Emergence 2023 Presenters

Emma Bugg (she/her) is a PhD student in Dalhousie University's Interdisciplinary PhD program. She holds a Master of Environmental Studies from Dalhousie and was one of five researchers in residence contributing to the Mass Culture Arts’ Civic Impact research project. Through this project, Emma explored the intersections of art, climate change, and environmental sustainability by working in residence with CreativePEI to develop an impact framework to better understand, amplify, and enhance the contributions of the arts towards addressing the climate crisis. Prior to beginning her studies at Dalhousie University, Emma worked at the Ottawa based non-profit Evidence for Democracy as the Communications and Campaigns Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Honours from the University of Saskatchewan.

Julián Carvajal (he/him) is a multifaceted, colourful and vibrant queer Latin Canadian Arts Manager/Producer with over 22 years of experience managing and delivering a diverse portfolio of arts festivals and cultural events that celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion. He has worked across the City of Toronto leading large high-level events, coordinating personnel, producing shows, and developing marketing concepts, allied with experience in budgeting, managing staff, and building strong community and media relations across cultural boundaries. He strives to work on projects that can transform the City of Toronto’s cultural landscape and can showcase the diversity and strength of the City’s unique spirit for residents and tourists.

Jaene F. Castrillon (he/she/they) is a multi-disciplinary artist who explores her relationship to the world through various spiritual teachings and the wisdom of the land. As a mixed race (Colombian/Hong Kong Chinese) queer woman of color living with disabilities, her work combines art and activism with spirituality to open a dialogue on ideas of wellness and illness. Jaene’s believes in sharing the brilliance and heart-break of living a life less ordinary.


Bonnie Devine (she/her) is a visual artist and writer. An off-reserve member of the Anishinaabek of Genaabaajing (Serpent River) First Nation, Devine’s work emerges from the storytelling and image-making traditions that are central to Anishinaabe culture. Devine’s cross disciplinary practice combines written, sculptural, painted, and performative gestures to explore issues of land and history. Though formally educated in sculpture and installation art at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD U) and York University, Devine’s most enduring learning came from her grandparents, who were trappers on the Canadian Shield in northern Ontario. Devine was awarded a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2021. She is an Associate Professor Emerita and the Founding Chair of the Indigenous Visual Culture program at OCAD University.

Nehal El-Hadi (she/her) is the Science + Technology editor at The Conversation in Canada and editor-in-chief of Studio magazine. Her writing has appeared in Brick, CBC Arts, Real Life, and Guernica. She completed a Ph.D. in Planning at the University of Toronto, where she examined the relationships between user-generated content and everyday public urban life. Her current research projects explore human-sand relations, the cultural impact of white sandalwood environmental regulations, and the long-term implications of surveillance. Nehal currently holds a residency at Toronto’s Theatre Centre, where she is developing a live arts event that explores surveillance, privacy, and consent.

Melissa Foster (she/her) a graduate of the Community Arts Practice Certificate and a BA (hons) in Theatre Studies from York University, Melissa has led and collaborated on numerous community arts projects over the years. She has developed and facilitate arts programs both abroad and within Toronto. She has close to 20 years of experience working in both the art and social service sector. Melissa's current interest is how we integrate play and art into the social fabric of our society. Melissa has worked at North York Arts since 2014, she is currently the Director of Development. This is where she first met and collaborated with Veronica Johnny and is thrilled to be working with her again.

Paola Gómez (she/her) is a trained Human Rights lawyer, Community Organizer, Public Speaker, an Artist Facilitator, a writer and a dreamer. Paola is involved in causes such as Ending Violence against Women and Forced Migration as well as Community engagement. Paola is the Co-Founder and Program Director MUSE Arts, a Community Arts organization working with newcomer and refugee artists and communities focused on community and peace building. Paola has received several awards such as Toronto Community Foundation VITAL PEOPLE, Amina Malko Award, City of Toronto Human Rights Award, and Skills for Change Pioneers for Change Excellence in the Arts award, amongst others. Paola is a professor at Centennial College.

Karen Harkins (she/her) has a strong background in gallery and museum-based arts education, experience with facility management, excellent and proven community engagement and stakeholder relation skills and hands-on project management capabilities. Karen Is at her best as part of a team, where she can use her unique skills and talents both to lead and to collaborate on work that fits with her values. Karen has gained a reputation for having highly developed interpersonal skills, professionalism and for infusing creativity into all that she does

Veronica Johnny (she/her) is a multi-disciplinary artist, Indigi-Queer, Cree/Dene, 2Spirit woman. She’s an arts educator, producer, and female entrepreneur. Ms. Johnny is a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and presently lives in Ontario. She is Cree-Metis on her mother's side and Dene-Scottish on her father's side, and has many other bloodline relations. She’s a performer, workshop facilitator, musician, hand-drummer, speaker and visual artist and the frontwoman, co-producer, and manager of The Johnnys. Known for their high-energy performances, The Johnnys are an Indigenous-fronted rock’n’roll band featuring music with cheeky lyrics & anthemic choruses on fun, environment, social & political change. As a music producer and audio engineer, Veronica has worked with youth, women, and her own music projects. As an arts entrepreneur, Veronica’s the founder of IndigenEd which focuses on lifting female Indigenous voices & stories through music, film & workshops. IndigenEd strives to create understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people through interactive arts-education and performance events, both in-person & virtual, for all ages.

