RBC Arts Access Fund

Recognizing extraordinary newcomer artists

A photo of the 2017 RBC Arts Access recipients.

Deadline: Summer and fall 2019. 

About: The Neighbourhood Arts Network RBC Arts Access Fund is an award initiative offered twice each year that is designed to support newcomer artists in Toronto. The Funds range from $500 to $1500 to support costs associated with arts projects such as artist fees, art supplies, equipment rental, space rental and food costs for a workshop or event. In addition to art projects, this fund also supports professional development, training and mentorship requests for newcomer artists looking to improve their skills in working with community. The RBC Arts Access Fund is part of our Vision Awards, presented in the summer and fall of each year.

Neighbourhood Arts Network is an initiative of Toronto Arts Foundation. 

Eligibility Criteria:

• must be Newcomers who have been in Canada between 1 and 7 years
• must be residents of the City of Toronto for at least one year prior to the application deadline
• may only receive one RBC Arts Access Fund per year
• must be over 18 years old 
• may self-nominate  
• 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.

How to Apply: To nominate yourself (self-nominations are accepted for this award) or an individual for the RBC Arts Access Fund 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: A jury of up to 5 members will review nomination profiles and select recipient recommendations for this award. Toronto Arts Foundation’s Board of Directors will make final determinations. Jury members must have recognized expertise, prestige, credibility and experience along with a sense of history and perspective. Each jury is comprised of participants who are practitioners of community-engaged arts, newcomer artists and community leaders.

Assessment Criteria: Deliberations will be guided by the following assessment criteria: the potential impact of the proposed project on the artist and/or community and if the artist has the ability and resources to carry out the project as described. For those requesting paid mentorship and training support, the jury will asses if the opportunity will develop the applicant's work as an artist.

Contact Info: For questions, please contact Angie Aranda, Neighbourhood Arts Network Manager, by email at angie[at]torontoarts[dot]org or by phone at 416-392-6802 X 218.

About the 2017 RBC Arts Access Fund Recipients

Shabnam Afrand is a multidisciplinary artist, born and educated in Tehran, Iran. She obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree from Azad University in 2001, with a thesis that examined the interpretation of women in art history. She taught in the faculty of Fine Arts in the Islamshahr Branch of Azad University from 2003 to 2010 and has been a member of the Iranian Painters Society since 2003. She was certified in jewellery design in 2010, and since then has focused primarily on sculpture, installation art and jewellery design. In 2013 she moved to Toronto, she has been an Art Instructor at Toronto District School Board (TDSB) for 3 years; and, a Yoga instructor for TDSB, Better Living Health and Community Centre, and YMCA.

Padideh Ahrarnejad is an award winning musician, arranger, composer, and educator. She plays and teaches tar, a plucked-string instrument central to Persian music. As a member of the Iran National Music Orchestra, she has touring globally. Since emigrating to Toronto, Padideh has become a member of the New Canadian Global Music Orchestra, a project of the Royal Conservatory of Music that brings together Canadian musicians from different musical traditions. She has performed as a soloist and in a number of ensembles, including Navaye Kimia, the Iranian-Canadian Composers of Toronto, and the Iranian Modal Music Ensemble of Toronto.

Larisa Alekseychuk is a filmmaker from Ukraine. She has worked in Kiev, Donetsk, Novosibirsk, Moscow and Leningrad, where she wrote and directed a host of films and television programs. Her films Northern Sketches, Leningrad Ballet and Alice were awarded at the All-Union Festivals,while others, namely The Song Of Igor's Campaign and The Heart Of Polichinelle were banned and destroyed by censorship. Bringing dramatic intensity into documentary works, bold visual experimentation in soundstage-based programs and fusing into an organic unity the genres considered incompatible, became her trademark.

Mohammad Anwerzada is an award winning documentary filmmaker and cinematographer focused on making films about marginalized communities in Pakistan. His documentary, Equinox won several international awards in Europe, Canada and Asia featuring Malala Yousufzai's father on issues of education and sex workers in Pakistan.

Mariana Bolaños is a Mexican multidisciplinary artist based in Toronto. In her work Mariana makes use of different media such as ceramic, metal, wood and found objects with both a two- and three dimensional approach. Over the last few years she has been working as a ceramic sculptor and actively participating in her community. Mariana is a member of Sick Muse Art Projects, where she is a leading Artist Facilitator, and is part of the group Latin American Artists which delivers Community Arts Projects to Refugee Kids in Toronto. Mariana has participated in exhibitions including: Trust me, I'm an artist at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, Art to the power of 31, Art and violence and Zona Animal. She has also been part of residencies at 3rd Land Art Festival- Paricutin in Mexico and El evento de Ramon in Cuba.

