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Sarah Iley is currently the Manager of Culture for the City of Calgary. Sarah has been involved with Culture Days since the beginning, and now serves as Secretary-Treasurer of the national Board of Directors. An active arts advocate, Sarah co-founded the Canadian Arts Summit, which she continues to serve as Co-Chair of its Advocacy Committee, and also serves on the Steering Committee of the Canadian Arts Coalition. As Manager of Culture for The City of Calgary Sarah is responsible for the City’s investments in culture including the award-winning Public Art program, some 300 annual festivals and events and the $165 million capital infrastructure program which has invested in such new facilities as the National Music Centre, Folk Festival Hall and Decidedly Jazz Dance centre. From 2005-2012 Sarah was Vice-President, Programming, of The Banff Centre. In that role she was directly responsible for all of the Centre’s work in the performing, visual, literary and media arts, including the Banff Summer Arts Festival and commissions and co-productions with such organizations as Calgary Opera, Alberta Ballet, Vancouver Opera and Tafelmusik. She was also responsible for the Centre’s leadership development programs and its research agenda. Prior to joining The Banff Centre, Sarah was President and CEO of Business for the Arts, for a decade. During that time she oversaw the first ever survey of sponsorship of the arts and sports in Canada and designed the Artsvest program to attract businesses to sponsor the arts. Before that, Sarah was the founding administrator of the Ontario Arts Council Foundation (OAC), tasked with building endowment funds for the arts, and was also Manager of Developmental Services at OAC.
Rick was born in Jamaica and moved to Canada when he was 7, landing first in Toronto before his family moved out west and made Edmonton their home. Rick attended Simon Fraser University on a football scholarship and after graduating went on to play 11 years as a professional athlete in the CFL. His first five years were spent with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and the last six seasons saw Rick wear an Edmonton Eskimo Uniform. In 2001 Rick was the recipient of the prestigious 'Tom Pate Memorial Award' as CFL Man of the Year for his outstanding contribution to his team, league and community service. In 2003, Rick was fortunate enough to become a Grey Cup Champion with the Edmonton Eskimos. To this day, Rick remains actively involved with many charities and organizations, including Kids Kottage and Kids with Cancer Society. Rick is currently working with the Government of Alberta as Manager of Special Projects and has recently worked on the 2013 Tour of Alberta and the last two Winter Olympics Cultural Olympiads. Alberta Culture Days fits under the Special Projects and Rick has been a part of overseeing its growth from 100 events in 30 communities in 2008 to over 1500 events in 94 communities in 2013.
Karen has been working in and loving culture for 20 years. As Executive Director for Calgary2012, Calgary’s year as Cultural Capital of Canada, Karen built Canada’s first crowd-funding platform for culture as well as a suite of innovative crowdsourcing and interactive gaming apps that directly engaged thousands of culture loving Calgarians. As a past member of Alberta’s Premier’s Council for the Arts and Partnership and Network Officer for Western Canada for the Canada Council for the Arts, Karen provided her expertise in building and leveraging strong networks to build strategic support for the arts and culture in Alberta and across Canada. She has been on both sides of the fund raising and community investment table as Calgary Arts Development's Director of Resource Development and Director of Community Investment and as the Major Gifts officer for the Banff Centre. Karen is a certified fundraising executive that has served as the Director of Advancement at the Alberta College of Art + Design, Executive Director of ArtsHabitat in Edmonton, Producer of The Works Art & Design festival in Edmonton and as a curator for the Ontario Craft Council. She is proud to call Calgary home and its amazing artists her friends and her inspiration.
Alexis has won numerous awards, recognizing her commitment leading city-building initiatives. She is the Founding Director of The STEPS Initiative, an award-winning public art organization that has been responsible for an array of innovative projects - including the World's Tallest Mural, the unveiling of which was honoured with the Culture Days Innovative Event Award, as well as a social enterprise called PATCH, which installs art on construction sites. She also manages the evaluation activities of the Toronto Enterprise Fund - which supports the establishment of businesses that employ individuals facing systemic barriers in the traditional labour market. In 2011, Alexis was awarded a DiverseCity Fellowship by the CivicAction and the Maytree Foundation. She is currently on the National Program Committee for the 2015 Culture Days Congress, the Adult Committee for the Delisle Youth Services Art Gallery and has also sat on the Advisory Board of the Toronto Arts Council's Neighbourhood Arts Network. She received an MA from the University of Toronto's Department of Geography and Planning and has a particular interest in using art to challenge and change: the ways in which public spaces are currently being used; how citizens communicate on planning issues; and the role of the artist in community development.
