The 10th Anniversary Abilities Arts Festival was a potpourri of artists, art forms & events. Local, Canadian and International artists showcased works in photography, film, live performance and multi-media installation. Professional artists offered workshops and panel discussions on a variety of topics related to disability and artistic production and we even launched a new medium for storytelling: the podplay.

ARTrageous! 10th Anniversary Gala

City of Toronto Archives
Thursday, September 20, 2012

2013-14 Artist in Residence speaking at Artrageous

2013-14 Artist in Residence speaking at Artrageous

Abilities Arts’ 2012 Festival marked a decade of contribution to disability arts and culture. The ARTrageous! Gala was an opportunity to reflect on our success, while looking forward to our future. Many local businesses made donations to a successful silent auction held throughout the night. The celebration included an awards ceremony to honour the individuals and artists who helped us achieve this milestone. Recipients included Abilities’ Founding Member John Feld, Board Members Marion Feldman and Pouri Baghai, past board member Don Peuramaki, and founding Artistic Director Sharon Wolfe. Dancer Peggy Baker also presented a Creative Ingenuity Award to thirteen-year-old Remi Waxman, whose interest in disability and dance led her to donate all of the funds raised at her Bat Mitzvah to Abilities Arts Festival. Most significantly, Executive Director Rina Fraticelli announced the recipient of the inaugural Sharon Wolfe Artist in Residence, named in honour of Abilities’ founding artistic director. Multi-disciplinary artist Jan Derbyshire was named the Sharon Wolfe Artist in Residence, Canada’s first and only artistic residency specifically for an artist from the disability community.

Frames of Reference master class

September 21-October 11, 2012
Carlton Cinema Gallery

Blurry photograph of women's legs standing in front of Toronto streetcar

Saturday Night by Mark Brose

As part of our mission to provide professional development opportunities to artists with disabilities, Abilities Arts Festival held our second Frames of Reference master class in the spring of 2012. Toronto: Street Level was a culmination of the work created by the ten photographers who participated in the twelve-week Frames of Reference workshop with acclaimed Toronto photographer Vincenzo Pietropaolo. By exploring various neighborhoods (Kensington Market, Dundas Square) and events (the Achilles St. Patricks’s Day 5K Run/Walk and the Good Friday procession in Little Italy), Pietropaolo explained:
“[o]ur goal was to capture the nuances of city life, attempting to transmit in particular the humanism of a city that is still unsure of how to deal with accessibility issues for residents with disabilities.”

The photographs resulting from this workshop were so compelling, honest and unique that we simply had to include them in the 2012 Abilities Arts Festival. In addition to a three-week exhibit at the Carlton Cinema Gallery, Abilities Arts Festival published a book of Toronto: Street Level photographs and presented slideshows of the work during our Nuit Blanche installation. Perhaps most significantly, Toronto: Street Level photographs were presented on the sides of the Queen Streetcar, a commentary on the inaccessibility of this “public” transportation. Toronto: Street Level brilliantly captured the essence of Abilities Arts Festival’s purpose: to create opportunities for artists with disabilities to realize their talent; and for all of us to enjoy the benefits of their invaluable perspectives.


The photographers represented in Toronto: Street Level spanned a remarkable range of experiences, sensibilities, cultural backgrounds and aesthetic styles. With mentorship from Vincenzo Pietropaolo, the following photographers exhibited their work as a part of Toronto: Street Level: Mark Brose, Allan Cullen

Nicole Flynn, Natalia Isak, Steve Kean, Mike Monize, Jeff Nolan, Peter Owusu-Ansah, Dylan Smith, and Kathy Toth.

MIX Media Series

Carlton Cinema
September 21-23

Illustration of girl with crutches kicking a boy holding a rose and standing in front of her.

All for Claire Dir. Simon Mckeown

The film series was further expanded from the 2011 event to become a weekend-long media festival including three nights of screenings as well as panels and workshops led by professional artists. Guest curators Caglar Kimyoncu and Julie McNamara, co-founders of the London Disability Film Festival programmed a strong repertoire of international shorts by and about artists with disabilities.

