MASC Organizational HistoryJennifer and Jan

MASC was co-founded by Jennifer Cayley and Jan Andrews in 1987, originally as The Chance to Give/ Une chance à donner.  It was a one-time, month-long series of workshops and performances for students from the National Capital region schools, to complement an exhibition at the National Library of Canada, under the sponsorship of Secretary of State. The program was repeated in 1988 as a joint venture of local school Boards out of a conviction that it had an important contribution to make. Response to this series indicated that a registered non-profit organization should be created to function on a year-round basis. A Board of directors was established and the coordinators who had been with the organization in a job-sharing capacity since its inception were officially hired.  Full-scale operation began with the opening of the 1989/90 academic year. A roster of six local artists was available on a continuing basis and tours of five out-of-town artists arranged. Funding to provide administrative stability and assistance with programming was received from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, the Ontario Arts Council and Secretary of State.

MASC’s work in schools has continued to grow, and while the focus has always been on schools, work was also found for artists in other community settings. 1990/91 brought further outreach into those areas along with a major initiative, funded by Secretary of State, into educational systems in outlying areas of Eastern Ontario.

After two successful years, the name of the organization was changed to: Multicultural Arts for Schools and Communities: MASC.  A number of important events were added to the calendar.  1994 marked the first highly successful Young Authors and Illustrators Conference, which bring keen young authors and illustrators together with well-established Canadian Children’s writers for hands-on writing workshops. The first Visual Arts Symposium for young Francophone students took place in 1997, and the MASC Arts Awards were launched in 1999.  In 2003 MASC became the region’s ArtsSmarts partner joining the McConnell Family Foundation’s national arts integration initiative.

During 2008, MASC expanded again, successfully launching a new Seniors Program and new partnerships were developed such as with Youth Services Bureau.  Other new events, such as LiterARTcy , NumerARTcy and IART (Teacher professional development programs), MASCparade and MASC Mondays peppered the schedule. 

During 2013, Awesome Arts moved to its new home under the MASC Banner.  In 2017, the MASC Awesome Arts program was awarded the International Spotlight Award presented by the American National Arts and Humanities Youth program.  MASC was thrilled to receive the United States’ highest honour for after-school arts and humanities programs that reach underserved youth. 

In 2014 MASC first offered the Festival de danse en mileu scolaire in partnership with the centre d’excellence artistique. This event has become a cultural event of note in the Franco-Ontarian community.  MASC also launched “Your Story”, a teen writing and illustrating Festival in 2014, that grew out of the highly successful MASC Young Authors and Illustrators Conference.

In 2005, after 16 years of operation, the founding Executive Director Jennifer Cayley retired.  Audrey Churgin was then hired and and managed the organization until her retirement in 2019.  At this time, Micheline Shoebridge and Wendy Hartley stepped into the roles of Co-Executive Directors bringing their considerable wealth of experience to launch MASC into its 30th year.

The number of artists on the MASC roster has increased from 11 in 1989 to 68 artists/artist groups currently. Participants have grown from 14,000 students in the first year, to over 120,000 students, youth and seniors today.  Both government and private sector support have been critical to the organization’s success. MASC is the only organization in Eastern Ontario with a primary mandate to connect artists and learning, offering fully bilingual services and working through all disciplines. With the exception of the major festivals and the National Arts Centre, MASC has one of the largest audiences of any arts organization in the city.