My name is Jessa Agilo.
Based in Toronto, Canada, I am a queer, transgender, disabled, integrated and community arts creator, producer, educator, changemaker, caregiver, and serial social entrepeneur with a three-decade career bolstering creativity and innovation with, by, and for equity-seeking groups in Canadian arts and culture.
I am currently Founder, President + CEO of ArtsPond / Étang d’Arts, where since 2014 I have led community-engaged efforts to bolster social, spatial, economic, ecological, disability, and digital justice in real, virtual, and natural life.
Prior to ArtsPond, for more than a decade I was a freelance manager, producer, and development consultant with such small to mid-sized companies as Kaeja d’Dance, Dreamwalker Dance, lbs/sq” performance, hum dansoundart, black&blue dance projects, Anandam Dancetheatre, Queer Arts Festival, Ontario Culture Days, Roseneath Theatre, and more. I also worked or consulted with larger organizations and institutions including Banff Centre, Workman Arts, Fondation Metropolis Bleu, Business for the Arts, and many more. 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, Toronto Metropolitian 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 So Far: Collective steps towards a positive digital future in Canadian arts and culture (2023, pending), Research Insights: Designing a cooperative digital future for managing the arts (2022), I Lost My Gig Canada: COVID-19 Impact Survey (2021), What Space: Spatial precarity, gentrification, and the arts (2020), and more. I was featured in a study on the digital transformation agenda and GLAMS by London UK’s Culture24 for Europeana Foundation, and lessons from arts in the digital world in Canada hosted by Feral Arts in Australia. I have 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 part of Digital Transformation Collaborative hosted by Ontario Trillium Foundation and IBM, and have been a peer advisor 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 lbs/sq” performance in October 2018.
Proudly Mad, neurodivergent, immunocompromised, and other disabled, 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 allyship towards Indigenous reconciliation, 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.
A more robust and interactive website is coming someday. In the meantime, send me an email and say hello! For more information, also check out my curriculum vitae (July 2022), or visit my profile on LinkedIn.