A Queen Street Cartography

Part of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche
Saturday, September 29 2012
OCAD Open Gallery, 49 McCaul St.
Photo by Rudy Ens

Queen Street is a great “leveler.” The Queen Streetcar carries its cargo of life-long city dwellers and new arrivals of (almost) every stripe and class along the entire length of T.O.’s vibrant east-west corridor. What the Queen Car is not, however, is accessible. Not yet, anyway. A Queen Street Cartography was a mash-up of photography, performance, music and intimate “podplays” – an exploration and re-mapping of the city and its people through a disability lens. Led by BC comedian, media artist and performer Jan Derbyshire, a wildly diverse and highly accomplished company of musicians, storytellers and photographers presented a rich new map of Toronto’s iconic street. Photography from the Toronto: Street Level exhibit as well as “behind-the-scenes” pictures from the Frames of Reference master class were displayed on a number of projected slideshows while Donald Quan provided musical accompaniment. In the gallery theatre, we held screenings of the “podplays” -personal stories written by artists with disabilities and located in and around Queen street – coupled with photo narratives of the locations depicted in the stories.

The Listening Post

September 30 – Forever
On and around Queen St. West
Photo by Steve Kean

Woman standing on sidewalk

Participant at the Listening Post

The Listening Post is an online collection of four “podplays” – site-specific personal stories taking place on and around Queen Street. The afternoon following our Nuit Blanche screenings of the podplays, we held an event to launch the online portion of the project. As of September 30th, the four podplays have been available for download free of charge on our website. Anyone is able to visit our website and participate in one of our podplay walks simply by downloading the podplay to an mp3 player, ipod or smartphone. The webpage for each podplay includes a map indicating the starting point for the story. The narrators of the stories then lead each individual audience member through the location in which their story takes place, shedding a new light on well-tread areas in Toronto’s downtown core. The performance is a cinematic and embodied experience – a remapping of Toronto from a disability perspective. For our launch event, we offered guided tours, popcorn and lent out ipods to audience members who did not have access to an mp3 player.


The 2011 Abilities Arts Festival, running from October 1st – 30th, brings together a dazzling array of talent and creativity. We are proud to showcase inspired local performers, dynamic artists from across Canada, the United States and as far away as Australia as part of this year’s line-up. We invite you to explore and be inspired…


Scotiabank Nuit Blanche
Carlton Cinema Gallery
20 Carlton Street, Toronto
October 1,2011 7pm to 7am

People in gallery spaceI See What You Mean is an interactive project. The public is invited to internationally acclaimed documentary photographer Vincenzo Pietropaolo’s most recent series, Invisible No More. Commissioned by the Canadian Association for Community Living, Invisible No More is a series of portraits of Canadians of all ages and walks of life from every part of the country with intellectual disabilities. Contributions by exhibit visitors will enrich, inform and engage with the photographic conversation initiated by Pietropaolo. Gallery visitors will be supplied with tools and resources to generate their own portraits through “instant” cameras, digital, and webcam photography, and pencil sketches which will then be pinned/projected onto the walls and ceiling of the gallery. Brief Artist Bio: Vincenzo Pietropaolo is a documentary photographer based in Toronto. Best known for his empathetic social documentary photo essays, he has completed major projects on Italian immigrant life in Canada, religious street rituals, migrant farm workers, health care, political protest, the labour movement, immigrant gardens, urban social issues, and architecture to name a few. Characterized by a simple and direct approach, Pietropaolo’s photography typically reveals individuals and groups overlooked by history books. His work has appeared nationally and internationally as feature exhibits, in books and magazines, on television, and in the collections of the National Archives of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography.


Wednesday, October 12 and Thursday, October 13
at Villa Colombo – 40 Playfair Avenue, Toronto

Now in its seventh year, IN CELEBRATION OF OUR CHILDREN AND YOUTH is an exciting, full-day event that provides children and youth with disabilities an opportunity to see and experience first-hand the wonder and enjoyment of disability arts and culture. IN CELEBRATION OF OUR CHILDREN AND YOUTH is a positive event that acknowledges strengths, recognizes and respects disabilities and introduces school-aged children to the possibilities that await them.


