LEANARTS Featured on CBC's Spark

“You’ve heard the stereotype of the starving artist, but the starving tech start-up? Odds are you haven’t. That’s why a new project in Toronto called LEANARTS wants to make the starving artist a thing of the past, by helping performing arts groups think and act like technology start-ups. Spark contributor Tomas Urbina went to the project’s public launch to meet the participants.”

Listen here

Program outline

LEANARTS teaches performing arts organizations how to think like startups.

Created by the Performing Arts Alliance in collaboration with The Working Group and MaRS, LEANARTS helps startups performing arts organizations grow faster, derisk project initiatives and find funding. The program pairs teams with expert mentors and coaches who will share the tools and techniques applied by successful startup companies.


The Lean Canvas is a fast-to-create blueprint for understanding any business or project. In this session you'll learn about the benefits of creating your own Lean Canvas, walk through some examples and get hands-on support to put your own Canvas together.

  • Meet the mentors & organizers

  • Learn how to fill out and use your Lean Canvas

  • Team presentations: One minute "elevator pitch" 



Effective customer development helps you make sure you're building the right thing before committing resources to a project. Learn how to find, approach and connect with your customers to make sure you're on the right path. 

  • Team presentations: One minute "elevator pitch," two minute presentation of completed Lean Canvas

  • Get introduced to customer development: The 'problem' and 'solution' interviews

  • Work with mentors to explore and refine your value proposition 



The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a creation that allows you to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least amount of effort. Learn about different types of MVPs, how to design them, and which is right for you. 

  • Team presentations: One minute "elevator pitch" + two minute presentation on learnings from the week
  • Customer development refresher: Workshop on effective customer development interviews
  • Learn about the Minimum Viable Product, and an alternative, the Minimum Loveable Product



Being able to tell a compelling story about your project is key to attracting interest from customers and funders. Learn about the fundamental components of a pitch deck, why building one is useful, and how to tell great stories about your project.

  • Teams presentations: One minute "elevator pitch" + 2 minute presentation on the lessons learned building or refining your MVP 

  • Pitch clinic: How to build a deck and tell a compelling story

  • Work with mentors to think about your metrics for success 



Scalability is your ability to grow and adapt to increased demands. This session will introduce you to the concept of scaling your business, and dive into the broad variety of revenue models that exist that could be applied to your teams.  

  • Teams presentations: Five minute pitch presentation based on last week's pitch clinic

  • Funding and revenue panel discussion: Alternatives to traditional funding routes

  • Work with mentors to improve your messaging and pitch deck


Final presentations will be given at a demo night and reception on Friday, February 13. 

Teams will pitch their projects and talk about what they've learned at a cocktail reception attended by funders, media and partner organizations.

To attend, please RSVP using this link.  


Meet the teams selected for LEANARTS

LEANARTS is an experimental pilot program designed to support promising performing arts initiatives in Toronto by introducing them to the tools and methodologies used by technology startups.

We are very pleased and excited to announce the 10 performing arts teams who have selected to participate in the program, which takes place beginning in January at The Working Group. 

In no particular order, the 10 teams are:


Associated Designers of Canada

The TCLPD is a central location where designers can work and convene. Facilities might includes a library, 3-D printer, specialized design software, hot desks for visiting designers working in TO, a new product testing lab doubling as a teaching space. In addition to providing services in a cost effective way, we hope the free flow of ideas will be encouraged and improve the quality of design.

Music in the Barns

Music in the Barns' began as a grassroots initiative and has quickly become one of Toronto’s essential destinations for groundbreaking performances outside of the traditional concert hall. To sustain this rapid growth, it is essential for MitB to develop its infrastructure. We would like to learn objective ways to asses our organization and create a plan for a sound and sustainable future.


The Tale of a Town – Canada is a national oral history and theatre initiative aiming to capture the collective community memory of our country’s main streets, one story at a time. Over the next three years, The Tale of a Town is touring across the country gathering stories then creating performance installations and media extensions (radio/online) culminating in Canda's 150th anniversary in 2017.

Kaeja d'Dance

Creating a new Public Space Animation Initiative and online hub for the purposes of research, experimentation and study of participatory arts practice specifically in the horseshoe of Toronto’s inner suburbs. We wish to find and work with the artists, residents and community organizers of those neighbourhoods to devise new ways of creating audience participatory works, animate public spaces, document the experiences and create case studies and examples to inspire our sector.


Peep Show reaches out to a new, younger audience. It's a new opportunity for Toronto's opera companies to work together to build a new audience base. It disrupts established business models in favour of a pay-as-you-go system of micropayments.

Loose TEA Music Theatre

What is the new business model to grow & sustain a small indie opera company? What is required to build, attract and sustain a new audience and sponsorship base. The traditional model is not valid.

Pat the Dog Theatre Creation

hitPlay is an online platform that gives both author and audience exposure to new Canadian works. Looking at the growing podcasting industry, hitPlay marries storytelling with modern podcast form. hitPlay captures the momentum of performance and the humanity of a theatrical experience while remaining mobile, accessible, and under 60 minutes.

Pocket Concerts

We collaborate with our hosts to present some of Canada's finest chamber musicians in a series of public and private house concerts. Our hosts provide the venue, chairs, food, and drinks; we provide the music. For public concerts, we sell tickets and seek donations and sponsorship to cover our fees. For private concerts, the hosts provide the artistic and administrative fees.

The Ton Beau String Quartet
To bring the contemporary and classical chamber music into the heart of the Parkdale-High Park area, each concert will pair one modern, Canadian work with an established classic from the chamber music repertoire. In preparation for each concert, TBCC will solicit ideas from the community about the music and about its relationship to modern life, which will be incorporated into the presentation.

Weld Art Collective
Weld will invite its audience aboard a Toronto streetcar that will have been converted into our Red Rocket Circus stage, for a new immersive theatre experience—utilizing original choreography, script and musical compositions to re-imagine the story of Cupid and Psyche in the world of the Circus. We'll make scheduled stops along our journey, where our audience will enter transformed spaces.


Thank you to everyone that applied, and congratulations to the selected teams.