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 and Dhaka, Bangladesh. She 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.
Shifra Cooper, Assistant Artistic Director
Shifra Cooper is a community artist, arts manager and choral director who brings people together to build things, sing songs and take part in interdisciplinary projects. Since 2009, Shifra has collaborated on community arts projects with companies including: Jumblies Theatre, The Bain Arts Collective, Making Room Community Arts, MABELLEarts, Thinking Rock Community Arts, Arts4All, AlgomaTrad and Vancouver Moving Theatre, in various organizational and creative roles. Shifra completed her Bachelor's degree in English Literature at the University of Toronto, Victoria College in 2014.
Fiona Raye Clarke, Youth Coordinator
Fiona Raye Clarke is a Trinidadian-Canadian writer, playwright and community artist. Her work features images and stories of people of colour, particularly Black youth, with a view to further weaving the Black experience into the Canadian cultural imagination. She is the editor of the youth anthology Basodee: An Anthology Dedicated to Black Youth published in 2012 and editor of the forthcoming anthology Black Like We: Troubleshooting the Black Youth Experience, which was the winner of the ArtReach Youth Arts Pitch Contest. Her play Broken Windows was most recently featured in the 14th rock.paper.sistahz festival and received a Theatre Creator's Reserve grant from the Ontario Arts Council supported by Obsidian Theatre Company. Fiona was the winner of the Neighbourhood Arts Network BMO Seeds Fund for her literacy project in partnership with the Parkdale Library and is the founder of INTERGENERACIAL a Black youth oral history theatre project funded by the Toronto Arts Council and ArtReach. She holds a Master of Laws degree from Osgoode Hall Law School.
Daven Seebarran, Development Manager
Daven Seebarran is a senior executive with over 15 years of progressive experience within the charitable sector, with specific expertise in non-profit management, organizational development, fund development and community development. His roles have included Director of Operation, Director of Development and almost a decade of experience as an Executive Director. As a prolific fundraiser, Daven Seebarran has raised more than $34 million for institutions across Canada. He has consulted for Malton Food Bank, University of Toronto, University of Alberta, City of Edmonton, St. Michael’s Hospital, Edmonton Pride Festival, Sikh Foundation of Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada and Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
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.
Parker Dirks, Associate Artist/Gardener
Parker Dirks is a trans visual artist and gardener with an interdisciplinary practice. He attended Goshen College in Indiana where he studied Agricultural Ecology and NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia where he received a BFA in Ceramics. Parker has worked in community arts since 2014 when he became an intern at Jumblies Theatre. Subsequently, Parker has worked at Jumblies and its offshoots across Toronto in many roles including arts facilitator, designer, maker and printmaker. Parker joined the Mabelle Arts team in the spring of 2015 as an associate artist and gardener. At Mabelle Parker facilitates gardening activities in the park, supports the creation of other artist’s projects, makes illustrations, drives, is generally handy and hangs out with participants.
Melanie Fernandez - Alvares, Associate Artist
Melanie is a drama artist who strives to integrate drama activities in diverse subject matter, to engage, teach and build community. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Psychology and a Teachers Diploma in Speech & Drama from Trinity College of London, England. Over the years, Melanie has thrived on being part, of a number of community theatre productions and musical projects where self-instruction and apprenticeships with experts advanced her skills in theatre crafts, voice coaching and directing.
Farah Jibril, Community Facilitator
Farah Jibril is a Jordanian-born social work student at York University. In high school, she won the Community Involvement Award for doing over 600 hours of volunteer work. Farah has been involved with MABELLEarts since its inception and is currently a Community Facilitator. MABELLE has exposed Farah to the possibilities of work that is varied, fast-paced, and both hands-on and administrative-based. She hopes to one day sponsor a child and open a drop-in centre for girls to build their confidence and teach them skills and self-care.
Osama Jibril, Community Facilitator
Osama Jibril is a proud Arab young entrepreneur interested in someday owning a business that benefits others. A student at Richview Collegiate Institute, Osama is a class representative and has won awards for Most Improved and Hardest Working. Osama is most proud of his ability to self-motivate and experienced a change in perspective three years ago when he saw his dad working hard to support the family. He is currently a Community Facilitator at MABELLEarts an organization he has been involved with since he was eight-years-old. Seeing the planning that goes into MABELLE’s workshops and art activities has reinforced Osama’s desire to pursue a life of entrepreneurship.
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
Kris Erikson, Chair
Kris received his BFA in photography in 2003. He has since gone on to do freelance and volunteer photographic work in Toronto, teaching photography and making photographs for community-based organizations such as Painting Our Stories and Foodshare, as well as with community arts groups and events like Clay and Paper Theatre’s Night of Dread, the Viva! Project, the Department of Public Memory, MABELLEarts, and Regent Park Focus. Kris is currently balancing time looking after his two year old son and completing his PhD in Communication and Culture. His dissertation work considers the role played by camera-based media (photography and video) in supporting and helping develop contemporary community arts practices in Southern Ontario.
Ian is a facilitator, writer, and urban planner who works to design, run, and document successful community engagement processes. He’s currently an Associate at Swerhun Facilitation, where he helps participants contribute constructive insights and supports decision-makers in making transparent, defensible choices. Ian is a Registered Professional Planner, a Full Member of the Ontario Professional Planners’ Institute, and an occasional instructor and lecturer at York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. He’s also a published poet, and is keenly interested in bringing arts-based practices into community engagement and public decision-making processes. Ian periodically shares his writing at ianmalczewski.com
Beth is a theatre artist working in community-engaged arts. Based in Toronto, she has worked as a director, actor, playwright, and artist educator. For the last three years she has been journeying with Jumblies through many projects, first as an intern at Arts4All on the play We Live Here, and then with Jumblies in Scarborough as a Metcalf Intern – travelling also to Puppetmongers, Arts4All, and Aanmitaagzii – and now as a lead artist in Scarborough. She is pleased as punch to be taking leadership of the newest Jumblies offshoot as Artistic Director of the Community Arts Guild, coming out of the residency in East Scarborough. Other places she can often be found include MABELLEarts and Arts4All, the Young People’s Theatre, the Paprika Festival, the Tarragon Theatre, and Tottering Biped Theatre in Burlington. She has been an associate professor in the acting program at Ryerson University, has created and directed projects with young women in Parkdale and Lawrence Heights through Theatre Revolve, and worked as an artist educator with Soulpepper and Canadian Stage. Beth has a BFA in acting from Ryerson University.
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, she runs the global Jane's Walk project. Named in honour of Jane Jacobs, the project supports community organizers from over 100 cities, Calgary to Calcutta, as they produce programmes of citizen-led walking tours that get people to tell stories about their communities, explore their cities, and connect with neighbours. Denise has walked with Jane's Walk leaders and delivered keynote lectures in Vienna, Hong Kong and Chicago. Trained as a landscape architect, she is also an Advisory Board member for Open Streets Toronto, a Steering Committee member for Walk Toronto, and the former Chair of the Editorial Board for Ground Magazine, where she also frequently contributes. In 2012, she won a Medal of Excellence at the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada's Urban Design Awards for a project on urban agriculture.
Sujata Thapa Bhattarai
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.