Arts for Children and Youth

Summary of organization/program

Arts for Children and Youth’s (AFCY) mandate is to engage young people living in priority neighbourhoods in high quality and accessible arts educational programs that are meaningful, relevant and collaboratively developed with community and education partners. AFCY positions arts programs in schools and neighbourhood venues as a means of building community, and empowering marginalized children and youth to reach their full potential as artists and social contributors.

Contact information


 401 Richmond Street West, Suite 230, Toronto, ON M5V 3A8

 (416) 929-9314


Geographic region

  • Local


  • They primarily serve children and youth in both the public school system and in the community through community-based programs. (ages 3 – 24)

History/Background Information

  • Established in: 1995
  • It all started back in 1995, when Lola Rasminsky, one of Toronto’s most energetic advocates for arts education, decided that no child should be deprived of the creative acumen that comes with early exposure to quality hands-on arts experiences simply because of financial circumstance. In order to respond to the critical reduction in arts education in the public educational system, and to remedy what she saw as a gap between rich and poor, she founded a charitable organization whose mandate was to offer scholarships to under-resourced children in the GTA, so that they could benefit from the same high quality arts instruction enjoyed by their more well-to-do counterparts. That organization was called Arts for Children of Toronto.

    As the years passed, the little organization grew and grew. It grew in stature, and it gained wisdom as it matured. More than 850 children received arts scholarships through AFC. By 2002, Lola had come to the realization that, by taking the arts instruction into public schools, many more children could share in these experiences. Thus, our Outreach Program was born, and it has continued to grow, now reaching upwards of 8,000 young people each year, and extending into the community with many after-school programs and summer youth employment initiatives. We no longer offer scholarships, having decided to focus on outreach, taking the programs directly to the young people in their schools and communities.

    Our increasing involvement with older kids prompted a name change in 2008, and we are now known as Arts for Children and Youth (AFCY). We have established a Youth Advisory Council, made up of youth who live in the communities we work with, many of them past program participants. These youth are integral to our program planning process; they are our eyes into the world of their peers. They advise us as to what excites young people today, and they create the aesthetic that defines our organization.

    Inasmuch as possible, our programs are youth led. We see our artists as facilitators rather than instructors. Each program is custom-made to fit the community’s wants and needs. We have also worked very hard to link our school and community programs, so that a young participant might experience arts-based learning in both a formal and an informal setting.

    As for recent history, Julie Frost, who has acted as our Artistic Director since the turn of the century, stepped up to take Lola’s place as Executive Director in September 2009. Julie continues to act as Artistic Director as well, ensuring that her artistic vision melds with the organization’s strategic positioning. As we approach our 15th year, it feels as though we are coming of age. With the help of our many partners and donors, we feel that we can truly make a difference in the lives of marginalized young people, giving them the hopefulness that any young person deserves to feel as they venture into adulthood.

Dominant Media Forms

video production


music production

live performance

multi media presentations

fine arts


  • Our mission is to ally with high priority communities and empower marginalized children and youth by engaging them in hands-on, community- and school-based arts education programs that respect existing cultural and community activity, resulting in participatory action and social awareness.
  • Arts for Children and Youth’s (AFCY) mandate is to engage young people living in priority neighbourhoods in high quality and accessible arts educational programs that are meaningful, relevant and collaboratively developed with community and education partners. AFCY positions arts programs in schools and neighbourhood venues as a means of building community, and empowering marginalized children and youth to reach their full potential as artists and social contributors.
  • Our goals are focused on:

    1. Engaging marginalized youth in unique arts programs that develop both artistic and personal skills;
    2. Providing meaningful mentorship opportunities that could lead youth to finding gainful employment; and,
    3. Providing children and youth with a venue to develop a stake in their own community.

Statement of Principles

not provided


AFCY believes that direct participation in the arts provides young people with numerous benefits. Through community and school based arts engagement, children and youth can self-express, develop skills, learn new ways of seeing and doing, and establish new connections with society and with the self. AFCY’s programs are grounded in excellence, skills development, hands-on arts-based learning, mentorship, self-expression, collaboration, inclusiveness and social awareness. AFCY fully recognizes the importance and involvement of young people as program supporters and designers, along with other key community and education partners.

Samples of work

  • Each year AFCY offers almost 200 outreach programs to children and youth in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods. To date, we’ve provided over 40,000 young people from culturally diverse, low-income areas in Toronto with high-quality, innovative arts experiences in visual arts, dance, drama,music, dub poetry, video/film-making, and photography.