After twenty years of diverse performance experience, Timothy McCallum is one of Australia’s most exciting and loved local performers. He is currently touring North America performing and has based himself here in Toronto to share his love for music and theatre. His career commenced with a long string of successes in vocal competitions and talent quests around his home State in Australia. Tim’s onstage career includes appearances in over 40 stage musicals. In 1999 Tim was about to begin a Musical Theatre course at Perth’s prestigious Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). However, only days before he was to commence his studies, a swimming accident left him a quadriplegic. Since then, his resilient character and extraordinary spirit have touched the hearts of the arts community, as they have watched him rehabilitate and return to the stage to continue his performing career. Since then, Tim has gone on to do appearances at many prestigious events, including performing for the Prime Minister at his Centenary of Federation Dinner. He was awarded the Centenary Medal by the Governor-General for his outstanding service to the entertainment industry and received an Australian Humanitarian Award for his contribution towards arts and disabilities.

ASL Waves

Founded by Patti Trofimenkoff and Juan Jaramillo, this company presents a new form of art in deaf culture by applying American Sign Language to song and dance. For over 15 years, Jaramillo and Trofimenkoff have been exploring a wide range of musical styles, expanding the horizons for Deaf and hard of hearing performers. Their extremely successful and groundbreaking work as performers, choreographers and educators has taken them across Ontario and beyond. In addition to their ASL Waves work, Patti Trofimenkoff teaches drama at E.C. Drury Secondary School for the Deaf in Milton, Ontario and Juan Jaramillo works for the the Office of the Provincial Advocate for children and youth.


Known in the latin recording industry as “Luisito”, Luis was born in Lima, Perú in 1971 and moved to Canada in 1972. He became an honoured graduate of the Humber College music program in 1994 and has been a member of the Toronto Musicians Association since 1993. Luisito was a student of Memo Acevedo (professor of percussion at New York University) and jump-started his career as a professional bongo player with Memo’s ground breaking salsa band “Banda Brava” in 1993. He has performed and/or recorded with Alex Cuba, Luis Mario Ochoa & Cimarrón, Dominicanada, Jerry Gonzalez, Hilton Ruiz, Oscar de León, Hilario Durán, David Virelles, Nick Ali, Jane Bunnett, Diego Marulanda & Pacande, Chucho Valdéz, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Changuito, Giovanni Hidalgo, Ralph Irrizarry, The Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Nelly Furtado, Kenwood Dennard, Stevie Wonder, Alfredo de la Fe, Luisito Carrion, Cheo Andujar, Jimmy Bosch, Horacio Hernandez, Mark Quiñones, and far too many more to list here. Luis is a record producer, percussionist, vocalist and highly sought after teacher, having worked with students and professionals at universities, schools and festivals across Canada and in Germany, Korea and Peru.


Shawn Brush aka The Krooked Cowboy, is one of the finest performers of bluegrass, folk, and country music you will ever have the good fortune to hear. Born and raised in Southern Ontario, Shawn is a superb solo artist who writes songs full of passion and truth — one of those rare musicians who is able to combine highly technical musicianship with memorable and impactful songwriting. Inspired by such greats as Willie Nelson and bluegrass legend Bill Monroe, he is the winner of two Central Canadian Bluegrass Awards and has worked alongside Fred J. Eaglesmith, Natalie MacMaster, Ray Materick and Sherry Kean to name a few. He has appeared in national media, and performed both in studio and live on stage. “His songs have touched my heart, they resonate truth and dedication.” — Daniel Lanois


Kyra Millan, coloratura soprano and voice coach has sung with the Northumberland Orchestra, Summer Opera Lyric, Opera Kitchener, and was featured as a headliner in Harbourfront’s “Das Spiegeltent”/Luminato Festival in 2007. Most recently, she recorded the voice of Mother Nature in ‘Theatre of Marionettes’ show Penny Plain for the National Arts Centre. As an Artist Educator, Kyra has represented the Canadian Opera Company for the last eight years. She has also taught on behalf of Opera Atelier for the “Making of an Opera” for several schools. As a voice coach, she has worked for Workman Arts (CAMH), Abilities Arts Festival, PAONE, the Orpheus Choir, Georgetown Bach Chorale, as well as on theatre productions for CanStage, Guy Maddin’s Film “The Saddest Music in the World” and the touring show of Scooby Doo for Warner Bros. in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. Kyra also runs “Gleesical,” a musical theatre program for kids in Toronto’s west end, and teaches at her private studio, producing recitals throughout the year. Kyra is thrilled to be singing again with Tim McCallum, and working with the Abilities Arts Festival!