Arsenio ​Andrade Calderon is a professional Cuban dancer and instructor. He joined Compania Danza Teatro del Caribe as Principal Dancer and Tutor, directed by Cuban cultural icon, Eduardo Rivero Walker, and then the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica under the artistic direction of Rex Nettleford and has toured internationally. In addition, he has worked with various companies and organizations, including CARIFESTA Suriname 2013 as creative consultant/choreographer. Moving to Toronto in 2010, Arsenio teaches Cuban Modern/ Limon/ Horton/ Contemporary and traditional dance forms at Ryerson University Dance Program, COBA and Kashedance Park. Arsenio continues to explore new horizons and develop his own style through teaching and choreography to be able to represent his roots and dreams.

Mirna L. Chacin is a Toronto based photographer from Venezuela. In 1988, she received the first prize in the Fine Arts category at the Visual Arts Biennale of Maracaibo, Venezuela. She then developed a prolific career as a visual artist and professional photographer. Shortly before immigrating to Canada in 2011, The University of Zulia (LUZ) awarded her a gold medal for her artistic achievements in Venezuela. Mirna is currently working on the curatorial phase of the photo series: Children of the Sunrise, Living by the Lake / Summer Tales and Dancing Devils. She is member of Neighbourhood Arts Network and G44 Centre for Contemporary Photography.

Banafsheh Erfanian is a Toronto based Iranian-Canadian painter and illustrator. She was born in Tehran and graduated from the Tehran University of Art with a Bachelor of Graphic Design and a MFA in Illustration. Banafsheh has illustrated 25 books and magazines and has written more than 25 articles in art reviews. She has also exhibited her works in Iran, Italy, US, Canada, Moscow, China, Japan, and Belgrade, and won international and national prizes such as The Award of Excellence of Golden Pinwheel Young Illustrators Competition, China, 2016; the 1st prize of The Second Festival of Text Books Illustration, Iran, 2006; The encouragement prize of the 15th Noma Concours for Picture Book Illustration, Japan, 2004. Banafsheh has been listed in numerous international catalogues. In addition to her ongoing art practice, she has been teaching painting and illustration in Iran and Canada since 2006.

Federica Foglia is an award winning writer and director from Naples, Italy. She graduated from The University of Naples L'Orientale in Multimedia Languages, Humanities Computing and History of Art, History of Theatre and Cinema. She has assisted Academy Award nominated Deepa Mehta on BEEBA BOYS, and worked at the Academy of Canadian Cinema. In 2015 her first short film EXIT/ENTRANCE was selected for the Toronto International Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival, and Reykjavik International Film Festival. Her latest award winning short documentary FANTASSÚT /RAIN ON THE BORDERS has screened in film festivals internationally including the Vancouver International Film Festival, Camerimage, and the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

Olya Glotka (official name - Olga) was born and raised in Ukraine but she traveled the world at a young age before settling in Canada in 2013. She has been a dancer for over 5 years since she discovered the joy and power of Contact Improvisation. Her latest passion is filmmaking and particularly dance film making. Her goal is to spread the joy of dance, share people’s stories and inspire more people to dance. Olya has won awards at film festivals (Gold Prize at Contact Dance International Film Festival, “Best Soundtrack” at Snowdance Festival by Peterborough’s Trent Film Society). Her biggest project to date is 30 Days of Contact - a social experiment of bringing contact improvisation out into the world.

Merey Ismailova is a dance creation teacher and the founder of the Ismailova Theatre of Dance company, which provides training and performance opportunities to more than 80 newcomer youths through regular meetings and rehearsals and to more than 500 youths through outdoor workshops in the parks and at community festivals. In addition, Merey has choreographed and produced 8 sold out shows in Toronto and she is a graduate of Trainers-Choreographers Sputnik course in Russia.


Elsa Hashemi is a photographer from Iran. She states, “as a photographer,  I see things the way they might have never been seen before. I see people as they have never been themselves.” Elsa has exhibited 8 shows internationally, including her latest work I, in Wonderland at Art Square Gallery Hub in Toronto (July 2017).

Teo Milea is an award winning Toronto-based pianist and composer from Romania. His work in classical/crossover music, has been presented in Europe & North America. He was the first pianist to be invited to play at the NATO’s headquarters in Belgium to perform his work Agony and Ecstasy at The International Ballet Festival in Germany. His latest release,Open Minds, won Best Ambient/Instrumental Album at The Akademia Music Awards US and 2015 Classical Album of the Year on SoloPiano.com Radio US. He was also top 5 at CBC’s Music Canada Searchlight 2016 contest and winner of Popular Vote for his song ‘Irreversible’. He was selected to give the Postludes performance after Ludovico Einaudi’s concert at Koerner Hall in Toronto.

