We live here. We work here. We love here.
The Toronto Public Space Initiative team are people who live, work, and share a passion for making public space truly ‘public’ in Toronto. We are interested in the growth and prosperity of the public space, and we aim to ensure that it continues to be a central part of the city now and into the future.
Jayme Turney, MA
As a former campaign coordinator and Guerilla Gardening lead of the Toronto Public Space Committee, and current CEO of TPSI, Turney has experience in successful policy advocacy as well as community engagement. He graduated from the University of Toronto’s specialist program in political science with High Distinction and has earned a Master’s degree in political science from York University focusing on political science and critical economics. Turney is also the Executive Director of the Campaign for Commercial Free Schools. His favourite public space is Sunnyside Beach when the weather is good, and the inside of Toronto’s many beautifully designed libraries when the weather is bad.
Gus Liapis, (Hons) B.A Geography and Politics, OCT
General Projects Manager
Gus is a Geography instructor and ACL with the TDSB. He is interested in maintaining uncommercialized public spaces and empowering students to be active citizens locally and globally. Gus has taught internationally in Dubai and South Korea and has been involved in many international development programs through his teaching. He enjoys public spaces in the east end of the city, primiarily in the Riverdale and Beach area.
Isabel Cascante, PhD
Division Manager, Community Engagement Research
Isabel hold a PhD in Latin American Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Toronto. She is interested in issues of public space as they pertain to the democratization and empowerment of civil society and the public sphere. When she moved to Toronto, she found solace from the bustling city in the Toronto Music Garden, which remains her favourite public space in the city.
Monica Resendes, PhD Candidate
Division Manager, Community Engagement Research
Monica is a PhD Candidate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on the development of collaborative, online learning environments that support knowledge creation, as well as the design of innovative learning models for free, Open Educational Resources (OEDs). She’s also a high school English and history teacher, and has taught at both the secondary and post-secondary level, including courses on the history of consumer culture. She loves summer-time pedestrian sundays at Kensington market.
Bill is an arts enthusiast who turned to technology because of the
money, fame and glory it brings him. He specializes in building
collaborative networks for community based organizations, believing strongly in potentials of net-neutrality and the benefits of open-source software. In Toronto, he enjoys bicycle lanes, especially the ones along College St., as well as the paths along the waterfront.
Division Manager, Advocacy
Rami has conducted advocacy against illegal billboards for years as both a former Toronto Public Space Committee member and as founder of Illegal Signs, where he led a team of volunteers to successfully ensure the removal of numerous illegal billboards as well playing an instrumental role in the creation of Toronto’s Sign Bylaw and Sign Bylaw Unit.
Katina Schell, BA
Katina is a graduate from Laurentian University, as graphic designer, with a minor in fine arts and creative writing. She works full-time as a graphic designer, and she is always looking at sharpen her savvy skills in the design business. Also, she believes that we need to use the tools to create the type of positive change we want.
Anjuli Solanki, MA
Community Relations Coordinator, Researcher
Anjuli Solanki has a background in community engagement, education and public program coordination, and urban research. She recently completed in her Masters in Urban Planning in the UK, and has a great passion for public spaces and enjoys researching their dynamics. Toronto is her latest landing spot after having lived in Oxford/London, Kigali, and Vancouver. The vitality of Toronto’s civic engagement has thoroughly enamored her to the city. Her favorite public spaces in the city are the streets, particularly those around Kensington Market.
Juneeja Varghese, MSc
Juneeja has a Masters in Science and Technology Policy from University of Edinburgh. A member of the Edinburgh Public Policy Network, she has also undergone a training workshop in facilitating community engagement in policy contexts. She is interested in engaging such community discussions to enable democratic decision-making. After moving to Toronto recently, she is still exploring its public spaces.
Hema Vyas, MSc
Hema Vyas currently sits on the board of Culturelink, and is a former president of the June Callwood Centre for Women and Families. She works in evaluation at the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Hema lives in the west end and loves walking around Toronto.
Jielan Xu, BA
Jielan is a candidate in the Master of Science in Planning and Master of Asia-Pacific Studies programs at the University of Toronto. She has a background in Architecture, Planning and Urban Design. She has worked as assistant planner in SCUT Architectural Culture and Heritage Research Inst. on regeneration and conservation projectsin Guangdong Province, China. She has also published serveral papers in Chinese Journals on tourism, development and growth management. Her research in TPSI focuses on the design and quality of public spaces, and comparative studies of design review.
Board of Directors
Stephen Young, MA
Stephen is a teacher and founder of the Civics Education Network, an organization dedicated to improving the teaching of civics and politics in Ontario’s schools. He was also a long time member of the Toronto Public Space Committee, where his work focused on issues of CCTV cameras and privacy in public space as well as ‘place making’.
Bruce Gavin Ward
Bruce is highly engaged in Toronto’s civic community as well as public spaces, helping to set up the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation as well as the Toronto Bike Union. In addition, Bruce has held integral and leading roles in the Community Bicycle Network, the Dupont Improvement Group, and Architecture for Humanity Toronto.
Felix Chakirov, MA
Felix Chakirov hold a BA and MA from the University of Toronto. He is currently enrolled in the JD program at the Osgoode Hall Law School. His professional interests include Immigration, Constitutional and Human Rights laws.
Board of Advisors
Meslin embodies community engagement in public space and has founded numerous community organizations including the award winning Toronto Public Space Committee, Reclaim the Streets, WhoRunsThisTown, City Idol, the Downtown De-Fence project, Dandyhorse Magazine, the Toronto Cyclists Union, Better Ballots, WindFest, and the Ranked Ballet Initiative, as well as co-founding Spacing magazine. This is in addition to his history of successful advocacy work on outdoor advertising issues.
Tim chairs the Harbord Village Residents’ Association, one of the most active in Toronto on public space issues. In recent years, he co-chaired the Downtown West Solar Energy Project and Tower Power Toronto and launched the Harbord Street Pumpkin Festival. For the past 20 years, he has edited Green Teacher magazine, and has spoken widely on environmental education across North America and Asia. A candidate in the 2011 provincial election, Tim remains the Transport Critic for the Green Party of Ontario.
Sean Martindale, MFA
Sean Martindale is an internationally recognized interdisciplinary artist and designer currently based in Toronto, Canada. His interventions activate public and semi-public spaces to encourage engagement, often focused on ecological and social issues. His playful works question and suggest alternate possibilities for existing spaces, infrastructures and materials found in the urban environment. Frequently, Martindale uses salvaged goods and live plants in unexpected ways that prompt conversations and interaction. Sean works directly with multiple Toronto communities, and finds it impossible to pick just one favourite public space.
Gord Brown, MBA
Gord led the successful, highly collaborative College Street Revitalization Initiative on behalf of the Harbord Village Residents Association (HVRA) – leading to establishment of Toronto’s Public Realm Office, and adoption of Vibrant Streets Guidelines as the standard for all Toronto sidewalks. More recently, Gord was active in development of the Toronto Walking Strategy, and in seeking Council reconsideration of the highly obstructive ‘Info Pillar’ redesign.
Gord has served on the boards of HVRA and the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, and has presented public realm papers to the Walk21 International Conference and the Canadian Institute of Planners.
Terry has been instrumental in leading and organizing Toronto’s Guerilla Gardening for years. Through community engagement and volunteerism, Guerilla Gardening beautifies neglected and run down public spaces with fresh plants, flowers, and shrubs – showing what a little self-help and determination can do to improve public space at little cost.
Raj studied law at Osgoode Hall and Environmental Engineering at North Carolina State University. He is currently on the board of the Toronto Cyclist Union as treasurer.