It is 2014. The Toronto and District School Board launches its first annual Dare2Create Arts Festival, encouraging youth to spread art around the city. Newspapers debate the merits of U of Toronto Professor Richard Florida’s ‘Bohemian Index’ as a way of assessing the creative potential of urban spaces. Meanwhile, popular philosopher Alain de Botton turns up to plug his book Art as Therapy, which is also being turned into an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario. All of this activity recalls Charles Landry’s notion of the ‘creative city’, a term he hoped would initiate a new planning paradigm for metropolitan living.

But what does it mean to plan for artistic creativity, or to design a city as a site for artistic innovation? How do we trace the blockages as well as the flows between planning and performance? And what about wider cultural questions?: Should art create sites of exclusively secular, civic expression, or do art and religion become mutually useful resources in a region as diverse as that of the GTA? These are some of the questions that drive these Religion in the Public Sphere Forum and Community Research Workshop events. They indicate the critical importance of creativity in the production and performance of engaging urban space. But they are also meant to take a critical look at the very idea of creativity as a generic form of cultural capital.

Such debates have a significant history in the GTA. In 1986 Toronto became the first Canadian municipality to develop strategies aimed at encouraging public art in major building projects. In 2007, the city implemented the ‘Percent for Public Art’ policy, encouraging construction firms to donate one percent of the budget to artistic work. A recent ‘Creative City Planning Framework’ presents arts policy as contributing to a Toronto that is (as ever) ‘on the cusp of becoming a world city’, and highlights the need to engage young people though producing and attending cultural events. But does ‘public’ art include—or create—some publics while excluding others? How does ‘the public’ relate to ‘the plural’ whether in terms of generation, class, religion, or gender? And will arts policy have any relevance to current political debates that highlight cleavages in political and cultural vision between ‘inner’ downtown core and ‘outer’ suburb, city and GTA, urban and rural?

We invite you to the featured events shown below: please join us to explore the creative boundaries between religion and the arts, public and private funding, high-profile projects and local community expressions.

For their kind support of these events, we thank the Religious Diversity Youth Leadership Project, Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario, Shema & Iqra’: The Jewish-Muslim Text Project, and the Department for the Study of Religion.


“Toronto 2012-2966-tiltshift” by Mike Hewitt
CC by-nc-nd 2.0

Featured Events

Community Research Workshop

Thursday, October 23, 2014, 9:30a-4:00p
Department for the Study of Religion, 170 St George Street

This workshop brings together scholars, students, policy-makers and artists to discuss specific policy issues related to art, diversity, and youth in the city.

Workshop Schedule
Arrival, Breakfast, Introduction

Animating Public Spaces
  • Presenter

    Anne Frost

    Frost began her arts management career in the 1980s in Fort McMurray, Alberta; then worked at the Toronto Theatre Alliance on the Dora Mavor Moore Awards, and at Jeunesses musicales as Ontario Executive Director. After her MA in Arts Policy and Management from the City University, London, UK Anne worked at Harbourfront as Coordinator for the Festival of Authors; then as General Manager at Theatre Direct Canada and Mixed Company Theatre. In Owen Sound, she worked at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery and the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre. Anne taught in the Humber College post-graduate Arts Administration – Cultural Management program, coordinating the program in 2008-9; also in the undergraduate arts management program at University of Toronto, Scarborough (UTSC) and the post-graduate Culture and Heritage Site Management program at Centennial College. Now back in Toronto, Anne continues to teach at UTSC, consults with Young Associates, and has resumed her Program Coordination role for the Humber arts management post-graduate program.

  • Discussant

    Vivine Scarlett

    An administrator, choreographer, and instructor. She is Founder and Curator for dance Immersion, an organization that presents, produces and supports dancers and dances of the African Diaspora. As former Artistic Director and performing member of Usafiri Dance & Drum Ensemble, Vivine created and presented works in both traditional influenced African and contemporary African dance styles. Her choreographic endeavours in the theatre production of “The Adventures of a Black Girl in search of God” won her a Dora Mavor Moore award and a Dora nomination for her work in “The Freedom of dreams: The Story of Nelson Mandela”. Ms. Scarlett has taught for numerous institutions and organizations throughout Canada.

Impermanence in the Writing Process: Writing What Cannot Be Unwritten

Sheniz Janmohamed will discuss how the writing process is a process of committing and letting go, of permanency and impermanence, of form and emptiness. She will draw upon examples from her latest collection of poetry, “Firesmoke”, which is influenced by both Sufi and Buddhist philosophy and practice.

