Speakers and Performers

Randell Adjei - Saturday Panelist

Randell AdjeiRandell Adjei is an Author, Inspirational Speaker, Arts Educator and Community Leader who uses the spoken word to empower and transform through Edutainment. He is the founder of one of Toronto's largest and longest running youth led initiatives; Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere (R.I.S.E Edutainment).
The beat of his art was found after years of being lost. He found himself by turning his struggles around to inspire others. His story is one of an Alchemist who truly transformed his life from rock to gold inspiring everyone he comes into contact to strive to unearth the pure potential within them.
Randell shares these messages on various stages as an emcee/host, performer and arts practitioner.
Randell is also a MaRS DD - Studio Y Cohort 2 Fellow, 1 of 5 coaches involved in the Toronto Public Library’s (Poetry Saved Our Lives) project and a regularly sought after speaker and presenter with the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic School Board.
A featured performer on TEDxUTSC and has shared stages with the likes of Jessie Reyez, Terry Crews, Paul Mooney, Maestro Fresh Wes and D’bi Young.


Jennifer Alicia - Friday Lunch Performer

Jennifer AliciaJennifer Alicia is a queer, mixed (Mi’kmaw/Settler) storyteller originally from Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland), now residing in Tkaronto. She is a two-time national poetry slam champion with the Toronto Poetry Slam team and member of Seeds & Stardust: an Indigenous women’s poetry collective. Jennifer Alicia is currently working on a collection of stories centered around home, which was birthed out of her recent residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. You can find out more about her here: www.jenniferalicia.com





Laurie Biderman - Thursday Panelist

Laurie BidermanLaurie Biderman is the Manager of the Digital Strategy Fund at Canada Council for the Arts, a strategic fund supporting the transformation of the arts sector in the digital world. Laurie contributed to the design of the Fund, oversaw its launch in 2017, manages its ongoing delivery, and oversees other strategic initiatives to support the Council’s digital objectives. Prior to her role with the DSF, Laurie was a Program Officer in the Dance Section at Canada Council. Laurie has 20 years of experience in the arts and cultural sector, and assumed previous roles at Canada Media Fund, Telefilm Canada, The Dance Current/Dance Media Group, and the Toronto International Film Festival.




Dr. Stephen Borys - Thursday Evening Speaker

Stephen BorysStephen Borys is the Director & CEO of the Winnipeg Art Gallery where he is leading the development of a national Inuit Art Centre. At the core of his directorship is the goal of advancing a meaningful dialogue with the public, and creating a welcoming forum where art and culture are at the forefront with audiences and stakeholders. Dr. Borys is also an adjunct professor at the University of Winnipeg, and has held leadership and curatorial posts at the Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida; Allen Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal. He holds an Executive MBA, a PhD in Art and Architectural History from McGill University, a MA in Art History from the University of Toronto, and a BA Honours from the University of Winnipeg. Dr. Borys has organized numerous exhibitions, written accompanying catalogues and scholarly articles, and lectured across North America and internationally. He is a past board trustee of the Association of Art Museum Directors, and past president of the Canadian Art Museum Directors Organization.


The Honourable Patricia Bovey, senator - Friday Lunch Speaker

Senator Pat BoveyBefore being appointed to the Senate on November 10th, 2016, the Honourable Patricia Bovey was a Winnipeg-based gallery director and curator, art historian, writer, professor and, for many years, a management consultant in the arts and not-for-profit sector.
Formerly Director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery (1999-2004) and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (1980-1999), she was appointed Director Emerita of the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2014. She was a founder of the Buhler Gallery at St Boniface Hospital; the University of Winnipeg’s Manitoba Arts and Culture Management Program, and MA in Curatorial Practice; the British Columbia Government House Foundation and the National Fundraising Society (NSFRE) Vancouver Island Chapter. Director/Curator of the Buhler Gallery from its 2007 inception to Dec 2016, she is Adjunct Professor of Art History at the University of Winnipeg. She writes and lectures widely on Western Canadian art.
Former Chair of the Board of Governors of the University of Manitoba, she has served on the Boards of the National Gallery of Canada (2005 – 2009) and the Canada Council for the Arts (1990-1993); the 1986 Withrow/Richard Federal Task Force on National and Regional Museums; the National Board for the Canadian Center for Cultural Management at the University of Waterloo (2002-2010); is a past Chair of the Board of Governors of Emily Carr University and of the Canadian Art Museum Directors Organization. She was a member of the Public Art Committee of the City of Winnipeg (2003-2007), and of the Mayor’s Task Force on Public Art to develop Winnipeg’s Public Art Policy (2002-2003). Former member of the Board of the University of Manitoba Press, she presently serves on the Eckhardt-Gramatté Foundation. She served as Board Chair of the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art, and was a member of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation; the Manitoba Rhodes Scholarship and Loran Scholarship Selection committees; the board of Manitoba Artists in Healthcare and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra.


