Board of Directors
Vanessa is a passionate Arts educator who recently retired from the TDSB where she worked as a Visual Arts and Media Arts Instructional Leader K-12 and Acting Arts Program Coordinator, developing curriculum, supporting teachers and creating district wide projects in museums and cultural organizations across the city.
After immigrating to Canada in 1988 from South Africa she taught in the Programs Department of the ROM and in the former North York Board of Education. She holds a Fine Arts Degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, a Speech and Drama degree from the University of South Africa and a Masters Degree in Education from York University. Her dissertation on the “Pedagogy of Memory” broke new ground in the academy by combining written research with a collaborative installation that addressed trauma through arts based practice. Her Doctoral work engages with collaborative practice across difference and how these ideas merge in a global dialogue.
Vanessa currently consults with Arts organizations museums and galleries across Toronto including The Canadian Museum for Textiles, The Aga Khan Foundation, and TDSB Museum and Archives.
As well as being a board member for Kick Start Arts, Vanessa sits on the Education Advisory Committee of the Canadian Museum for Textiles.
Helen Bryce was educated at New York University (BS) and Columbia University Teachers College (MA). Over her career as an Art educator and later, as an Elementary classroom teacher, she taught junior, senior and high school students in a variety of schools in Toronto. Her work as a teacher, Project Teacher and then Vice-principal at Lord Dufferin Jr. Sr. P. S. in Regent Park, was a turning point in her understanding of equity, generational poverty, the challenges for new arrivals to Canada and growing up in the social isolation of housing projects. As Principal of Earl Grey Senior P. S. for nine years (now retired), Helen worked with many arts organizations, including the versatile and innovative Kick Start Arts programs and devoted a healthy percentage of each year’s school budget toward the arts.
She strongly believes that the Arts hold the key to unlocking the inner self and each individual’s power to promote social justice. Arts opportunities must be available to all children and young adults – regardless of their address – to collaboratively discover and nurture their inner voices and embrace, with new confidence, the choices and leadership potential they have to make positive change in our society and the world.
She is honoured to be a member of the board of directors of Kick Start Arts.
O’neil Edwards BCOMM/LLB/MBA, B.Ed.
O’neil is the Program Director of the Spanning the Gaps – Access to Post Secondary Education program at Ryerson University. Previously, he worked extensively in the corporate world for Goldman Sachs, KPMG and Coca-Cola Global. He has had the privilege of living and working in many different countries, bringing unique insights to his work. Building on a passion for developing people’s potential through education, O’neil continues to be part of programs that bring real social change.
Jen Johnson B.Sc., M.S.Ed.
Jen has taught, created and performed across Canada and internationally for many years. Artistically, she is known for creating dance and theatre pieces that seamlessly meld the elements of theatre and acting with movement. Jen’s teaching experience is extensive, having presented creative movement, choreography and drama to children, teens and adults with varied levels of dance and theatre training. Jen is currently the drama teacher and director for grades 3-6 at Crescent School in Toronto. Her ability to engage and motivate the students at this all-boys school is clearly evident as the excitement and interest in drama and dance has exploded since she began teaching there. She has directed numerous children’s productions, creating fantastical worlds and rich acting and interpretive experiences for all involved. Jen also spent many years teaching with Learning Through the Arts, a program that teaches core curriculum content through the arts, the Canadian Opera Company’s Outreach Programs, and Humber College’s School of Comedy. She leads numerous workshops directed at classroom educators and peer artists on the topic of bringing the arts into the classroom.
Peter is a PhD student at the University of British Columbia (UBC)’s Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice. At UBC he is also International Student Advisor, Special Populations and Programs. In this role, he advises and coaches students and coordinate supports and resources to enhance their retention, enrich their student experience and success. He also is a co-lead on a large campus anti-discrimination program. He has experiences as a child and youth advocate, resiliency worker, and various arts-based anti-oppression initiatives and projects. Peter is absolutely delighted to be a part of Kick Start Arts because of its emphasis on the Arts as a conduit for social change by working with individuals and communities through collaborative processes.