Azadeh Pirazimian, former recipient of the Newcomer Art Award

May 2022

Moving to Canada from Iran, some of the challenges that Azadeh Pirazimian faced were the same that thousands of newcomers’ face. As an artist, Azadeh identifies “lack of accessibility to resources, professional art programs and networks” as being the most frustrating ones. 

In 2015, at the age of 36, Azadeh moved to Canada, leaving behind not just an established artistic practice, but also her social network, cultural connections, families and friends. A multidisciplinary artist who works in illustration, painting and acting, Azadeh taught visual arts in arts schools and universities in Tehran before she moved to Toronto. 

Shortly after her move she came across a grant writing info session for newcomer artists organized by our Neighbourhood Arts Network (NAN). “As a newcomer artist, I didn’t know what were some of the resources available for artists before I came across this session,” she said. Since her initial engagement, her relationship with NAN has only strengthened. 

In 2016, she received NAN’s Newcomer Arts Award (previously called the RBC Art Access Fund) which supports newcomer artists looking to jump-start their art projects, and in 2021 she was a recipient of the Newcomer Space Award. The award, she said, helped her overcome some of the barriers that she faces in Toronto’s arts scene as a newcomer artist. “The most influential [impact] is the recognition I’ve gained through this award from the art community. Additionally, it provided me with a space to work on a series that I had already started during the pandemic,” she said. 

As part of NAN’s effort to further help newcomer artists establish industry connections in Toronto, we formed a partnership with Toronto Arts Council to help identify mentors for newcomer artists seeking to apply to TAC’s Newcomer and Refugee Artist Mentorship funding program. Through this mentor matching program, Azadeh was able to connect with Alize Zorlutuna, an interdisciplinary artist, writer and educator. They received the grant in 2021. “One aspect that my mentor is helping me is with the language barrier; helping me write about my work in a manner that my artwork is not misunderstood or ignored,” she said.  

Since moving to Canada, Azadeh has had considerable success as an artist, with her work being exhibited at Toronto Centre for the Arts, Toronto Outdoor Art Fair, City Hall, Mekic Gallery in Montreal and several others. 

“One good thing about NAN programming is that they are designed based on the lived experiences of newcomers and refugee artists,” she said. “These programs play an important role in helping the artists get back the resources and the community that they deserve…The different programs that NAN offers, workshops, chats, gatherings, etc. have given me a sense of community and belonging as a newcomer artist.”