Breakthrough Artist Award

Celebrating the accomplishments and future potential of Toronto's breakthrough artists

Deadline: December 2023. Nominations for this award (presented in 2024) will open in September 2023.

About: Toronto Arts Foundation’s Breakthrough Artist Award, formerly the Emerging Artist Award, is a $10,000 cash prize, with finalists receiving $2,000. The award celebrates the accomplishments and future potential of an emerging Toronto artist working in any discipline. Established in 2006, the award is sponsored by Susan Crocker and John Hunkin and is intended to support the development or completion of new work. The finalist awards were established in 2014. In 2021 the Emerging Artists Award was renamed Breakthrough Artist Award and the age restriction for recipients was removed. The Breakthrough Artist Award is presented every year at the Toronto Arts Awards Lunch. 

A note about the Breakthrough Artist Award:
After careful review, Toronto Arts Foundation has removed the age restriction for the Breakthrough Artist Award (formerly the Emerging Artists Award). The lifting of the age restriction reflects feedback from the Toronto arts community and is intended to reduce systemic barriers that disenfranchise BIPOC artists, artists from the 2SLGBTQIAP communities, as well as artists who identify as Deaf, disabled, and/or living with mental illness. This change brings the Breakthrough Artist Award in line with other prizes and awards, which have recently removed age restrictions, including the Turner Prize in the UK, The Sobey Art Award, and the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers.  The intention of the award has not changed, and by removing the age restriction Toronto Arts Foundation is committing to the understanding that a career breakthrough can happen at any age. For more information about eligibility criteria for this award please contact Christy DiFelice, Award Program Manager, by email at christy[at]torontoartscouncil[dot]org

“This award means that I have the opportunity to create work. It is an opportunity for me to allow other young black girls growing up to see that there are other things that they can become. It’s a huge affirmation to get this award. I would never have imagined the whole city coming together […] to tell me that I can keep going. It pushes me to keep going.” – Anique Jordon, 2017 Breakthrough Artist Award Recipient 

Eligibility Criteria:
• must have demonstrated an ongoing association with Toronto;
• must have contributed significantly to the arts and culture of Toronto;
• must be living at time of selection;
• must be an artist in the early stages of their professional career who has produced a small body of work and achieved some local recognition and/or has limited public exhibition experience;
• should have between 2 and 7 years of independent arts practice in their nominated discipline;
• must have completed training (not necessarily at a formal educational institution) in their discipline;
• undergraduate and college students are not eligible to apply.
• are not eligible to nominate or receive Toronto Arts Foundation awards while serving as an executive board member or staff of Toronto Arts Foundation or Toronto Arts Council

No person may be selected for more than one Toronto Arts Foundation award within any given year. No person may receive the same Toronto Arts Foundation award twice. This does not preclude a recipient from being considered for a different Toronto Arts Foundation award in the future.

Full Eligibility Guidelines for 2023 Awards (PDF).

How to Apply: To nominate an individual for the Breakthough Artist Award you must,

  • Visit the Toronto Arts Foundation Nomination portal
  • Register an account on the Toronto Arts Foundation Nomination portal or sign in to your existing account
  • Submit the nomination online, complete with supporting material


Along with the name of the individual you are nominating, the nomination form will also ask for a biography, a nomination rationale, and accompanying support material in the form of visual, audio or text-based attachments.

Nominators can save their application at any time before submission by clicking ‘Save Draft’. Nominators can log-in and out of the Toronto Arts Foundation Nomination portal as many times as needed before clicking ‘Submit’.

* Please ensure you are on/ register through the Toronto Arts Foundation Nomination portal and not Toronto Arts Council’s TAC Grants Online.


Selection Procedure: An Awards Assessment Panel of up to 10 members will review nomination profiles and select a shortlist and recipient recommendation for this award. Toronto Arts Foundation’s Board of Directors will make final determinations. Each panel is comprised of participants who are practitioners of the arts, organizers, programmers, producers, curators, critics, commentators and lay specialists.

This award is presented in recognition of a body of creative accomplishment, rather than for specific works or achievements. In addition to specific requirements for each award, deliberations will be guided by the following assessment criteria: artistic strength and achievement; strength of the candidate’s artistic goals and objectives; contribution to the development of arts and culture in Toronto; and the candidate’s overall public impact including public engagement and animation.

Contact Info: For questions, please contact Christy DiFelice, Award Program Manager, by email at christy[at]torontoartscouncil[dot]org.

Click here to see all of our awards. 


Read full bios of all 2023 Breakthrough Artist Award finalists.  

Oluseye Ogunlesi –
multidisciplnary artist

Jorian Charlton –
photographer working in portraiture
Rammah Mohammad – singer, songwriter, performer, and vocal coach.


Go to Recipients to view bios of past Breakthrough Artist Award recipients, dating back to 2006.

2023: Oluseye Ogunlesi 
2022: Shelly Grace
2021: Britta B.
2020: jes sachse
2019: Josh Vettivelu
2018: Jiv Parasem
2017: Anique Jordan
2016: Benjamin Kamino
2015: Emilie Lebel
2014: Jordan Tannahill 
2013: Daniel Karasik 
2012: Chris Curreri
2011: Adam Garnet Jones 
2010: Jamie Travis
2009: Anusree Roy 
2008: Weyni Mengesha
2007: d'bi.young anitafrika
2006: Natasha Mytnowych