Ben Cameron - Thursday Keynote Speaker and Panelist

Ben CameronBen Cameron became the President of the Jerome Foundation in 2015, supporting emerging artists in MN and New York City, and additionally served as the President of the Camargo Foundation, a retreat center for artists and scholars in Cassis, France, from 2015-17. From 2006-2015, he was Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in New York, NY, supervising both an annual $15 million grants program focusing on the theatre, contemporary dance, jazz and presenting fields, and an additional $50 million initiative designed primarily to serve individual artists. Previously, he managed philanthropic programs for Target Stores and the Dayton Hudson Foundation; served as the Executive Director of Theatre Communications Group, and was Director of the Theater Program at the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and the recipient of two honorary doctorates.


Nova Courchene - Saturday Panelist

Nova CourcheneNova Courchene is Anishinaabe-kwe from Sagkeeng First Nation and Rolling River both located in Manitoba. Nova has been involved in music and theatre for over five years, working with musicians and in theatre organizations out of Toronto and Winnipeg. Currently situating herself in Winnipeg, she is actively working as the Assistant Program Director at the Native Youth Theatre program, run out of Manitoba Theatre for Young people. Nova has been surrounded by various Indigenous creatives during her career including emerging playwrights, songwriters, and theatre professionals. As an Anishinaabe-kwe (Ojibway woman), Nova has a deep understanding of the challenges Indigenous people face in their daily lives and the conflict that colonization brings to everyday life.




Nikki Komaksiutiksak - Thursday Evening Performer

Nikki KomaksiutiksakNikki Komaksiutiksak is an Inuit woman from Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut. She is now a mother of five and currently works for the Manitoba Inuit Association as an Inuit family counselor working with families affected by the MMIWG. Though Winnipeg is now her home, Nikki has found the strength to preserve her “Inukness” living in the southern part of Canada. Nikki is an active member with the Inuit community in Winnipeg, and uses her knowledge and understanding of the south to assist other Inuit moving to the big city.
Nikki is an inspiration to the young and old everywhere, and truly demonstrates a passion for her cultural identity. Nikki is an experienced throat singer, teacher of Inuit history and culture, and a heartfelt musical performer. Nikki has participated in a number of international events, representing Manitoba and Inuit at such prestigious venues as the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Summer Games and more current the 2015 Indigenous Music Awards in Winnipeg. She has recorded music with local Canadian talent, including such names as, the Weakerthans, Demetra Penner and Moses Mayes.
Nikki has been featured in many events around the world, always sharing her identity and teaching about her Canadian Inuit Culture. Nikki is often asked to attend Universities and schools throughout Manitoba to teach and showcase Inuit culture to both students and staff. The Inuit of Canada are an integral part of Canadian history and culture, but sadly are often excluded, overlooked, and forgotten. Nikki truly believes that it is critical that Inuit culture is remembered, recognized and celebrated throughout all of Canada.


Tiina Kukkonen - Saturday Panel Moderator

Tiina Kukkonen Tiina Kukkonen is a visual artist, arts educator, and PhD student in the Faculty of Education at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Her research focuses on the role of intermediary organizations in brokering partnerships in support of rural arts education. She holds an M.A. in Child Studies and a B.F.A./B.Ed. in Art Education from Concordia University in Montreal.
Tiina has taught visual arts in various community and school environments in Quebec and Ontario, and actively participates in arts markets and exhibitions. As a Finnish-Canadian artist, her work primarily explores themes inspired by northern nature, craft, and design.



