Our Speakers

The 2021 speakers, who joined us came from various sides of the art and culture sector. All with different paths, but the same challenge; overcoming the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Learn more about what prepared them to be leading figures in their respective industries.

Speaker - Claire Hopkinson

Claire Hopkinson

Claire Hopkinson M.S.M. is recognized in Toronto and nationally for her notable leadership skills, her abilities to forge collaborations and her inspiring vision to foster connections and community pride across Toronto through the arts. Hopkinson, as Director and CEO of Toronto Arts Council since 2005, directs grants of  approximately $23,000,000 annually to Toronto based artists, collectives and arts organizations in all art forms, with a focus on equitable funding practice.  Arm’s length from City Government, Toronto Arts Council (TAC) supports approximately 18,000 performances, exhibitions, screenings and events annually. With a focus on equity, TAC grants to artists and collectives now mirror the demographics of today’s Toronto.

With a significant investment of new funds in 2013, Hopkinson designed and initiated an innovative suite of strategic programs which have transformed the impact of TAC, particularly outside the downtown core. These strategic programs and partnerships have provided residencies for artists to create and present in libraries, museums and historic sites, and parks across the City of Toronto, with a focus on equity and inclusion. A program with Toronto District School Board brings teachers, students and artists together in co-creation and mentorship in underserved neighbourhoods in Toronto. The “Open Door” program encourages artists and organizations to dream big, to embrace new models and innovation and to promote work locally and internationally. A partnership with Ryerson FCAD affords artists to experiment with digital solutions. A Newcomer Mentorship program connects artists new to Toronto to resources. To foster leadership development, she initiated a pioneering partnership with the Banff Centre to launch the TAC Leaders Lab.

Speaker - Gaëtane Verna

Gaëtane Verna

Gaëtane Verna has been the Director of The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery since 2012. Previously, she was Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Musée d’art de Joliette (2006–12).

From 1998 to 2006, she was the curator of the Foreman Art Gallery at Bishop’s University, Sherbrooke, while also teaching in the Art History department of both Bishop’s University and the Université du Québec à Montréal. Gaëtane Verna holds an International Diploma in Heritage Administration and Conservation from the Institut National du Patrimoine in Paris, France, and received a DEA and a Master’s degree in Art History from the Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne.

Verna has years of experience in arts administration, curating, publishing catalogues and organizing and presenting exhibitions by emerging, mid-career and established Canadian and international artists, including: Terry Adkins, John Akomfrah, Vasco Araújo, Fiona Banner, Ydessa Hendeles, Alfredo Jaar, Luis Jacob, Kimsooja, Yam Lau, Oswaldo Maciá, Javier Tellez, Denyse Thomasos, Bill Viola, YOUNG HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES and Franz Erhard Walther, to name just a few. She is the President of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Arts Council. In 2017 she was appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) by the Cultural Service of the Embassy of France in Canada to spotlight and recognize her significant contribution to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world.

Speaker - Oyin Olalekan

Oyin Olalekan

Oyin Olalekan is a writer, producer, and publicist based in Toronto. As the Programs Manager at POV Film she designs programming for QBIPOC filmmakers, and champions emerging stories from diverse communities.

She has been responsible for the marketing strategy (traditional and online), for premiere screening events across Canada and the United States. Oyin has managed campaigns for the feature films Brown Girl Begins and UNFRACTURED, the webseries “virgins!”, and curated programming at the DOC Institute. In 2020 she designed publicity campaigns for cutsleeve and their EP The Parts We Could Not Abandon.

Speaker - Umair Jaffar

Umair Jaffar

Umair Jaffar is the Executive Director of Small World Music, one of Toronto’s pioneering and most significant presenters of culturally-diverse music. Since arriving in Toronto in 2014, he has worked in curatorial and management roles at major cultural institutions including the Aga Khan Museum and Harbourfront Centre. Prior to immigrating, he was the CEO & Artistic Director for IPAC (Institute for Preservation of Art and Culture), a Pakistan-based non-profit social enterprise that focused on developing sustainable solutions for preserving and promoting indigenous, folk and traditional performing arts.

He is a fellow at Toronto Art Council’s Cultural Leaders Lab and Business / Arts Executive Leadership program. He serves as a board member for  for several non-profit art organizations including Canadian Association for the Performing Arts (CAPACOA), North York Arts and MusiConnect Asia.

Speaker - Jacoba Knaapen

Jacoba Knaapen

Jacoba Knaapen (pronouns she/her) is the Executive Director at the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) and is the long-time Producer of the Dora Mavor Moore Awards. Born and raised in Quebec, Jacoba is a first-generation Canadian and is a champion for the performing arts, who has worked in Toronto’s cultural sector for over three decades. Deeply committed to the ongoing development of theatre, dance and opera, Jacoba is a proud recipient of the City of Toronto’s Margo Bindhart and Rita Davies Cultural Leadership Award, recipient of a Harold Award for her contribution and mentorship to the Independent Theatre community and a recipient of a Vital People Award from The Toronto Community Foundation. She currently sits on the Steering Committee at the Canadian Arts Coalition, the Advisory Committee for ArtsBuild Ontario and teaches Arts Marketing at the Arts Administration – Cultural Management Program, Humber College and has mentored dozens of arts administrators.

Culture's Compass 2021 Mini-docuseries

Check out what they each have to say!

Watch the Mini-docuseries