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Keynote Speakers

Todd Hirsch Chief Economist, ATB Financial and Chair, Alberta Premier’s Council on Culture

Todd Hirsch is ATB Financial's Chief Economist. He holds a BA Honours in Economics from the University of Alberta and an MA in Economics from the University of Calgary. For over 20 years he’s worked as an economist at Canadian Pacific Railway, the Canada West Foundation and the Bank of Canada. For almost a decade, Todd taught economics at the University of Calgary. He released his first book, The Boiling Frog Dilemma: Saving Canada from Economic Decline in 2012.  

Todd provides economic commentary for several Canadian media outlets and is a regular columnist for the Globe and Mail. He currently serves on the Alberta Economic Development Authority, the University of Calgary Board of Governors and is the chair of the Premier's Council on Culture. The federal government honoured Todd for his contribution to the community with the Diamond Jubilee Medal. 

He also writes an economic update that is sent to thousands of subscribers around the world everyday. Its called The Owl and you can subscribe at

Jean Grand-MaîtreArtistic Director, Alberta Ballet

One of the most successful Canadian choreographers of his generation, Jean Grand-Maître assumed the artistic leadership of Alberta Ballet in 2002.

After working internationally for 14 years as an independent choreographer and director, he created and staged new works for many of the world’s most prestigious ballet companies, theatre festivals, circus performers, opera companies, musicals, television specials, and for fi lm. He has been commissioned by renowned ballet companies such as the Opéra National de Paris, the Teatro alla Scala, the Stuttgart Ballet, the National Norwegian Ballet, the Bavarian State National Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, Ballet British Columbia, the National Ballet of Cuba, Ballet Jörgen, and the Hartford Ballet. He was Director of Choreography for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

During his tenure with Alberta Ballet, he has set or choreographed numerous ballets of his own. All have received considerable public and critical acclaim, including Celestial Themes (2002), The Winter Room (2002), Carmen (2003), Cinderella (2004), Dangerous Liaisons (2004), Vigil of Angels (2005), Romeo and Juliet (2005), The Fiddle and The Drum – created with Joni Mitchell (2007), Mozart’s Requiem (2008), Bolero (2009), Love Lies Bleeding (2010) – created with the participation of Sir Elton John, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (2011) – created with the participation of Sarah McLachlan, Chaconne (Bach) for the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Lyon, France (2011), Balletlujah! (2013) – created with the participation of k.d. lang, and Class Acts (2014). He also initiated Up Close – a studio series promoting Alberta’s emerging choreographers.

Congress Host

Gillian SmithChair, the Toronto Public Library Foundation

Gillian is recognized across the not-for-profit, private and public sectors for her notable leadership skills. Her broad and diverse experience, limitless energy and deep community involvement have helped her forge connections with and among many organizations.

Most recently, she served as Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), a national charity that promotes inclusion and citizenship. In this role, she built a national network of more than 1,200 partners to serve the integration needs of Canada’s new citizens in all aspects of Canadian life.  Programs developed under her leadership have served more than 200,000 new citizens to-date.  She rebuilt the ICC’s management team and, together with her co-chairs, transformed the organization’s governance.  What’s more, she put the organization on sound financial footing by significantly ramping up fundraising efforts: over the course of her tenure, revenues more than tripled.

Prior to the ICC, Gillian spent more than fifteen years in the private sector in senior corporate communications and government relations roles, notably with the Royal Bank of Canada and RBC Capital Markets, and Aeroplan (now Aimia). Gillian has built a particular expertise in leading sensitive crisis and issues management files and has done so successfully for a number of private and public sector organizations. 

Throughout her career, Gillian has been responsible for leading board governance and development, executive transitions, strategic planning, affiliate development, political campaigns, as well as serving as the lead spokesperson for a variety of organizations. She has built an extensive, national professional network that spans industries and sectors.

Gillian is very active in the community and sits on the boards of numerous organizations dedicated to the arts and civic life in Canada. She currently serves as Chair of the Toronto Public Library Foundation, Interim Chair of Community Food Centres Canada and is a board director with Business for the Arts and the Canadian Club of Toronto. She is also the proud mother of two-year old twins, Aurélie and Clémentine, is stepmother to Arnaud, and is married to Paul G. Smith.

Awards Dinner Host

Marci Ien Co-Host, CTV's Canada AM 

Marci Ien is a news junkie, a mom of two, a basketball fan and on November, 24, 2011 she became the Co-Host of Canada AM – CTV’s national morning show. Already a familiar face in the mornings, Ien was Canada AM’s News Anchor from 2003 – 2011.

