Arts Etobicoke

Established in 1973, Arts Etobicoke is a community arts service organization that believes everyone should have access to art. Located in a beautiful storefront gallery in the heart of Islington Village, Arts Etobicoke offers numerous free high-quality arts programs for the community and affordable services for artists.

North Etobicoke youth participants in Exploring Creativity in DepthOur Impact Why We Exist

We believe that the people in our community thrive when art touches their lives.

We serve over 25,000 diverse community members through the arts, but there is a growing need for high-quality arts programs that offer skill development, creativity and friendship. 

Our vision is to expand our community's creative footprint and transform lives by invigorating, connecting and empowering our diverse community through the arts.

Our mission is to support local artists and develop accessible, meaningful arts experiences for the residents of Etobicoke and beyond.

"People need a safe space where they are encouraged to create, muse, observe, interact, be around art and beauty and not have to justify taking the time to do these things.  

Arts Etobicoke is not pretentious - anyone can come here and be supported in their art making.  It's a place where artists, artistry, artistic process, artist anxiety is understood.  It's a place in the middle of a community where you can just walk in and feel like you can be here."  Cara-Lyn Morgan, Poet and Volunteer


86-year-old Gwen rehearses for seniors dance project 'Dancing in the Third Act'Our Story What We Do

We make a difference in 4 key areas:

1. Create Opportunities for Marginalized Children & Youth, particularly in the underserved Rexdale and Mabelle communities 

2. Deliver Needs-Based Arts Programs that are designed to benefit individuals with diverse abilities and those facing homelessness, discrimination and language barriers

3. Provide Free Local High-Quality Arts Experiences for all in the community, including free arts workshops, public murals and art exhibitions in our Storefront Gallery located in the heart of Islington Village

4. Advocate for the Arts and Offer Practical Support to Local Artists and Arts Organiztions by working collectively with Toronto's arts community to create awareness of the value of the arts and raise Toronto's per capita arts funding, as well as providing access to much-needed work space and professional development opportunities

"Our community needs to know the value of art - to experience and touch it.  Arts Etobicoke goes a long way in making this happen." Cinna Faveri, Founding member of Arts Etobicoke and long-time donor


·       1973 - Arts Etobicoke is incorporated as a registered charity

·       1978 - Christine McIvor is appointed Executive Director

·       2002 – Arts Etobicoke increases its commitment in the North Etobicoke community, beginning with Props Theatre at North Albion Collegiate Institute and Exploring Creativity in Depth for school children

·       2004 - Christine McIvor retires and Louise Garfield is appointed Executive Director

·       2005 - Arts Etobicoke relocates to highly accessible Storefront Gallery in Islington Village and becomes a hub for cultural activity: exhibitions, performance, free all-ages art classes and more.

·       2006 – 2013 - New North Etobicoke youth programming is developed: urbanNOISE, an urban arts training program and Festival, From 3 to 3, a literacy program for ages 3-8, AMPLIFY! for homeless youth, Queer Media Arts Project (QMAP) for LGBTQ youth, Beats + Intentions for emerging youth artists

·       2009-2015 – new public art projects are developed: 15 Art on the Move vehicles, Art Alley Poetry Mural, ‘Everyone. Everywhere.’ Human Rights Mural, ‘Album’ Pan Am Path Mural

·       2014 - Arts Etobicoke is awarded a Vital Ideas grant to grow the reach of its Amplify! arts education model

·       2014-15: 29,425 participants in cultural activities, including 14,664 children and youth

·       2015Dancing in the Third Act, a dance project for seniors is presented

Donna creates artwork to be displayed in our Storefront GalleryOur Programs How We Do It

Our Priorities for Program Development

Our priorities are to deepen the impact of our over 15 existing arts programs and innovate to keep pace with our community's ever-changing needs.  

We address these priorities by forging strategic partnerships with local community groups, businesses and organizations to leverage resources, share knowledge and expand our outreach.  We also search for new sources of operating funding which allows us to respond to new opportunities, refine our best practices, while sustaining the health and capacity of the organization.  

Two specific programs where innovation, evaluation and strategic partnering are ongoing include:

 AMPLIFY! Arts Education Model: social service agencies have expressed their need for this free arts education program model (which was refined recently thanks to a Vital Ideas grant)

After-School Art Drop-In: there is an urgent need to expand this free weekly arts education drop-in led for children and youth in the nearby Mabelle public housing community

Amplify! Arts Education Model


Amplify! is an arts education model that pairs trained artists with social service agencies to provide high quality, sustainable arts programming.

