2022 Finalists

Toronto Arts Foundation Awards: 2022 Finalists of Arts for Youth Award, Breakthrough Artist Award and Celebration of Cultural Life Award, and recipient details for Toronto Arts and Business Award


In March 2022, Toronto Arts Foundation announced the finalists of the 2022 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards. Four Awards celebrating Toronto’s exceptional artists, cultural leaders and arts organizations were presented at the annual Mayor’s Arts Lunch on April 25, 2022; the first in-person Lunch event in two years. A total of $52,000 in prize money was distributed. 

The finalists for this year are highly accomplished and collectively contribute to the strength of our city’s arts sector. Individuals working in visual arts, theatre, dance, spoken word, a dedicated volunteer, and organizations that are engaging youth through the arts were honoured. 

The finalists of the 2022 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 prizes are sponsored by Diana Bennett and Spencer Lanthier.

The recipient of the Arts for Youth Award was announced at the Lunch. 

The 2022 finalists were:


Portrait of Erin
Erin Brubacher

Erin is a multidisciplinary artist and community activator. She has a long history of leading performance projects that amplify teenage voices, both within institutions and as an independent artist. In all of her work, she aims to follow the tenet that how things are made shapes what is made.

The assessment panel was impressed by Erin’s commitment to youth work, which has created many opportunities for young and emerging artists, providing them with a path to leadership.

“It can be challenging to hold the space of both 'artist' and 'artist-educator,' and in an industry fed by cultural capital, youth work is seldom an arena of recognition. But working with youth is the most meaningful work that I do; it makes me a better artist and person.” - Erin Brubacher

Flaunt It participants smiling
Flaunt It Movement

The Flaunt It Movement & Collection ("Flaunt-It") is a grassroots, youth-led, social purpose organization that fosters self-love and highly-esteemed representation for women in the arts, entrepreneurship and activism. Their community artist collective and resident-led social enterprise's programming both celebrate and empower women, femmes and nonbinary folks' self-esteem, representation and leadership.

The assessment panel noted that Flaunt Its work is innovative, and were impressed by their efforts to make the arts accessible by removing financial barriers. 

“[Flaunt It] is about creating unique career-creative-oriented opportunities for every one we work with, especially for youth in underserved low-income communities, because our team, first hand, understands what it’s like to not have opportunities to explore the arts. We are humbled and grateful that we help young women, femmes, and non-binary folks feel seen, represented, included and valued.” - Sariena Luy (she/her), Executive Artistic Director 

Karen of Never Gallery Ready
Never Gallery Ready, 2022 Recipient

Never Gallery Ready delivers media-literacy-focused multidisciplinary arts programs in schools, libraries and museums. Since 2006, youth participants have created over 10,000 artworks ranging from paper collage to digital art, animation and augmented reality. Their learning resources and #WeMakeMedia podcast expand conversations about content creation, digital literacies and media futures.

The assessment panel noted Never Gallery Ready’s 15-year commitment to their work, and the importance of connecting youth to media literacy arts programs. 

“Through conversations about art, popular culture, their own lived experiences and their relationship with media technology, Never Gallery Ready meets young people where they are at, supporting them in questioning the status quo as reflected in media messages.” - Karen Darricades, Founding Artistic Director

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. In 2021 the Emerging Artists Award was renamed the Breakthrough Artist Award and the age restriction for recipients was removed. The award is sponsored by Susan Crocker and John Hunkin.

The recipient of the Breakthrough Artist Award was announced at the Lunch.  

The 2022 finalists were: 

Portrait of Nathan
 Nathan Cole

Nathan is a visual artist, photographer, writer, and aspiring naturalist. His practice is based on the exploration of the natural world both physically and visually, drawing inspiration from artist residencies in Costa Rica, India and Spain. He is best known for his intricate and emotional wildlife scratchboard portraits.

The assessment panel noted Nathan’s unique purpose, vision and art. They were impressed by his accolades to date, and remarked that his art, which connects nature to mental health, is incredible and fascinating. 

“The joy of finding textures, colours, and patterns to capture in my next wildlife work keeps me inspired, and the push for finding something new over that next hill keeps me exploring.” - Nathan Cole

Portrait of Shelly
 Shelly Grace, 2022 Recipient

Grace is a spoken word poet and photographer. She uses her art for community building and healing, focusing on the experiences of women and the Black community. In 2019 she won the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word. She has worked with TDSB, Vibe Arts, CBC Arts and more.

The assessment panel was impressed with Shelly’s poetry and loved the feeling and emotion that it brings. 

