Manifesto Community Projects

Manifesto is a non-profit organization that works to unite, inspire, and empower diverse communities of young people through arts and culture. We aim to provide a platform and the resources needed to advance the growth of the arts as a tool for positive change on the individual, community and global levels.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

Founded in 2007, Manifesto Community Projects is a non-profit, grassroots organization best known for its annual Festival of Community and Culture. This festival - a product of many townhall meetings and community discussions – was created to address challenges facing Toronto’s youth arts community (e.g. to provide a platform that celebrates and rewards local, emerging artists and provides opportunities for youth to collaborate, unite and strengthen). Manifesto is more than a festival, it is a movement. It is the product of the immense passion, dedication and persistence of a group of young leaders and a community of artists devoted to creating change in this city. Until July 2009, the entire Manifesto team worked on a volunteer basis until receiving some operational support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Laidlaw Foundation and Ontario Arts Council. Manifesto’s two paid staff shared their salaries to hire a Managing Director to strengthen the team. Manifesto has since witnessed incredible growth with few resources. Manifesto's programming has included producing Luminato’s 2008 StreetScape exhibition – a street art exhibition and 10-week arts education program for 20 Regent Park youth, producing IGNITE THE AMERICAS: Youth Arts Policy Forum a hemispheric gathering of young leaders and policy makers, the birth of sister organization Manifesto Jamaica, and having over 45,000 attendees at our 4th annual festival including Her Excellency The Governor General who launched the festival with a speech on the importance of the arts and organizations like Manifesto. Manifesto ended 2014 on a high note, completing the year with 44 programs, not including our five day festival. Strong programming has us well-equipped for 2015, by strengthen relationships and continuing efforts to ensure Manifesto maintains and maximizes our objectives to the best of our abilities. 2015 is already looking to be another impactful year, in partnerships with National Arts Centre, Canadian Film Centre, NXNE and Pride (to name a few). We are prepared to setp out of our comfort zone to guarantee another year of dynmaic artistic programming that provides creative stability and optimization to all who are seeking a higher ground in talent.

Accolades and Accomplishments

Accolades include recognition by Harvard University and the British Council as a cultural partner, winning the Culture Award at the 2008 Aroni Award Ceremony, receiving the 2010 Toronto Arts Foundation’s “Arts For Youth” award, as well as being honoured with the Toronto Community Foundations "Vital Ideas Award". Manifesto's Executive Director, Che Kothari, received the Toronto Youth Cabinet’s “Leader in Building Arts in Community Award”, Ryerson’s “Outstanding Recent Alumni Achievment Award”, The Urban Alliance for Race Relations 35th Anniversary Award, and was listed on Marketing Mag’s “Ones To Watch” list, as well as receiving TCF's "Vital People" recognition.  Che was also accepted as an inaugural DiverseCity Fellow, a programming of Maytree Foundation and Civic Action, and former Managing Director Seema Jethalal was accepted as part of Civic Action's Emerging Leaders Network.

Local

Manifesto has grown from being a small, grassroots festival in 2007 to one of Toronto’s most celebrated arts festivals that is expanding not only exponentially each year but internationally as well.  On a local level, Manifesto’s role is to unite often-disconnected artists and arts organizations by using (one of but not limited to) our festival as a platform to bring together various individuals and groups to collaborate or perform side-by-side.  Manifesto has a unique position to utilize the culture of hip hop as a common language between other like-minded organizations such as the ReMix Project, Just BGraphic, 106 & York, and Unity Charity. This common ground has borne fruitful partnerships and initiatives during Manifesto’s growth over the last six years. Manifesto’s reputation for uniting hip hop artists across disciplines led to our role as curators for Red Bull's Sound Select, an initiative now in it's second year,introduces Toronto to three young upcoming talent artists (singers/MC's). 

National

On a national level, Manifesto has consulted with the City of Calgary, Halifax, and Ottawa to assist them in creating Manifesto-like hip hop festivals – Live Style, Hop Scotch, and National Arts Centre. In this sense, we are forging strong relationships with artist and arts festivals across Canada to strengthen our networks and assist in enabling arts and culture to make a deep impact not only in Toronto but across the country.  Our efforts paid off, after connecting with National Arts Centre in Ottawa to partner on their Bi-annual festival called Ontario Scene, this year; A dedication to the Ontario arts community. 

International

On an international level, ManifestoJA in Kingston, Jamaica continues to thrive since its first event in 2010 and now has its own leadership team and annual Festival of Art’ical Empowerment which aims to Educate, Expose and Empower local youth.   In the summer of 2014 Manifesto Washington was launched, both which operate in the same respects as the originator. Manifesto has sparked the interests of travellers and artists all over the globe; South America, Barbados, Trinidad even Kenya, based on our ability to organize numerous arts education events/workshops, and taking lead roles to develop international projects such as Ignite the Americas, which was successfully advocated for the arts through campaigns such as BeautifulCity, that built a strong independent media channel reflective of the communities - we are a part of, created youth arts hubs that provide space for works and collaboration, connected to young people to career-developing and income generating opportunities - and we are sill just getting started.

