Greater Toronto CivicAction Summit

I was once told that for the development and growth of one’s artistry, you must put yourself in uncomfortable situations. Well last week, I found myself way out of my comfort zone as an artist delegate at the Greater Toronto CivicAction Summit. This is a summit that happens every 4 years and brings together 600-700 of Toronto’s top civic leaders to discuss issues and challenges facing Toronto.

My job at the summit was to absorb as much as possible, then occupy the lobby area and engage the other delegates with creative interpretations of what was being discussed. It was the first year that artists were invited to participate and it was a bit of an experiment. Props to the artist community and funders who made our participation there possible.

When I arrived on day one, I was happy to see Fly Lady Di there. I met her through an organization we both work with, UNITY charity. Check out her incredible art: Shout outs also to my people Robin, Steph and Michael who were there doing there thing at the summit.

You could tell the artist delegates apart from the other delegates because we were stylin like no one’s business! Waleed with his bright orange shirt, me with my purple stockings, Fly Lady Di rocking a bowler hat, Tim unapologetically sporting red sneakers…

I have so much commentary from the summit;  from McGuinty’s opening remarks, to issues of representation, to certain themes that became apparent right away with the talks. But at the risk of turning this into a novel, here are some highlights:

Jamming with Waleed Abdulhamid. He is a sensational musician who has worked with artist like Boonaa Mohammed and Zaki Ibrahim.  The two of us got a little star struck and would not let the Mayer of Calgary leave until we got a picture with him!

Jamming with composer Dean Burry in a lyrical writing session. His creative genius organized all 6 of us at the end of the summit to engage with our individual medium in a collaborative final performance.

Hearing Che of Manifesto talk at the arts and culture session. Che talked with so much passion and energy about how hip hop is built on people power and how arts and culture should not be thought of as a just a sector but as a movement. Some key questions he raised included:

How can we amplify our vision in a collective, collaborative manner?

How can arts be used as a tool to mitigate violence and disunity?

How can art be a dialogue for social justice?

At the table I was seated at, to my right was the CEO of the Science Centre and to my left was the CEO of Capital Canada. There were about 8 of us engaged in a heated discussion about the funding landscape for the arts in Toronto and creating a common vision for the sector.  There wasn’t much agreement, but there was plenty of food for thought.

My experience from these two days was rich and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to try something new and contribute not just my art, but my ideas on how to address critical issues facing Toronto, based on my lived experience here.


2 thoughts on “Greater Toronto CivicAction Summit

  1. salaam Lishai,
    It was really great to meet you and play with you…your words are brilliant and you are right we (artists) looked funky while others dressed as they were going to a funeral :-D….I’m at the Gladstone on the 18th from 6:30 to 9 pm..
    Love your blog..a lot of beautiful thoughts.
    much much love to you.

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