Announcing 2017 TD Arts Diversity Award Finalists

TORONTO, August 15, 2017 - Toronto Arts Foundation’s Neighbourhood Arts Network is thrilled to announce the finalists of the TD Arts Diversity Award:

Mahlikah Awe:ri
Sheena D. Robertson
Syrus Marcus Ware

The TD Arts Diversity Award is a $10,000 cash prize that celebrates an individual community-engaged artist making a significant contribution in Toronto by working collaboratively in, with and for communities. This award was established in 2013, in partnership with TD Bank Group.

These artists have a history of contributing to Toronto’s communities through the arts and are being acknowledged for artistic excellence. The peer jury of artists and community leaders agreed the finalists are “intertwining activism with their arts practise as a necessity,” and “this recognition would be very timely and important.”

The three finalists are:

Mahlikah Awe:ri considers herself a community arts warrior whose artistry enables her to better understand how her cultural traditions and contemporary urbanized art forms blend, merge into creations, collaborations, and which impact both community and the individual on an awakened journey. It is a journey grounded in the re-emergence and rematriation of indigenous futurism, truth and reconciliation and social justice across all levels of cultural divide. At the heART of her practice are four indigenous ways of knowing: 1. If we know we must do and if we do we must know; 2. Our decisions must consider always 7 generations in the past and 7 generations into the future; 3. Our relations to one another are in direct correlation with our relations to the land and water; 4. We are born as story; live as story and when we become an ancestor our people will tell our stories…therefore we never die. These ways of knowing guide her multidisciplinary re-imagining of art for social change, art for healing, art for learning, art for transcending. She believes strongly in inter-generational resiliency; the artist plays a central role in this. The role of a creative is to be a creator for not just the now but what is yet to be.

Sheena D. Robertson is a director, producer, photographer and passionate artist-educator whose professional roots lie in the multi-disciplinary world. She directed the one-man show Lizardboy, which toured nationally and received the acclaimed Audience Choice Award at the Summerworks Festival in Toronto. She completed a short experimental film exploring the poem Time Folds by Margaret Atwood and her collaborative digital storytelling project Stories from the Inner City, has received international distribution and much acclaim. Her current focus is on The Regent Park Project - a free collaborative film-making initiative telling the stories of Regent Park. This community engaged process sees professional artists working collaboratively with youth, to tell their stories with integrity and connection. An expert in the field of drama, media, literacy, and social justice consulting, she has done extensive work for 20 years with youth in diverse settings locally, nationally and internationally. Sheena pioneered the Artist-Education Certification Program for the Royal Conservatory - acting as the founding Course Director. She has trained hundreds of teachers and teacher-candidates in drama education. She is passionate about using the arts as powerful tools to create community, engage participants, and establish equitable environments that encourage critical thinking, debate, and creative freedom.

Syrus Marcus Ware is a Vanier Scholar, visual artist, performance artist, curator, community activist, educator, researcher, youth-advocate and PhD candidate (Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University). He identifies as a person of colour, trans, queer and disabled -- all of which inform his artistic and activist work. Syrus's award-winning visual art and performance art have been exhibited and seen around Toronto and across Canada. He curates and co-curates projects including a diverse range of cultural productions for diverse communities. Additionally, Syrus has presented and published on topics including contemporary art, museum practice and socio-political issues. Syrus is a core-team member of Black Lives Matter- Toronto, often making public appearances and serving as spokesperson for the grassroots organization, dedicated to fighting for equality for citizens of the African diaspora. In this role, he also advocates for the LGBTQ and queer community, people with disabilities, First Nations - all of whom are subject to systemic oppression by existing political and social hierarchies.

About Toronto Arts Foundation
Toronto Arts Foundation is a charitable organization that sparks creative connections, spotlights artistic excellence, and supports vibrant cultural growth throughout our diverse city, through private sector investment. To learn more or to make a donation, visit

About Neighbourhood Arts Network
Neighbourhood Arts Network, a strategic initiative of Toronto Arts Foundation, envisions a Toronto in which artists in every neighbourhood have the resources, training and support to make transformative art. We convene, bridge, incubate and advocate on behalf of our 1700+ members and the community arts sector.

About TD Bank Group
The Toronto-Dominion Bank and its subsidiaries are collectively known as TD Bank Group ("TD" or the "Bank"). TD is the sixth largest bank in North America by branches and serves more than 25 million customers in three key businesses operating in a number of locations in financial centres around the globe: Canadian Retail, including TD Canada Trust, TD Auto Finance Canada, TD Wealth (Canada), TD Direct Investing, and TD Insurance; U.S. Retail, including TD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank®, TD Auto Finance U.S., TD Wealth (U.S.), and an investment in TD Ameritrade; and Wholesale Banking, including TD Securities. TD also ranks among the world's leading online financial services firms, with approximately 11.5 million active online and mobile customers. TD had CDN$1.3 trillion in assets on April 30, 2017. The Toronto-Dominion Bank trades under the symbol "TD" on the Toronto and New York Stock Exchanges.


Contact Information
Angie Aranda,  Strategic Partnerships and Operations Manager, Neighbourhood Arts Network, Toronto Arts Foundation, at or at 416 392 6802 x 218.