Art Starts

Art Starts inspires and cultivates social change through community building arts initiatives.

Art Starts Children's MuralOur Impact Why We Exist

Art Starts is living proof of Toronto Vital Signs Report claim that "exposure to arts education for young people can build capacity for imaginative and critical thinking along with open-mindedness."

Every year, Art Starts provides a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment for self-expression and creative collaboration for over 1,000 Toronto residents. We facilitate unique opportunities for local children and youth living in marginalized neighbourhoods to work with professional artists and contribute to the broader community. We afford opportunities for people of all ages to engage in physical activities like dance, yoga and circus-arts. We provide a gateway to post-secondary education. Our programs help end the negative cycles associated with marginalization and poverty. We nurture and feature local talent and mentor emerging artists, beautify public spaces, help with portfolio development, and offer training and employment opportunities.

Social Benefits: celebration of communities neighbourhood beautification mitigation of language-based isolation collaboration enhanced respect, tolerance and understanding 

Life Skills Benefits: cooperation negotiation commitment academic & employment skills creative risk-taking problem solving critical and creative thinking wellness & physical activity

Emotional Benefits: stress relief healthy self-expression self-confidence enhanced interpersonal skills tension resolution

Our Story What We Do

Art Starts inspires long-term social change in Toronto's under-served neighbourhoods. We employ a unique model, using the arts to nurture resiliency, cultivate life skills, and inspire personal growth. We have danced, performed, sung, celebrated, composed, laughed, designed, conceptualized and crafted permanent public art installations. We have exhibited art in laundromats and grocery stores, helped youth produce original music, facilitated workshops in mosaics, textile arts, hip hop & Gumboot dancing, circus acrobatics, mural arts, drumming and so much more! Since 1992, Art Starts has become an artistic hub of activity in the most culturally, racially, and linguistically diverse areas of Toronto.

Our Programs How We Do It

The Art Starts’ model works sustainably in 5 under-resourced Toronto neighbourhoods. We maintain ongoing relationships with our neighbourhoods; affirmative change demands a long term commitment. We bring together professional artists – dancers, musicians, visual artists, actors, and playwrights – with residents of all ages. Together, we create responsive, life affirming art projects.

Art Starts!!What You Can Do

Activities Your Donation Will Support

Next Up! Music Program                                                                                                                                                      

Art Starts music programs offer an intensive contemporary, urban music experience, providing vulnerable youth with opportunities to work with experienced professional musicians. Together the youth and the professionals explore contemporary music analysis & composition, writing lyrics, beats and tunes, keyboarding, recording, mixing, mastering, vocal technique, industry intelligence, performance, recording and producing original music. Up Next! offers high calibre programming, culturally relatable facilitators, social support, recording opportunities and live public performances.

Donation Impact

  • $450 enables one youth musician to complete a 10-week program
  • $1,000 supports all production materials and snacks for 12 youth
  • $5,000 enables us to run a full season for up to 12 youth
  • $15,000 year round music-focused programming for up to 36 youth 

ASAP: After School Arts Programming    

ASAP is focused on fostering social cohesion in stressed communities and building self-esteem, creative skills and healthy self-expression amongst participants. To that end, all of our Program Managers will have social service-based facilitation training starting September 2016. To make a deep impact, ASAP runs consistently throughout the school year. We offer this vital, arts-based afterschool program in 4 isolated Toronto community-housing enclaves. Between 15 and 25 children are engaged daily at each site, creating art collaboratively with a fantastic array of professional, multidisciplinary artists. Art projects and activities are designed according to participant interest and community needs. Healthy snacks are served at every workshop and each session is managed by a program manager and supported by paid 2 assistants – at least 1 who is a local youth. ASAP children and youth end each year by exhibiting and performing their work locally and to a broader audience at the Art Starts annual showcase.

Donation Impact

  • $500 sends one child for a full school year
  • $1,600 pays for creative materials for 25 children for a full school year
  • $5,000 covers materials, snacks, artist fees and project management, enabling 10 children or youths to attend for a full school year
  • $12,000 provides support for us to run a full year after school program for up to 25 children


Tamara Haberman
Director of Development & Finance
Charitable Number: 134257765RR0001

Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 750,000


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