Ien is one of only five alumni to be inducted into the Ryerson University Radio and Television Arts (RTA) 2013 Wall of Fame for her significant contributions to the field of media.  Her career in television spans over three decades and has taken her from Halifax, where she joined CTV National News as a reporter in 1997, to Vancouver, where she was the News Anchor for CTV’s Olympic Morning at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Ien’s charity work has seen her travel across the globe. In 2008, Ien travelled to Sierra Leone on behalf of Journalists for Human Rights, where she met with reporters and led training workshops. She also works with World Vision for whom she traveled to Sri Lanka to report on the situation following the 2004 Tsunami.  Additionally, Ien is a passionate supporter of arts and culture, having sat on the Board of DAREarts, a Canadian not-for-profit organization that uses arts education to empower children to become leaders in their communities.

From 2001 - 2003, Ien was a reporter based in CTV News’s Atlantic bureau. Prior to this, Ien reported for CHCH-TV in Hamilton. In 1995, Ien began reporting at Queen’s Park, covering daily political news for CHCH-TV's regional newscast, as well as its British Columbia-based evening show Canada Tonight. Ien’s first television job was on the Canadian children’s television series Circle Square at the age of 10.Ien currently resides in Toronto with her family. Follow her on twitter @MarciIen

Speakers and Breakout Workshop Presenters

Barry Avrich Partner, BT/A,CEO Melbar Entertainment Group

Barry Avrich has been a marketing executive and film and television director/producer for over 30 years. Avrich has been responsible for thousands of cultural marketing campaigns for clients such as TIFF, AGO, the Stratford Festival, Luminato, Eone Entertainment and The Royal Winter Fair. Barry was awarded the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2007. Barry is also the author of three entertainment marketing books including the best selling SELLING THE SIZZLE: The Magic and Logic of Entertainment Marketing. As a film director and producer Barry is known for such acclaimed films The Last Mogul, Unauthorized: Inside Harvey Weinstein and The Tempest and Caesar Cleopatra starring Christopher Plummer. Barry has served as director of The Toronto International Film Festival Group for 15 years and the Canadian Opera Company and currently serves as director of HotDocs, The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television and Culture Days.

Brent Barootes President and CEO, Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists™

Brent Barootes is President and CEO of the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists™, a national sponsorship consulting firm that specializes in assisting arts and cultural organizations as well as municipalities, charities, education, pro and amateur sport with revenue development through corporate sponsorship. In the past 25 years Brent has worked directly or indirectly as well with many Canadian brands and corporations to assist them in gaining excellent return on their sponsorship investments while supporting and filling the coffers of small and large arts and cultural organizations and others through effective sponsorship programs. Brent annually delivers over 30 keynote and workshop session across Canada sharing best practices and challenging groups to think outside the box to become more self-sustainable from a revenue perspective. Examples of such presentations include ones to such organizations as the Conference Board of Canada, Festivals and Events Ontario, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Alberta Parks and Recreational Association and others. Brent is also the author of Canada’s #1 book on sponsorship - Reality Check – Straight Talk about Sponsorship Marketing. 

Todd BabiakCo-Founder, Story Engine

Todd Babiak is co-founder of Story Engine, a company based in Edmonton and Vancouver. Story Engine uses narrative as the basis for business strategy — for organizations, for leaders, for places. He has written five novels, four of them bestsellers. The latest, Come Barbarians, was published in late 2013 by HarperCollins. He is a founding board member of Startup Edmonton, chair of the Alliance Française of Edmonton, a fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and vice-chair of the Premier's Council on Culture.

Grant BergMember, Premier's Council on Arts and Culture

Grant Berg has been in the broadcast industry for 26 years. Based in the Grande Prairie area for the past 23 years Grant is also a sculptor juried into the Alberta Society of Artists and a member of the former Premier’s Council on Arts and Culture. He was chairman of the board of the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie from 2010-2012 and currently sits on the board of the Sexsmith Museum Society and the Sexsmith Municipal Historical Advisory Board. Grant’s areas of cultural interest range from the arts, heritage, music and Métis culture to sport and recreation.

Jordan Coble Curatorial and Heritage Researcher, Sncəwips Heritage Museum

Jordan Coble achieved his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of British Columbia-Okanagan in the faculty of Creative and Critical Studies as a Cultural Studies Major. Jordan is the Curatorial and Heritage Researcher for the Sncəwips Heritage Museum. Jordan is a proud WFN Community Member and presented the Nsyilxcən Language Lessons at the Museum during Westside Culture Days 2014.

