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The local community arts organization is celebrating its 20th birthday with a massive new headquarters on the waterfront, but it’s focused straight ahead
The Remix Project has officially opened the doors of its permanent waterfront location at Artscape Daniels Launchpad.
Remix executive director Annalie Bonda says it was designed to be “a safe space for our youth to be inspired, collaborate, learn and, most importantly, call home.”
The new building has over 4,000 square feet of creative space including professional recording, production and photography studios, an open-concept workspace, a shipping container boardroom and a private terrace overlooking Lake Ontario. Designed by the Remix Project’s Bryan Brock along with DesignAgency and unveiled on June 11 in a ribbon-cutting ceremony, it’s a physical manifestation of just how far the program has come.
Remix started as the drop-in program Inner City Visions in 1999, co-founded by Gavin Sheppard and Drex Jancar. It was renamed the Remix Project in 2006 and formalized as a registered charity in 2009, the same year it received a United Nations Habitat Program award for excellence in community safety and crime prevention.
Once a six-month mainly mentorship-based training program, it is now an in-demand, nine-month alternative training school. Today, Remix’s mission is similar to how it started but on a bigger scale: support youth in harnessing their creativity in everything from music to film production, design and culinary careers, to overcome new and existing challenges.
“Although this generation has the ability to [develop] their craft at their fingertips with access to unbelievable resources on the internet – a lot of it DIY – the challenge is the professionalism and networking [required] to succeed in the industry.
“When the barriers to access and resources are alleviated, the raw talent thrives,” says the Remix Project’s executive director Annalie Bonda.
Work ethic, talent and authenticity in the craft [is what] sets young creatives apart,” says Bonda. “Technical training and life skills workshops are integral, but mentorship remains crucial.
“To have young people come before you that look like you, talk like you, come from similar life lived experiences, makes the idea of success feel within reach.”
Remix’s success stories include collaborating with Schools without Borders in an exchange program in Rio de Janeiro in 2008. It produces the OVO Summit – an annual educational and professional training workshop that will be open to the public for the first time this year, on August 2. (Noah “40” Shebib, one of the group’s original staff members, recorded Drake’s albums Comeback Season and So Far Gone at the Remix Project).
Many of the city’s biggest breakout musicians – from Jessie Reyez to DVSN to heavyweight hip-hop producer Wondagurl – have come out of Remix. But Bonda and director of partnerships and community engagement Amber Morley say it’s the program’s deep impact on the lives of so many that outshines its commercial success.
“[We’ve] seen a steady increase in job opportunities and collaboration as youth who find success turn around and put their peers on,” says Morley. She says the program is invaluable for fostering a sense of self, self-confidence and pride in participants – not to mention career opportunities.
Morley herself, a 2008 business arts graduate, is one of those shining examples. (E!’s Tyrone Edwards was her program director and Future the Prince, Drake’s manager, was her peer leader.)
“I am a passionate community builder with an incredible network, largely thanks to Remix,” she says. “I’ve rejoined the Remix team to continue to advance this important work.”
Though Remix is a Toronto success story, as embodied by the new waterfront headquarters, its impact now stretches beyond Toronto – which is where the future lies.
“Remix has recently expanded with workshops in Vancouver  and Halifax . Our next stops are Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario and even Los Angeles.”
Its expansion also includes the creation of Remix Chicago in 2014, a satellite campus supporting youth in the south side neighbourhoods. According to Bonda, young people as far as Kazakhstan, Australia, the UK and Japan are submitting applications into its programs.
Morley says expanding these outreach programs is their immediate goal. While they’re happy about the 20 years of success, Remix is focused on the next 20.
“We are tasked with ensuring the sustainability and long-term growth of the organization for generations to come,” she says, “in Toronto and beyond.”
Bonda is also focused straight ahead.
“We look forward to seeing the incredible talents that come through [our] new doors,” she concludes. “When the barriers to access and resources are alleviated, the raw talent thrives.”