Artistic Director – Michael Burtt
Michael Burtt is the Artistic Director of Making Room Community Arts, in residence at the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre, in the West end of Toronto. Michael has developed a grounded arts practice rooted in the asking of Big Questions in a way that is a form that is radically inclusive. He brings to this practice twenty-five years of experience as a community-based organizer and cultural worker. He has recently graduated from the Master’s program at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, studying the connection between community arts and the sacred of everyday life. In addition to his role at Making Room, Michael often works with other Jumblies-related projects including the Studio, Arts4All and MABELLEarts.
Sonja Rainey is a set and costume designer as well as a community engaged artist. Her approach is tactile and experiential, responding directly to the themes at hand to create objects, immersive environments and art making initiatives for participants to shape and contribute to. Her designs and workshops blend forms and materials and journey towards the questions and stories that lie below the surface. Sonja is a two time Dora award nominee for her costume and set designs and has also worked in film and television. She is passionate about bringing the knowledge and skills gleamed from these experiences to her community arts practice. Currently she is delighted to be working with Jumblies Theatre as well as Making Room Community Arts, MABELLEarts and the Community Arts Guild through a Metcalf Foundation internship. Her work with these companies has encompassed set and costume design; puppet and mask work; illustration and sculpture as well as the creation of short narrative films. Sonja has an MFA in Theatrical Design from the University of Texas at Austin, a BFA specialization in Design for the Theatre from Concordia University and has most recently studied at the Manitoulin Conservatory for Creation and Performance.
Jess Shane is a community artist who works in digital media, puppetry, and theatrical design. Juxtaposing the mundane and the whimsical, her work explores intersections of documentary and fiction through collages of performance, interviews, and found and created objects.
Jess’ passion for collaborative and socially-engaged art and theatre led her to pursue a practicum with the Community Arts Guild and Jumblies Theatre in 2014. She began working with Making Room in the spring of that year. She has apprenticed with Bread and Puppet Theatre in Vermont, interned with Sean Frey at the Bain Arts Collective, and worked as a studio assistant for artists Ed Pien and John Massey. She holds a BA in Visual Studies and Women and Gender Studies from the University of Toronto.
Jonathan Valelly is a community artist, writer, and bookmaker. He has been working with Making Room Community arts since 2013, collaborating with the communities of PARC and Edmond Place and Coach House Books to make beautiful publications and celebrations. He is a prolific writer who has been published in a number of magazines and journals in Canada and internationally. Currently Jonathan is the assistant editor of Broken Pencil Magazine and a co-editor of Gay 4 Pay Press, a radical gay zine distro. He has a bachelor’s degree in Literary Studies and Books & Media Studies from the University of Toronto.
Jonathan is also involved in a number of activist organizations working around queer and trans issues, HIV, anti-poverty, and anti-racism. He is also an active member of the underground vogue/ballroom House of Lanvin. His experience organizing through and with the arts in political contexts has guided him organically into community arts in Toronto.
Shifra Cooper grew up with the Community Arts movement, in Canada and England, and has been a part of Jumblies Theatre’s work since it was founded in 2001, working in roles such as workshop facilitator, administrative assistant, stage manager, performer, singer and choral leader. She took part in Jumblies’ Artfare Essentials in 2010, and subsequently worked as a summer student with Arts4All and Making Room Community Arts. Shifra’s mentorship by Jumblies included support in directing community choirs at Camp Naivelt and in Scarborough, and being part of the production and musical team for Like An Old Tale in 2011. In the summer of 2013, she worked with the Bain Arts Collective, collaboratively creating and directing the choral music for their pageant. Shifra has studied voice and piano and sung in many choirs and musical productions, including with VIVA! Youth Singers and the Vic Chorus, and has just completed her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature at the University of Toronto, Victoria College. Currently, she leading a weekly choir for Making Room with members of the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre, assists at Jumblies’ new home, The Ground Floor, and helps at MABELLEarts in the office and in the park.