About Us - Nia Centre for the Arts

About Us

Nia Centre for the Arts is a Toronto-based charitable organization that supports, showcases and promotes an appreciation of arts from across the Afro-Diaspora.

Our Commitment

Nia Centre is committed to supporting artists working across disciplines, and ranging in experience levels.

We strive to build creative capacities and support the development of a healthy identity in Black youth.

We are committed to connecting community members to artistic and cultural experiences, year-round.

Our Origins

Initially funded through the Youth Challenge Fund in 2008 to address the roots of youth violence and disengagement, early programs focused on helping young people hone their artistic talents, and support positive youth development. Since then, Nia Centre has connected thousands of young people and emerging youth artists to mentors, opportunities to build transferable skills and employment. The Centre has offered programs in music, spoken word, literature, visual arts, theatre, dance and interdisciplinary arts often in partnership with established artists and arts organizations.

Nia Centre always had a vision for a physical space to address the lack of safe spaces for African-Canadian communities.

In 2015, we secured a lease for 524 Oakwood Ave, located just south of Eglinton Ave West, in the heart of a historically Caribbean neighbourhood with a long history of artistic and creative entrepreneurship

Meet our Team

Alica Hall

Executive Director

Sanique Walters

Program Coordinator


Tisania Francis Smith

Executive Assistant

Margaret Afekafe

Fundraising Manager

Namulinda Lester

Operations Manager

Jalen Fairclough

Digital Outreach Coordinator

Lloyd Smith

Youth Outreach Worker

Ikram Kabadeh

Youth Program Manager

Nigel Hernandez

Tour & Event Producer

Fallona English

Youth Program Facilitator

Our Board of Directors

Nia Centre is governed by a Board of Directors with professional and artistic expertise related to the organization’s strategic priorities as well as core demographic. They have expertise in law, financial management, fundraising, compliance, strategic communications and marketing, government relations, non-profit management, artistic practice and presentation. The Board plays an active role in the organization’s growth and development through strategic planning, policy development, fundraising and raising the profile of the organization.

Contact our Board

Media & Reports


Funded in 2009, we have been on a journey for over the last decade to become Canada’s first professional multi-disciplinary centre for African-Canadian art.

Formative Years


  • Nia Centre for the Arts is awarded three years of funding through the Youth Challenge Fund to build an Arts Centre dedicated to holistically supporting young people from the African diaspora through the arts.



  • After a year of research and development, Nia moves into its first office space at 720 Bathurst St and hires its first Executive Director, Program Manager, and Communications Manager.
  • We launch the Point of View workshop in Lawrence Heights & Weston-Mount Denis communities teaching young people photography.
  • At this point, we are governed by a Steering Committee and our first Youth Steering Committee who together develop strategic plans to guide the organization’s future direction.



  • We continued to launch new programs including: Outside the Lines program, the Media Arts program in Lawrence Heights.
  • And our first international project Project Groundings in Kingston, Jamaica, in partnership with York University, Jamaica Youth Theatre, and Woodside Community Development.
  • We also hosted several events to kick off a week-long commemoration of the United Nations International Year for Peoples of African Descent.
  • Our first summer camp program, Footsteps to Success, was a success in partnership with the Toronto Catholic District School Board.
  • We published a Community Research Report that identified the needs of Afro-Diasporic youth in Toronto and highlighted gaps in services.
Connecting Youth & Art


  • We partnered with TDSB to produce Word, Sound, Purpose, an interactive spoken word program and Learning Beyond The Walls: Education Done Differently with Dr. Carl James.
  • Launched Art of Facilitation workshop series for over 30 emerging artists, that infuses arts education with presentation and facilitation skills.
  • Started the Business of Our Art program in partnership with the City of Toronto working with young artists to develop and refine tools to assist in building and developing business acumen in the arts.



  • Nia Centre presents a series of interactive workshops for more than 500 elementary and high school students in the Peel District School Board.
  • Partnered with Onyx Society of OCAD and Northsidehiphop.ca to showcase the T-Dot Pioneers 3.0: The Future Must Be Replenished exhibit at Toronto’s SOHO Lobby Gallery.
  • Nia Centre is selected to provide the official documentation team for Canadian hip hop icon, author, and actor Maestro’s 25th anniversary event.
  • Working with Archie Alleyne Scholarship Foundation, we expanded their arts-based scholarships to provide financial assistance to young people pursuing post-secondary studies in arts.
  • The Centre is awarded a Bhayana Family Foundation award for Innovation and Creativity.
Building Professional Artist Capacity


  • Nia Centre launches its Masters @ Work Series in partnership with OCADU featuring Wendy ‘Motion’ Brathwaite and Lawrence Hill.
  • Nia Centre obtains charitable status.
  • Nia Centre hires architectural firm Oleson Worland to support efforts to assess the capital project.



  • Nia launches its first curated and juried Exhibition, Exposed 2015 Skin Deep: ReImaging the Portrait is curated by Pamela Edmonds.
  • Nia launched its B-Sides Event Series focused on celebrating and promoting black music. Featured artists include hip hop pioneer Michie Mee and photographer Michael Chambers.
  • Nia hosts its annual Art of Facilitation course in partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario.
The pathway to building Canada’s first Black Art Centre


  • We partnered with Ryerson Fashion Zone to develop a carnival costume designed using new technology.
  • Secured approval from the City to take over the building at 524 Oakwood Ave.



  • Hosted BlowOut Blocko with performances by the Real Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Ammoye and more.
  • We hired our first set of summer students with support from the Summer Jobs for Youth program.



  • Re-designed our space to make it more useful for artists, including adding a photography studio, recording studio and co-working space.
  • Launched our first Artist In Residence program providing free studio space, professional development and curatorial guidance for six emerging artists.
  • Expanded our Creative Connect mentorship program.



  • Hosted our first art fair, showcasing over 20 artists and 57 pieces of artwork.
  • Awarded the By Blacks People’s Choice Community Arts award.


Our Supporters

As a charity, we’re grateful for the support of our donors and supporters which enable the work we do.


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