“All of my work is grounded in making the world a better place, giving space to moments and emotions that will spark change in the world.” - Shelly Grace

Portrait of Eponine
 Eponine Lee

Eponine was born and raised in Toronto. Still in high school, she’s leading an accomplished career in film, theatre and music. Eponine was awarded Best Breakout Performance at the 2020 Canadian Film Fest for Queen of the Morning Calm and Now Magazine’s Breakthrough Toronto Stage Artist 2019.​

The assessment panel was impressed by Eponine’s accomplishments at her young age. They noted that she has already achieved so much and they can’t wait to see where her career takes her. 

“My work is a mix of three things: a reflection of my experiences, a way to help others tell their own stories, and a megaphone for my voice to be heard. Being an artist is who I am and I try my best to create work that shows all of me— even if it makes me vulnerable or emotional.” - Eponine Lee

CELEBRATION OF CULTURAL LIFE AWARD: a $10,000 cash prize, with finalists receiving $2,000. The award recognizes excellence in Toronto’s senior arts practitioners; 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 2022 recipient prize is 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 recipient of the Celebration of Cultural Life Award was announced at the Lunch.  

The 2022 finalists were: 

Portrait of Esmeralda
 Esmeralda Enrique

Esmeralda is one of the most celebrated Flamenco dance artists in Canada. Founder of the Academy of Spanish Dance and the Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company, her spirit and energy over the last 40 years have helped make flamenco a vibrant, driving force in the Canadian dance landscape.

The assessment panel noted Esmeralda’s impressive body of work, including her contribution and impact in Toronto. At this point in her career, they said, her work and legacy must be recognized. 

“Flamenco speaks of people, events and emotion. It is a living art and I seek not only to preserve the form but also to move forward and make the art relevant to the world as it is and as it continues to change.” - Esmeralda Enrique

Portrait of Joy
 Joy MacFadyen

Joy joined the Art Guild of Scarborough in 1970 and is still a member. She's served on its board in several positions and as President for 25 years on four occasions. She was on the founding board of the Scarborough Arts Council for six years, first as Secretary and then as President.

The assessment panel was impressed with Joy’s work. They said that she has dedicated her life to her work and embodies the spirit of volunteerism. 

“I have always believed that volunteers strive harder for the success of their organizations if their efforts are recognized and appreciated and I believe that the Toronto Arts Foundation Award is the epitome of appreciation.” - Joy MacFadyen

Portrait of Dwayne
 Dwayne Morgan, 2022 Recipient

Dwayne began his career in spoken word in 1993. He has published 14 written and nine audio collections of his work, toured 18 countries internationally and been inducted to the Scarborough Walk of Fame. He works tirelessly to create platforms for other racialized artists.

The assessment panel noted Dwayne’s impact; the work he does in the community and Toronto as a whole is amazing, they said. 

“I express the human condition through the lens of a Black man through my written words. Through my events, I create platforms for artists to be seen, who are often pushed to the margins.” - Dwayne Morgan


The assessment panel for the 2022 Arts For Youth Award, Breakthrough Artist Award and Celebration of Cultural Life Award was comprised of active Toronto artists and arts professionals Cynthia Lickers Sage, Syrus Marcus Ware, Ruth Howard and Sarah Thawer. 


Every year at the Mayor’s Arts Lunch, a local business that has made an important contribution to the arts in Toronto, through innovative and transformational partnerships, is recognized with the Toronto Arts and Business Award. Winners range from national financial institutions and real estate development to small design firms and local businesses. Presented in partnership with Toronto Arts Foundation, Business/Arts and the Toronto Star, this award was established in 2006.

A recipient has been selected by an independent Toronto Arts and Business Award committee. The 2022 recipient is:

Portrait of Wanda from Meridian
 Meridian Credit Union

With more than 75 years of banking history, Meridian is Ontario's largest credit union, and second largest in Canada. Delivering on exceptional banking service and advice, they help grow the lives of over 370,000 members while dedicating a portion of their profits to helping local communities thrive.

In 2019, Meridian and TO Live announced a visionary partnership, with Meridian committing $30.75 million over 15 years; one of the largest agreements of its kind in the arts and culture community in Canada. The partnership includes sponsorship support and support to TO Live’s programming within three of its landmark city theatres; it marks Meridian and TO Live’s shared commitment to building strong and enduring communities. For its outstanding support for the arts through this partnership, Meridian is being awarded the Toronto Arts Foundation Arts and Business Award. 

“This award reinforces the importance of our commitment to improving the lives and well-being of the communities that we serve.  Helping enrich the cultural vibrancy of the city will help communities thrive and we're inspired to continue this journey.” - Wanita Fonseka, SVP & Chief Member Experience Officer 


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 Mayor's Arts Lunch.

Photos provided by the artists/ organizations. Design by Illustrator Janie Hao.