Our Programs How We Do It

In order to know where we’re going, we must know where we’ve been, so it’s important to pass down cultural histories and art forms. While connecting sets new relationships in motion, cultivating is about direct engagement with our audience. From intimate skills-based workshops to public art exhibitions – our activities nurture growth, spread knowledge, teach skills, supply resources and provide support. As an organization consisting of creative individuals we recognize the power of expression, media, and cultural artifacts in the shaping of consciousness and the making of meaning. It’s not enough to simply promote and support the arts, we need to be directly involved and it just so happens that the things we create tend to further our other objectives as well.

Manifesto Festival of Community & Culture

Growing to be the largest and most unique festival of its kind in the country, the annual Manifesto Festival of Community & Culture brings together countless community members, artists, performers, and audience members to showcase our city’s vibrant arts community and strengthen its foundations by building a collective sense of pride and possibility. Featuring an array of events, from art exhibitions, youth dialogues, dance showcases, workshops, speaker series, free outdoor concerts at Nathan Phillips and Yonge Dundas Square, film screenings, and more, the festival combines a grassroots, community-focused essence with a production quality often associated only with commercial-scale productions. The festival is the culmination of all of the work we do and provides an annual burst of energy and inspiration in the city, and is a vehicle for furthering all of our objectives simultaneously.

Funding and Program Partners

Canadian Heritage, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Laidlaw Foundation, Government of Ontario, FACTOR, Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, TO Live with Culture, Toronto Culture, TD Canada Trust, the Slaight Foundation, Art Gallery of Ontario, Royal Ontario Museum, Red Bull, Flow 93.5 FM, Exclaim!, BlogTO, The GRID, The ROM, Coalition Music, National Arts Centre, Daniels Spectrum, Canadian Film Centre, North York Arts.

Program Impact

Since 2007, the Festival has continuously worked to promote and create a solid platform for the arts through its various mediums, including film, theatre, dance, visual arts, and music. We have strategically and successfully facilitated necessary dialogue throughout our festival, always in collaboration with partners, helping to enable cross-sector discussion that has consistently led to tangible action. Overall, our work has proven, and been recognized, for creating and cultivating space where young leaders across the city are able to continue participating within the arts and culture sector, from sharing their own artistic ability, to promoting the work of their peers, to working in collaboration with our team to continue finding new ways of taking action, and creating a sustainable space for creativity and change in Toronto.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"The arts and culture sector is vital to the generation of wealth and community vitality. (Toronto's Vital Signs®, 2010)

All of our festival programming, whether through performance, artistic showcase, public dialogue, or skills-based learning opportunities, has worked to promote arts and culture, and prove that youth can be at the forefront of development and growth in this sector. As well, our programming has continued to be an example of how facilitating change through the arts is definitely possible, and that through this sector we can continue to inspire new leadership and build community worldwide.

Participant Vignette

“Since 2007, I’ve been involved with and have volunteered at every annual Manifesto Festival, watching, learning and growing from my peers.  Seeing what a group of talented, young artists can do with little funding and a lot of ‘sweat capital’ inspired me to start a similar festival with my friends in Scarbrough: the annual YouNited Festival. YouNited is a really cool festival that gets young Scarberians excited about their community and their city, about experimenting with the arts, and about supporting talented artists from their neighbourhood.  With direct mentorship from the Manifesto team, YouNited planned similar townhall meetings to the ones that gave birth to Manifesto. We folllowed Manifesto’s model to bring the community together, discuss key barriers that youth in Scarborough face, and brainstorm creative solutions to these issues.  Their team helped us create meeting agendas, provide creative direction and templates for our promotions materials, book production, apply for funding and so much more.  By learning from their learnings, we’ve been able to fast-track our process and have grown to a full 5-day festival mirroring the Manifesto blueprint.  Free cultural festivals like this are really rare in my community and I feel blessed to be making history and inspiring hundreds of disengaged kids.” – Norman Alconcel

Town Hall Meetings

Manifesto’s town hall meetings bring people together to create opportunities for dialogue about pertinent issues, expand networks, share information and experiences, and continue building communities. They bridge the gap between generations and sectors, creating a space where young artists, leaders, entrepreneurs, organizations, funders, policy makers, philanthropists, and executives come to listen and to have their voices heard. This in turn creates a shared resource that informs our direction as an organization, equips us with tools to aid in advocacy, and also spins off in unexpected and exciting directions.

