2024 Award Finalists and Recipients

We are pleased to announce the 2024 finalists and recipients for the Toronto Arts Foundation Awards. Five Awards celebrating Toronto’s exceptional artists, cultural leaders and arts organizations were presented at the Mayor’s Arts Lunch on Tuesday April 16, 2024.  The Newcomer Artist Award and Breakthrough Jazz Artist Award will be presented on May 22 and June 26 respectively. 

The finalists and recipients for 2024 showcase the creativity and range of Toronto’s arts landscape. Organizations that engage youth and community through the arts, as well as individuals leading organizations and those practicing in dance, visual arts and theatre, are being honoured.  

The finalists and recipients of the 2024 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards are:

ARTS FOR YOUTH AWARD is 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 2024 finalists are: 

 Community Music Schools of Toronto   

Community Music Schools of Toronto (CMST) provides free music lessons to over 850 children and youth in Regent Park, Jane Finch and other neighborhoods across the City of Toronto. For over 25 years, CMST has seen that the study of music allows young people to flourish creatively, personally and academically. 

The assessment panel was impressed by CMST’s “huge community commitment” and its programming that provides “not just nourishment from music, but thoughtfulness.”  


 Pan Fantasy (Recipient)

Pan Fantasy Steelband /North York Inter-Community Youth Group (NYICYG) is a dedicated community-based organization that has been providing on-going activities within the steelpan community over the past 37 years. Pan Fantasy provides a meaningful, highly recognized music program while operating as a non-profit volunteer organization, fostering leadership skills through performing arts. 

The Assessment panel was surprised that the group hasn’t received more accolades in the past given that “the work is truly transformative.” The “passion, the fire in every performer and performance is inspiring,” they said. 


 Xenia Concerts 

Xenia Concerts works with the neurodiversity and disability communities to design and present exceptional, accessible concerts that embrace differences and promote inclusion. Having grown steadily since 2015, Xenia presents 25-30 Adaptive Concerts per season, trains artists in accessible programming, and helps other organizations improve their accessibility practices. 
The assessment panel noted that “The engagement of youth in the planning and the design of program is key. Not just creating programming FOR youth but actively make them a part of the planning process.” 

BREAKTHROUGH ARTIST AWARD, formerly the Emerging Artist Award, is a $10,000 cash prize with finalists receiving $2,000 each. The award celebrates the accomplishments and future potential of an emerging Toronto artist working in any discipline.  

The 2024 finalists are:

 Destinie Adélakun (Recipient)

Destinie Adélakun, a Canadian artist of West African and South Indian descent, creates multidisciplinary work exploring matriarchal themes and pre-colonial history. She empowers the diaspora through storytelling and celebrates them while advocating for social justice. Adélakun was named Canadian Women Artist of the Year 2020 by New York Foundation for the Arts and she co-founded Behind the Arts Collective, which promotes mental health awareness in BIPOC and immigrant communities. 

The panel said that they could “feel the rigour in her artistic practice” and called her work “breathtaking.” 


 Jennifer Alicia 

Jennifer Alicia is a queer, mixed Mi’kmaw and settler (German/Irish/Scottish) multidisciplinary artist originally from Elmastukwek, Ktaqmkuk (Bay of Islands, Newfoundland). She is a two-time national poetry slam champion and theatre creator. Her work has been featured in places such as NOW Magazine, Nuit Blanche and CBC Arts. 

The assessment panel said that Jennifer “has accomplished so much already” and her work is “truly coming from the heart.” 


 Kanika Ambrose 

Kanika is a playwright, librettist, screenwriter, mother, and Associate Artistic Director of Necessary Angel Theatre Company. A graduate of CFC’s Bell Media Primetime TV Program, her plays and operas have opened to great acclaim in Toronto and the USA. Her play, “our place,” received a 2023 Dora Mavor Moore Award for “Outstanding New Play.” 

The assessment panel said that Kanika is “a mover and shaker in this world” and through her practice, she is “forging her own path.”  

THE CELEBRATION OF CULTURAL LIFE AWARD is a $10,000 cash prize, with finalists receiving $2,000 each. The award recognizes excellence in a senior arts practitioner or leader (a performer, teacher, administrator and/or creator working in any arts discipline, including architecture and design), whose work is a celebration of life through the arts. In addition to the prize money, the 2024 recipient will receive a complimentary week-long stay at Valleyview Artist Retreat. 

The 2024 finalists are:

 Rina Fraticelli (Recipient)

Rina Fraticelli is a Genie Award-winning documentary filmmaker with a diversified background in artistic creation and cultural programming. Her multi-disciplinary career is marked by a commitment to fostering equity, innovation and sustainability in arts and cultural organizations. She is currently working on a book about Allan Gardens. 

The assessment panel noted Rina’s “dedication to bring forward all voices” and said that she “continues to make critical contributions that remain resonant.” 


