents and sharing their work with new audiences,” said Alica Hall, Executive Director, Nia Centre. “The Centre ensures that Black art and culture is available year-round. Through exhibitions and public programming rooted in modern and traditional Black expression, we will expand our collective understanding of the Black Canadian experience.”  

Hosted by Alica Hall, who was joined by supporters and major funders to celebrate the occasion, including Adam Vaughan, MP of Spadina—Fort York, John Tory, Mayor of the City of Toronto, and Nation Cheong, Vice President, Community Opportunities & Mobilization, United Way Toronto and York Region, as well as community members who tuned in through a livestream.

“The building of the Nia Centre for the Arts – Canada’s First Black arts centre – is not only momentous for this city and country, but it is a support system that is much needed. I am pleased that the city is able to support the Nia Centre in bringing this new building to fruition,” said Mayor John Tory. “Through its expansion, the Nia Centre, with the support of the City, will further the work and reach of Black artists and ensure that the sector is not only thriving but that opportunities are provided to Black Torontonians. I want to thank Alica and the Nia Centre for the Arts for their persistence and commitment to bringing this project to life and for seeing it through.”

By Fall 2021, Nia Centre will expand their in-house programs, which range from artist residencies, film screenings, camps, youth engagement, and much more. These programs will take place inside a facility designed for learning, collaboration, and showcasing Black art.

Once renovated, Nia Centre will have expanded capacity to present music, dance, photography, film and theatre. Construction highlights include:

  • a multi-purpose performance space with capacity for over 100 seated guests
  • multimedia, collaborative artistic spaces including a digital media lab, a recording studio, as well as a collaborative artist studio space
  • a youth hub, and private, rentable event space with outdoor recreational use
  • a board room and co-working spaces
  • hallway galleries on 2 levels

The Centre has also launched their capital campaign to raise $1.5 million which will go towards completing the renovation and purchasing equipment.

“On behalf of the Youth Challenge Fund Partnership Committee, we are elated at this ground-breaking. It has been a labour of love and dedication for young Black leaders to reach this milestone. This space would not be possible without United Way's partnership with the City of Toronto and dedicated community leaders,” said Nation Cheong. “We look forward to experiencing the renovated facility filled with young Black artists learning, creating, and strengthening community.”

Cultural and Geographic Significance:

Nia Centre is located in the heart of the Oakwood-Vaughan Village, steps from the Eglinton West area, which has officially been designated as “Little Jamaica”. With a rich artistic history, this Caribbean neighbourhood is in the midst of its own dramatic transformation based on the installation of the Eglinton Crosstown, and overall community development. Nia Centre’s milestone construction intersects with important and timely investments which will benefit the local Black community in a generational way, promoting positive development for youth, and offering a safe, welcome space for Black artists.

Before Nia Centre opened in 2015, the space, which opened in the early 1920s, has served as a banquet hall, bowling alley, nightclub and Toronto Public Health office. Notable for the Black community, 524 Oakwood was known as Isabella’s Ballroom, which hosted reggae, calypso, or soca shows in the 70s and 80s.

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