Intrigued by the power of visual imagery and the beauty of letterform, Susan graduated as a graphic designer from Sheridan College in 1981. The position of Senior Graphic Designer in the Exhibit Design department at the Royal Ontario Museum played a key role in igniting her love of the arts. In 2000, Susan’s passion and belief in the transformative power of the arts, combined with a vibrant management style, led her to Lakeshore Arts, a grassroots community arts organization in the southwest end of Toronto. For over 20 years she has fostered arts-led educational programming and employment and professional development opportunities for local artists. Under her leadership as Executive Director, the organization has been instrumental in the creation of meaningful and innovative youth programming and multi-generational engagement. Her interest in exploring new ways to combine community building, learning and empowerment continues to be the driving force behind her artistic vision. She contributes to building the vibrancy of the city’s art sector as a resource and committee member: Toronto’s Cultural Plan, Community Arts Action Plan, Arts Day at the City and Creative Spaces outside the Downtown Core project. In 2012, Susan was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her commitment to the arts sector, her volunteerism and impact on the community.
“Communities are classrooms where one can best learn lessons about identity, citizenship, and stewardship,” explains Dr. Rosemary Polegato, “and culture and the arts are powerful conduits of community values and sustenance.” Rosemary puts these perspectives into action in her role as Professor of Marketing at Mount Allison University, and they are clearly evident in the annual Culture Days Project that students in her Arts and Culture Marketing course take to the streets of Sackville, NB. She is an active member of boards, such as Renaissance Sackville and the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada. Rosemary presents regularly at national and international conferences on teaching effectiveness and community-based learning through the arts. Her teaching awards include the 3M National Teaching Fellowship and the Distinguished Teaching Award of the Association of Atlantic Universities.
In 2010, Aubrey spearheaded the launch of the inaugural Culture Days across Ontario and has been leading the project in Ontario ever since. After five successful years as a collaborative project of the arts and culture sector, Ontario Culture Days has incorporated as a not for profit organization. During that time, Ontario Culture Days has grown to include more than 1670 free arts and culture activities in 172 communities across the province. The 5th anniversary of Culture Days was celebrated across Ontario with the project Conduct Us. In 2009, Aubrey was Artistic Producer and Project Manager of spOtlight, a pilot program of the Ontario Arts Council and Ontario’s Ministry of Culture. From 2004-2008, Aubrey was the Programming Director at Trinity Square Video, one of Canada’s oldest artist-run centres where she curated exhibitions of local, national and international artists. Aubrey is also a practicing artist who has shown her artwork internationally and extensively across Canada. She holds a M.A. in Curatorial Studies from Bard College in New York and a B.A. in Visual Arts and Arts Management from the University of Toronto.
Sherry is the publisher of airdrielife magazine and the founder of the Creative Airdrie Society. She has won numerous awards for her ongoing support of the arts including the Airdrie Ambassador Award, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and most recently the 2014 Business Leader of the Year award. In 2011 she was selected by the Airdrie Echo as the most influential person of the year. In 2010 Sherry founded the Creative Airdrie Society and was instrumental in bringing three major public art projects to life in Airdrie. She also founded and chaired the AIRdirondack Art Project and Gala, the annual fundraiser for Creative Airdrie (2010-2014) and is the visionary and co-chair behind Airdrie’s annual arts festival – ARTember, established in 2011. Most recently Sherry created the TD Airdrie Mayor’s Night of the Arts which held its inaugural awards evening Jan 31, 2015. It was a resounding success for the arts community.
Nazanin Shoja is the BC coordinator for Culture Days. She is a graduate of French Language and Literature at the University of Victoria and a graduate of Performing Arts at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis (France) and Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts (Toronto). In 2011, she first joined the Culture Days team as Ontario Culture Days Animator/Coordinator at the Ontario Arts Council, where she also worked in Granting and Outreach, before moving back to her home province of BC. Her diverse background as a multidisciplinary artist, arts administrator and arts outreach worker is a constant drive for advocating for artists and arts communities across the country.
Shawn Van Sluys is the Executive Director of Musagetes, a philanthropic foundation that experiments in small Canadian and European cities with ways to connect communities more deeply with the arts and creativity. The foundation’s mandate is to make the arts more central and meaningful in people’s lives, in their communities and societies. He joined Musagetes as its first Executive Director in January 2009. Prior to that, he was the first Executive Director of the Canadian Art Museum Directors’ Organization, a national arts-service organization that represents 85 museum directors. Shawn studied art history at the University of Lethbridge before taking his first position as the Public Relations Manager at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery. He is the Vice-President of the Guelph Jazz Festival and of the Ammirato Culture House in Lecce, Italy. As a member of the Executive Team of the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI) at the University of Guelph, he leads the Practice-Based Research working group.