 David Anderson 

David Anderson is the founding artistic director of Clay and Paper Theatre. His work is rooted in the idea that art in public space, in communities, is an invitation to connection. He uses puppets; large and small, that act as metaphors for understanding our collective condition. It’s a dangerous path. 

The panel noted how prolific David’s work has been, and that his arts-making practice is “political, engaging, imaginative, collaborative, educational, environmental, relational, community driven, transparent, inviting and has reached across distances.” 


 Beatriz Pizano 

Beatriz Pizano is the founder and Artistic Director of Aluna Theatre, a company recognized for its unique approach to creation, its daring political work and its experimentation with multiple-language productions and producing two signature festivals: RUTAS international festival and CAMINOS festival of works-in-progress. She is a fierce artivist who creates spaces and opportunities for racialized artists. 

The assessment panel noted the very wide impact of Beatriz’s work and that “everything she does is rooted in her sense of the world and that is absolutely reflected in the work she does. She brings forward really important issues.” 

THE COMMUNITY ARTS AWARD is a $10,000 cash prize with finalists receiving $1,000 each. The award is presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution in Toronto by working with, in and for communities, while increasing access to arts and culture.  

The 2024 finalists are: 

 Anthony Gebrehiwot (Recipient) 

Anthony Gebrehiwot is an award winning visual artist, photographer and community leader whose creative lens re-visions photography as an ongoing dialogue of social change between subject and society. 

The assessment panel was impressed that Anthony “brings a different perspective on Scarborough” and noted that his portraiture work was “stunning.” 


 Sid Jackson 

Jackson’s ‘relational praxis art’ involves long-term commitment to community building and cultural production with poor and unhoused people. This means participating in their informal economies, acknowledging their political subjectivity, and resisting their stigmatization. Jackson works with the politics of poor people’s aesthetics to assert belonging against conditions of social abandonment. 

The assessment panel was very impressed with Sid’s work and said that “they are really bringing the voices of marginalized people forward.” 


 Ashley McKenzie-Barnes 

Ashley brings over 17 years of experience as an award-winning creative director, curator, and academic professor. Recently she launched D.PE (Diverse, Progressive, Experiences) Agency, which focuses on reflecting a diverse creative community while hiring equitably. Her artistic projects and cultural programming have spanned across clients and institutions such as; CIBC Square, The City of Toronto, Nuit Blanche, Harbourfront Centre, Universal Music, CBC, Scotiabank, Destination Toronto, TEDX Toronto, Ontario Culture Days, Manifesto Festival of Arts & Culture, Johnnie Walker, Bombay Sapphire, 19 Crimes Wine, Truly Seltzer, the notable Lauryn Hill, and many more. 

The assessment panel was impressed by Ashley’s work which is not only personal but “so dynamic and powerful.” 

THE MURIEL SHERRIN AWARD is 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 dance. 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 2024 recipient will receive a complimentary week-long stay at Valleyview Artist Retreat.    

The 2024 finalists are: 

 Laurence Lemieux (Recipient)

As artistic director of Citadel + Compagnie for over two decades, Laurence Lemieux has established herself as a leader within Toronto’s dance community. Her multi-faceted experience as a dancer, choreographer, teacher and presenter has guided the company’s mandate of community outreach and engagement and given rise to C+C’s distinctive artistic voice.    
The panel said that Laurence has made The Citadel an “amazing space” that has the support of the community and that “it is impossible to measure the immense impacts of Laurence’s contributions to Toronto artists and the Toronto dance scene.” 


 Ronald Taylor 

Ronald Taylor is the Artistic Director of the Toronto-based company Ronald Taylor Dance founded in 1993. Remaining true to his Caribbean roots, his cutting edge work fuses Modern with Folk and traditional Ballet, in a distinctive style described as Contemporary Caribbean Dance. Ronald is the founder of that genre. 

The assessment panel was impressed by Ronald’s extensive and incredible body of work and said that he is “a radiant, treasured and inspiring artist whose community engagement continues to resonate deeply”. 


 Lua Shayenne 

Lua Shayenne intricately weaves contemporary narratives through dance, song and storytelling, drawing from her African roots and her faith - the Baha'i Faith. Her art aims to stir hearts and consciences while actively engaging with audiences and communities, advocating for social justice and spiritual progress. 

The panel said that Lua has been responsible for “shifting the culture of dance” in Toronto and called her a “fierce and brilliant artist, passionate in her artistry and personal evolution and devoted to raising and amplifying the voices and diverse aesthetics of black women in dance.” 

THE BREAKTHROUGH JAZZ ARTIST AWARD is a $10,000 cash prize with finalists receiving $2,000 each. The award celebrates an outstanding Toronto-based jazz artist with two to seven years of experience in the field, as well as artists who may have devoted their career to supporting other artists and are now able to focus on their own solo work.  Recognizing that “jazz” includes many different styles and artistic interpretations, this award is open to nominations for individuals who perform jazz and jazz-influenced music.    