  • Rather than having the participants travel to our offices, AFCY brings programs directly into the communities via collaborative partnerships with local service agencies, the education system and cultural industries. Today, we reach approximately 8,000 children and youth every year through 97 diverse venues including inner-city schools, community centres, shelters, churches, libraries, hospitals and Toronto Community Housing buildings.

  • AFCY’s programs for children and youth fall into 2 categories
    Programs in Schools
    Programs in Community Organizations  

  • AFCY also offers Professional Development programs for those who work with children and youth.

      1. High quality hands-on workshops conducted by professional artists in Dance, Drama, Dub Poetry, Environmental Art, Film-Making/Video, Integrated Arts, Photography and Visual Arts.
      1. A choice of half-day, full-day and multiple-day workshops.
      1. Programs tailored to children only, or to children with their parent or caregiver. Workshops start at Nursery (age 3) and go through age 24.
      1. Coordination of your workshop including program set-up, materials, scheduling artists and site visits.
      1. Minimal costs (see fees section).
      1. A Professional Development workshop for teachers and community coordinators/educators is available for a minimal fee.
  • **Eligibility to apply for workshop series:
    • schools and organizations in low-income areas of the Greater Toronto Area, who have limited arts programming for children, and not-for-profit organizations that service children and youth with financial, social and language barriers. 

Funding Sources







    Barrday, Inc.
    J.P. Bickell Foundation
    John & Ruth Crow
    Edith A. Hall Friedheim
    Lyndsay Green & Hank Intven
    Margaret McCain
    Nancy McCain
    F.K. Morrow Foundation
    The Delaney Family Foundation
    Tides Canada Foundation




    Anonymous Donor
    Cindy Blakely
    BMO Employee Charitable Foundation
    Crayola Canada
    Marsha Copp
    Clare Davenport
    Falconer Charney LLP
    Audrey S. Hellyer Charitable Foundation
    Mark Klym
    Hal Jackman Foundation
    Kiwanis Club of Toronto Foundation
    Vicky Loftus
    George Lunan Foundation
    Gerald Schwartz
    The Julie-Jiggs Foundation
    Ann Wilson & Robert Prichard
    Winberg Foundation
    Margaret Zeidler



    Anonymous Donor
    Ann Bondy
    Beverley Chernos
    Fireslide Productions Inc.
    Jean Fraser
    Virginia Froman-Wenban
    Brian Frost
    Valerie Hussey Family Fund
    Nicole Jolly
    Aubrey & Koren Kassirer
    Shirley Katz
    Merle Kriss
    John Kromkamp
    Manifesto Community Projects Inc.
    Mastermind Educational Toys
    John McKellar Charitable Foundation
    Kenneth Rotenberg



    Anonymous Donor
    George D. Anderson
    Jane Darville
    Alison Dyer
    Pam & Richard Earle
    Byron J Garby
    Karen Goldenberg
    Norma Michael
    Janet Neilson
    Serena Richardson
    Nancy Riley
    Howard Sutton
    N. A. Taylor Foundation
    Margaret Wente
    Grace Westcott
    Gordon Willcocks & Ann Allan



    Anonymous (2)
    Kirby Chown
    Ian Frost
    Janet Frost
    Karen Falconer
    Karen Goldenberg
    Barbara Goldring
    Amanda Immurs
    Bruce Kidd
    Linda Laughlin
    Sandy & Gwen Mackay-Smith
    Rosemary McLeod
    Bonnie Mills
    Janet Morrison
    Cathy Park & Andrew Bishop
    Peggy Pelosi
    Stephen Posen
    Serena Richardson
    Kathryn Russell
    Gordon & Linda Sato
    Fred & Beverly Schaeffer
    Paul & Alma Simonsky
    Melanie Smith
    Howard Sutton
    Martin Wasserman
    Addie & Matt Weinstein
    Margaret Wente
    Rose Wolfe
    Mark Zohar



    Anonymous (4)
    V. Bailey
    Jenny Bird
    Izzie & Gloria Boxen
    Susan Brown
    Dr. & Mrs. Paul Druckman
    Ruth Druxerman
    Frances Frisken
    Barbara Frost
    Hayley Goldenberg
    Terry Hershey
    Elizabeth Horton
    Amanda Immurs
    Melanie Kastner
    Kirstin Lane
    A. Norman
    OISE/UT B.Ed. Students
    Susan Pearce
    Susan Stancer
    United Way of Greater Toronto