  • Presenter

    Sheniz Janmohamed

    an author, artist educator, spoken word artist and the Artistic Director of Sufi Poets Series. Her work has been featured at the TedXYouth Conference, Indian Summer Festival and the Jaipur Literature Festival. She has been published in a variety of journals including SUFI Journal. She has published two collections of poetry: Bleeding Light (TSAR, 2010) and Firesmoke (TSAR, 2014).

  • Discussant

    Kwanza Msingwana

    a well-travelled actor, musician, poet, and storyteller who performs with a blend of humour and playfulness that has captivated audiences of all ages. He conducts drumming, poetry/spoken word, and storytelling workshops and residences. He has performed for Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. Kwanza has also performed with poets Reg E Gaines (from New York), Afua Cooper, and David Robeson – grandson of Paul Robeson, therenowned American lawyer, actor, singer, and human rights activist. He is co-author of a collection of short stories titled Only Mountains Never Meet. Kwanza has a Master’s of Teaching degree.


A Walk Through: An Illustrated Journey to Re-framing

Weaving together creative and personal experiences with socio-cultural observations, in this presentation Gita Hashemi will reflect on the terminology we use to designate physical, social and discursive spaces as she walks through her neighbourhood.

  • Presenter

    Gita Hashemi

    Hashemis transmedia practice spans nearly thirty years and encompasses works that draw on visual, media, performance, site specific and live art strategies. Her work has been exhibited extensively at festivals and galleries nationally and internationally. In 2013, her solo exhibitions included Time Lapsed at A Space Gallery in Toronto and The Idea of Freedom at Le MAI in Montreal, and she participated in The Third Space at Harbourfront Centre. Fusing historical and contemporary issues, her work explores the interconnections of embodied language, cultural imaginary, production of knowledge and healing. Her current project Passages is a series of collaborative performances that premiered in Toronto in October 2014.

  • Discussant

    Graeme MacQueen

    MacQueen received his doctorate in Buddhist Studies from Harvard University. He taught in the Religious Studies Department of McMaster University in Hamilton and became founding Director of McMaster’s Centre for Peace Studies. He assisted with peace-building projects in Sri Lanka, Gaza, Croatia and Afghanistan and contributed to the development of the Women’s Peace Brigade in India. In addition to a novel and several short stories for young people, he has published many scholarly articles. Now retired, he concentrates on critique of the “War on Terror.” His book, The 2001 Anthrax Deception, was published in 2014.

Dancing for the Gods: Tears and Soul in Toronto

Brazilian heritage in Newton Moraes’ creativity is expressed in different forms, and one of those has been batuque – Afro-Brazilian dance and spirituality. He reminds us: Everything influences us, where we are, the people around us, the use of space, timing, curiosity, and our ancestral bodies.

  • Presenter

    Newton Mores

    Brazilian-born and a Toronto resident since 1991, Moraes studied at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre’s Professional Training Program with David Earle, Patricia Beatty, Danny Grossman and Christopher House. He is a choreographer, dancer, educator and researcher of different dance forms. He was additionally mentored by the late Robert Shirley, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, who was also his partner of 23 years. Moraes is currently collaborating with Jean Sasportes – Pina Bausch Wuppertal Tanztheater, his mentor since 2006, on a new project to be debuted in 2015. Moraes founded Newton Moraes Dance Theatre in 1997. The company is dedicated to the creation, performance and production of contemporary dance works to explore, maintain, and develop the links between the arts of Canada and Latin America.

  • Discussant

    Waleed Abdulhamid

    Originally from Sudan, Abdulhamid is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, vocalist, producer and film-maker, and has been an active member of the Toronto music scene since his arrival in Canada in 1992. He plays guitar, bass, drums, flute, harmonica, kirin, bass kirin, darabhuka, marimba, balimbo, congas, bongos, djembe, dumbek and tama, and is known for his striking vocals, bass technique and percussion abilities. Waleed is one of the 12 resident artists at the Young Center for Performing Arts, and has sat on grant-reviewing juries for several Canadian Art Councils. Waleed has played, toured and recorded with numerous bands, ranging from rock, pop, and African music to jazz and reggae. He has also worked extensively as a studio musician and arranger, and has written, composed and produced music for several TV shows. He is a teacher at Humber College and of a “World of Music” at Hart House, University of Toronto. He has toured extensively , as well as appearing at major music festivals in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, and Oslo. Waleed has played and recorded with David Clayton Thomas from the Grammy award winning band “Blood, Sweat & Tears” as well as with the Motown Legend Band “The Drifters”. He also played and recorded with the well-known composer/pianist/organist Doug Riley. In addition, Waleed has played with a large number of well-known artists, Jackie Richardson, Julie Black, Karyn White, Deborah Cox and presently Zaki Ibrahim. He has also recorded with jazz bass player Paul Novotny, on a Honda promotion, and with jazz pianists David Johanns and Joe Sealy. Waleed was a founding member of award-winning African bands, Radio Nomad and Balimbo.