The 2024 finalists are: 

 Sanah Kadoura 

JUNO nominated Lebanese-Canadian drummer, composer, educator and producer, Sanah Kadoura has quickly risen to prominence after living in New York City for a decade. Her latest release, Duality, was chosen for Best Albums of 2023 by DownBeat Magazine. 

The assessment panel noted Sanah’s range and charisma, calling her music “beautiful and arresting.” 


 Virginia MacDonald 

Virginia MacDonald is known for her lyrical and soulful clarinet playing. She has been described as a “powerful new voice in the Canadian scene” by Juno Award-winning bassist Mike Downes. She has established herself as a highly in-demand bandleader, sidewoman, and composer, and regularly performs across Canada, the United States, and Europe.  

The assessment panel was impressed by Virginia’s artistry, calling her “one of the most exciting musicians in Canada right now.” 


 Dánae Olano 

Dánae Olano was born and raised in the musical melting pot of Havana, Cuba. Dánae is best known as a founding member of the all-female band Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, which since its formation in 2013 has earned a Juno Award and a Grammy nomination. She is the band’s pianist and also composes and arranges for the ensemble. She has performed in some of the world’s most prestigious jazz clubs, including Birdland, The Blue Note as well as at top festivals such as the Monterrey, Newport and Saratoga Jazz Festivals. 

The assessment panel noted Dánae’s craftmanship and said, there is “no question of her talent, her artistry, her performance or composition skills.” 

THE NEWCOMER ARTIST AWARD provides micro-awards of $2,500 to six newcomer (immigrant and refugee) artists. The award aids the integration of newcomer artists into Toronto and Canada by supporting their artistic careers. Newcomer artists living across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and working in a range of disciplines are eligible for the award. The Newcomer Artist Award is presented every year on or around Toronto Newcomer Day. The award is part of the Foundation’s Newcomer Spotlight Program. 

The 2024 Award Recipients are: 

 Mahsa Alikhani 

Mahsa Alikhani was born in Tehran in 1981. For the past 10 years, her photography and installations have focused on social and cultural issues. Her work is a combination of imaginative and real structures and forms. Mahsa often integrates a degree of irony into her work, engaging elements from contemporary life, culture and art history. She has held solo and group exhibitions in Tehran and various other cities in Europe and North America. She currently works and lives in Canada. 


 Gaby Al Botros  

Gaby Al Botros is a classical guitarist, music composer, conductor, music arranger, and educator. He called Canada home through a fellowship from the Artist Protection Fund. Gaby is the founder and music director of Music Without Borders and the cofounder of the Orontes Guitar Quartet. 




 Andrea Nirmala Widjajanto 

Andrea is an Indonesian writer/director residing in Toronto. She utilizes genre films as a medium to dissect sociopolitical, cultural, and environmental grievances through a female gaze. Her films have screened at TIFF, Sundance Asia, Canada's Top Ten among other international festivals. 




 Jelica Mijanović  

Jelica Mijanović is an award-winning Canadian-Montenegrin guitarist. She has won 11 international guitar competitions and participated as a soloist, lecturer, or adjudicator in over 30 international festivals in a dozen countries. Her solo album, MERIDIANS, features guitar music from six continents. She speaks French, English, Italian, German, Spanish, and Montenegrin.  


 Leandro Matos  

Leandro Matos is an experienced Brazilian writer based in Toronto, with 150+ produced scripts for film and television. He has collaborated with industry giants like 20th Century Fox, Disney Plus, The Walt Disney Company, and Netflix. He was one of the writers of the Brazilian version of Drunk History, which helped to double the audience for Comedy Central. His latest feature, released in February, emerged as one of this year's top-grossing films. 


 Niloufar Ziaee 

Niloufar Ziaee is a filmmaker and multidisciplinary artist originally from Iran, who has called Canada home since 2016. She wears many creative hats, working as an art director, costume designer, set dresser, and painter across various artistic mediums. Nilou is deeply passionate about the power of collective storytelling. Her artistic work has been recognized internationally, including at the Miss Eco International Competition in Egypt, where her talent left a mark.  Nilou's journey is marked by her commitment to pushing creative boundaries and making a lasting impact on the art scene.


The assessment panel for the 2024 Arts for Youth Award, Breakthrough Artist Award, Community Arts Award, Celebration of Cultural Life Award and Muriel Sherrin Award was comprised of Toronto artists and arts professionals Kathleen Allan, Colin Clarke, Kirby, Marina Fathalla, Andrea Nann, Emily Peltier and Joanna Prescod. 

The assessment panel for the Newcomer Artist Award comprised of Toronto artists and arts professionals Felipe Telle, Lana Yuan, Maytham Jbara and Nuhzat Abbas 

The assessment panel for the Breakthrough Jazz Artist Award comprised of Toronto artists and arts professionals Danielle Ellwell, Ernesto Cervini, Garvia Bailey, Joshua Grossman and Shakura S'Aida 



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. The awards are presented annually at the Toronto Arts Awards Lunch.