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Karen Jackson Takes the Reins as Barnabas Wornoff Steps Down as TAAFI Chair

Long-time board member assumes leadership in wake of the organization co-founder’s departure; Matthew Celestial named Treasurer, overseeing day-to-day operations.

TAAFI (Toronto Animation Arts Festival International) co-founder Barnabas Wornoff has stepped down as Chair of the non-profit organization's board, with Karen Jackson, a long-time TAAFI leader and board member, appointed to the role. In addition, board member and head of publicity Matthew Celestial assumes the role of Treasurer, overseeing day-to-day operations.

In 2012 Barnabas co-founded TAAFI with Ben McEvoy; Rich Duhaney; Mike Weiss; JoAnn Purcell; and Mark Jones. Since then, he has served as its Chair, guiding the organization, and establishing it as a respected entity within the animation community. Under his leadership, TAAFI has grown significantly, attracting top-tier talent from across the globe and providing a platform for emerging artists to showcase their work.

In a statement, Wornoff said:

“Serving as the Chair of TAAFI for the past 10 years has been both an honor and privilege. Being one of the founding members of TAAFI and witnessing it grow and morph over the years has been one of my proudest achievements. Together we have fostered an inclusive community, nurtured emerging talent, and forged invaluable industry partnerships.

I am confident that under Karen's leadership, TAAFI will reach its fullest potential, while continuing to be a driving force in the animation industry. She has already brought so many innovative ideas and fresh perspectives to the table and coupled with her deep respect and commitment to our TAAFI community, I leave the board in good hands. Cheers to the future madame chair!”

Jackson commented:

“On behalf of the TAAFI board and community, I want to express my sincere appreciation to Barnabas for his unwavering commitment to making TAAFI a successful environment for animators, industry professionals and enthusiasts. His leadership has been instrumental in building TAAFI into the thriving organization it is today, and we are grateful for his dedication to our mission.

I am honored to assume the role of Chair and look forward to working with the board, our sponsors, and our partners to continue to foster a vibrant animation community in Toronto and beyond. TAAFI has become a familial name and our community knows that we are here to support them. We have exciting plans for the future of TAAFI, and I am confident that, with the continued support of our community, we will continue to achieve great things.”

Jackson graduated from Loyalist College with an Advanced Diploma in Animation and New Media. Before accepting the role of Chair of TAAFI, she served as a member of the TAAFI board of directors since 2020 and worked as an outreach coordinator. Currently working at MainFrame Studios, Jackson has worked with entertainment companies such as Nelvana; Guru Studio; Jam Filled; WildBrain!; and Tangent Animation.

The first woman to Chair the organization, Jackson has expressed her commitment to promoting inclusion, equity, and diversity in TAAFI's events and driving the organization toward new successes.

Animation industry veteran Celestial is currently the President and CEO of Statement Strategies, a public relations firm specializing in animation, video games, technology, and consumer products. He brings industry relationships and experience across communications, public strategy, government relations, operations, and arts management to his new role.

Celestial has led PR campaigns for Emmy Award-winning studio Ado Ato Pictures; Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana and Kids Can Press; Spark CG Society; HaZimation; and Finite Films & TV. After graduating from the University of Toronto, he began his career in film publicity.

Source: TAAFI

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is news editor at Animation World Network.