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Edmonton
September 20, 2019

Toscha Turner

Top 40 Under 40 2013

Photography Curtis Trent

Age: 34

Job Title: Principle/Partner, Swell Social Venture

Why She’s Top 40: For her civic volunteerism and dedication to beautifying Edmonton spaces.

What Do You Like Most About Edmonton?: “It feels like a place where it’s possible to influence the social fabric of the city and how it grows. It feels like there’s still room to do anything.”

Most people walk through the nooks and crannies of a city, behind shops and down empty streets, and don’t give them a second thought. Toscha Turner, however, sees an opportunity.

“I love the idea that an alley isn’t something that we just walk through without thinking about it,” says Turner, “and that it’s actually a place that has history and has a rich texture of cultural experience.”

It was this thinking that helped transform a bare downtown corridor into the Alley of Light, which has become a rotating art, performance and retail space, at different times featuring an ice bar, pop-up stores and a gallery of sculptures. Turner served as programming coordinator and volunteer for this project over the past two years. And, she has been involved in the creation and development of numerous other initiatives, including MET, a program that offers Edmontonians micro-grants to start their own charitable initiatives. Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, a non-profit which finds volunteers to harvest, process and preserve local fruit for the community, was one such recipient.

Turner wanted to start volunteering after leaving the world of academia and having a son in 2010. “I felt the urgent need to take responsibility for shaping the direction of my future, my family and my city.”

She contributes to the arts and cultural spheres and is on several mayoral task forces. In 2013,  Turner volunteered on the Edmonton Community Foundation‘s Community and Social Services Advisory Committee, the Mayor’s task force on Image and Reputation Advisory Committee, and served on the board of directors for the the Global Visions Film Festival.

One of her latest projects, Swell Social Venture, combines her experiences in volunteerism and communications. It’s a collective of entrepreuneurs, event planners and communications experts, of which Turner is a principal member. Partnering entrepreneurs with industry professionals, Turner hopes the collective will enable more grassroots initiatives to thrive.

Turner has pursued a variety of different directions – having earned her PhD in musicology in New York, and playing acoustic double bass in orchestras and chamber ensembles. But now, she’s found her direction.

While a clear definition has evaded her for some time, she describes her passion as matchmaking, specifically between her city, its institutions and the people who live here. And she hopes that these connections will be felt city-wide, inspiring Edmontonians to pursue projects of their own.

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