Bata Shoe Museum Foundation

For every shoe there's a story. Although feet are the same around the world, what people choose to wear on their feet is incredibly diverse. It is in this diversity that some of the most interesting aspects of culture are revealed. The Bata Shoe Museum strives to share these compelling cultural stories by using footwear as the point of entry into the cultures of the world. Particular strengths of the Museum’s collection include important holdings in Circumpolar, 18th century European, Indigenous North American, and Asian footwear.

Bata Shoe MuseumOur Impact Why We Exist

The mission of the Bata Shoe Museum (BSM) is to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the role of footwear in the social and cultural life of humanity. It achieves this purpose by operating a public institution which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits material evidence related to the history of footwear and shoemaking for the purposes of study, education and enjoyment.

Collections Storage RoomOur Story What We Do

The Bata Shoe Museum is proud of its charitable and community outreach programs. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, all of our programs are designed to ensure public access to the arts through the removal of financial barriers.

Since 2009, the Bata Shoe Museum’s Step Ahead Program has subsidized educational outreach to children from Toronto’s at-risk neighbourhoods.  A new community partnership initiative, Step Ahead After School with beyond 3:30, was launched in the 2014-2015 school year with the Toronto Foundation for Student Success, and the Toronto Foundation.

The Bata Shoe Museum’s weekly Pay-What-You-Can program invites individuals and families to experience one of the world’s most unique collections, accessible without financial barriers.

Once a year, the Bata Shoe Museum's Warm the Sole Sock Drive collects much needed socks for the homeless and donates them to shelter-based charities.

Notable Accomplishments:

  • 1.6 million visitors, including 200,000 student visits from GTA schools;
  • A long-standing volunteer program that has included more than 900 volunteers, contributing nearly 100,000 hours of service to the Museum since 1992;
  • Community art projects and partnerships with Nuit Blanche, Anandam Dance Theatre, Arts For Children and Youth, Christie/Ossington Neighbourhood Centre, Sketch, Toronto Loves Kicks, and Unity;
  • 45 temporary exhibitions; and
  • Established education programs: Step Ahead Program providing subsidized field trips for students in at-risk neighbourhoods (6,600 participants), Step Ahead After School (730 participants), March Break Program (48,000 participants).

Step Ahead After School with beyond 3:30Our Programs How We Do It

BSM Programs and Activities

Collections and Acquisitions - The BSM’s collection focuses on four main areas: Inuit and other circumpolar indigenous peoples, North American indigenous peoples, the history of Western fashion, and world cultures.

Exhibitions – The BSM has four galleries which house one permanent exhibition called All About Shoes, and three temporary exhibitions, with at least one new exhibition produced each year.Virtual Exhibitions - The BSM shares elements of the collection online through twelve virtual exhibitions at and

Conservation – The BSM has a full time in-house conservator who follows current professional standards for the conservation and care of its collection.

Education and Outreach – The BSM offers Ontario Curriculum-related programs that include hands-on components, gallery tours, and studio projects for students from K-12, educational programs for post-secondary students, adult ESL students, adults, and seniors, as well as outreach programs for children in at-risk neighbourhoods such as the Toronto Public Library’s MAP Program, Step Ahead, and Step Ahead After School with beyond 3:30.

Public Programs - The BSM has a comprehensive public program for both adults and children to complement the exhibitions including lectures, workshops, film series, and seasonal and shoe-related crafts.

Introducing: Step Ahead

The Bata Shoe Museum’s Program for At-Risk Children

Toronto's Vital Signs Report, 2015:

  • Percentage of children (ages 0-7) living in poverty in Toronto: 29% (2014);
  • 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; 
  • Innovative community-based programs can help bridge the gap between rich and poor.

The Bata Shoe Museum is dedicated to providing access to the arts for children in Toronto’s at-risk communities, and does so by providing subsidized field trips to the Museum. BSM developed Step Ahead in 2009 after having created successful and well-received educational programing since 1995, and in response to increasing evidence on the role of the arts in improving the lives of economically disadvantaged children. 

Step Ahead is available to students in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB). JK – Grade 12 students participate in an Ontario curriculum-based program that includes a guided gallery tour, hands-on artefact session where students have a unique opportunity to handle authentic museum objects, and a studio component where students paint a Dutch clog to take home. Teachers receive suggestions for pre- and post-visit activities to further enrich the museum experience.  