John Dolphin Writing Specialist, Strategic Writing Unit, Public Affairs Bureau, Government of Alberta

John Dolphin has written everything from tweets to congratulatory messages to keynote speeches for MLAs, cabinet ministers and premiers. Despite the usual need to address provincial government writing to “all Albertans,” John has found that a key to effective communication is knowing who you want your writing to “grab” – in other words, in finding your audience.

John is a writing specialist with the Alberta Public Affairs Bureau. He joined the Government of Alberta as a public affairs officer with the Culture and Tourism ministry in 2009, after a varied career that included freelance writing, technical writing and historical interpretation.

Casey Edmunds President, RAFA

Casey Edmunds is a multidisciplinary artist (dance, vocal) from Edmonton. He sings with Pro Coro Canada and dances with Vinok Worldance Co. He is also the current president of the RAFA (Alberta's Francophone Arts association). He is interested in issues affecting Alberta’s Francophone community, the nonprofit sector and youth within culture.

Eric and Mia interdisciplinary Visual Artists

Eric Moschopedis and Mia Rushton are award-winning interdisciplinary visual artists, facilitators, and community organizers. By combining the playfulness of childhood chums with the scrutiny of ethnographers, we create community-specific, relational, and participatory works that invite audiences to become active agents in the creation of community. Throughout the last seven years, we have developed a collaborative practice that operates in both a gallery and post-gallery context. Our projects, workshops, artist talks, and lectures have been presented in formal and DIY festivals, galleries, and post-secondary institutions throughout North America and in Europe. In 2014 we began working with skateboarders, community associations, Calgary Police Services, and the City of Calgary’s Recreation Department to initiate engagement around eight new skateboard parks.

Paul Joliat Assistant Vice-President, Philanthropy & Sponsorships, Sun Life Financial

Paul joined Sun Life Financial in 2010 as Director, Sponsorship & Marketing. In 2014, Paul was appointed to his current position as Assistant Vice-President, Philanthropy & Sponsorships. He has more than 15 years of sponsorship marketing experience and worked in the agency world developing sponsorship, activation and community relations strategies and programs for well-known Canadian companies and numerous arts & entertainment, sports and not-for-profit organizations. Paul holds an honors degree from the University of Guelph (Psychology major, Music minor) and an MBA from the University of Alberta.

During his tenure at Sun Life, Paul has had significant achievements leading our national sponsorship and philanthropy strategies  and has enhanced Sun Life’s reputation and profile across the country. Here are a few highlights: Paul led the development of our signature Diabetes strategy, and as part of its activation introduced inventive new tactics such as screening clinics at Sun Life sponsored events, the ‘Kick Diabetes’ program with the Canadian Football League (CFL), and a diabetes prevention pilot program with our Group Benefits team. He also spearheaded the Sun Life Grey Cup Fan March, the groundbreaking fan interaction experience that also raised awareness of our commitment to Diabetes across Canada.

On the arts front, Paul has significantly increased Sun Life’s awareness of the award-winning Making the Arts More Accessible™ program. He was instrumental in Sun Life’s recent partnership and support of the Sarah McLachlan School of Music. This donation is part of a larger vision to support music education schools across Canada.

Paul has also helped increase our profile in Waterloo – home of Sun Life’s Canadian headquarters – through initatives such as the Sun Life Financial Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival and Sun Life Financial Waterloo Busker Carnival.

Stephanie Kaduck Coordinator, Education and Public Programs, Swift Current Museum

Stephanie Kaduck began working at Swift Current Museum 12 years ago in the position of Education & Public Programs. Swift Current Museum has a permanent exhibit that talks about the relationship between people and the land from 9,000 years ago to the present day. It has a temporary exhibit space that changes shows every 2 or 3 months. The museum also has an extensive natural history collection. Programs for Pre-K to seniors deal with both social and natural history.

Prior to joining the Swift Current Museum, Kaduck (who holds a BFA from Queen’s University and an MFA from University of Saskatchewan) taught as a sessional instructor (U of S) and with Dept of Extension (U of A, U of R), worked as an art gallery educator and as a Teacher’s Assistant (Special Needs). Stephanie is also an active professional artist. Stephanie is married and has two adult children.

Pam MacKenzieCulture Days Community Organizer, District of Timiskaming, Ontario

I am a volunteer at heart. During both my professional career as a Developmental Services Worker and Life Skills Supervisor, and in my 20 years of retirement, I have volunteered for the CNIB, The Canadian Cancer Society, The Heart and Stroke Foundation, and spent the last five years as a Victim Services volunteer in Temiskaming Shores. I became involved in Culture Days in 2011 when I organized a single activity for my husband’s art group. Subsequently, I organized events in the District of Timiskaming from 2012 to 2015 and now have begun organizing in the District of Muskoka. In 2014, two towns in Timiskaming ranked #1 and #3 in the Culture Days top 10 list of Rural Communities and the District ranks 9th in the Ontario listing of regions, a major accomplishment for a rural region. As an amateur artist who makes art quilts and draws portraits I believe Culture Days events are unexplored opportunities that create a pathway for people to broaden their horizons.

