2021 Year in Review

We have all had quite a year. Congratulations to you for all the ways that you have helped Toronto’s artists make their way through the pandemic.

We have all had quite a year. Congratulations to you for all the ways that you have helped Toronto’s artists make their way through the pandemic. Your support to Toronto Arts Foundation was an important vote of confidence in the role of arts in Toronto. I am very grateful to you, whether as a supporter, a volunteer, an arts patron who brought creative offerings, or an artist who kept innovating. 

2021 did bring a ray of hope. As the vaccine roll out began we were able to connect once again with our friends, families and colleagues after a separation of several months. I was particularly excited about the return of some in-person arts events - music, dance, theatre, art galleries and so much more. It was truly remarkable seeing artists interact with audiences, all of us sharing a communal experience that we were desperate for. 

2021 also presented us with glimpses of a post-COVID hybrid world. Many artist performances incorporated both an in-person as well as a virtual aspect something that we also experimented with for increased access to Toronto Arts Foundation programs. More importantly we also saw how several organizations began to work towards equity, inclusion and diversity as a result of the deep inequities that were highlighted by the pandemic. Numerous artistic programs were redesigned to become equitable and I am optimistic that, moving forward, this is something many organizations will continue to include. 

Together with our donors and sponsors, Toronto Arts Foundation believes in the transformative power of arts. We use our position to pave the way for much needed structural changes. We introduced new programs, while also re-imagined and redesigned some of our existing initiatives.

Here's a few things we did in 2021: 

▲ To mark Indigenous history month in June we launched our inaugural Indigenous Artist Award. The Foundation celebrated three amazing finalists in October, with Greg Staats being named the recipient. We were delighted by the response we received from the community and look forward to celebrating Indigenous arts and artists in the coming years.

▲ During our annual Mayor’s Arts Lunch in May, we presented $72,000 in six award categories celebrating a diversity of artistic and cultural practices in Toronto. In addition, at different points in the year, we also presented 1 Community Arts Award, 15 RBC Newcomer Awards and 6 RBC Space Awards for a total of $51,000 over the course of the year.

▲ Responding to the crisis caused by the pandemic, our Neighbourhood Arts Network launched the Mentor in Residence, providing free one-on-one professional mentorship to artists. In the fall we expanded the program to offer pre-application support to prospective TAC Black Arts Project applicants. 21 mentors dedicated 440 hours to support 121 mentees. 

▲ Our Neighbourhood Arts Network received an additional investment of $250,000 from the City of Toronto to supplement the $1.3 million grant received from Future Skills Centre. The money was directed towards ArtWorksTO: Skills for a Creative Future which provides professional development opportunities for media artists ages 18-29 who identify as Indigenous, Black, Persons of Colour and/or 2SLGBTQ+. In 2021, 60 youth artists received paid employment opportunities.

▲ Celebrating the rich diversity of artistic traditions of our city, our Neighbourhood Arts Network organized Newcomer Week: Virtual Edition in the month of May, which showcased and honoured the vibrancy that newcomer and Indigenous artists bring to Toronto’s cultural landscape, through online activations including films, music and discussions.

▲ As part of our ongoing research into the importance of the arts in city and community building, we organized Arts Chats in the month of March which brought together a diverse array of speakers from a variety of disciplines to discuss timely and understudied issues that affect them, their practice and the impacts of their work. 

▲ To help arts organizations better articulate the impact of their work, we joined the Research in Residence: Arts’ Civic Impact initiative alongside friends and colleagues at arts funders, arts organizations and universities across the country. 

▲ For a second year in a row our Arts in the Parks hosted a combination of in-person and virtual activities (Arts in the Parks Anyplace) bringing free and family-friendly arts events to parks in every corner of the city. This year we supported a total of 486 events, in 26 parks, featuring 356 artists, and attended by around 10,000 people.

▲ Our Creative Champions Network (CCN) board learning initiative hosted 4 virtual events, featuring 15 expert speakers and attended by 284 people.

▲ Our annual Mayor’s Evening for the Arts fundraising event raised over $775,000! This year’s hybrid event featured rich artistic performances that were broadcast live from the John Basset Theatre to viewers online. 

In 2021, we bid farewell to some of our old friends and welcomed new ones to our board. I am incredibly proud of all the work our board has done in the past year and want to thank each one of them for their service. I want to extend my gratitude to Kathleen Sharpe, Neera Chopra, Maureen Dodig, John McKellar, Gaëtane Verna and Richard Paquet whose tenure as directors of the board came to an end this year. I also want to welcome Dr. Sara Diamond, Jesse Ryan and Jason Ryle to our board and look forward to working with them to strengthen the arts in Toronto. This year we also bid farewell to two cherished team members, Jennifer Green, Associate Director, and Jini Stolk, Creative Trust Fellow and Creative Champions Network Program Lead.

I want to thank all our donors, sponsors and community partners who have made our work possible. Your support for the arts has made Toronto the incredible artistic hub that it is. I want to thank Mayor John Tory for his championing of Toronto Arts Foundation and our initiatives.

Looking forward to next year, it needs to be remembered that a lot needs to be done before our city can fully recover from the aftermath of the pandemic. I believe that our artists will play a pivotal role in the recovery and revival of our city but they cannot do that without our continued support. 

I am hopeful that you will continue supporting us in the years to come as you have this year. I look forward to working with you in 2022. 

I wish you all a safe and joyful holiday season.


Claire Hopkinson, M.S.M.,
Director & CEO, Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation