A small but dedicated team of individuals committed to positive social change in York South-Weston
Marlene has been the Executive Director of UrbanArts since 2008 and has over 25 years’ experience in arts administration, non-profit management, organizational development and capacity building, advocacy, and training & employment services for multiple stakeholders including youth, women, immigrants and the unemployed. With a passion for youth and the arts, Marlene has worked tirelessly to ensure young people have access to quality programs and services and that their voices are included in every sphere. She has completed academic programs at the Schulich School of Business, the Ivey Spencer Business School and Humber College. Marlene is a recipient of the Black Business & Professional Association’s (BBPA) 2015 Woman of Honour Award for excellence in service to the community.
Lensa Simesso Denga
Lensa came to UrbanArts with over 10 years of Senior Management experience with international and national not for profit organizations with strong expertise in Strategic Planning, Organizational Development, Human Resources Management and Employment Counselling. Lensa completed a Post Graduate in Development Leadership from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, along with an undergraduate studies in Business Administration, Applied Linguistics, and Communications. Furthermore, Lensa is Certified in Organizational Change and Learning, Women’s’ Leadership, Advocacy and Citizen Engagement, Conflict Transformation and Peace building.
A dedicated champion of the arts, Spencer brings over 12 years of experience in the arts and non-profit sector with expertise in marketing, branding, web development and event coordination. His boutique design & branding firm, Wimbo Media, has collaborated on projects with CBC Music, Coalition for Music Education, DanceImmersion, Learning Enrichment Foundation, and TD in recent years. Spencer studied at Ryerson University and the Harris Institute of the Arts, where he earned an Arts Management diploma. With a background and passion for songwriting, music production and artist management, Spencer has toured and collaborated on music projects in 3 different continents.
Melanie Billark is a multidisciplinary Toronto based Artist, achieving an advanced diploma in 2011 at Sheridan College’s Craft and Design Program for glass in Oakville, ON. Following her degree she completed a year artist residency at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, ON, in 2012. Melanie graduated from OCADU’s Sculpture and Installation program, obtaining her BFA in 2016. She has participated in a number of shows including venues such as Toronto Pearson Airport, Lonsdale Gallery, Canadian Sculpture Centre, Gladstone Hotel, and Xpace Cultural Centre. Melanie has also won a number of bursaries and awards including The Masonic Foundation of Canada Bursary in 2011 and was recently the recipient for The OALA Ground Award in 2016, for her sculptural work Rewilding .
Marie Sotto is a Filipina-Canadian visual artist and comedienne. Marie completed her degree in International Development Studies in 2011. She has 8 years of combined experience in strategic planning and development for community arts projects and programs. She developed her leadership ability through her work with Kapisanan, The Dream House Collective and Arts Express.
She first started at UrbanArts as a Youth Artist in 2009. Since then, she has exhibited work in galleries and art spaces across Toronto. She also currently performs in comedy shows around the city and hosts and produces her own art inspired comedy show. Marie continues to bring together communities through the arts and works tirelessly as a community leader and advocate for youth.
Ksenia Khan graduated with a MEd in Art Education and BA in Fashion Design. She has worked for various non-profit arts organizations based on her passion for youth programming and Arts leading into positive social action and change. In August 2016, she finished curating an Art Residency, which took place in the Carpathian Mountains. As a curator, she brought together 20 artists who conducted more than 140 workshops for youth and created more than 100 art pieces for a charity auction.
Last year, Ksenia successfully completed the Arts Management Program at Centennial College. At the final stage of Arts Management program, she received a Dean’s Award for playing an outstanding role in a community visual arts project with excellent client reviews. Passionate about community work, she started volunteering with UrbanArts in late 2016. She would later go on to coordinate UrbanArts’ My City My Six Project in 2017. Currently, she is occupying the Program Administration position.