Ashley McKenzie-Barnes

Ashley McKenzie-Barnes is an award-winning Curator and Creative Director with over 17 years of integrated experience in design, cultural programming, teaching and visual art. She has worked in the media/broadcasting, entertainment, publishing, corporate, and non-profit sectors.


She currently leads D.PE Agency, a creative agency dedicated to crafting diverse and progressive experiences, with work rooted in the belief that there is power in inclusivity and representation. She leads a team made up of a diverse group of individuals who bring their unique backgrounds, perspectives, and creativity to the table and are committed to telling authentic and meaningful stories that speak to a wide audience and inspire positive change.

Most recently, Ashley’s agency was acquired to lead the creative strategy and brand launch of Now Playing Toronto, the city’s most robust comprehensive arts, culture, and entertainment events calendar in Toronto. As well as the brand refresh of Ontario Culture Days. She has also spearheaded the international campaign for Universal Music Canada’s newest soul sensation Emanuel’s single Black Woman, which she was also profiled in. In 2020, she was the Curator for Canada’s longest running Black History festival, KUUMBA at Harbourfront Centre, and one of the main 2019 curators for Nuit Blanche Toronto. Her work has included programmed exhibitions, creative collaborations and award-winning installations for companies such as ArtworxTO, CIBC Square, Universal Music, PEPSICO, 19 Crimes Wine with Snoop Dogg, Johnnie Walker, Bombay Sapphire, Samsung, TEDxToronto, Sabian, Campari, and Truly Seltzer, City of Toronto, and Manifesto Festival of Art and Culture and more.

She is responsible for introducing Toronto to internationally acclaimed artists and art projects like Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp (NYC), JR’s Inside Out Project (PAR), Nina Chanel Abney (NYC) Shani Crowe (CHI), Mr. Cartoon (LA), Ernie Panicciolio (NYC), Vince Fraser (UK) and Dubelyoo (ATL) in a variety of DIY spaces and traditional galleries to major Canadian institutions such as the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

As a Creative Director and Art Director, she has conceptualized and lead award-winning global campaigns for Scotiabank and executed large-scale projects for Destination Toronto, Ontario Culture Days, Sabian, Walmart, Bell Media, CBC and several small to mid-sized creative agencies. Her designs skills were also acquired by Lauryn Hill for her fashion collection celebrating 20 years of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.


She’s a part time Academic Professor in the Visual and Digital Arts program at Humber College and has directed the Creative Arts Academy for The Remix Project, an alternative learning program with a focus on developing at-risk youth.

She’s been a featured speaker, moderator and guest facilitator across many forums for Mayor John Tory, FreshBooks, #MoveTheDial, RBC, OCAD, Ontario Arts Council, TDSB, Ontario Association of Art Galleries, UofT, ArtReach, Nia Centre for the Arts, Artscape and many others. Ashley has appeared on CP24 News, Global News, CTV News, Sirius XM, Metro Mornings, Newstalk 1010, CityTV, CBC Radio, CBC News, Jazz FM, CIUT 89.5 FM, BlogTO,, Leafly, and in the Globe and Mail, Elle Magazine, Toronto Life Magazine, Magazine, Toronto Star, Fashion Magazine, NOW Magazine, UofT Scarborough News, The Kit Compact, The Scarborough Mirror, Urbanology, Afrotoronto and others.

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