Skip to main content

Humanizing Our Communities with Art and Design

Photographs of all speakers: Michael Piper, Jessica Kirk, Hearth Garage, Derrick Meeking, Cindy Blazevic. Onsite Gallery logo, Daniels Faculty logo, ASL symbol

Accompanying Onsite Gallery's current exhibition, Survival Architecture and the Art of Resilience, this online panel moderated by Michael Piper of the University of Toronto's John H. Daniels Faculty will present and discuss practices of collaboration, creation, and community research that aim to address systemic issues of oppression, with speakers including artist Cindy Blažević (Toronto, ON); Jessica Kirk, Wildseed Centre for Art & Activism (Toronto, ON); Rowan Lynch, Hearth (Toronto, ON); and Derrick Meeking, Empowerment Plan (Detroit, MI). Presented in partnership with John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto.

Online event; Zoom link will be sent to registered attendees. Click here to register.

ASL interpretation provided.


Michael Piper is an Assistant Professor of urban design and architecture and director of the Master of Urban Design program at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto. His research and teaching focus on the relationship between design, equity, and political-economic contexts with particular attention on the social and formal transformation of North American suburbs. He is a co-founder of tuf lab, a research group that brings together urban design and urban planning faculty at U of T. He is also a founding partner of dub studios, a design studio with offices in Toronto and Los Angeles where he manages urban design projects. Current projects and coursework focus creating multi-family housing in North American single-family suburbs and cultural spaces of citizens underrepresented in mainstream design and planning. He is a co-coordinator of Engage-Design-Build, a research and outreach program in partnership with the Toronto District School Board that connects with underrepresented youth about their communities and the design lead for Toronto Housing Works exhibition. Michael is from Atlanta and has also lived in Alaska, Abu Dhabi, New York, Los Angeles, Croatia, Paris, Columbus, OH, and Boston.


Cindy Blažević is a visual artist whose research-based practice uses photography, performance and multimedia to investigate identity, belonging and systems of power and exclusion. Deeply invested in activism and social engagement, she has spent years exploring Canada’s penal system, immigration policies and constructions of citizenship, often through collaborative processes with diverse communities. Through both documentary and fiction, she critiques the systems within which she operates. Her work has been exhibited and awarded internationally. Blažević was the inaugural Artist in Residence at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto. She currently lives in Toronto with her three rambunctious kids and her partner, Pascal. You can see her work at

Jessica Kirk is a cultural worker, curator and community organizer based in Toronto. She is the Executive Director of Wildseed Centre for Art & Activism, a project of Black Lives Matter Canada that serves as fertile ground for Black creativity and organizing in the city. She holds an M.A. in Social Justice Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and her thesis was written on Black geographies and critical creative practice within and beyond the city.

Founded in 2019 as an artist-run space, Hearth seeks to provide a site to present projects within a context that values collaboration, experimentation, and community. As a structural element in the makeup of a house, and a tool providing warmth, light, and food; a hearth gathers us towards itself, and towards each other. Hearth is located on Ulster St. just east of Three Star Variety (621 Bathurst, Toronto, ON, M5S 2R2). See or @hearth.garage for information on past and present programming.

Derrick Meeking is native Detroiter with a professional background in nonprofit management, workforce development, local economic development, and social enterprise business models. His experience spans over 12 years which creates a unique professional profile rooted in a desire to improve the quality of life for historically disenfranchised people and marginalized communities through education, research, grassroots activism, and the promotion of innovative community economic development solutions. Derrick currently serves as the Director of Workforce and Programs at the Empowerment Plan, where their mission is to “End generational homelessness through employment”. He holds a Bachelor's of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Nonprofit Administration from Louisiana State University.