The model grew out of our belief that art has a unique ability to make a difference in the lives of marginalized individuals who face specific challenges: homelessness, language, poverty, health, isolation, discrimination, bullying.   Since 2011, dozens of youth have benefited from programs based on this model, including homeless youth and LGBTQ youth in Rexdale / North Etobicoke.

However, developing arts programming for marginalized populations is complex. The Amplify! model makes it easier for artists, arts organizations and social service agencies to work together in designing and delivering arts-based programming.


‐ a professional arts facilitator with experience in working with at-risk populations works closely with qualified staff at a social service agency to develop an arts education program that best suits the agency’s clients

‐ arts workshops are delivered in various arts disciplines: mural making, dance, storytelling, zine making, songwriting

- workshops take place in local spaces that are safe and accessible to participants

‐ Participants may be given the opportunity to have their artwork displayed publicly and /or celebrate their accomplishments through an event

Thanks to a Vital Ideas grant from the Toronto Foundation in 2014, we refined the model, shared best practices and tested the potential for expanding the program to new communities. Watch this video to learn more about how Amplify! benefits marginalized communities.


- participants gain skill in a variety of expressive arts disciplines: music, dance, storytelling and visual art

- participants engage in activities that develop resilience, self-esteem, teamwork, life and job skills and enable them to work for social change

- participants can express themselves and their creativity in a safe, accessible space under the guidance of specially trained arts facilitators

Laura Lipani, Program Coordinator at Youth Without Shelter, sees the impact of this programming: “It allows the youth to have an avenue for stress relief. It provides a very therapeutic environment… [and] gives the youth a sense of culture."

In response to the question ’what did you get out of the workshops?’, one youth said: I learned many skills for coming up with and solidifying ideas, as well as working on concentration.

Another youth responded: I got a little more confidence because people were so supportive.

When asked, ‘what is one thing you liked about this class?’, a participant responded: I liked the variety of different open writing activities.  I’m not really a talkative kind of person so those writing exercises were more interesting to me.  Another said: Teamwork and how everyone shares.


Youth Without Shelter, LOVE (Leave Out Violence), RexPride, RBC Foundation, The Rotary Club of Etobicoke, Woodbine Entertainment Group

After-School Art Drop-In


Launched in 2010, the Drop-In provides free, weekly arts education delivered by professional arts educators. The Drop-In targets youth ages 6-18 in the nearby Mabelle public housing community who face barriers of poverty, language and isolation.  It takes place at our storefront gallery which is walking distance from Mabelle and two local schools.

The Drop-In offers a safe space for participants to develop life skills (communication, teamwork), social skills (respect, acceptance) and expressive arts skills (photography, storytelling, creative movement and more).

40-50 children participate weekly, including new Canadians from the Middle East, South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Exposure to arts education week after week, year after year builds confidence and self-esteem in participants.

We are experiencing an interesting challenge with the Drop-in: the number of youth wanting to attend has increased dramatically.  This year, 80 children and youth have registered.  Each week, new inquiries are made. (Last year, a total of 47 youth registered).  The program safely accommodates only 50 participants, and for the first time, we have started a waiting list for the program.  

We are consulting with local schools and potential partners to address the need for an expanded program.  In the meantime, we  have developed a policy to ensure that all registrants have an opportunity to participate in some capacity, while ensuring safety for all involved.  


Many of the Drop-in participants have grown up with the program.  For example, siblings Farah, Osama and Omar participated week after week, year after year since the launch of the Drop-in in 2010, and we saw their skill and confidence in art-making and collaboration grow. Similarly, Abir has been a participant for several years.  Initially interested in drawing, he has had the opportunity to discover new art forms like photography, spoken word and story telling.  Abir now volunteers at the Drop-in and his younger brother is an enthusiastic participant.

The Drop-In attracts young people who are new to Canada from countries including Iran, Jordan, India, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Poland, Korea, the Caribbean, Palestine and Russia.  Some had little to no English when they began and the Drop-In is a safe, supportive space to try out the language of their new home.

For example, when Artur arrived in Canada from the Ukraine, he knew very little English.  In this program, he found a place where he can express himself and communicate with our multi-lingual Drop-in facilitator Faten Toubasi (Arabic, Russian, English) and other Russian-speaking kids.  Faten said: He did so well and wrote a poem in Russian.   His poem is about Spring and beautifully rhyming in Russian. He was empowered for sure, and did not feel in a foreign place.

Hala Sayed, is an inspiring young graduate of our Art Drop-In program. She arrived in Canada from Palestine at the age of 13, but missed her family and friends in Palestine and felt out of place in her new home.

A resident of the Mabelle public housing community just down the street from Arts Etobicoke, Hala became a regular participant in our Saturday Classes, Drop-In and volunteer programs. She calls Arts Etobicoke her ‘extended family’ and says, “Arts Etobicoke was the first organization that provided a space for me to build a community in Canada”.

