2023 Finalists and Recipients
2023 Finalists and Recipients of the Arts for Youth Award, Breakthrough Artist Award, Community Arts Award, Margo Bindhardt and Rita Davies Award and Muriel Sherrin Award
In March 2023, Toronto Arts Foundation announced the finalists of the 2023 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards. Five Awards celebrating Toronto’s exceptional artists, cultural leaders and arts organizations were presented at our annual awards ceremony, on April 17, 2023. Photos from the event can be viewed here.
The finalists for 2023 showcase the depth and range of Toronto’s arts landscape. Organizations that engage youth and community through the arts, as well as individuals leading organizations and those practising in music, visual arts and theatre, are being honoured.
The finalists of the 2023 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards were:
ARTS FOR YOUTH AWARD - a $20,000 cash prize, with finalists receiving $2,000. The award celebrates an individual, collective or organization that has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to engaging Toronto’s youth through the arts. The award is sponsored by Martha Burns, Jim Fleck and Sandra and Jim Pitblado. The finalist awards are sponsored by Diana Bennett and Spencer Lanthier.
The recipient of the Arts for Youth Award was announced on April 17, 2023.
The 2023 finalists were:
Nia Centre for the Arts - RECIPIENT
Nia Centre for the Arts is a Toronto-based charitable organization that promotes and showcases art from Canada’s Black diaspora. The Centre supports the holistic development of artists through public art showcases, educational workshops and professional development programs. A new 16,000 sq ft, purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility designed to nurture and support Toronto’s Black artistic community is currently being constructed, and is set to open in 2023.
The assessment panel noted the Centre’s impressive range of programming, which they said is both essential and influential. “Their capacity for collaboration and directing resources to youth experiences has been a massive and powerful force in their work,” they said.
“Being nominated for this award is testament to the promising future of Black Canadian art, and a sign to Black youth across the city that they matter.” - Alica Hall, Executive Director, Nia Centre for the Arts
Read our interview with Nia Centre for the Arts
ONE MIC EDUCATORS
ONE MIC EDUCATORS is a multi-disciplinary arts education enterprise dedicated to engaging the disengaged through the arts. It prioritizes Black, Indigenous and Latin American artists. It employs Culturally Relevant and Responsive Pedagogy as well as Hip Hop as Critical Pedagogy in its workshops and operates with the mandate to build Immigrant Indigenous Friendship always.
The assessment panel was impressed by the “great potential” of ONE MIC EDUCATORS. They noted that it’s a “brave” organization that is working hard to develop relationships between newcomer, Indigenous and other settler youth.
"[Our] work is important because it has the capacity to reach those in society who feel abandoned and neglected by the system." - Luis Eduardo Mejicano, ONE MIC EDUCATORS
Read our interview with ONE MIC EDUCATORS
Théâtre français de Toronto
Théâtre français de Toronto (TfT) is a company performing repertoire and new work for Francophones and Francophiles since 1967. It promotes and presents theatrical vitality to the various communities and school networks it serves. Through its programs, TfT supports, encourages, and spurs on the artistic emergence and professional development of its community. It actively participates in education and theatrical outreach.
The assessment panel was impressed with TfT’s cross cultural and meaningful programming. They noted the importance of their approach, which, in addition to French language education, prioritizes the creative objectives of the young artists it serves.
“It is paramount for us to offer [youth] entertaining and educational shows but also a creative outlet - demonstrating tangibly that French can be a language of artistic expression even in Canada’s largest Anglophone city.” - Ghislain Caron, Executive Director, Théâtre français de Toronto
Read our interview with Théâtre français de Toronto
BREAKTHROUGH ARTIST AWARD - 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. The award is sponsored by Susan Crocker and John Hunkin.
The recipient of the Breakthrough Artist Award was announced on April 17, 2023.
The 2023 finalists were:
Jorian Charlton is a photographer working in portraiture. Her work focuses on Jamaican-Canadian culture through her personal experiences and those of her community, highlighting themes of Black family life, intimacy, community and love. Charlton creates atmospheres, fashions and poses that tell stories about Caribbean diasporas and Black representation.
The assessment panel agreed that Charlton has reached a breakthrough in her career. They were impressed with her documentary storytelling; her photos are “muted but they scream,” and are “exciting and crackling with energy.
“Black representation is important to me and I always aim to show the significance of belonging in my work.” - Jorian Charlton
Read our interview with Jorian Charlton
Oluseye Ogunlesi - RECIPIENT
Oluseye is a Nigerian Canadian artist. Using diasporic debris - a term he coined to describe the found objects he collects from his travels across the Atlantic - he explores Black being across themes. He has exhibited at The Albright-Knox Musuem, Buffalo (2022); Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto (2021); The Agnes Etherington Art Center, Queen’s University, Kingston (2021); and The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2015).
The assessment panel was impressed by the range of materials, mediums and the iterations of Ogunlesi’s work. In addition to noting the relevancy of his work, they said that “everything that Oluseye is doing is earth-shatteringly beautiful, beguiling, and enthralling.”