The 2010 Abilities Arts Festival brought together a dazzling array of talent and creativity. We showcased inspired local performers, dynamic artists from across Canada, the United States and as far away as Australia as part of this year’s line-up. We invite you to explore and… be inspired.


September 24th – October 24th
VMAC Gallery: 401 Richmond St W, Suite 440
Presenting sponsor: CTV

The festival continued the tradition of presenting some of the finest visual artists with disabilities from across Canada. The exhibit opened on September 24th to coincide with Ontario Culture Days and featured inspired work from the following artists: Anne Abbott, Bruce Bazinet, Karen Colville, Gwen Duda, Beverly Elwood, Faye Frick, Robin Friesen, Sofia Kanibolotskaia, Steve Kean, Linda Kinsella, Carol-Lynne Simmie Hives Korchinsky, Chris Luzaszewski, Rebecca Mullan, Ali Nedjati, Robyn Rennie Oag, William Orlowski, Pam Patterson, Zachary Prins, Benjamin Sloetjes, Justine Smith, Kevin Weirsma, Melody Zeggelar.


September 29th-October 1, 2010
Villa Colombo – 40 Playfair Avenue, Toronto

Now in its sixth year, IN CELEBRATION OF OUR CHILDREN AND YOUTH is an exciting, full-day event that provides children and youth with disabilities an opportunity to see and experience first-hand the wonder and enjoyment of disability arts and culture. IN CELEBRATION OF OUR CHILDREN AND YOUTH is a positive event that acknowledges strengths, recognizes and respects disabilities and introduces school-aged children to the possibilities that await them.

Three days of performances for school-aged children, with mime and puppeteer Chris Welsh, the African dance and music of Sidiki Conde, break dance sensation Luca “Lazylegz,” LiANA “Guitar Babe,” singer/storyteller Sheila Boyd and ASL Waves dance troupe.


October 2nd, 2010
Artscape Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie St, Toronto
A free afternoon of family performances featuring the fun-filled show of mime and puppeteer Christopher Welsh together with the pounding African rhythms and acrobatic dance of Sidiki Conde.

2010familydayChristopher is an energetic positive Deaf role model. He is a performer who has been entertaining audiences young and old alike for many years. He trained with the National Theatre of the Deaf in Chester, CT (84) and also studied improvisation at Second City in Toronto, ON (88), Canada Clown Carnival (97), Winnipeg International Storytelling (07, 09), Shakespeare Living Willow Theatre in Wales, UK (08).

In 1988 Christopher was the first deaf comedian to perform before a hearing audience at Yuk-Yuks in Toronto. He has also performed with the “Show Of Hands” Theatre Company in their national tours in 1988 and 1989. Since 1988, through his companies Vibrisign and Wavehands, he has taken his one man show on the road. He has traveled across Canada to various schools and festivals performing skits using puppets and mime for children and adults of all ages. He also has given workshops on mime, improvisation, the use of facial expression, and sign language. Christopher has also appeared on YTV’s Treehouse and TVO programs that feature ASL Storytelling.

The call to sing and dance first came to Sidiki Conde in a dream he had after he lost the use of his legs when he was fourteen in Guinea, West Africa. Music and dance became his transcendence and his vocation. Conde founded Message de Espoir (The Message of Hope) a music and dance ensemble in 1986 with other artists with disabilities. Conde has performed with West Africa’s premier traditional music and dance ensembles including Les Merveilles de Guinea. Conde performed, directed the musical arrangements and company rehearsals. Guinea has 26 different ethnic peoples; each with their own language and traditional arts. Conde traveled to remote villages to meet the people and learn their songs and dances. In 1998 Conde came to America and founded his company Tokounou.


Scotiabank Nuit Blanche
Theatre Direct, 601 Christie Street, Toronto
October 2nd, 2010 – Sunset to Sunrise

“Mirage” is an Igneous collaborative work that plays on perceptual illusion and explores phantom-limb sensation as a “mirage.”