Program Impact

The effects of Manifesto's Town Halls have been two-fold. First, they've helped to engage communities and individuals in dialogue surrounding the arts, which has allowed those within and surrounding the sector to become active agents in discussions that directly involve and affect them. Second, our town halls have been spaces where the power of youth leadership has been exemplified, as we've sought to collectively address civic issues (e.g. Beautiful City campaign, Better Ballots campaign) and witnessed how our efforts can create systemic and structural changes.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"Leadership that reflects the city’s diversity helps to strengthen a culture of citizen engagement." (Toronto's Vital Signs®, 2010)

"Almost 7 in 10 Torontonians, and almost 8 in 10 youth, reported a strong sense of belonging to their community in 2013." (Toronto's Vital Signs®, 2015)

By looking at our overall team, from those directing the vision of the organization, to those tirelessly donating their time as volunteers, to those who support our initiatives on various fronts, it is clear that we reflect a diverse leadership devoted to creating change. As such, we are committed to engaging in the necessary steps to see our vision manifest. In this, we actively engage as citizens at multiple levels, thus strengthening the culture of engagement in our city overall.

Participant Vignette

"This was the once piece of hope that a packed room of people in Toronto’s Metro Hall on Wednesday, February 9th were hanging on to. Due to the public concern toward the uncertain future of urban radio in the city, a 'town hall' meeting was put together on Wednesday night by the good folks at Manifesto. It was a chance for people in the hip-hop community to voice their concerns, ideas and solutions regarding the current place of urban music on Canada’s airwaves, and to discuss what can be done to keep CKLN on the air." - Andre Widjaja for "The Come Up Show" (speaking on Manifesto's Town Hall to address the shut-down of the Toronto-based CKLN Radio)

In Conversation with...

Manifesto’s "In Conversaiton with..." speakers series invites notable artists, creators and leaders to discuss the development of their careers, issues of relevance and share valuable lessons with a diverse audience of young people. The series is built with a mentorship framework in mind, which is also reminiscent of our "each one, teach one" philosophy. In the past, we have hosted talks with acclaimed poet and musician Saul Williams, hip hop photographer and leader Brother Ernie Paniccioli, Jamaican film maker Storm Saulter, jazz/soul legend Roy Ayers, and DJ Bobbito Garcia. 

The series has grown siginificantly in 2013. Our space at 37 Bulwer has become a hub for these events and we are proud to have hosted reknowned UK DJ Renegade, activist and journalist Kevin Powell and author Laina Dawes. In partnership with Daniels Spectrum and the Ada Slaight Youth Arts Mentorship Program, the series also presented hip hop up-and-comer Joey Bada$$, filmmaker Donish Prendergast, and award winning poet Warsan Shire.

Funding and Program Partners

Daniels Spectrum

Program Impact

As Manifesto moves towards increasing our year round programming, we look forward to providing further opportunities to connect the stories of established artists with our audience. So far, the series has reached over 400 young people and we are excited to continue growing.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"Education is often the dividing line between those who succeed in Toronto and those who are left behind." (Toronto's Vital Signs®, 2010)

Through our "In Conversation with..." programming, we seek to provide innovative and alternative educational spaces, where young people can connect with established artists. Whether they are burgeoning artists themselves or not, participants are able to learn from the personal experiences of successful leaders and innovators, which can be applied to other aspects of their lives, and help support their growth as individuals.

What You Can Do

Manifesto Festival of Community & Culture

Activities a donation will support

Our goal with the Manifesto Festival is for it to become and internationally recognized festival by, for and with young people, to the same level as a Luminato or a TIFF and we are well on our way.  Our core objective right now financially is to become sustainable.  Any donation to the Manifesto Festival will support our adminstrative and programming staff (most of whom are working mainly voluntarily) so they can focus on work related to Manifesto and not leave for positions elsewhere due to necessity of paid work.  With added funding, we will also look to expand our reach in terms of audience engagement to more communities as well as enhance our overall programming. 

Donation impact

With financial support, Manifesto will be able to retain our highly skilled staff to continue the amazing work they are doing and provide young people who are often under-served a positive outlet to focus their energies and be a part of an annual burst of energy and celebration that resonates throughout the entire year.

Town Hall Meetings

Activities a donation will support

Financial Support will allow us to be responsive to community needs and be able to pay for town hall meeting space, moderators, food, coordinator fee and documentation.

Donation impact

With financial support, Manifesto will be able to acheive two of our core objectives of connecting and communicating which will give the youth arts community a real space to voice their opinions, thoughts, dreams and discuss what barriers we are facing, the solutions to those barriers and ways that we can unify our efforts in building healthier and happier communities.  With the documentation of these dialogues, Manifesto will then be able to communicate with and behalf of the community and advocate to the necessary parties to realize the solutions that were discussed.

In Conversation with...

Activities a donation will support

Financial support will enable us to hire a full time coordinator for the educational department of Manifesto and enable this person to program workshops and learning opportunities for young people throughout the year and during our festival.

Donation impact

With financial support, Manifesto will be able to cultivate a generation of young people in undertanding the arts as a vital tool for building healthier societies and be given the necessary tools and mentorship to become leaders in the arts in their own right.  This will have an impact on our community at large as the arts plays a significant role in mitigating social exclusion and providing economic opportunities for communities.

Contact

Judi Lopez
Managing Director
647.436.8404
Charitable Number: 845828599RR0001

Finance & Governance

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