Leah Houston, Artistic Director

Leah has been cultivating a dynamic, multi-disciplinary community-based arts practice for almost 15 years, incorporating public art, installation and performance with public space transformation, working with people of all ages and backgrounds. Leah has created and produced many community arts events and led a number of artists to create new work that tells the ordinary, extraordinary stories of our lives. Leah has worked with to diverse communities including in Ontario’s Muskoka Region, Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Kathmandu, Nepal. She was the recipient of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal (2013) and the Toronto Foundation Vital People's Award (2016). Leah is a graduate of York University’s Environmental Studies Department and holds an M.A from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Leah is available for speaking engagements - contact us today for more info!  leah@mabellearts.ca


Karen Kew, Managing Director

Karen has over twenty years of experience in the not-for-profit sector as an administrator, project manager and at a board level. She is passionate about community development and driven to use her organizational skills to create effective and equitable systems so that people and organizations may thrive. While her background is in the arts, graduating with a BFA from York University, she has also worked extensively in the settlement sector focusing on financial management, systems improvement, program development and engaging diverse communities. Karen is currently the Treasurer for the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition and is a past Chair of  CFRU 99.3FM community radio station.  karen@mabellearts.ca

Fadwa Ghanem Headshot

Fadwa Ghanem, Cooking Coordinator

Fadwa met Ruth Howard, artistic director of Jumblies Theatre, in November 2006 shortly after moving to Canada. Fadwa and her whole family were part of the Jumblies’ production Bridge of One Hair in 2007. After Jumblies moved on, she volunteered with MABELLEarts in the Mabelle Ladies Cooking Circle, Mabelle Sewing Room and in the park with her children. Fadwa is an expert at many types of cooking, and enjoys working with the other ladies in the Cooking Circle, cooking together in kitchens and over the open fire in the park;  we drink Fadwa’s sage tea at every special occasion. Since the summer of 2014, Fadwa has worked with MABELLEarts as a cooking coordinator, and continues to help with cooking, sewing and other projects. 

Summer Staff 2019


Allyson Trunzer

Allyson is a Toronto-based performing artist, collaborator, and community arts enthusiast. She is a graduate of Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts, Ballet Creole’s Professional Training Program, and had attended programs at Earl Mosley’s Institute for the Arts and Peridance Capezio Center funded by the Ontario Arts Council. Allyson has worked with multiple choreographers and has been on teaching faculty at City Dance Corps, DAREarts, Urban Arts, Prologue to the Performing Arts, elementary and secondary schools in the GTA, and in Antigua and Barbuda. This is Allyson’s first summer at MABELLEarts as a Community Arts Coordinator and she is enthusiastic about the development and implementation of community arts practices for youth in the area. Allyson plans to expand her practice in the arts and continue her studies in the Interdisciplinary Program at Shenandoah University.


Irene Flatley

Irene is an artist and arts facilitator. She has just completed the Arts Education and Community Engagement post graduate program at Centennial College in Toronto. Previously, she had graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts from OTIS College of Arts and Design in Los Angeles, after having received a double BA in International Development Studies and Social Anthropology from Dalhousie University. As a conceptual and photographic artist, Irene has created various collaborative, solo and curatorial projects. Coming from a development studies background, she is passionate about grassroots and local/situational approaches to artistic practices and storytelling. This summer, Irene is excited to plan and run programs that inspire us to pay more attention to our environments and the influence of these environments on our lives and creativity; culminating in programming that explores the variety of ways that we can tell stories about ourselves and our spaces.


Usamah Rao

Usamah is a graduate from the Kinesiology and Health Science program at York University. Working and volunteering with organizations such as Islamic Relief Canada, Reviving the Islamic Spirit, and many other organizations, he has a strong focus on event and program management. On his free time he enjoys blogging through photography about his travels, with a larger focus on the halal food that he comes across. During his time with MABELLEarts, he is looking forward to working with the youth and helping them develop their own skills to help them grow into leaders in their own future endeavors.


Nada Nurhussen 

Nada is a high school student at Downsview Secondary School. She is a new staff member in the MABELLEarts family, as she has such an enthusiastic and an outgoing personality. She loves to meet new people and always ensures they have the best experience. She is excited to practice new experiences with MABELLEarts and is always willing to learn something new. Nada is bilingual speaking both Arabic and English and hopes to learn Turkish in the near future.


Peace Johnson

Peace is a high school student at Etobicoke Collegiate Institute. She has volunteered with MABELLEarts for 4 months and learned skills such has, teamwork and communication. Peace was born in Nigeria and she has a nice accent. Working with MABELLEarts has made her think more of the community and how she can make a positive impact.


Nada Johar 

Nada is a high school graduate from Etobicoke Collegiate Institute, and will continue her studies as a York student studying Commerce as of September 2019. She is a loyal MABELLEarts member, having volunteered for 2 years and is currently working as a summer student for her 3rd year. Previously, she has volunteered as a teacher's assistant at the International Languages Elementary as well as the Montgomery’s Inn youth cooking project. With over 350 volunteer hours, she is always happy to help others feel welcome as a passionate community arts lover. Nada is bilingual speaking, both Arabic and English and hopes to learn the Turkish language in the coming future.


Nuhar Johar 

Nuha is a high school student attending Etobicoke Collegiate Institute. She is an honors student, having received awards in math, history, geography. Nuha has learnt many languages in her years at school, including English, French, and Arabic. She is a caring and respectful daughter, sister, and friend. She has also volunteered at MABELLEarts for four years and is currently working in her second year as a summer student, where she has developed many skills such as problem solving, and communication. Her love of art has increased with the years, which has also made her more comfortable meeting and interacting with new people.


