November 25, 2022

The Future of Activism in the Arts

Canada, Faroe Islands, Finland, Six Nations of the Grand River

Please arrive at least 15 minutes early to check in by providing your name at the door. As there is a waiting list, unclaimed seats will be released just before the event starts, though standing room will still be available.

Nordic Talks - The future of art activisim

Dawn Jani Birley, Photo by Tomas Kold

This event is a Nordic Spotlight, part of Nordic Bridges.


Art has the power to reach many people and bring communities together. Can we increase the potential of art to be a catalyst for changing human behaviour?  How can artists play a larger role in inspiring action for social and environmental justice? Join Canadian and Nordic thought leaders in a lively panel discussion on the future of art activism. 

Please join us after the talk for a reception. 

About Claude Schryer

Claude Schryer (1959, Ottawa, he/him) believes the arts, in the context of decolonization, can play a much more impactful role in shaping our collective future, and he has dedicated his life to this vocation. Schryer is a Franco-Ontarian sound and media artist and arts administrator of European ancestry. He holds a MM in composition from McGill University and was actively involved in the acoustic ecology and electroacoustic music communities in the ’80s and ’90s. From 2000 to 2020, Schryer held management positions at the Canada Council for the Arts in Inter-Arts, partnerships, and as a senior strategic advisor. He currently produces the conscient podcast on art and the ecological crisis. He describes his artistic aesthetic as “an exploration of the liminal space between reality, fantasy and spirit.” He is also an environmental activist who volunteers with the Sectoral Climate Art Leadership for the Emergency (SCALE) and is the chair of the board and member of the Mission Circle. He regularly gives workshops, facilitates meetings and participates in panels and presentations on art and sound and the ecological crisis. Schryer is grateful to the Gesturing Towards Decolonized Futures collective and the Facing Human Wrongs course for guidance in his learning and unlearning. 

About Heiðrik á Heygum

Heiðrik á Heygum graduated from Super16, the Danish Independent Film School and the Academy of Art of Iceland. á Heygum is called a renaissance man whose work encompasses film, art, and music and often combines all three art forms. He is one of the leading artists from the Faroe Islands, producing art, music, award-winning films and music videos for acclaimed Nordic singers and acts. He hails from a conservative background in the isolated Faroe Islands, and growing up in a religious and patriarchal society significantly impacted his childhood. á Heygum’s art is divided into two different worlds: a world of the surrealistic and fantastical to the quiet and private world questioning identity, social heritage, sexuality and adulthood. In 2021, he presented a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of the Faroe Islands. Harbourfront Centre presents Kjøt (Meat) from November 25 to January 8, 2023. It is his first solo exhibition outside Europe. 

About Dawn Jani Birley

Finland based Dawn Jani Birley was born in Saskatchewan to a third generation Deaf family and identifies as culturally and linguistically Deaf. She has won the Toronto Theatre Critics Award for Best Actress in a Play for her role as Horatio in Prince Hamlet, the Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf Person of the Year 2017 and the Swedish Riksteatern’s Artist of the Year in 2015. Birley is a versatile actor with an uncanny ability for storytelling. Her career takes her worldwide, spanning more than fifteen years of professional experience in theatre and film. With a Master of Arts in Physical Theatre with Merit from St. Mary’s University in London, she established the 1S1 Theatre in 2019 with a vision for the Deaf and hearing communities to enjoy theatre together. The mission is to create theatre at the intersections of Deaf and hearing worlds, always from a Deaf-led perspective, to push for positive change in today’s world. Aside from acting, Birley often hosts workshops, training, motivational speeches and appearances. 

About Santee Smith

Santee Smith (Tekaronhiáhkhwa/Picking up the Sky) is a multidisciplinary artist from the Kahnyen’kehàka Nation, Turtle Clan, Ohswekén/Six Nations of the Grand River, Haldimand Treaty territory. As a creative, she is dedicated to cultivating space for embodied storytelling, collaboration, and exchange through performance, cultural talks and work with land and earth/clay. In 2005 she founded Kaha:wi Dance Theatre and works as an independent artist on projects such as The Mush Hole and the Talking Earth installation at the Gardiner Museum. Her practice processes are full-bodied, ceremonial in intent and crafted through research with knowledge keepers and sites/land. Smith trained at Canada’s National Ballet School and completed Physical Education and Psychology degrees from McMaster University and an M.A. in Dance from York University. Smith premiered her debut work Kaha:wi, a family creation story, in 2004 and one year later founded Kaha:wi Dance Theatre, which has grown into an internationally renowned company. Her artistic work speaks about identity and Indigenous narratives. Her work includes 17 productions and numerous short works which tour nationally and internationally. In 2020, The Mush Hole received five Dora Mavor Moore awards. Smith is a sought-after teacher and speaker on the performing arts, Indigenous performance and culture. Her life and works have been the topic of TV series, films, and, most recently, on CBC and APTN. She is the 19th Chancellor of McMaster University. 

Access Info

Access an ASL vlog here

Dates & Times

November 25
6:30pm – 8pm

Reception until 10pm


245 Queens Quay W

Large gallery space located in a large brick building, separate from the Harbourfront Centre main building.

Wheelchair Accessible

245 Queens Quay W

Toronto, ON

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Keywords Talk