2020 Grantee Profile: Varna Media Management
Varna Media Management
Varna Media Management is an organization founded by Dane Smith that specializes in project management, sports consulting, advertising, branding, and community programming. Their mission is to better facilitate relationships, while establishing long-term partnerships with clients and companies in support of the brand. Through their four key focus areas: social development, anti-violence, recreational sports, and community outreach, they offer programs and services that aim to empower and inspire youth.
Dane describes Varna Media Management as a channel to “raise awareness and foster innovation around educational, and recreational opportunities”. The foundation sponsors specialized projects and events by collaborating with donors, business leaders, celebrities, athletes, and nonprofit organizations.
TheIAM Project 2.OH
In 2020, Varna Media Management received funding from ArtReach to run TheIAM Project 2.OH, a program building on their 2017 ArtReach-funded project, and a unique learning opportunity for youth creators from Lawrence Heights and St. James Town. The project provided underserved youth from these neighbourhoods with a hands-on learning environment to introduce participants to filmmaking. Topics covered included the basics of filmmaking, video editing, camera work, lighting, and editing.
When the pandemic hit, Dane quickly adapted the project, transforming it into a hybrid virtual and socially-distanced small group program. Dane’s commitment to the project was clear, as he spent his summer travelling between neighbourhoods in Lawrence Heights, St. James Town, Cabbagetown, and Whitby to offer his program in ways most accessible and safe for his participants.
Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, Dane successfully ran 40 sessions and reached 35 youth, and unwaveringly maintained his dedication to “fostering youth’s creative needs and providing them with the skills and knowledge to continue expressing themselves after the project”.
Dane Smith was raised in the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood in Toronto, where many youth in the community are unable to participate in extracurricular activities due to a lack of financial resources. Following graduation, Smith was inspired to do something positive for his community and others who had been through situations similar to his, so he began to work in youth programming. Dane’s community involvement spanned into the St. James Town Community, which he warmly notes “welcomed him with open arms” at the age of 15.
When speaking on the youth in the community, Dane explains, “youth embody creativity and a willingness to learn, I want to provide an opportunity for them to express themselves, and to learn future career skills.” Because of this, Dane chooses to offer Varna Media Managements projects and programs to youth at no cost, giving them the opportunity to pursue their passions, and learn new skills.
Meet Dane Smith
Dane Smith is a passionate filmmaker and businessman. He openly speaks of facing many hardships in his life, but states that he “never viewed those times as negative…it strengthened me and made me the optimistic, strong willed person I am today.” Dane’s motivation and work ethic earned him a scholarship, where he learned the skills he uses today as a professional filmmaker and video editor.
Outside of his arts and entrepreneurship career, Dane is also a professional basketball player and has been featured in numerous commercials for major brands such as Nike, Axe Canada, WeTheNorth, and the Toronto Raptors, and also participated in the NBA’s first-ever international campaign for NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto and the 2016 Celebrity Game for team East.