Dr. Judith Marcuse - Friday Keynote Speaker

Judith MarcuseJudith Marcuse, Artistic Producer of Judith Marcuse Projects and Co-Director of the International Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC) is one of Canada’s senior artists/producers with an international career that spans over 50 years as dancer, choreographer, director, producer, teacher, writer and lecturer.
She has created over 100 original works for dance, theatre and opera, for film and television, and has produced seven large-scale arts festivals. Her repertory dance company toured internationally for over 15 years, including of innovative community and youth programs. A pioneer in the field of community-engaged art for social change (ASC), her work in and on behalf of this arts discipline (including recent completion of a large-scale, six-year study on ASC in Canada) is internationally-recognized.
Marcuse has received many awards, including an honorary doctorate from Simon Fraser University where she has created a two-year graduate program in ASC.


Dr. Charity Marsh - Thursday Panelist

Dr. Charity Marsh Dr Charity Marsh is Director of the Interactive Media and Performance (IMP) Labs and Associate Professor in Interdisciplinary Studies and Creative Technologies in the Faculty of Media, Art, & Performance at the University of Regina.
Dr Marsh held the position of Canada Research Chair in Interactive Media and Popular Music from July 2007 until December 2018. During this time she established the IMP Labs, which consist of an interactive DJ Studio, an Electronic Beat-Making Lab, a Centre for Hip Hop Cultures and Community Research, as well as the Popular Music and Mobile Media Lab. The IMP Labs are a primary site for a number of innovative arts and education based community research program, including The Scott Collegiate/ IMP Labs Hip Hop Projects, the IMP Labs 55 Parallel Northern Saskatchewan Hip Hop Project, The Flatland Scratch Seminar and Workshop Series, the IMP Labs Community Program, and Girls Rock Regina.
Dr Marsh has published in the areas of Hip Hop Cultures in Canada; Popular Music in Canada; Electronic Dance Music Cultures; Interactive Media and Performance; Technology and Gender; Arts and Athleticism; and Arts-Based Community Health. Her first full length documentary entitled Girls Rock Regina and the Ripple Effect will debut at the RPL Theatre in January 2020 and her co-edited collection of academic essays on Hip Hop Culture in Canada will be released in Spring 2020 with McGill-QUeen's University Press.


Freya Björg Olafson- Thursday Lunch Presenter

Freya Björg Olafson Freya Björg Olafson is an intermedia artist who works with video, audio, painting and performance. Her praxis engages with identity and the body, as informed by technology and the Internet. Olafson’s work has been presented and exhibited internationally at venues such as the Bauhaus Archiv (Berlin), SECCA - SouthEastern Center for Contemporary Art (North Carolina), Ochoymedio (Quito, Guayaquil and Manta in Ecuador), The National Arts Center / Canada Dance Festival (Ottawa), and Onassis Cultural Center (Athens, Greece). Her video work has screened in festivals and galleries internationally, and is distributed by Video Pool Media Arts Centre. Olafson has benefitted from residencies, most notably through EMPAC - Experimental Media & Performing Arts Center (New York), Oboro (Montreal), and Counterpulse (San Francisco). The recipient of numerous grants and awards, her honours include the ‘Buddies in Bad Times Vanguard Award for Risk and Innovation’ at Toronto’s SummerWorks festival and the ‘Making A Mark Award’ from the Winnipeg Arts Council. In 2017 her work CPA [Consistent Partial Attention] was selected by an international jury to be part of Team Canada at Les Jeux de la Francophonie in Côte d’Ivoire, Africa. Olafson joined the Department of Dance at York University as an Assistant Professor with a speciality in screendance in July 2017.


Debbie Patterson - Saturday Panelist

Debbie Patterson Debbie Patterson is a Winnipeg playwright, director and actor. Trained at the National Theatre School of Canada, she is a founder of Shakespeare in the Ruins (SIR), served as Artistic Director for Popular Theatre Alliance of MB, Theatre Ambassador for Winnipeg’s Cultural Capital year and as Artistic Associate at Prairie Theatre Exchange 2012 to 2018. In 2014 she was selected for the United Nations Platform for Action Committee’s Activist Award and was honoured with the Mayor’s Making a Mark Award in 2017. In 2018, she was shortlisted for the Gina Wilkinson Prize. She is a proud advocate for disability arts as the Artistic Director of Sick + Twisted Theatre.