BSM continues to seek resources and community partnerships to strengthen our ability to provide access to a greater number of children from at-risk neighbourhoods. The BSM has recently extended its Step Ahead program to include an after-school component in partnership with the TDSB’s Toronto Foundation for Student Success (TFSS). Beginning in autumn 2014, the BSM joined with beyond 3:30 to deliver the program to an additional 480 students from grades 6-8 from Toronto’s at-risk communities. This successful partnership continued for a second year in 2015/16 with increased capacity for 540 students.

Step Ahead serves TDSB’s Model Schools. Model Schools are the neediest inner city schools as determined by the TDSB’s Learning Opportunities Index, and have the largest concentration of students living in poverty. There are 128 Model Schools in the city, serving over 80,000 students. The Toronto Catholic District School Board has a similar list of 17 Priority Schools. Demand for Step Ahead continues to grow each year, with many teachers contacting us well in advance of the school year to ensure space for their students. Many more teachers are also learning about the program through word of mouth and contacting us directly to see how their students can participate. Nevertheless, fewer than 2% of students from the TDSB Model Schools and TCDSB Priority Schools currently have access to this program due to funding limitations.

The TDSB Model Schools research indicates that children living in poverty have less exposure to cultural, recreational and enrichment programs, and are less likely to achieve recognition in the arts than middle and upper class children. Anecdotal feedback from teachers reiterates this problem, with many noting that their students are lacking opportunities to experience the rich cultural resources that the city has to offer. Loraine Valentine, a grade 8 teacher at Danforth Gardens Public School writes: “Students at our school come from families who have trouble affording the basic necessities. Step Ahead allows them to go to the museum to learn about history and the world in a way that they normally would not be able to due to lack of funds”. 

20th Anniversary GalaWhat You Can Do

Step Ahead is grounded in cutting-edge arts education pedagogy. Its unique approach examines an everyday object and expands children's thinking about shoes as an art form: their fabrication, their uses, and understanding the culture of the people who made and wore them. The familiar nature of the object acts as a gateway to introducing new, more complex ideas. The scope of the Museum's collection fosters a cross-curricular approach to the study of footwear, thus allowing for a single object to be viewed through the lens of a variety of subject areas such as art, history, social science, and native studies. The program has provided access to the arts for over 7,300 students (74 schools) from economically disadvantaged parts of Toronto since its launch in 2009. On average, the program has subsidized 850 students each year city wide: there is potential to build capacity to 2,000 students.

Demand for Step Ahead grows every year. Only a small percentage of the TDSB’s Model Schools or TCDSB's Priority Schools have access to this program due to funding limitations, and dozens of teachers who want to bring their students are turned away annually. Your donation towards the Bata Shoe Museum’s Step Ahead fund will help grow and sustain the program, and support the following program goals:

1) Short-term Goal

Participant Funding: reach program capacity of 2,000 student visits annually;

2) Mid-term Goal

Online Engagement Tools: A greater online presence promoting interaction will enhance the experience of current participants, assist educators using innovative technological strategies, extend reach to larger online audiences, celebrate the success of the program, enhance community involvement, and encourage new forms of donor support. This will be achieved through the development and implementation of three online components to be integrated into the BSM website:

  • A web page dedicated to promoting awareness of Step Ahead, showcasing the success of the program to the community and potential donors. 
  • An online lesson plan gallery allowing teachers to contribute to and share lesson plans, teacher resources and examples of student work. 
  • An interactive website, My Museum, to extend the level of engagement beyond the guided program to the classroom and to reach students who are not able to come to the Museum.  My Museum will allow students to create their own virtual exhibit by collecting pictures from the Museum’s archive or uploading personal images, audio, and video.     

3) Long-term Goal

Generous donors will ensure the continued success of BSMs education programs for children in at-risk communities. For example:

            Step Ahead Daytime Program

  • A donation of $5,000 annually will allow 300 students to visit with their class for the Step Ahead program;
  • A donation of $25,000 annually will allow 1,500 students (program capacity) to visit with their class for the Step Ahead program.

            Step Ahead After School with beyond 3:30 Program

  • A donation of $5,000 will allow 150 children to participate in the Step Ahead After School with beyond 3:30 program;
  • A donation of $18,000 will allow 540 children (program capacity) to participate in the Step Ahead After School with beyond 3:30 program.

           Step Ahead Online Engagement

  • With an investment of $30,000, the Bata Shoe Museum will be able to build on-line engagement tools to extend the reach of Step Ahead.


Catherine M. Hurley, CFRE
Head of Development
Charitable Number: 119215168RR0001

Finance & Governance


Join the Conversation