Hi there

My name is Jessa Agilo.

Based in Toronto, Canada, I am an integrated arts creator, producer, educator, knowledge seeker, changemaker, activist, and serial social entrepreneur striving to boost social, spatial, economic, digital, and accessibility justice with, by, and for equity-seeking groups across all disciplines in Canadian arts, cultural 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); digital transformation of regional and national arts services (DigitalASO), including curating and producing two editions of the Digital Arts Services Symposium in 2017 and 2019; national COVID-19 response in the arts, cultural, and creative industries (I Lost My Gig Canada and COVID-19 Response Task Force); design of open source arts management software (Hatch Open); design of a platform cooperative for previous gig economy workers in the arts and culture (Artse United); youth-led literacy on cultural land trusts (Groundtrust); artistic residency on social-digital justice (Together There); 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 was a fellow of Toronto Arts Council’s Leaders Lab in 2019 and Wolf Willow’s Positive Deviants in 2021-22. 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, York University, Sheridan College, 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 recent and 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 Star, 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 amplifying access and inclusion for equity-seeking groups of all kinds in both real and virtual spaces. Human-centered design, collective impact, critical access, social-technical systems, community-engaged arts, ethical knowledge seeking and stewardship, ‘Two-Eyed Seeing”-inspired dialogues, grassroots collective actions and co-creation, intentional mutual aid networks, community land trusts, platform cooperatives, and equity-centered social finance and social innovation are approaches that underlie my work every day.

An updated website is coming someday. In the meantime, send me an email and say hello! For more information, also check out my curriculum vitae (September 2021), or visit my profile on LinkedIn.

Canada Council for the Arts
Ontario Arts Council