Aubrey Reeves - Saturday Panelist

Aubrey ReevesAubrey Reeves is a Toronto-based artist and arts manager. Involved with Culture Days since it launched in 2010, she first led the initiative in Ontario and subsequently was named National Executive Director in 2017. Previously, Aubrey was Artistic Producer and Project Manager of spotlight (2009), a pilot program of the Ontario Arts Council and Ontario’s Ministry of Culture as well as the Programming Director at Trinity Square Video (2004 - 2008), where she curated exhibitions of local, national and international artists. Raised in New Brunswick, Aubrey holds a M.A. in Curatorial Studies from Bard College in New York and a B.A. in Visual Arts and Arts Management from the University of Toronto. Aubrey has shown her artwork internationally and extensively across Canada.


Heather Russell-Smith - Saturday Panelist

Heather Russell-SmithBorn in Virden and raised in Brandon, Heather Russell-Smith is a Manitoba grown theatre artist who has called Winnipeg home for the last 10 years. She is a graduate of Brandon University and The University of Winnipeg. Heather is the Drama Outreach Coordinator at Manitoba Theatre for Young People, where she values the chance to discover every day the positive impact that theatre has in the lives of youth.



David Schimpky - Saturday Morning Speaker

David SchimpkyDavid Schimpky is Special Advisor, Strategic Initiatives and External Relations, with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. David's primary responsibilities relate to inclusion and anti-racism initiatives, notably in the context of the International Decade for People of African Descent and the Canadian Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities. A former executive with the Canada Council for the Arts, he played a key role in the historic development of the re-design of funding programs. He was educated at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC.



Andreas Schleicher - Thursday Lunch Digital Speaker

Andreas SchleicherAndreas Schleicher is Deputy Director for Education and Special Advisor on Education Policy to OECD’s Secretary-General. He also provides strategic oversight over OECD’s work on the development and utilization of skills and their social and economic outcomes. This includes the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) and the development and analysis of benchmarks on the performance of education systems (INES).
Before joining the OECD, Schleicher was Director for Analysis at the International Association for Educational Achievement (IEA). He studied Physics in Germany and received a degree in Mathematics and Statistics in Australia. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the “Theodor Heuss” prize, awarded in the name of the first president of the Federal Republic of Germany for “exemplary democratic engagement.” He holds an honorary Professorship at the University of Heidelberg.


Dr. Niigaanwewidam Sinclair - Saturday Keynote Speaker

Dr. Niigaanwewidam SinclairNiigaanwewidam James Sinclair is Anishinaabe (St. Peter’s/Little Peguis) and an Associate Professor at the University of Manitoba. He is an award-winning writer, editor and activist who was named one of Monocle Magazine‘s “Canada’s Top 20 Most Influential People” and he won the 2018 Canadian columnist of the year at the National Newspaper Awards for his bi-weekly columns in The Winnipeg Free Press. He has written national curriculums for Indspire and the Assembly of First Nations and is a former secondary school teacher who has trained educators and students across Canada.


Peter Skillen - Thursday Panelist

Peter SkillenPeter Skillen is currently Curriculum & Project Leader for Code To Learn—a federally funded Taking IT Global project that introduces computational thinking and coding to educators and students Canada-wide. His particular passion is to ‘draw’ students into ‘being mathematicians’ through the use of turtle graphics—an artistic aspect of the coding platform he has helped develop. Create To Learn is a partner project that supports digital media production by providing indigenous youth with drones and 360 cameras.
An Ontario educator, Peter has been involved in technology supported, project-based learning since the late 1970s, has traveled and spoken extensively in many countries, and continues to explore and support knowledge-building environments for students and teachers. As a founding teacher at the YMCA Academy—a secondary school serving youth who prefer an alternative approach—he listened to the students and co-created the learning journeys.
Peter has co-developed courses for TeachOntario, has been a Global Ambassador with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and develops and supports both face-to-face and online learning for the Ontario Teachers’ Federation. Peter is also co-founder of the Minds On Media model of professional learning which truly reflects how he wishes classrooms to be.
Website & Blog - peterskillen.org
Twitter - @peterskillen


SPIN - Friday Lunch Performer

SPINSPIN El Poeta is a Guatemalan poet, youth advocate, former refugee, 2X Toronto Poetry Slam Grand Slam champion, proprietor of arts education enterprise One Mic Educators, founder of #LA3Raza Open Mic A series designed to weave together Indigenous, African Diaspora and Latin American artists for nights of cross-cultural and intercultural learning.