Mentor in Residence

Many artists have been forced to cancel and postpone event based presentations, exhibitions, and other activities essential to their professional practices as a result of COVID-19. In partnership with North York ArtsWorkinCulture, Tangled Arts, and Airsa, we present a digital Mentor in Residence program to support the re-desiging and reimagining of artistic work.

The Mentor in Residence program assists artists with developing community arts practices by providing mentorship support in career planning, project development and entrepreneurial skills through virtual consultation sessions with industry professionals.

Mentor meetings are being delivered over Zoom and/or phone calls while we observe social distancing. Let us know if there is a diffeent method of technology that works best for you when you connect with your mentor. You can note your preferred method of communication and any accomodation requests when you register through the link below.

After reviewing available mentors, please sign up by clicking the register button.


Meet the Mentors

Melissa Foster, Program and Outreach Director, North York Arts

Melissa joined North York Arts in 2014 and has since worked on numerous initiatives to provide opportunities for artistic participation within the community. Melissa has over 15 years working in various roles throughout the public sector. In her career, she has collaborated on several community arts projects and facilitated arts programs both abroad and within Toronto. Her primary focus is on the development and implementation of professional support services for artists; looking towards creating sector-wide collaborations and community-driven, participatory arts-based programming. Melissa holds a BA (hons) in Theatre Studies as well as a Community Arts Practice Certificate from York University. She also holds a post-degree diploma in Arts Management from          Western University.

Connect with Melissa if you:

  • Have an idea for a project but you don’t know how to get started
  • Have a project/program and you need to talk it out with someone
  • Want to explore the idea of working across sectors or if you are working in a sector outside the arts but want to incorporate more arts into your workplace
  • Want to improve your public speaking skills
  • Working on a grant and need some help or are not sure how to get started

Cecilia Garcia, Program and Volunteer Manager, North York Arts

Cecília is an arts manager and multidisciplinary emerging artist, with a focus in community arts and most recently textile arts. Originally from Brazil, Cecilia holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in film studies from the Federal University of Santa Catarina and has built a diverse portfolio working in the Brazilian film industry.

After arriving in Canada in 2014, Cecilia was fascinated by the Canadian cultural landscape; her experience as a volunteer in the sector drew her to pursue a career in arts management. Cecília received a diploma in arts management from Western University and has since worked and volunteered with multiple arts organizations in Toronto. Currently, Cecília is the Program and Volunteer Manager at North York Arts, and she sits on the Board of Directors of CONOSER. Cecilia is offring consultations in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Connect with Cecilia if you:

  • Have an idea for a project but you don’t know how to get started
  • Have a project/program and you need to talk it out with someone
  • Are a Newcomer or emerging artist and are looking for some peer mentorship to navigate the sector. (I have more experience with visual arts and community arts, but happy to help with some directions in other practices and mediums as well.)

Sean Lee, Director of Programming at Tangled Art + Disability

Sean Lee is an artist and curator exploring the notion of disability art and accessibility as the last avant-garde. His methodology reframes embodied difference as a means to resist traditional aesthetic idealities. Orienting towards a “crip horizon”, Sean gestures towards the transformative possibilities of a world that desires the way disability can disrupt.

Sean holds a B.A. in Arts Management and Studio from the University of Toronto, Scarborough and is currently the Director of Programming at Tangled Art + Disability. Previous to this role, he was Tangled’s inaugural Curator in Residence (2016) as well as Tangled’s Gallery Manager (2017). Sean was involved with the launch of Tangled Art Gallery, and has been integral to countless exhibitions and public engagements throughout his tenure at Tangled Art + Disability.

In addition to his position at Tangled, Sean is an independent curator, lecturer, and advisor, adding his insights and perspectives to conversations surrounding Disability Arts across Canada and the United States. Sean currently sits on the board of CARFAC Ontario, Creative Users Projects and is a member of the Ontario Art Council’s Deaf and Disability Advisory Committee and Toronto Art Council's Visual and Media Arts Committee.

Areas of expertise include:

  • Disability arts and culture
  • Accessible curation
  • Crip aesthetics

 Aitak Sorahitalab, Visual Artist, Arts Educator & Arts Administrator, Airsa

Aitak Sorahitalab is a contemporary visual artist, arts educator and arts manager with more than a decade of experience in all fields. As a creator, Aitak has received public and private commissions for producing ceramic art (bas-relief) in Iran, and mural paintings in Toronto. She has also exhibited her sculptural work and installations in group and solo shows and worked with various art organizations as a jury and committee member in Iran and Canada. As an educator, she has worked with diverse communities, newcomers, children with disavilities, and marginalized populations. Passionate about social development, Aitak was an art director of an NGO in Iran and co-founded Airsa, a non-profit organization in Toronto, to help and support artists new to Toronto.

