Program History

ArtWorksTO – Workforce Development for Young Creatives

Canada has a burgeoning creative sector; in 2010 it represented three percent of Canada’s GDP and 3.7 percent of the national workforce (Canadian Arts Coalition, 2019). However, young people with creative skills face barriers and are under- and unemployed in this sector. Young people have developed skills, talent, and interest in the creative industries through engagement in community-based arts programs and self-directed learning. ArtworksTO will equip youth industry networks, advance skills, provide access to education, and professional work experience opportunities to support access to meaningful employment in creative industries.                

The City of Toronto, in partnership with Neighbourhood Arts Network, created and piloted the ArtWorksTO Project between 2015 and 2020 as part the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy in 2014, Action 1D: "The City of Toronto will invest in youth artists and arts groups to develop youth sensitive and appropriate communication materials (posters, videos, songs, stories, etc.) that will promote key city programs that serve youth needs (at all levels of vulnerability) ...." In January 2019, external consultants reviewed and made recommendations for formalizing and expanding the ArtWorksTO program. A preliminary finding of the report conveyed that ArtWorksTO provides meaningful work experience for youth; connects clients to a difficult-to-access talent pool; connects youth to services; and gives youth a voice in contributing to or creating City communications materials (e.g. brochures, videos, flyers, etc.).      

On March 20, 2020, Toronto Arts Foundation was awarded $1,035,470 in funding from Future Skills Centre to deliver the ArtWorksTO project over two years from June 30, 2020 to June 30, 2022, in partnership with the City of Toronto, the Remix Project, and the Ontario College of Art and Design University.

The expanded ArtWorksTO model is a workforce development program designed to enhance access to employment and entrepreneurship in the media arts and creative industries for young artists identifying as Indigenous, Black and People of Colour (IBPOC) and/or 2SLGBTQ+ :

  • Education & Professional Development: Customized professional development to offer upskilling and credentials in business training for creative industries, including business and project management and in-demand workforce skills for young creatives.
  • Access to Resources & Employment Opportunities: Paid project-based internships to give participants authentic work-integrated learning experiences. A portfolio of additional resources, including Industry expert events, industry mentors from The Remix Project, and integrated supports from the Toronto Youth Partnerships & Employment (TYPE) program will help increase participant success.

The ArtWorksTO program offers young artists identifying as IBPOC, and/or 2SLGBTQ+ with:

  • Portfolio development workshops offered by OCAD U, open to more than 125 youth annually.
    • Youth will learn how to build a strong portfolio for their professional or education goals
    • Includes a hands-on workshop where youth can complete a piece of work to include in their portfolio or learn a new skill to create new work.
  • Core skills education programming through OCAD U's Continuing Studies Non-Credit Certificate in Art and Design Professional Skills, offered to 15 ArtWorksTO participants annually, selected through an application process.               
  • Paid project-based contracts with the City of Toronto and partner organizations, offered annually to the 15 ArtWorksTO participants enrolled in the Core Skills Education component, plus 10 additional participants identified through a Request for Statement of Interests process. Fixed-duration paid project-based internships lasting seven months or less will be developed with the City of Toronto.        
  • Professional development activities and mentorship with industry professionals offered to a minimum of 25 ArtWorksTO participants annually
    • Monthly professional development for cohort 1 youth through continuous learning and engagement opportunities including Master Classes, Industry Panels, and Peer Networking. Participants are teamed with Industry Advisors from The Remix Project, offering participants with technical advice on their project-based internships and career mentorship.                
  • Employment and wrap-around support through the City's Toronto Youth Partnerships & Employment (TYPE) program, offered to 25 ArtWorksTO participants annually. TYPE Youth Outreach Counsellors trained in supporting IBPOC and/or 2SLGBTQ+ youth will be made available to provide wrap-around and employment supports for ArtWorksTO participants.                   


The Toronto Arts Foundation and the City of Toronto have collaborated since 2015 on the development and pilot testing of ArtWorksTO. Through this work, additional partner organizations are filling the gaps to provide effective pathways to employment in the creative industries for vulnerable youth. Project partners include:                                                                                                                      

The Toronto Arts Foundation - Neighbourhood Arts Network (TAF/NAN)                

TAF/NAN is a Toronto-wide network of more than 2,400 members, including artists, arts organizations, cultural workers, and community agencies offering accessible arts programming, awards, and partnership opportunities. TAF/NAN is responsible for the overall coordination and administration of the project including financial management, outreach, participant support, managing internships, communications, data collection, report writing, and industry engagement.                    

City of Toronto – Social Development, Finance & Administration, Youth Development Unit:

The City's Youth Development Unit coordinates several youth violence prevention and youth employment initiatives, including the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy, TYPE, The Toronto Youth Cabinet, and the Toronto Youth Job Corps Program.

Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U)

OCAD U, the largest and most comprehensive art, design, and media university in Canada, is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research, and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines.

The Remix Project

The Remix Project serves youth from under-served communities pursuing the creative industries or further their formal education, providing in-demand alternative, creative, educational programs, facilitators, and facilities.