Darren O’Donnell Founder and Artistic and Research Director, Mammalian Diving Reflex

Darren O’Donnell is an urban cultural planner, novelist, essayist, playwright, director, designer and performer.  He holds a BFA in theatre, a M.Sc. in urban planning and is a graduate of the Shiatsu School of Canada’s professional training program, where he studied both Western and Chinese medicine.

He is the founder and Artistic and Research Director of Mammalian Diving Reflex. His books include: Social Acupuncture (2006), which argues for aesthetics of civic engagement and Your Secrets Sleep with Me (2004), a novel about difference, love and the miraculous. His stage-based works include White Mice (1998), [boxhead] (2000), A Suicide-Site Guide to the City (2004), Diplomatic Immunities (2007), All the Sex I’ve Ever Had (2012) and Promises to a Divided City (2014). His performance works include Nightwalks with Teenagers, Haircuts by Children, Eat the Street and The Children’s Choice Awards.

Mammalian Diving Reflex is a research-art atelier based in Toronto conducting culturally explorative work since 1993. The artists of Mammalian are committed to the creation of "social acupuncture"—playful, provocative, site-specific, and social-specific participatory performances that extend the reach of theater-based productions, gallery-based participatory installations, video products, art objects, and theoretical texts. The team has successfully carried their energies into the fields of urban planning, writing, directing, art history, education, photography, videography, filmmaking, acting, playwriting, and qualitative and quantitative research. Darren’s and Mammalian’s work has been presented and exhibited around the world.

Lucille PaceyPresident and CEO, Arts Umbrella

Lucille Pacey is President & CEO of Arts Umbrella, Canada’s visual and performing arts institute for young people ages 2 to 19. Arts Umbrella began in 1979 with four classes and 45 children.  It has since grown to reach more than 21,500 children a year – with two-thirds participating through free outreach, bursary and scholarship programs.

Lucille’s experience in education and technology covers 30 years.  As Vice-President of the Open Learning Agency, she directed operating responsibility for the Open University, Open College, Open School and BC’s Knowledge Network. As an education-sector consultant, Lucille worked with the Reed Midem Organization in Paris, helping to launch an international market for educational services.

Lucille holds a Master's degree in Educational Administration from the University of Alberta. She has participated in many policy development initiatives for the social uses of technology, and sits on various boards and associations. These include serving as President of the Canadian Association for Distance Education, founding President of Art Starts in Schools, Chair of the CANARIE Board, and Co-chair of the Culture Days BC Task Force. Currently, Lucille chairs the Culture Days National Board and sits on the BC Forum Executive for the International Women’s Forum.

Janice Price President, The Banff Centre

Janice Price became President of The Banff Centre on March 16th, 2015. She most recently served as CEO of the Luminato Festival, Toronto's Festival of Art and Creativity, an organization she led since its inception in 2006. As the Festival's Founding CEO, Price helped Luminato become one of the world's largest and most respected annual multi-arts festivals. The Festival reaches over 800,000 audience members annually, and in its first eight seasons the Festival commissioned 75 new works. Previous to Luminato, Price was the President and CEO of The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia from 2002-2006, and prior to that position she was Vice President of Marketing and Communications and then Interim Executive Director at New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Prior to her professional engagements in the United States, Price held senior positions at a number of Toronto arts organizations, including the Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts and The Corporation of Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall. From 1992 - 1996, Price was the Director of Marketing and Special Projects for the Stratford Festival.

Janice Price also served as Chair of the Board of Directors for the Festivals and Major Events (FAME) coalition of large Canadian festivals, and as a member of the board of Festivals and Events Ontario where she served on the advocacy and education committees. She is also a member of the National Board of Culture Days.

Tracy Satin  Heritage Officer and Curator, Westbank First Nation

Tracy Satin is a trained archaeologist and artifact conservator and has spent her working career dedicated to the preservation of world cultural heritage. Prior to coming to Kelowna in 2004, Tracy worked at the International Center for Conservation in Rome, Italy and the Smithsonian Institutions’ National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Tracy started working with Westbank First Nation (WFN) as their Heritage Officer and Curator in January 2013. Prior to working full-time with WFN, Tracy worked on a number of contracts with the Community to ensure that the vision of a WFN and a Syilx Nation centred Museum would and could grow from a sound foundation based on museum best practice and cultural awareness and experience. The Sncəwips Heritage Museum opened its doors on June 14th, 2014 and has been a driving force in the arts, culture and heritage community ever since. Helping to coordinate Westside Culture Days between WFN and the District of West Kelowna was an enlightening and inspiring experience for Tracy and one that she will definitely repeat. Tracy is extremely proud and honoured to work with WFN and is eager to see the Sncəwips Heritage Museum grow and flourish.