“My work bends the ancestral with the contemporary; the traditional with the modern; the physical with the spiritual; the new with the old; and the past with the future.” - Oluseye Ogunlesi
Read our interview with Oluseye Ogunlesi
Rammah is a singer, songwriter, performer, and vocal coach in Toronto. As a newcomer from Syria (2018), he has joined the Canadian Arabic Orchestra as a soloist in the choir, held roles in operettas with St. Anne's MADS, co-founded Strings & Friends Ensemble and has performed in many events, festivals and tours. With a passion for singing in many languages including Arabic, English, Italian and Spanish, he is now writing his first album entitled Atheer.
The assessment panel was impressed with Mohammad’s artistry, noting that he is a skilled singer and has great stylistic and technical range. In addition to this, the panel highlighted his connection with local communities; “he is a team player,” they said.
“Singing gives me joy every day and I have had a very strong passion for singing since I was a child. Later, when I started taking lessons and understanding my voice, I felt like I found a missing piece of my heart.” - Rammah Mohammad
Read our interview with Rammah Mohammad
COMMUNITY ARTS AWARD - a $10,000 cash prize, with finalists receiving $1,000. The award celebrates an arts organization or collective that has made a significant contribution in Toronto by working with, in and for communities, while increasing access to arts and culture. The Community Arts Award is administered by our Neighbourhood Arts Network and is sponsored by MOD Developments.
The recipient of the Community Arts Award was announced on April 17, 2023.
The 2023 finalists were:
Community Arts Guild
The Community Arts Guild (est. 2012) is an arts and community-building organization in the Kingston-Galloway/Orton Park (KGO) neighbourhood of southeast Scarborough. It builds collaborations between professional artists and people with different levels of artistic skill, experience and confidence, using art as a means to build community.
The assessment panel noted that the Guild has a strong commitment to relationship building, and a compelling and broad catalogue of activities that provides many generations opportunities for engagement. Its dedication to the KGO neighbourhood has not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by its strong volunteer base. “Community is showing up and support is strong,” said the panel.
“Our work is about creativity and community building, and people are drawn to and return to it over time because it has a myriad of benefits, some immediate others intangible - all of which are essential to building communities where we can thrive.” - Ahmed Hegazy, Community Arts Guild
Read our interview with Community Arts Guild
R.I.S.E. Edutainment - RECIPIENT
R.I.S.E. empowers youth and emerging creatives through its unique Edutainment approach, combining education and entertainment to create meaningful work rooted in self knowledge and self-expression. Its programs provide platforms for performance, learning and leadership development, using art as a cathartic practice for self-expression and community healing.
The assessment panel said that R.I.S.E. “seems to have open doors for everyone to walk in,” and that its programming, which is centred around communities who uplift and support each other, is important and valuable. The panel noted R.I.S.E.’s role in building community leadership and its impressive growth, now having a city-wide presence.
“We envision a world where communities are transformed because young people and emerging creatives have access to safe, inclusive spaces for self-expression and personal growth through the arts.” - Randell Adjei, R.I.S.E. Edutainment
Read our interview with R.I.S.E. Edutainment
Tamil Archive Project
Tamil Archive Project (TAP) is a collective that prioritizes the participation and experiences of communities in the Greater Toronto Area with histories of marginalization. TAP came together in 2016 to document, provide and animate different forms of care which exist in racialized cultures. The collective emerged out of a need for makeshift forms of belonging in diasporic spaces by reconfiguring contemporary art practices as part of communal care.
The assessment panel said that TAP’s work provides inspiration. It does things intentionally and thoughtfully, which, the panel noted, is particularly important given that its work is rooted in communal care. The panel said that projects such as its annual Tamil Futures magazine not only gives the Tamil community the opportunity to have their work archived and celebrated, but it provides opportunities for skills building and gives other communities access to learn.
“This collective emerged out of a lack of spaces where you felt seen, belonged, and could bring all parts of yourself. Thank you for supporting such spaces for present and future communities.” - the TAP collective
Read our interview with Tamil Archive Project
MARGO BINDHARDT AND RITA DAVIES AWARD - a $10,000 cash prize, with finalists receiving $1,000. The award celebrates an individual artist, creator, volunteer or administrator who has demonstrated creative cultural leadership in the development of arts and culture in Toronto. The award is sponsored in part by John and Raphaela Dunlap. The finalist awards are sponsored by Neera Chopra.
The recipient of the Margo Bindhardt and Rita Davies Award was announced on April 17, 2023.
The 2023 finalists were:
D. Brainerd Blyden-Taylor
D. Brainerd Blyden-Taylor is the Founder and Artistic Director of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, Canada's first professional chamber choir dedicated to the creation, preservation and performance of Afrocentric choral music. Brainerd is in demand as a guest conductor, clinician, adjudicator and lecturer, and is an active and dedicated church musician.
The assessment panel said that Blyden-Taylor is a “true leader and pioneer” in his role as Artistic Director of The Nathaniel Dett Chorale and for Toronto. The panel was impressed with his range of work and great commitment.