Tasmeen Syed

Tasmeen is a grade 12 student at Etobicoke Collegiate institute. This will be her fourth year working as a summer student. She has been involved with MABELLEarts as well as partner companies such as Jumblies Theatre and Gather Round singers since 2007. Outside of MABELLEarts she is a part of extracurricular activities at Etobicoke Collegiate Institute such as field hockey and a leadership camp called White Pine. She hopes to spend this summer making art and giving children the opportunity to have fun and make unforgettable memories.


Poonam Mehta 

Poonam is a graduate from medical school for Dentistry in India. Her hobbies include gardening and helping people in her community.Poonam has learnt many languages in her years at school, some include Hindi, Urdu, English, Punjabi and Kashmiri. At her time at MABELLEarts, she has gained many skills such as painting, drumming, cooking, and interacting in group games. She is a caring person that loves working with kids of all ages. Poonam is looking forward to working with new artists and performers to develop her skills and talent this summer.


Katherine Andrews

Katherine is visual artist and has attended Ocad U. She enjoys spending time with her cat and walking her dogs. She has a twin brother who has taught her a bit of guitar. She is always interesed in learning new tips and tricks on anything. Knowledge is key!

Community Leaders

The Mabelle Community Leaders program supports residents to take leadership in areas that feed into our larger projects and suit their skills and interests. Community Leaders of all ages are part of all or our programs: promoting projects and events at the local level; overseeing day-to-day park maintenance; cooking; sewing; building things and imagining new ways of engaging people in the neighbourhood. Each year, approximately ten percent of our operating budget goes to honoraria and wages for Community Leaders.

Board of Directors

Sujata Thapa Bhattarai, Chair

Sujata is a Ph.D candidate at the University of Toronto, Program in Planning . She have expertise working in South Asia on women's rights, conflict transformation, urban planning, infrastructure and transportation. Her interest is in feminist geography and planning and understanding how countries in transition work towards democracy.

Kris Erikson

Kris Erickson is an artist, activist, and educator who is both interested in and in awe of the interdisciplinary and ambitious work of community artists and arts organizations like MABELLEarts. Trained as a photographer, Kris is interested in exploring how camera images and camera use can be made more accessible to communities for constructing shared and cooperative visions of the city, its neighbourhoods, its cultures, and their unique characteristics. With his partner, Kris has two wonderfully unreasonable children. He currently teaches at Ryerson University.

Denise Pinto

Denise fell in love with MABELLEarts when sitting cross-legged on the grass, watching a cardboard time machine rumble into the future, filled with the tiny faces of neighbourhood kids. When she isn't being delighted by community arts, Denise rides on local buses in cities across Canada producing an audio-storytelling project called Bus Rides with Urbanists, which offers a portrait of Canadian city life from the perspective of residents. Formerly the Executive Director of the global Jane's Walk project, Denise has been focused on shaping, and advocating for, inclusive, citizen-led initiatives here in Toronto for nearly a decade, by holding board positions at Open Streets Toronto, Walk Toronto, and at OALA's Ground Magazine, where she frequently contributes. Trained as a landscape architect, Denise has delivered keynote lectures in Vienna, Hong Kong, and Chicago on the importance of connected communities. She is the recipient of a Medal of Excellence from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, and in 2016, she was named a Vital Person by the Toronto Foundation.

Huda Bukhari

Huda Bukhari has been a dedicated member of the settlement service sector for approximately two decades. An immigrant to Canada herself, she began her career as a frontline worker for newcomers, working up to her current position as the Executive Director at the Arrab Community Centre of Toronto.Outside of these roles, Huda has presented at various conferences on refugee and immigrant issues in Canada, and is a past Executive Board member at the Canadian Centre for Refugees as well as Sojourn House.

Sheila Devata-Chochinov

As a life-long resident of Etobicoke and an urban planner, Sheila has a passion for bringing people and groups together to transform our public spaces into places that connect, engage and inspire. Sheila has managed a local city council campaign, spearheaded the community revitalization of a large, neglected schoolyard and adjacent park, and educated middle school and university students on urban planning and design - all with the goal of demonstrating that everyone can play a part in building a better community.   For her, Mabelle Arts represents an ideal model of integrating art into public spaces to create access for all with lasting connections. Sheila has a Masters Degree in Urban Design and Planning and currently lectures graduate students in sustainable urbanism at McMaster University.

Dani Lagiglia

With a deep passion for issues related to animal welfare, the environment, and social justice, Dani believes in the power of charities to address the challenges of our time. Dani has put in more years than she’s willing to admit in the charitable sector, starting her journey as a fundraising intern at a tiny grassroots charity. Dani is the Regional Relationship Manager for PetSmart Charities of Canada, where she manages the national strategic grantmaking portfolio for Canada’s leading funder of animal welfare.

Previous to her role at PetSmart Charities of Canada, Dani managed the allocation of grant funding for the Catherine Donnelly Foundation, a funder focused on environmental justice and housing, and founded a consultancy centered upon building the fundraising capacity of grassroots organizations.  Before having the honour of giving away money in foundations, Dani was a fundraiser herself, and knows all too well the challenges of raising dollars. Dani has worked as a fundraiser at Roy Thomson/Massey Hall, MABELLEarts and Small Change Fund. Dani acknowledges the power differential between those giving away money and those asking, and understands the usage of “creative accounting” in grant reports, how many brilliant people work in the charitable sector, and how much harder it is to run a charity than a business.

Dani is responsible for national strategic grantmaking decisions in all areas for PetSmart Charities of Canada. She builds relationships with grantees across Canada and travels to meet with partners up to 60-percent of the year. She also thinks bios written in the third-person are very silly.