Mirage poster of man curled up on a stageIt is a performance installation with movement-based performance, video art, sound art, and a series of mirror booths. It is an interactive labyrinth of mirrors and a solo performance piece in a reflective pool amongst multi-dimensional projections. It plays on perceptual illusion, the construction of hybrid forms and the real and virtual fusing and separating.

Mirage, was sensational. Australian dancer James Cunningham, whose left arm is withered, put on a spectacular movement performance, accompanied by compelling electronic music.
-NOW MAGAZINE, http://www.nowtoronto.com/daily/story.cfm?content=177042

My favorite for the night. While we were watching the performance, I said to my friend, “This feels like the first art I’ve seen tonight.” The performance involved two stages. In the first, you were encouraged to engage with three mirror-based perceptual illusions that centred on ideas of symmetry and identity. All of them were genuinely startling and surprising.
-BlogTO, http://www.blogto.com/arts/2010/10/nuit_blanche_2010_the_best_and_worst_of_zone_a/

James Cunningham almost totally paralyzed his left arm in 1992. In his research about pain relief, he found a particular experiment immensely profound: the “mirror-box”, designed by neuro-psychologist Dr Vilayanur Ramachandran, director of the Centre for Brain Cognition at the University of California – San Diego, used to alleviate amputees of phantom-limb pain.

Observing the movement of his intact arm reflected in a mirror, it was as if James could suddenly feel his paralysed arm moving again, along with perceived weight, joint articulation and position in space. A bizarre experience when one knew that in fact the immobile arm was lying flat on the table. Wanting to share this discovery with others – for them to gain a first-hand experience of the illusory nature of perception, the “mirage” of the mind – and to develop a choreography driven by the actual movement possibilities of his partially-paralysed limb, which necessitates the rest of his body to creatively “serve” and thereby integrateits quirky, subtle, and loosely swung movements, he, along with Suzon Fuks, began formulating the project MIRAGE.

The work spans two spaces. In the WHITE SPACE audience members experiment with and challenge their perception with five mirror-booths. The BLACK SPACE sees Cunningham perform in the shallow water environment, with a unique style of movement that integrates a partially paralysed arm, exploring anabstract narrative, through a range of atmospheres and feelings.


Thursday, October 7th – 7:30 pm
Betty Oliphant Theatre, 404 Jarvis Street, Toronto

Signals from the StageAn evening of vibrant dance, live music, outrageous comedy, and passionate spoken word coming at you in a smooth flow that will keep you engaged and inspired. The evening’s line-up includes:


Featured in the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Paralympics, Martin is an award winning singer, songwriter, and one of the best known and appreciated rock pop stars in Quebec. His enthusiastic, energetic and wide ranging music are sure to enthrall all who attend.


Shawn is one of the finest performers of bluegrass, folk and country music, whose music is passionate, heartfelt and has a unique ability to touch everyone who has the privilege of hearing him.


Spirit is a dancer, actor, visual artist — she will perform original, beautiful dance creations that are truly inspired.


Funny man Andre knows how to tell a story and to see the funny side of every situation. He will take you on a ride not to be missed.

FEATURING POETRY BY: Irena Kagansky, Barbara Landry, Philip Tetrault


Wednesday, October 13th – 7:30 pm
Al Green Theatre at Miles Nadal JCC,
750 Spadina Avenue (at Bloor), Toronto

Presenting the award-winning film The Red Chapel and Canadian short Asia Trains followed by an intimate and thought provoking Q + A.

The Red Chapel

A trio of Danish comedians travel to North Korea pretending to be regime sympathizers and mount an absurd variety show. This stunt is led by the acerbic director Mads Brugger, and assisted by Simon Jul and Jacob Nossell, both of South Korean descent. Only Jacob is allowed to speak his mind. Suffering from cerebral palsy, his halting speech is difficult to translate, so he insults his socialist hosts and receives smiles in return. The Red Chapel is an unconventional, hilarious and damning peek into a totalitarian nightmare.

Asia Trains

A short film by Canadian film maker Mitch St. Pierre that follows his own unique approach to travelling through Asia unescorted.


