Rita Davies has been a leader in Toronto’s cultural community for almost three decades. Her pioneering work in cultural planning, in demonstrating the link between culture and economic competitiveness was acknowledged in 2011 with a Canadian Urban Institute City Soul Award.
As the first Executive Director of the City of Toronto’s Culture Division, Rita Davies put culture at the heart of the city’s planning, economic and social agendas.
Her hands-on approach to cultural planning was first seen when she was head of the arm’s length Toronto Arts Council. The 1985 publication Cultural Capital was a landmark document, the first of its kind in Canada, and led the way for others in the field of cultural planning. In 1992 Rita led the work in developing TAC's seminal report, Cultural Equity, which led to transformative changes in how new communities were able to access power and funding.
In 1999, Rita Davies left the Toronto Arts Council to become the first executive director of the newly amalgamated City of Toronto’s Culture Division where she initiated and developed a comprehensive cultural strategy, the Culture Plan for the Creative City, which was adopted by City Council in 2003. The Culture Plan led to the first significant funding increases to arts groups in Toronto in over a decade.
During her time as Executive Director of Culture at the City of Toronto, Rita Davies led the work of unlocking the heritage and economic value of three derelict heritage sites through groundbreaking adaptive re-use private/public partnerships with at the Don Valley Brickworks, John Street Roundhouse and Wychwood Car Barns.
She oversaw a portfolio that included 10 city museums, two city-owned art galleries, two community arts spaces as well as arts programs in the community that focused on under-served youth, public art development and maintenance, a capital budget for state-of-good repair of city-owned cultural and heritage buildings.
Rita pioneered TO Live With Culture, a major 16-month marketing and public awareness campaign that led to the first highly successful Nuit Blanche.
In 2011 she initiated and steered the work for Toronto’s most recent cultural planning document, Creative Capital Gains that has resulted in another substantial increase for the municipal arts budget.
In August, 2015 Rita was appointed Chair of the Ontario Arts Council, the Province of Ontario's arm's length granting body. She has previously sat on the boards of Art of Time Ensemble, Fall for Dance and Theatre Passe Muraille, is past Chair of the Advisory Committee for Ryerson University’s program in Creative Industries and is a former member of the President’s Advisory Council for the Ontario College of Art. She has a Masters Degree from the University of Toronto Graduate School of Drama.
Born in Shanghai, China to a Russian mother and Iraqi father, Rita believes strongly that cultural inclusion is the key to healthy communities, that by telling our diverse stories to ourselves and to the world, we build strong civic societies and successful cities.
Making Culture Profitable
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