Alissa Schwartz, MSW, PhD Principal, Solid Fire Consulting

Dr. Schwartz is an independent organizational consultant with a practice in strategy planning and design, participatory facilitation, and program evaluation. Much of her practice is with organizations focused on social justice and human rights, arts and culture, or children and youth. Principal of Solid Fire Consulting (, she is passionate about building vibrant non-profit, social, and philanthropic communities.

Dr. Schwartz uses inclusive, interactive processes in her work, addressing the organizational design and learning needs of complex systems and multiple stakeholders. Drawing from participatory methodologies, she builds strategy with engaged, motivated teams; crafts meetings and retreats that are productive and exciting; and designs and produces useful, humanistic program evaluations.

Dr. Schwartz has provided strategy planning, evaluation, and facilitation services with varied clients and settings, including foundations, universities, community-based organizations, non-profits, and international organizations. Current and prior clients (non-exhaustive list) include: 92nd Street Y, Joshua Venture Group; American Evaluation Association; The Opportunity Agenda; The United Nations; and Animating Democracy. Dr. Schwartz is an active member of the international Art of Hosting Meaningful Conversations community, as well as the American Evaluation Association.

Prior to developing her own practice, Dr. Schwartz was the Director of Evaluation for Palladia, Inc. There, she developed the evaluation department for this $50 million non-profit agency with 29 programs and nearly 500 employees. Dr. Schwartz also teaches graduate-level courses in program evaluation, facilitation, and community engagement at Hunter and Burlington Colleges. She is also co-editing and contributing an article to a special issue of New Directions in Evaluation that is focused on the intersectionalities of evaluation and facilitation.

Dr. Schwartz holds an M.S.W. from the University of Washington and a Ph.D. from Columbia University, where she studied organizational psychology and behavior. Her B.A. from Wesleyan University is in theater directing. She has over twenty-five years of non-profit organizational experience.

Debbie Schoctor  President, Archives Society of Alberta

Debby Shoctor is an Edmonton archivist, performer, teacher, writer, fundraiser and has served on many cultural community boards, including the Edmonton Heritage Council. She is currently president of the Archives Society of Alberta and vice president of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton. Debby has a particular passion for new Albertans, heritage and building sustainability models for nonprofit organizations. Her most recent success was raising the funds and leading a project to create a Jewish museum at Fort Edmonton.

Kelly Stahl  Senior Advisor, Economic Development and Tourism, City of Brampton

Kelly Stahl has over 14 years of experience working in Economic Development in the municipal sector. In her current role as Senior Advisor with the City of Brampton's Economic Development and Tourism Office, Kelly manages the implementation of the HACE strategy, a City initiative designed to retain and grow the Heritage, Arts, Culture and Entertainment sectors in the City. With a Masters Certificate in Municipal Leadership from the Schulich School of Business, Kelly brings a wealth of experience and strong leadership skills to the development of key programs that support the growth of a creative economy, including the encouragement of grassroots participation and community engagement in the Culture Days weekend, and the successful launch of Brampton's first Makerspace. A community organizer at heart, Kelly believes in the power of collaboration and works with diverse stakeholders to help the creative community thrive.

Michael SullivanFounding Partner, The Strategic Counsel


Michael Sullivan is a founding partner of The Strategic Counsel. His career has encompassed a wide range of responsibilities, including academic research and university teaching, in-house researcher for a major Canadian corporation, and, prior to Strategic Counsel, ten years as a senior executive with another major market research organization. In all of these functions, Michael has brought his enthusiasm for research, and his skills and insight as a researcher, to bear in assisting organizations to find research based solutions to their problems.

Michael has a great love and interest in the arts and has undertaken a substantial number of market/audience research projects for arts organizations. This has included the largest study to date of the cultural industries in Canada, which involved extensive surveys of the public and audiences and was designed to provide better tools for arts marketers (The Canadian Arts Consumer profile).  Specific clients have included: the Stratford Festival, Shaw Festival, Culture Days, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington D.C., Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Opera, Canadian Stage, the Art Gallery of Ontario,  Just for Laughs, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Jewish Museum, the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, The Kimmel Center of Philadelphia, the Miami Performing Arts Centre, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Toronto International Film Festival and the Luminato Festival.    


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