About MASC

MASC offers schools and communities arts experiences led by professional artists that awaken the creative process, deepen cultural awareness, encourage engagement, and give vivid demonstration of Canada’s diversity.

MASC is an Ottawa-based community arts organization that brings the arts and culture alive for over 150,000 children, youth, and seniors each year.

MASC represents a roster of 55+ professional artists and artist groups of diverse backgrounds, who annually offer more than 2000 workshops, 800 performances and 100 in-depth artist-in-residence programs. Our artists identify with a wide range of diverse communities and offer programming in all artistic disciplines, including music, dance, drama, literary arts, media and visual arts.

MASC also offers six annual multi-disciplinary arts festivals that bring in additional professional artists from across the country. MASC is an official-languages bilingual organization, with 35% of our programming offered in French.

MASC is committed to providing equal access to arts and cultural experiences to those living in underserved neighbourhoods and rural communities. In September 2020, MASC expanded its mandate to offer virtual programming across the country with the goal of reaching remote regions that don’t have access to diverse professional artists.

By bringing artists into communities (virtually or in person), MASC reduces economic barriers through subsidized programming. Institutional barriers are removed by providing community members access to professional arts programming within their own communities. MASC brings the arts to the people.  

MASC is known widely as a dynamic and energetic team of artists and staff who are deeply invested in the communities we serve. MASC’s outreach and advocacy for arts education and creative experiences is unparalleled in the region. MASC’s work includes many annual events, scholarship programs for under-served communities, professional development opportunities for teachers, artists and staff, and new programs tailored specifically for seniors and street-involved youth. MASC’s name is synonymous with excellence, innovation and professionalism.

With the exception of the major festivals and the National Arts Centre, MASC has the largest audience of any arts organization in the city.  

Officially, MASC stands for Multicultural Arts in Schools and Communities, however since our current roster of artists encompasses multiple forms of diversity in addition to being from a variety of cultural backgrounds, these days we go by, simply, MASC.

History of MASC

Jennifer Cayley and Jan Andrews founded MASC in 1989, based on a culturally diverse performance series at the National Library of Canada (now, Library and Archives Canada) called The Chance to Give / Une chance à donner. The series’ creators created MASC to bring their passion for diversity in the arts to local schools. 

MASC’s work in schools has continued to grow, expanding into community settings and arts festivals. MASC currently has a roster of 62 diverse artists and artist groups (which represents 141 individual artists) across all disciplines. We also work with over 50 additional artists through our special events. 

Several arts festivals and initiatives have been added to the calendar over the years: 

  • 1991 to present:   The annual three-day  MASC Young Authors and Illustrators Festival  comes on board. Over 450 budding young writers and artists gather each year to work with established Canadian children’s authors and illustrators. 
  • 1997 to 2014:   Symposium, an annual French-language program, brings over 100 students from Quebec and Ontario together to work with professional artists to create art installations, take part in workshops, and launch an exhibition of art installations in a professional gallery.  
  • 1999 to present:    MASC Arts Awards  is established to honour students who are passionate about the arts, with the goal of offering artistic training and arts mentorship opportunities to youth in financially disadvantaged communities.   
  • 2003 to 2013:   MASC becomes the regional representative for the national ArtsSmarts program, bringing artist residencies and community arts initiatives into schools and local neighbourhoods.    
  • 2005 to 2017:   ARTcy events (professional development opportunities for teachers) are created in partnership with the two local English School Boards. 
  • 2008 to present:   A Seniors Program initiative is launched bringing workshops, performances, and residencies into a wide variety of seniors’ venues with the support of subsidies.  
  • 2009 to 2013:    Youth Take Charge: a partnership is forged with Youth Services Bureau offering rich artistic mentorship programs to youth at risk.   
  • 2012 to present:   Awesome Arts en folie  comes under the MASC banner. The program explores local issues through the arts with residents of all ages in underserved neighbourhoods culminating in a festival. Professional artists collaborate with participants to create new work in all artistic disciplines. 
  • 2014-2019:   MASC launches Your Story, an annual literary festival for over 100 teens. 
  • 2015 to present:   MASC launches  Festival de danse en milieu scolaire for over 100 Franco-Ontarian youth from across Ontario. 
  • 2015 to 2019:   MASC launches  Art au travail, bringing artistic residencies into Outaouais businesses.  After two iterations, Art au travail was concluded in 2019. 
  • 2016:  MASC celebrates its 25th anniversary. 
  • 2017 to 2019:  In 2017, MASC was awarded with the International Spotlight award by the United States’ National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards for MASC’s community engaged arts program Awesome Arts.  MASC partners with Cultural Pluralism for the Arts Movement Ontario and Arts Network Ottawa (formerly AOE) to provide networking and capacity-building programs for new immigrant and refugee artists. 
  • 2019: In September 2019, MASC hired our first Diversity and Inclusion Officer.  
  • 2020 to present:  MASC’s 5-year Strategic was accepted by the Board of Directors in August 2020.  
  • 2021: MASC launched IllustrAuteurs, MASC’s teen literary and visual arts festival in French.

In March 2020, MASC moved our offices offsite due to the pandemic and pivoted the organization so that within 6 months, 35% of our programs were offered online. MASC expanded our online programs to be offered across the country.   


In 2005, after 16 years of operation, the founding Executive Director Jennifer Cayley retired.  Audrey Churgin was hired and managed the organization until her retirement in 2019.  At this time, Micheline Shoebridge and Wendy Hartley assumed the roles of Co-Executive Directors, bringing their considerable wealth of experience to launch MASC into its 30th year. In June 2021, Wendy Hartley stepped down from the role of Co-Executive Director and remains involved as Executive Consultant.

Micheline continues to lead the MASC team as Executive Director.

Annual & Strategic Reports

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Annual Report 2022 - 2023

This past year marked an important transition for MASC as we returned to a full season of in-person festivals and events and the majority of our workshops and performances were offered live in classrooms and communities across the region. While we continue to proudly offer quality virtual programming, it is wonderful to be back in the same room as students and community members! 2022-23 also saw the return of the MASC Arts Awards for the first time since 2019, a gala evening that celebrates the success of creative young people at the National Arts Centre. Read on for many more reasons to look back on this past year with MASC!

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Strategic Plan 2020-25

MASC’s strategy is founded upon delivering professional arts programs to schools and communities. In the coming five years, MASC’s board will focus on governance and organizational oversight. MASC leadership will focus on financial sustainability, maintaining programming excellence, managed growth and ensuring a strong team is in place.