Celebration of Cultural Life Awards

Recognizing the contributions of an individual whose work is a celebration of life through the arts

Deadline: December 3, 2021 at 11:59 PM EST.

About: The Celebration of Cultural Life Awards is a $10,000 cash award, with finalists receiving $2,000. Originally called the William Kilbourn Award, the award embraces the spirit of Toronto Arts Council founding president William Kilbourn and recognizes excellence in three of Toronto’s senior arts practitioners. The award celebrates an individual performer, teacher, administrator and/or creator in any arts discipline, including architecture and design, whose work is a celebration of life through the arts. The award was re-established in 2017 by Arthur Dalfen. The 2022 recipient prize is generously sponsored by Maureen and Victor Dodig. In addition to the prize money, the 2022 recipient will receive a complimentary week long stay at Valleyview Artist Retreat. The Celebration of Cultural Life Awards is part of our Signature Awards and will be presented every two years at the Mayor’s Arts Lunch.

About William Kilbourn
William Kilbourn was born, raised and educated in Toronto, and spent much of his writing and teaching career commemorating Toronto’s history and the role of the arts in the life of the city.  He taught at McMaster University and Harvard and then, after spending five years as first chairman of the humanities division at York University, he spent seven years as a full-time member of Toronto City Council.  He divided his volunteer time among many Toronto-based organizations.  He was founding chairman of the Toronto Art Therapy Institute and the Toronto Distress Centre.  He served as a member of the Toronto Historical Board, the boards of the Toronto General Hospital and Young People’s Theatre.  William Kilbourn served as President of the Toronto Arts Council from 1982 to 1984.  His writing on the history of Toronto and Canada earned him many literary awards throughout his career.  His extraordinary range of talent also led him to work in film, television and radio as a writer and host, and perform in mixed media as a member of the Issacs Gallery Ensemble. William Kilbourn’s scope and influence on the City of Toronto was immense. He died in 1995.

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
• may not nominate themselves for the award
• may only receive this award once  
• 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 2022 (PDF).​

How to Apply: To nominate an individual for the Celebration of Cultural Life Award you must,

  • Visit the Toronto Arts Foundation Nomination portal https://tac.smartsimple.ca/welcome/taf/
  • 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 Award Assement 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 Liza Mattimore at liza@torontoartscouncil.org.

Click here to see all of our awards. 


Go to Finalists and Recipients to view bios of 2020 finalists. 

Karen & Allen Kaeja – choreographers, performers, idea originators and Co-Artistic Directors of Kaeja d’Dance
Ryan Rice – independent curator and an Associate Dean at OCAD University


Go to Finalists and Recipients to view bios of past Celebration of Cultural Life Awards recipients, dating back to 2018, and William Kilbourn Award for the Celebration of Toronto’s Cultural Life recipients, dating back to 1998.

Celebration of Cutural Life Awards

2020: Sandra Laronde
2018: Ruth Howard

William Kilbourn Award for the Celebration of Toronto’s Cultural Life

2016: David Buchbinder
2014: Philip Akin
2012: Jini Stolk
2010: Mallory Gilbert
2008: Thomas Hendry
2006: Albert Schultz
2004: Djanet Sears
2002: Joy Hughes
2000: Rina Singha
1998: Doris McCarthy