Meet Shauna Levy: Building Toronto’s Design Community

In the Canadian design industry, Shauna Levy is regarded as a steadfast and visionary leader. Appointed in 2012 as President of Design Exchange (DX), Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the pursuit of design excellence and the preservation of design heritage, Levy is known for her dedication in positioning the city of Toronto as an international design destination. Established in inventive experience and expertise, Levy’s path to being honored with the prestigious Leadership Award of Excellence at this year’s Leaders Breakfast Toronto is a dynamic one.

Internationally versatile, Levy was born in Montreal, but grew up in Toronto. She moved to Paris after school where she found she had a passion for design and its influence on everyday life. Because of this influence, Levy believes that design should be accessible to everyone.

According to Levy, “Design is not luxury. It is, and should be, accessible and available to all, from fashionistas to families, coast to coast.” She also stated, “Design is ubiquitous. It touches each and every one of us on a daily basis. Design is the cornerstone of society… It is as much about addressing basic human needs, such as post-disaster housing or caring for an aging population, as it is about luxury goods and novel experiences.”

Her notions are proven in her efforts to renew DX’s programming. With a mission to capture and educate a vast demographic of supporters for the museum, she has secured renowned exhibits from Canadian and international designers, including a retrospective Design Museum London’s Christian Louboutin, as well as a guest curated exhibit by Pharrell Williams called This Is Not A Toy.

In addition to her role as President of DX, Levy is known for her contribution to co-founding the internationally acclaimed Interior Design Show (IDS) in 1998, which she developed into one of the largest contemporary design fairs in North America. By 2012, the show was bringing in over $40 million in sponsorships and sales and 600,000 visitors.

With her significant contributions to the Toronto design scene, the selection for the Leadership Award of Excellence was unanimous. “Shauna is a design evangelist,” said Susan Wiggins, CAE, Hon. IDC, CEO of Interior Designers of Canada (IDC). “Shauna is innovative, connected, and has been instrumental in cultivating Toronto’s design community. Given that our corporate headquarters are in Toronto, we are members of the community and create the growth that has been inspired by Shauna.”

“I am very grateful to be this year’s recipient of the Interior Designers of Canada and the International Interior Design Association’s Leadership Award of Excellence,” said Levy. “When I co-founded the Interior Design Show 18 years ago and built it into one of the largest contemporary design fairs in North America, I believed interior design was an oft-overlooked and undervalued design discipline, and I wanted to change that. I wanted to recognize the thoughtful and creative emerging and established individuals responsible for creating the spaces we live in, we work in, and we play in.”

As for her upcoming endeavors in the design world, Levy is carrying out her refreshing direction of DX, offering a roster of programs in 2016 that includes talks, workshops, competitions, and more. “[These programs] encourage critical thinking about how interrelated design disciplines offer innovative and tech-driven solutions for the most critical issues facing the world today. Keep your eyes peeled and ears open for a big announcement in January! I encourage everyone to sign up for INDX, Design Exchange’s weekly e-newsletter to stay informed,” Levy said.

IDC is in partnership with IIDA for the IIDA Leaders Breakfast. Few tickets are available for purchase until Nov. 22. Click here for ticket information. For information about Leaders Breakfast, please contact Anastasia Gedman, Leaders Breakfast and Special Events Manager, at agedman@iida.org

What Can an Interior Design Organization Do for You?

“It’s about what the profession has offered to me, rather than what I have done for the profession,” said Adele Bonetti, FIDA, IDC, AAA, this year’s Leadership Award of Excellence honoree at the inaugural Leaders Breakfast Calgary. “This award is something that I share with [interior design] associations because they have given me wonderful opportunities.” Having a presence within interior design associations for over 40 years, Bonetti was the perfect fit for the award. As a steadfast volunteer, she demonstrates the importance of being involved in industry associations and how supporting her passion has presented opportunities and opened doors.

Encouraged at a young age, Bonetti credits her university professors for engraining in students the importance of joining a professional organization for interior designers in order to attain a more global outlook. “We were educated to understand that as a professional, our lives would be much more than what we did at work every day,” said Bonetti. Without hesitation, she became involved with her local association, Interior Designers of Alberta (IDA), and her national association, Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) shortly after graduating college in the 1970s, and has remained an active member ever since.

Bonetti tackled her role as an interior designer by growing her own business while volunteering within her associations. She has served on the IDA Board, in various roles, for more than 25 years, including six as president. She also represented the IDA on the IDC Board on two separate occasions, serving both as treasurer and secretary. In addition, she played a role on a national task force that charted a new vision for the interior design associations in Canada and led to the recent restructuring of IDC and the roles and responsibilities of the member provincial associations.

Her passion for the profession was further fuelled by the inclusion of interior design in the architectural legislation that was enacted in Alberta in the early 80s and placed the legal definition and practice of interior design under the scope of architecture in the care of the Alberta Architects Association (AAA). She has since served on several tasks forces for AAA with a voice that has heralded not only the skill of interior design practitioners and their right to chart and administrate their own futures, but also the need for common representation and a link to the interior design community within the province, country, and internationally.

Bonetti’s years of work and dedication have not gone unrecognized. “In the association world, volunteers come and go, but there is that rare occasion when a really good volunteer – a passionate, dedicated, 100 percent committed volunteer – comes and never goes,” said Susan Wiggins, CAE, Hon. IDC, CEO of IDC, and former recipient of the Leadership of Excellence Award honoree.“Ask her to do anything and she is there.”

Bonetti continues to volunteer within IDA and IDC by working on by-laws and policies for both organizations so their standards are professionally recognized and updated. She currently serves as the IDA Registrar and still participates in advocating for more self-governing laws for interior designers. Bonetti recognizes that modifying legislation is a slow-moving process, but reminds all members that “we need to chart our own futures, and the only way to do that is to be involved.” She is currently the Principal of Concetto Interior Design Ltd. in Grande Prairie, Alberta.

IDC is in partnership within the IIDA Leaders Breakfast, encouraging designers across Canada to become involved in what they are passionate for. To become involved in IIDA, Dual Memberships are available for IDC Members, here. Tickets are selling fast for Leaders Breakfast Calgary. Purchase your tickets before Oct. 27.