Identifying an Opportunity

Profile on Sarah Hunter, President of K.M. Hunter Foundation

In 2020, Sarah Hunter, President of K.M. Hunter Foundation, approached us for help to support artists. Based on our understanding of the needs of the arts community, we developed an idea to create an award for Indigenous artists. Sarah was thrilled, and we immediately launched into a nearly year-long process to create the award.

“We wanted to make sure [that the creation of the award] was Indigenous-led, a process which the Indigenous community was comfortable with, which was conducive and sensitive to the Indigenous way of doing things,” said Sarah. Toronto Arts Foundation formed an Indigenous-led steering committee, led by filmmaker Jason Ryle, who organized extensive consultations with the Indigenous arts community alongside Toronto Arts Council Indigenous Arts Program Manager Tash Naveau.

Following these deliberations, the Indigenous Artist Award was created in 2021, to celebrate the achievements of Indigenous artists and pave the way for mentorship. Visual artist Greg Staats was named the inaugural recipient in the fall, receiving a $20,000 cash prize and a complimentary week long stay at Valleyview Artist Retreat. Indigenous knowledge guardian Alfred Keye was chosen by Greg to receive the joint mentor award, a $5,000 cash prize.

“I was very comfortable with the process,” said Sarah, who appreciated Toronto Arts Foundation’s work in managing the entirety of the award, from collecting nominations, to organizing juries, and the award presentation event.

We are thankful to the K.M. Hunter Foundation for their generous support of the Indigenous Artist Award!

Greg Staats at the 2021 Indigenous Artist Award reception

“It’s an honour to represent the Indigenous Arts community as an established senior artist. Toronto Arts Foundation’s inaugural Indigenous Artist Award allows a recognition of my art production, exhibition history and dedication to vision, but also my unique positionally: that of an on-reserve day school lived experience, which constantly informs my work and my journey.” - Greg Staats, 2021 recipient of the Indigenous Artist Award

This story appears in the 2021 Toronto Arts Foundation Annual Report