Thursday, October 23, 2014, 5:30-7:30p
Multi-Faith Centre, 569 Spadina Avenue

Moderated by Kevin A. Ormsby

Artistic Director of KasheDance, Ormsby works as a dance teacher, choreographer, movement coach and Arts Marketing Consultant. The Canada Council for the Arts’ Victor Martyn Lynch – Staunton Award recipient in Dance (2014) for outstanding achievement by a mid career artist, and with many interests in the creative practice and administration in dance, he has honed his passion for dance, advocacy, writing and education while performing with various companies and projects in Canada and the United States. Kevin was a company member of Garth Fagan Dance (NY), the Assistant to the Artistic Director and Marketing / Outreach for Ballet Creole, and performed in works by Marie Josee Chartier, Allison Cummings, Ron K. Brown, Menaka Thakkur, Mark Morris and Bill T. Jones. A passionate advocate of Dance Education, writing and outreach, he has presented papers at many conferences with through North America and the Caribbean. Through his dance outreach initiatives, Mr. Ormsby has conducted intensive dance workshops in Grenada, Barbados, Jamaica and master classes in Vancouver, St. Lawrence College, and to priority neighborhoods in Toronto.

Forum Presenters

Jamelie Hassan

“In and Out of Place: Selected Public Art Projects by Jamelie Hassan”/p>

Born in London, Ontario of Arabic background, Hassan is a visual artist and active as a lecturer, writer and independent curator. Since the 1970s she has created a body of work that is intensely driven by an engagement in both local and international politics and cultures. Her interdisciplinary installations explore personal and public histories. She has exhibited extensively, including At the Far Edge of Words, which was awarded the 2009 Best Exhibition of the Year by the Ontario Art Gallery Association. Her works are included in numerous public collections in Canada and internationally. She was one of the founders of two artist-run centres in London, Ontario: the Forest City Gallery and the Embassy Cultural House, organizing both national and international programs including with Mexico, Cuba, Jordan and India. She has frequently served as a member of advisory panels and art juries for the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts, and served as a member on the advisory committee for the “Minister’s Forum on Culture & Diversity” in 2003 at the Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, Quebec).

Melissa Noventa

“The Spectacular Mundane: (Re-)Rooting Ancient Wisdom in a Modern World”

Noventa is a multidisciplinary artist originally from Guelph, Ontario. Throughout her career she has accumulated a wide range of training, performing, and teaching experiences in classical, contemporary, West African, Latin, and Afro-Caribbean dance forms. Since moving to Toronto in 2001, Melissa has studied with and performed alongside a formidable list of distinguished artists from Canada and abroad, including some of Cuba’s premier folkloric and popular music ensembles. Melissa is regularly called upon in Toronto to give specialty workshops related to Afro-Cuban dance and culture. In 2014 Melissa was also brought in as a guest teacher at SUNY Brockport University (Brockport, NY, USA) to participate in the school’s first ever Afro-Cuban music and dance workshop, and presented a paper as part of the Lucumí Music: Singing, Dancing, and Drumming Black Divinity conference hosted by The Center for African And African American Research at Duke University (Durham, NC, USA). Melissa holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Honours (Dance), at York University, with a minor in English Literature, as well as an MA in dance (York University). Her research focuses on embodied knowledge, body politics and Afro-Cuban folkloric performance. Melissa is also an adjunct faculty member in the dance department at York University where she teaches courses in Latin American dance, and is the artistic director of Ilédè, Afro-Cuban Drum and Dance Ensemble.

Sashar Zarif

“Swimming with the Flow: Finding Onself in the Multiverse”

An internationally renowned performing artist, educator, and researcher whose artistic practice invites a convergence of creative and cultural perspectives. His interests are identity, globalization, and cross-cultural collaborations. His practice is steeped in the artistry and history of traditional, ritualistic, and contemporary dance and music of the Near Eastern and Central Asian regions. He has toured across the four continents promoting cultural dialogue through intensive fieldwork, residencies, performances, and creative collaborations. Zarif is a research associate at York Centre for Asian Studies and on the board of directors of Dance Ontario. In 2012, Sashar Zarif was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.