Neda Mirbagheri is a visual artist from south east Asia. Her work is inspired by the amalgamation of South Asian Art, Persian carpets and geometry. Currently, Neda is a volunteer at the Gardiner Museum and ROM where she contributes her international contemporary art and business expertise to educate and provide cultural context to museums’ visitors.

Manar Moursi is multi-disciplinary designer and artist from Cairo. Manar has a dual Master's degree in Architecture and Urban Policy from Princeton University and has recently co-authored the book Sidewalk Salon, published in 2015 by Onomatopee. The book is an intimate portrait of Cairo through the lens of its ubiquitous objects: the street chairs. It was launched at the MOMA Art Book Fair. An exhibition of material related to it was displayed in Dubai, Eindhoven, Kuwait City, Toronto, Cairo and Gent. Manar’s writing has been published in Thresholds, Lunch, Domus, and most recently in the book Tokyo Totem. Her essay on how architecture reveals political contests in the context of the Middle East will be published by Niggli.

Maha Munaf is a Iraqi/Syrian photographer and architect. In 2015, Maha was finalist of Toronto Arts Foundation’s TELUS Newcomer Artist Award. Since then, she has been part of five group shows and three solo exhibitions: Forgotten Memories [CONTACT Photography Festival 2015], Faces & Places [Toronto Centre for the Arts, 2016] and Scent of Jasmine[CONTACT Photography Festival 2016].

Supriya Nayak is an Odissi dancer based in Toronto. Supriya works with Odissi in traditional and non-traditional contexts, using the rich material of the form to present work that speaks to contemporary audiences. She has worked collaboratively with musicians and dancers for close to twenty years, bringing a deep understanding through years of practice and research into the movement, historical evolution, artistic influences and music of Odissi. She has presented performances, lecture- demonstrations and workshops in India, South Africa, Canada, Indonesia, and other countries. Before moving to Canada in 2015, Supriya lived in New Delhi, India. She is an accredited artist with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).

Azadeh Pirazimian is an Iranian visual artists and arts educator based in Toronto. In 2015 Azadeh moved to Canada and studied at OCAD University Continuing Studies. She has worked as an artist assistant for Vibe Arts and has been selected for the Mural Career Development Certificate Program with Mural Routes. This has led to work at Blinc Studios as a muralist and in 2017 she started a course in English called "Embodied Language" at the Canadian Centre for Language and Cultural Studies (CCLCS).   

Joanne Aska Poinska is a PhD candidate at the Polish National Film School. She immigrated to Canada to pursue filmmaking and activism. A life-long Vegan with a Master’s Degree in Sociology, Aśka dedicates her creative vision to exploring the similarities between us homo sapiens all other life we share this planet with, and that ‘rights’ don’t just end at human rights. She is the former Artistic Director of the 3D IMAGE Film Festival in Łódź, Poland and is at the forefront of the bleeding edge of cinema and technology.

Sarvenaz Rayati is an Iranian visual artist with eleven years of experience; her work has been exhibited internationally. Since arriving to Canada, she has been part of several community arts projects, including East End Art’s 2016 Coxwell mosaic mural. In addition, Sarvenaz has worked in public schools and community centres, organizing visual arts workshops.

Natalia Starikova-Abud is a visual artist and published children’s book illustrator. She was born and raised in Russia, where her advanced artistic education was rooted in the deep Russian tradition of classical painting and technique. She has also been influenced by Impressionism and by the playful, modern personal styles and rich expressive colours of artists like Marc Chagall, Franz Marc, and Paul Gaugin. Three years ago, she immigrated to Canada from the Emirates, drawn to the different natural and urban landscapes here and to the positive diversity of people and cultures in Toronto.  In the United Arab Emirates, Natalia worked as an Art Teacher where she taught students to fall in love with the magic of illustration.

Amber Williams-King is a multi-disciplinary artist from Antigua. She seeks to challenge notions of a monolithic Black experience; exploring sexuality, gender, race, representation and intersections of identity. Williams-King uses found texts and images to excavate new possibilities and future imaginings. Through her work, she investigates collective colonial history, legacies of resistance that challenge oppression, and current social/political landscapes.

Fan Zhang is an award winning visual artist who has received numerous awards from national and international juried art shows, including in 2016 from the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour of the A.J.Casson Medal Award. He is an elected member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour (CSPWC) and the Ontario Society of Artists (OSA). Fan now focuses on cityscape depicting old buildings with rich history and culture in the city. He tries to arouse people’s attention and a desire to protect Toronto’s disappearing historic heritage sites.