Connect with Aitak if you are a newcomer artist and would like to:

  • Discuss where to start in your new journey
  • Learn about grants in Canada,
  • Register a non-profit arts organization
  • Learn more about Canada's ceramic industry
  • Connect with other peer newcomer artists and art workers
  • Learn about Aitak's experiences as a newcomer artist and art worker

Mona Afshari, Marketing & Communications Manager, WorkInCulture

Over the last fifteen years, Mona Afshari has worked as a marketer, art administrator, and art educator in Ontario, Québec, the Northwest Territories, and Washington D.C., developing and implementing strategic plans as well as programs for diverse audiences. She has a Bachelor’s in Visual Arts and Art History from Western University, a Master’s in Art Education from Concordia University, and a Graduate Diploma in Management from McGill University. Mona is passionate about bridging the gap between the arts and business through her marketing efforts. As the Marketing & Communications Manager at WorkInCulture she supports the professional lives of artists, creatives, and cultural workers. 

Previous Mentors

Jessica Watkin, PhD Candidate, ABD, Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies

Jessica Watkin is a PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto's Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. She is a Blind, Disabled, multi/interdisciplinary artist whose research focuses on the experience of Disabled Artists in Canada creating performance and their support networks. She is an Accessibility Designer and Consultant, Disability Dramaturg, Facilitator, Educator, and Mentor. She has a forthcoming anthology of Disability Plays with Playwright's Canada Press in Fall 2021. Consultations with Jess are booked at request.

Offerings for individuals and organizations, prioritizing/specializing in supporting Disabled artists or Disability organizations include:

  • Time management / flexible time design
  • Accessibility Design, Disability Justice, Disability Protocols Online/IRL
  • Leadership Skills in the Arts
  • Professional Development and Networking skills (online and IRL)

Mick Brambilla, Program Manager, UrbanArts

Mick Brambilla is an enthusiastic arts worker with expertise in grant writing, community outreach, research, and event production. He joined the UrbanArts team in 2017 and has led many community-based project with the organizations since becoming a team member. Mick believes in the transformative power of arts in communities. He is an original collective member of Long Winter Music and Arts Festival which has received international acclaim from Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. He worked as a music producer for SummerWorks Performance Festival. He has also done development work for Paper Bag Records and the Canadian Intern Association.

Mick was born in Winnipeg and moved to Toronto to complete his Master’s in Art History at the University of Toronto. He has been working in the arts and music community of the city ever since.

Cyborg Circus Project

Shay Erlich is a hard of hearing, multiply disabled, community-engaged artist and wheelchair dancer. Jenna Roy is a wheelchair dancer and performance artist. Shay and Jenna are the co-founders of The Cyborg Circus Project, a community art and social service organization for by and for disabled artists. The Cyborg Circus Project creates opportunities to engage in disability-centred arts and movement practices for folks at all levels of practice, with an emphasis on recreational and community programming. The Cyborg Circus Project has performed original disability dance work both locally and internationally including In Situ 2018, NextFest 2019 and the Contact Dance International Film Festival 2019. 

Stephanie Draker, Program Manager, WorkInCulture

Stephanie joined the WorkInCulture team in 2015 and has since worked on numerous initiatives to support the career advancement of artists and arts workers throughout Ontario. Stephanie is a motivated, creative, and results-focused arts manager with over 14 years of experience working in various roles throughout the arts and culture sector. In her role with WorkInCulture, Stephanie oversees the development, delivery, and evaluation of a range of programs, projects, and partnerships focused on supporting life-long career development and business skills training for people who work in the arts. Stephanie holds a BFA from York University and a Project Management Certificate from Humber College. Stephanie sits on the Ontario Nonprofit Network Decent Work Committee and provides advisory support for the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council’s Professional Immigrant Networks initiative.  Stephanie is committed to enhancing the capacity of the arts and culture sector and the people who work in it. Consultations with Stephanie are booked at request.

Derek Spooner, Executive Director, Scarborough Arts

Derek Spooner, M.A., joined the team at Scarborough Arts in 2018 and has since had the privilege of working alongside talented colleagues, community members, collectives and artists in delivering several community arts projects and installations in Scarborough. Derek has been working for 16 years in the non-profit, post-secondary and corporate sectors with a focus on nonprofit management, fund development, operational design, data analysis, communications, marketing and team building. Derek has built profitable fundraising teams and his portfolio includes $9.04M in fulfilled gifts between 2011 to 2016 for the Toronto International Film Festival, Save The Children Canada, Free The Children (now We Charity), The New England Aquarium, The Boston Museum of Science, The Chicago Memorial Children’s Hospital, The Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund, and Mirvish Theatre Productions. A trained actor, Derek studied theatre and film at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and the New School University in New York City. He loves to paint, draw, sing and play music, act and write. Derek is excited to be working with the Scarborough Arts' team to continue making direct community arts impacts in the Scarborough community, and beyond.

Emily Peltier, Program Manager, Scarborough Arts

Emily Peltier is an independent curator, writer, and advocate for the wellbeing of 2SLGBTQ+ people and communities, everywhere. She is the co-creator and curator of the world’s first, and only, miniature 2SLGBTQ+ gallery and collective, Glory Hole Gallery. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from OCAD University and has curated and co-curated exhibitions and public programming at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Blank Canvas Gallery, Critical Distance Centre for Curators, The ArQuives, and community centers in Toronto. Her primary focus of interest and experience is in community programming, accessible curating, and advocacy through the arts. She currently resides in Scarborough, Ontario where she is also the Program Manager at Scarborough Arts.