My name is Jessa Agilo.
Based in Toronto, Canada, I am an integrated arts creator, producer, educator, researcher, changemaker, and serial social entrepreneur striving to boost social, spatial, economic, digital, and accessibility justice for equity-seeking groups across all disciplines in Canadian arts, culture, heritage, and creative industries.
After more than three decades in arts and culture, I am in the midst of revitalizing my passion for creativity and community-building in response to deeply-rooted systemic barriers in both real and virtual communities.
I am currently the founder of ArtsPond / Étang d’Arts, where I have led community-engaged efforts to address the effects of:
- Spatial precarity and gentrification on the arts in the Greater Toronto to Hamilton Area (Groundstory / Histoire de terrain)
- Digital transformation of regional and national arts services (DigitalASO / OSANumériques, including curating and producing two editions of Digital Arts Services Symposium / Symposium des services d’arts numérqiues 2017 and 2019)
- National COVID-19 response (I Lost My Gig Canada / J’ai perdu mon contrat Canada and COVID-19 Response Task Force)
- Design of open source arts management software for the visual, performing, disability arts and other disciplines (Hatch Open)
- Design of a platform cooperative for precarious gig economy workers in arts and culture (Artse United)
- Youth-led literacy on creative land trusts (Groundtrust)
- And more.
Prior to ArtsPond, for more than a decade I was a respected freelance arts manager, producer, and development consultant supporting small to mid-sized performing, media, literary, disability, and community-engaged artists and organizations. Roles included Dance Umbrella of Ontario, Kaeja d’Dance, Dreamwalker Dance, lbs/sq”, hum dansoundart, Queer Arts Festival, and many more. I also worked or consulted with larger organizations and institutions including The Banff Centre, Workman Arts, Blue Metropolis, Business for the Arts, and others. I am currently engaged in two personal research projects on arts management and digital transformation practices supported by Canada Council for the Arts. I have also researched futures on international artist representation in dance and shared charitable platforms with the support of Ontario Arts Council.
To date, I have successfully raised $1.6 million from the Digital Strategy Fund at Canada Council for the Arts for my work in digital knowledge, ecosystem, and platform-building across Canada. I was recognized with the Humberto Santos Award in Business and Administration in 2006 and Toronto Arts Council’s Leaders Lab in 2019. I am currently a mentor to young leaders from arts management, information technology, and urban design programs at Humber College, University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and more. I have also recently collaborated with many organizations to develop their strategies for digital transformation, including Brick: A Literary Journal, Citadel + Co, Musicworks, and The Dance Current, among others.
As a researcher, my upcoming publications include What Space: Spatial precarity, gentrification, and the arts, and Research Insights: Designing a cooperative digital future for managing the arts. I was recently featured in a study on the digital transformation agenda and GLAMS by London UK’s Culture24 for Europeana Foundation. I have also been called upon to speak on diverse social, spatial, economic, digital, and accessibility justice issues, and the ripple effects and solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadian arts and culture including CBC, CityNews, The Canadian Press, Toronto Start, Globe and Mail, and more. I am also currently a part of a Digital Transformation Collaborative hosted by Ontario Trillium Foundation, IBM and others, and have been a peer advisor on funding applications for Canada Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, and Toronto Arts Council.
While adept at building human-digital communities locally and nationally, I initially began my career as an artist/composer with honours including Gaudeamus, SOCAN, Vancouver New Music, Istvan Anhalt Award in Electroacoustics, and more. In “off hours”, I continue to maintain a personal art practice including visual arts, media, poetry, sound, and more. I was the sound designer / composer for Gerry Trentham’s Trees: From the series, The Bush, presented by pounds per square inch performance in October 2018.
A proud queer transsexual with a mental and physical disability, I am devoted to critical access and inclusion for equity-seeking groups of all kinds in both real and virtual spaces. Human-centered design, collective impact, community-engaged arts, intentional cooperative actions, ethical knowledge seeking and stewardship, and equity-centered social innovation are approaches that underlie my work every day.