Helping Hands made by participants

Helping Hands made by participants

The 2009 Abilities Arts Festival featured a variety of multidisciplinary arts events across the city of Toronto.


November 1st – 30th, 2009
North York Central Library, 5120 Yonge Street, Toronto

Black and white image of a man and woman kissing


October 3rd – 17th, 2009
401 Richmond Street West, 4th Floor

Photo of projection of film credits.


October 8th & 10th, 2009
Innis Town Hall, Toronto

Photo of kids at Kids Fest


October 10th, 2009
Innis Town Hall, Toronto

Photo of kids at Kids Fest


October 14th & 15th, 2009
Columbus Centre, Toronto



May 2009 – January 2010


Insights Film Forum

2008 FestivalThe 2008 Film Forums were a tremendous success with sold out audiences providing rave reviews of both the award-winning films and the post-screening question and answer sessions with filmmakers. The post-screening informal “Get Togethers” provided a wonderful opportunity for audiences and guests to meet, mingle and to continue the dialogue.

For three consecutive weekends, each Insights Film Forum combined the screening of three exceptional and award-winning films with a stimulating Q&A session with filmmakers, followed by the opportunity for audiences and filmmakers to meet, mingle, and chat in an informal atmosphere.

A diverse range of feature films, documentaries and shorts written, produced, directed or starring artists with disabilities provided a back-drop for three entertaining and empowering evenings. Open captioned or sub-titled films, ASL Interpretation and on-site attendant services helped to ensure full participation and enjoyment by audiences at this fully accessible venue…




Explore the many facets of our 2008 Children’s Program
“In Celebration of our Children and Youth”



2007 Opening GalaThe formal opening of Abilities Arts Festival 2007 was also used to launch the opening of three outstanding visual arts exhibits. Opening evening guests were treated to a wonderful evening of art and jazz that included an informal performance by the internationally recognized Matt Savage Trio.

Opening evening guests also included Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Kuwait who provided an international flair and perspective on the importance of a diverse and inclusive arts and cultural sector; Flavio Belli, Curator of the CONNECTIONS 3 Exposed Exhibit; and Kyla Harris, subject and collaborator in “Access Sex”, an important part of the “Body Language” exhibit; exhibiting artists from across Canada and the United States, and as far away as Australia came to join with their professional colleagues in a tremendous celebration of the arts.


2006 Kids FestivalAbilities Arts Festival 2006 held November 1, 2006 was all about children and youth.

Over 600 children, youth, teachers, aides, parents and others from the Greater Toronto Area and beyond attended a full day program of performances that included the mime and humour of Christopher Welsh, music by Jeff Moyer, and story-telling by Afi-Tombe Kambon. Jason Dennis and the Argonauts provided the rousing and engaging music that had everyone singing, dancing, and moving.

“Connecting to Children and Youth” transported all into a world of possibilities. Engagement, listening, participating, smiles and laughter, and enjoyment reigned. From the students to the teachers, parents and the many others who attended, consensus is “Connecting to Children and Youth” was a remarkable day of celebration.

Abilities Arts Festival – A Celebration of Disability Arts and Culture was a four day, event-packed international artistic and cultural event showcasing excellence and the talent, vision and passion of artists with disabilities.

This tremendously successful event attracted several thousand people over the four days with performers, artists and festival audiences alike, enthusiastically commenting on the outstanding caliber of the performances, art, workshop and panel discussions.

Held from October 27 to October 30, 2005, Abilities Festival included:

  • A variety of performance venues including two gala performances at the Glenn Gould Studio, an opening evening cabaret, three Luncheon Matinees and the Sunday Morning Show, all by performers with disabilities;
  • A juried, international art exhibition by artists with disabilities called CONNECTIONS 2;
  • Workshops and panels that provided networking opportunities for both professional and aspiring artists, promoted discussion and skill enhancement and engaged festival attendees;
  • The Video Library where festival attendees viewed newly released films, as well as award-winning films from eight countries that were presented as part of PROJECTIONS: An International Disability Film Festival held in Toronto in June 2004, as well as new works;
  • A full day program for school age children with disabilities that featured accomplished performers with disabilities; and
  • “In Celebration of Our Children” an art and poetry exhibit that highlighted work by children with disabilities from across Ontario.