Indigenous Artist Award

Celebrating and supporting Indigenous artists and collectives

Jump to: Rebecca Baird's Artist Statement for A Time Within A Memory (pictured above)

Deadline: Nominations are now closed 


Deadline: Accepting nominations from September 4 - November 18, 2024 (for an award presentation in 2025)

About: Toronto Arts Foundation's Indigenous Artist Award is a $20,000 cash prize, with a professional artist mentor/Elder or mentee/protégée designated by the award recipient receiving $5,000, and finalists receiving $2,000. The award recognizes an Indigenous professional artist or artist collective working in traditional or contemporary practices who has contributed significantly to arts and culture in Toronto and has demonstrated an ongoing association with Toronto. In addition to the prize money, the 2023 recipient will receive a complimentary week long stay at Valleyview Artist Retreat


Established in 2021, the recipient and mentor award is supported by K.M. Hunter Foundation. Finalist awards of $2,000 are supported by Bell. Beginning in 2025, the award will be presented every two years at our Mayor's Arts Lunch.

Eligibility Criteria:

Individual Artists*:

  • must be Indigenous (First Nations, Metis, Inuit)
  • 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
  • undergraduate & 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


  • all members must be Indigenous
  • must be headquartered in Toronto and have a significant portion of its activity taking place in the city
  • must have contributed significantly to the arts and culture of Toronto

Individuals and collectives may self-nominate for the award, but will require a letter of reference.

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.

How to Apply: To nominate an individual or a collective for the Indigenous 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 or collective 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 Toronto Arts Foundation's Nomination portal and not Toronto Arts Council’s TAC Grants Online.

Selection Procedure: An Award Assessment Panel of up to 10 Indigenous arts community 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. 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; and contribution to the development of arts and culture in Toronto.

Contact Info: For questions, please contact Catherine Tammaro, by email at catherine[at]torontoartscouncil[dot]org.


Professional Artist: an individual who is recognized as such by their peers (artists working in the same artistic tradition), who has a history of public presentation, publication and/or production, who is not currently enrolled in an undergraduate or college program, and who is committed to devoting more time to their artistic activity if financially feasible.

Collective: Includes at least two or more professional artists.

Download full nomination guidelines here [pdf]


Contact Indigenous Arts Program Manager, Catherine Tammaro
416-392-6802 x 223 |

Or visit our Frequently Asked Questions, below. 


Go to Recipients to view full bios.

2023: Sandra Laronde
2022: Ange Loft
2021: Greg Staats


Q: I've logged in to the nomination portal, but I can’t find the Indigenous Artist Award. Am I in the right place?

A: We share our award nomination portal with our affiliate Toronto Arts Council (TAC). If you’ve applied for a TAC grant before, the system will default to your TAC SmartSimple account. If you'd like to nominate someone for a Toronto Arts Foundation Award, you must create a nominator login! Still having trouble? Contact us!

Q: I want to be nominated. Can I ask someone to nominate me?

A: Yes! Ask a peer, a trusted colleague, a friend or your mom! You can also self nominate for the Indigenous Artist Award.

Q: Should I tell my nominee that I’m nominating them?

A: Yes, we recommend that you tell the nominee that you're nominating them. When you do this, you can ask for an updated biography/resume, etc.

Q: Can multiple people nominate me/my collective for the Indigenous Artist Award? Would it make it more likely that I win?

A: You can definitely have multiple people nominate you/your collective. We advise against nomination campaigns, as it is a bit burdensome for panellists. Multiple nominations don’t necessarily result in a win.

Q: What do I actually NEED to prepare before I submit a nomination?

A: Along with the name of the individual/collective you are nominating, the nomination form will also ask for a biography/company description, a nomination rationale, resume, and accompanying support material in the form of visual, audio or text-based attachments, and an *optional* support letter. Support letters are not optional if you are self-nominating for the Indigenous Artist Award.

Q: I’m nominating someone. Am I also supposed to write the letter of support along with the other support material?

A: We suggest that you find another supportive peer/colleague, etc., to write the letter. This may strengthen the nomination. 

Q: For the Indigenous Artist Award, what does the requirement “must have demonstrated an ongoing association with Toronto” look like?

A: This can mean different things for different people. For example, if you share your living and working time between Toronto and another community or if you do not live in Toronto but continue to collaborate in, produce work in, or present/exhibit in Toronto on a consistent basis over your artistic career, you have “an ongoing association with Toronto.”

Q: For the Indigenous Artist Award, what does the requirement “must have contributed significantly to the arts and culture of Toronto” look like?

A: This will largely be determined by the award peer assessment panel.  

To determine the finalists and recipient of our Awards, we use the peer assessment process. This involves bringing together artist peers (artists working in the same artistic field) to assess award nominations according to the nominees' artistic strength, achievement and history of public presentation, publication and/or production in Toronto. All of this work contributes to the development of arts and culture in Toronto.



Artist Statement
Rebecca Baird
A Time Within A Memory, 1993 Sweetgrass, deer hide, seed bead and porcupine quills, 1.2 min circumference. Collection of Global Affairs
(Pictured at the top of this page, and in full below)

During a six week residency in 1993 at the former Museum of Civilization, I had the pleasure of working with four traditional sweet grass basket and makers from Bkejwanong, where the waters divide Walpole Island Reserve. Barbara Kiyoshk, Mavis Kiyoshk, Sharon Kiyoshk-Burritt and Adele Altiman guided in the development of this artwork. They kindly taught me where to find the sweetgrass, proper protocols involved in harvesting, curing and the methodology in weaving the circular disks that shape the medallions of the mandala. As I worked with the women, stories began to surface about sweetgrass, and how its effect was so significant to many First peoples. At one point in Canadian history, it was outlawed as a cultural practice, similar in the way that other Indigenous cultural practices, such as the Potlach of the West Coast, were outlawed by the Canadian by governmental assimilation policies to ban traditional knowledges and Indigenous worldviews. During these times of colonial dominance, Native women kept alive these teachings through designs on everyday objects which seemed to be merely decorative to the Western eye but were, in fact, forms of encoded teachings that subversively communicated and kept alive deeper cultural knowledge inherently understood by the Indigenous peoples.

The existence of the sweetgrass baskets and their contemporary role became for me an indictment of this intricate past- a history confirmed in the repetition, the spirals, the braids and the distinctive aroma of the sweetgrass. When composing the spiral disks, a visual form strongly identified with Aboriginal cultures, beliefs and values, our tribal origins and ways are acknowledged, remembered and revitalized. The spiral disk in this case is both literally and metaphorically the beginning form that is built upon to create a basket. Despite the repetition of a single motif, each disk is unique, indicative of its maker, as it is in a/the community. The variations speak to the individual interpretations of artistic expression and to this collective process of renewal. Each subsequent ring of medallions corresponds to a generational cycle, while the loose, swirling edges of the mandala suggest both fluidity and continuity, with the long strands of sweetgrass deliberately left loose around the edge of the piece to suggest community continually in the making.

- Rebecca Baird