Young Mammals Projects

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Young Mammals is Mammalian Diving Reflex’s training wing, succession plan, and experimental art-laboratory for young people in Parkdale and across the Greater Toronto Area to learn, create, and produce socially-engaged art projects. Launched in 2011, Young Mammals operates as a community economic development initiative as much as it does an arts production program. Through friendship, network building, artistic collaboration, paid artistic opportunities and internships, in cooperation with local cultural institutions, our goals are to grow a more diverse arts and cultural landscape and to foster future industry leaders.


The core of Young Mammals are the Torontonians, a resident ensemble of ten teenagers based in Parkdale who began collaborating with Mammalian in the first incarnation of Haircuts by Children (2006), followed by Eat the Street (2009). When then 14-year old Sanjay Ratnan contacted us in 2010 to see what was up next, we responded by forming Young Mammals with the support of the Metcalf and Ontario Trillium Foundations. This cohort of teens, now turning 19 years old, have undergone 5 years of intensive training and are branching out into the company as leaders in creative and artistic production, grant writing, marketing, artistic conception, and strategic visioning for not-for-profit art organizations. With this core group in place, Young Mammals has expanded the past two years to include youth from a number of neighbourhoods across the GTA, including Malvern, Jane & Finch, Scarborough and Lawrence Heights. The Torontonians are now beginning to mentor a new cohort of youth, as we begin our second phase of Young Mammals training.

Since Young Mammals’ inception, we have collaborated with and employed over 50 youth from across the GTA to produce dozens of innovative, edgy and engaging art projects, including The Producers of Parkdale (2011-2102); Nightwalks with Teenagers (2011 to present); Dare Night: Lockdown (2012); How to Hook Up (2013); Awks: Awkward Dance Party Series (2013-14); Get Out of My Room (2014); Promises to a Divided City (2014); High School Health (2014); A Drift in Gloucester (2014); Teens Talk Theatre (2015) and Textures of Toronto (2015). The youth have worked with major institutions including The Theatre Centre, Art Gallery of Ontario, Luminato Festival, and Gladstone Hotel, and travelled to Gloucester, Leeds and Manchester UK: Hamburg, Mannheim and Heidelberg, Germany; Inverness, Nova Scotia and Hamilton, Ontario – besides all around the GTA – to present their work.

The Succession Plan

While Young Mammals continues to grow and develop projects with various youth and youth arts organizations, the not-so-hidden agenda of Young Mammals is to equip the youth with the skills and knowledge they need to eventually take over the company, assuming artistic, production, administrative, marketing and development leadership roles. We hope to at some point be staffed by individuals who have been working with us since they were 10 years old.


Mammalian is beyond grateful for the multi-year support of the Metcalf Foundation, which was instrumental in the development of Young Mammals through its Strategic Initiatives program; we are also supremely grateful for the generous support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation in extending Young Mammals’ efforts to reach across the GTA, and to the Toronto Arts Council for continuing to support these efforts.