Vladimir Kanic (he/him) Vladimir Kanic’s living sculptures use spectators’ breath as food and convert it into oxygen while
mitigating the effects of climate change. The artist utilizes the biological processes of living algae
to capture carbon dioxide, create oxygen, and purify the air from toxins. The sculptures housing
the living algae are made from algae fibers grown from carbon dioxide exhaled by spectators at
the exhibition sites. They bring attention to global environmental problems while providing
hope and solution for climate emergency. Kanic’s worldbuilding practice imagines living algae
sculptures as beacons of decarbonised future, where social and climate justice are collaborative
public acts as essential as breathing.Kanic studied Interdisciplinary Arts at OCAD University in Toronto where he was awarded
Governor General’s Award for his accomplishments. He is currently completing the MFA
program in Visual Arts at York University

Paddy Leung (they/them) is a genderqueer, neurodivergent, second-generation, Canadian Chinese artist, educator, and activist. Working with drawing and painting, mixed media, sculpture, and installation. Paddy works from a unique perspective of strength-based, community change and experimental art forms, and ideas through an activist lens to support various communities with diverse life experiences and navigating multiple intersections of identities. Paddy’s practice has focused largely on providing customized community art-based programs, primarily for young people with lived experience on the margins. Working with the Art Gallery of Ontario, VIBE Arts, The 519, North York Arts, Xpace Cultural Center, and Design Exchange, among others, Paddy is helping to transform the landscape of Toronto’s community arts scene.

Julius Lindsay (he/him) is the Director of Sustainable Communities at the David Suzuki Foundation. He leads the Foundation’s work to accelerate and raise the ambition of climate action in cities across the place now known as Canada. He is also a co-founder of the Black Environmentalist Alliance, an organization that seeks to champion black people in the environmental profession, provide a safe space for peer-to-peer engagement to have real conversations and share experiences, and to advocate for environmental justice for Black Canadians now and in the future. Julius is also a 2022 Next generation Foresight Practitioner Fellow and received their Inaugural Existential Risk award and is a 2023 Future Fellow for the Future of Canada Project at McMaster University to support work on the Prismatic Project.

Charmaine Lurch (she/her) is a conceptual artist whose paintings, sculptures, and social engagement reveal the intricacies and complexities of the relationships between us and our environments. Her sculptures, installations, and interventions contend with explorations of space and light and invite analysis into overwhelmingly complex and urgent racial, ecological, and historical understandings. Lurch has exhibited beyond and throughout Canada, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, the Massillon Museum in Ohio, the National Gallery of Jamaica, and an exhibition at WEAD/Platform 3 in Iran. Lurch’s works, acquired by Global Affairs Canada, were exhibited at EXPO 2021 in Dubai, and her pieces have been shown in Canadian embassies and consulates globally.

Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone (she/her), just as her name suggests, is an elemental force. Her lyrics and melodies flow out of her like the crystal clear medicine water that she is. She is rooted in her Anishinaabe heritage and proudly identifies as a mixed ancestry being; embodying all the beauty of Ojibwe, Irish, and French bloodlines. Proudly walking with the heartbeat of her hand drum. She brings a unique take on Blues music and has created her own genre, IndigiBlues; inspired by her life stories as an IndigiQueer person overcoming intergenerational trauma, mental health, addictions, homelessness, and violence. Woven together with unforgettable harmonies and the soothing sounds of strings. In essence, Aqua has taken her soul music made of magic and shared it with the world.

Adam Quang (he/him) is an accomplished interdisciplinary artist, designer, and author with over 20 years of experience. He serves as the fashion director for Hollywood North Style Lounge and is a prominent advocate for sustainable fashion. Adam has been honored with the Excellence Young Quebec Designers Award and has showcased his work at prestigious events including Design Miami/Art Basel, T.I.F.F, and various fashion weeks in Canada. Additionally, he brings his expertise as a costume FX textile artist for Star Trek: Discovery.


Kat Singer, BA, BFA, MSW (they/them) is a multiply neurodivergent interdisciplinary artist, scholar, facilitator, activist, and mental health professional residing in Tkaronto. Kat's interests include disability justice, community building, and healing through the arts.




Cole Swanson (he/him) is an artist and educator based in Toronto/Tkaronto, Ontario. Through a multidisciplinary, collaborative, and materially-focused practice, he explores the complex relations emerging between creatures living together in tension amidst the so-called Anthropocene. Swanson’s work opens to multiple ways of knowing; he often learns from/with conservationists, scientists, community partners, and more-than-human actors to inform critical aspects of the creative process. Swanson is undertaking PhD research in the Environmental Studies Program at York University where is engaged in multispecies and arts-based research into Toronto’s massive and maligned double-crested cormorant colony. He is a faculty member in Humber College’s Faculty of Media and Creative Arts.