“I use music, and specifically choral music, as a medium with which to educate, empower, inspire, heal, bring light, spread love. Every performance is an opportunity to change lives.” - D. Brainerd Blyden-Taylor
Read our interview with D. Brainerd Blyden-Taylor
Naomi Johnson - RECIPIENT
Naomi Johnson, Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Bear clan from Six Nations, has worked in the arts for 17 years as a curator/programmer and arts administrator. Since June 2020 she has served as Executive Director for imagineNATIVE, continuing to support Indigenous talent and arts workers within film and media arts.
The assessment panel noted Johnson’s impressive curatorial practice, great work with imagineNATIVE and the care she puts into working with others. “It is the right time for Johnson to be recognized; it is very clear that she is a leader,” they said.
“The arts are a way we connect in a deeply human way, to celebrate creativity, passion, tell truths and share stories. A life without the arts isn't worth living.” - Naomi Johnson
Read our interview with Naomi Johnson
Ann and David Powell
Puppetmongers Theatre was founded in 1974 by siblings Ann Powell and David Powell, creating theatrical productions for both family and adult audiences. Their award-winning shows have toured Canada, the USA, Europe and Iran. They collaborate with many artists and provide workshops through their Toronto School of Puppetry.
The assessment panel noted that Ann and David Powell have paved the way for puppet organizations in Toronto. The “techniques and the range of puppets they have is impressive,” and their legacy is very apparent, they said.
“Puppetry is a great yet underexplored form of theatre, able to create wonderful visual imagery that transports people to other worlds.” - Ann and David Powell
Read our interview with Ann and David Powell
MURIEL SHERRIN AWARD - a $10,000 cash prize with finalists receiving $1,000. The award celebrates an artist or creator who has made a contribution to the cultural life of Toronto through outstanding achievement in music. The recipient will also have participated in international initiatives, including touring, studying abroad and participating in artist exchanges. The award is sponsored by The Muriel Sherrin Award Fund. In addition to the prize money, the 2023 recipient will receive a complimentary week-long stay at Valleyview Artist Retreat.
The recipient of the Muriel Sherrin Award was announced on April 17, 2023.
The 2023 finalists were:
Measha Brueggergosman-Lee’s career effortlessly embraces the broadest array of performance platforms and musical styles and genres. She has presented innovative programs at numerous renowned theatres with celebrated collaborative pianists Justus Zeyen, Roger Vignoles, Julius Drake and Simon Lepper. She is the permanent Artist In Residence for the Canadian opera company, Opera Atelier.
The assessment panel noted Brueggergosman-Lee’s sincerity in creating a more inclusive opera space. They were taken by her undeniable talent, noting that she’s “one of the best at what she does.”
"The 'art I do' has the thread of grace running through it. Yes, it’s 'singing' but I’m healed by the act of giving it as much as I endeavour for my audience to be healed through the act of receiving it." - Measha Brueggergosman-Lee
Read our interview with Measha Brueggergosman-Lee
Hilario Duran Torres
After making his mark in Cuba, Duran has continued to essay his skills as pianist, producer, composer, arranger and bandleader of remarkable virtuosity. He is one of Cuba's premier exponents of Latin Jazz. He immigrated to Canada in 1998 and was named “One of the 10 Most Influential Hispanic Canadians” in 2009.
The assessment panel was impressed with Duran’s artistry, making special note of his captivating performances. He is “a powerhouse” who has contributed to the cultural life in Toronto, they said.
“Music gives meaning to life; it is my source of inspiration. I think music is universal and is a complete experience; it transmits stories and emotions and connects people.” - Hilario Duran Torres
Read our interview with Hilario Duran Torres
Joy Lapps - RECIPIENT
Joy Lapps is an internationally lauded artist, composer and educator. Joy activates spaces for community building and creative expression, using the steelpan as her primary tool for engagement. Her most recent recording Girl In The Yard is an inspiring musical tribute to the women in her life.
The assessment panel noted that Lapps is an “excellent musician” who gives engrossing performances. They said that her capacity as an organizer is impressive, and that through her work and investment in the city, she provides a “glowing example of how to develop the self and community together.”
“I am drawn to my practice because it is accessible, it brings people together and people tell me all the time that when they hear my instrument, it brings them this instant feeling of pure joy.” - Joy Lapps
Read our interview with Joy Lapps
The assessment panel for the 2023 Arts For Youth Award, Breakthrough Artist Award, Margo Bindhardt & Rita Davies Award and Muriel Sherrin Award was comprised of Toronto artists and arts professionals Vivian Barclay, Matthew Fava, Heather Kelly and Bageshree Vaze. The assessment panel for the 2023 Community Arts Award was comprised of Toronto artists and arts professionals Julian Diego, Norma Garcia and Andrea Vela Alarcón.
ABOUT THE TORONTO ARTS FOUNDATION AWARDS
The Toronto Arts Foundation Awards celebrate artistic excellence and recognize the contributions of artists and arts supporters, across disciplines, to creative city-building in Toronto. Financial support of the awards is provided through a combination of legacies and annual donations from private and corporate donors. The awards are presented annually at the Toronto Arts Awards Lunch.
Photos provided by the artists/ organizations. Design by visual artist and illustrator Lily Huang.
Read the 2023 Award Recipients Announcement