We feel strongly that years of exposure to positive skills development and mentorship through this program empowered Hala to work at overcoming the challenges she faces as a young new Canadian.

Now a student at University of Toronto, Hala gives back to Toronto youth. A strong advocate for social justice, she delivered a photography program for homeless youth at Touchstone Youth Shelter in 2012 with Arts Etobicoke’s support.

In 2014, Hala secured close to $20,000 in funding to lead ‘Stories Beyond Borders’, a digital storytelling program for newcomer and indigenous youth across Toronto. We provided mentorship and support to Hala and were thrilled that she was able to involve youth from our Drop-In in this project.


The Geoffrey H. Wood Foundation, The Johansen-Larsen Foundation, Loblaws

From Vital Ideas 2015, p. 208-209

89% of Torontonians see at least one benefit that the arts provide to themselves. 66%, for example, report that the arts expose them to new ideas, and 46% say they make them feel proud of their city.

• Over half (52%) of Torontonians are very likely to take an out-of-town visitor to an arts related activity, with top picks including museums, galleries, and festivals.

• 68% of Torontonians say that local artists add value to our society and therefore should be appropriately compensated, and 57% say that the arts should be a priority for local government.

• Despite these high levels of interest and engagement, a significant majority (87%) of GTA residents face at least one barrier to attending arts programming.

o Cost (63%) and lack of time (40%) are the biggest factors that make it difficult for people to attend arts events, visit arts locations, or participate in arts activities.

Others include: distance from home, 30%; unawareness of what’s going on, 15%; and  inaccessibility of venues to those with mobility issues, 6%.

Toronto elementary schools offer better access to arts education than many Ontario schools, although access to some specialist teachers is still very low:

• Exposure to arts education for young people can build capacity for imaginative and critical thinking along with open-mindedness, which are all important skills for living productive lives as adults.

• Two-thirds (66%) of Toronto elementary schools report having a music teacher; 43% employ a full-time music teacher.

• Far fewer elementary schools report having a visual arts (29%) or drama (18%) teacher.

Youth from the Albion Boys & Girls Club who participated in Art on the MoveWhat You Can Do

Expand Your Community's Creative Footprint!

We warmly invite you to get involved as a donor, volunteer or community partner.   

Your donation will help deepen the impact of free arts education programs that benefit all in the community, and support innovation in developing meaningful arts opportunities for individuals who face poverty, isolation and discrimination.

Volunteers make a real difference, providing their skill and time as board members or lending a hand at our events and program activities.

"By supporting Arts Etobicoke, I help provide opportunities to people across all ages and all cutlural groups and to improve quality of life".  Michael Spence, Past Chair and long-time donor

Amplify! Arts Education Model

LGBTQ youth and homeless youth in Rexdale have been benefitting from this free skill-building arts education model for several years.

We are working to deliver the program to new social service agencies, including a youth group in the West Mall / Capri neighbourhood, an agency that cares for new Canadians including Syrian refugees and a local women’s shelter. 


A donation of $2,500 would fund a 6-workshop pilot program for up to 15 clients at one social service agency.  The full Amplify! program (32 arts workshops) could be funded by a donation of $12,000.

Participants would benefit from:

·       positive, arts-based alternatives to high-risk activities and/or behaviour

·       mentorship and creative learning experiences designed for individuals facing specific challenges: discrimination, poverty, homelessness, isolation

·       arts workshops that are designed to support learning, self expression and creativity and that respond to specific circumstances and goals of diverse participants

·       skill development in a variety of expressive arts disciplines: music, dance, storytelling, visual art, theatre

·       activities that develop self-esteem, leadership and collaborative skills and enable participants to work for social change

·       opportunity to celebrate achievements through a public event / exhibition

After-School Art Drop-In

This free youth program is in great demand by local families, especially those living in the nearby Mabelle public housing community. 

Donors and community partners will play a crucial role in expanding the program which is over-subscribed (80 youth are registered and only 50 can safely be accommodated). 

This program also depends on volunteers who assist with setting up materials, supervising children and youth and securing in-kind donations of art supplies, refreshments and other materials.


With a donation of $12,500, an additional 30 children and youth would benefit each week from the After-School Art Drop-in which offers:

• opportunities for marginalized youth to learn life, social and artistic skills, led by professional arts educators

• a safe, supportive and inclusive approach to art-making

• community engagement, positive activities that build youth self esteem


Ruth Cumberbatch
Development Manager
416.622.8731 x222
Charitable Number: 118790716RR0001

Finance & Governance


Join the Conversation