Inaugural Indigenous Artist Award Finalists Announced

We are excited to announce the finalists of our inaugural Indigenous Artist Award.

Developed in partnership with K.M. Hunter Foundation, and after consultations with the Indigenous community, the Indigenous Artist Award seeks to recognize the achievements of an Indigenous artist or artist collective that has contributed to the cultural life of Toronto. The recipient of the award will receive a $20,000 cash prize. A professional artist mentor/Elder or mentee/protégée designated by the award recipient will receive an additional $5,000. In addition to the cash prize the award recipient will also receive a week-long retreat in Caledon, thanks to Valleyview Artist Retreat.  

“Indigenous artists continue to make important contributions to Toronto - for millennia and to this day,” said Claire Hopkinson, Director & CEO, Toronto Arts Foundation. “This award acknowledges these contributions and recognizes the inspiring, innovative and expansive work of contemporary Indigenous artists in this region.”
"I am really hoping that this award will introduce people to Indigenous artists on a broader scale; that it will enrich the Toronto and Ontario landscape of artists and the kind of work that’s being presented and acknowledged." Sarah Hunter, President K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation.
The award recipient will be announced along with the Toronto Arts Foundation Community Arts Award at a celebratory event on October 27, 2021 at Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex.
The finalists of the Indigenous Artist Award are:

Cynthia Lickers-Sage

Cynthia Lickers-Sage is a Mohawk Nation, Turtle Clan visual artist from Six Nations of the Grand River. With 30 years of experience working in the not-for-profit arts sector Cynthia is the co-founder of The Centre for Aboriginal Media, imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival, Tkaronto Music Festival, and is the sole proprietor of Clickers Productions. "If you look around this city, her fingerprints are everywhere. The substance of her energy has been used to create pathways for others; A true path maker," said one of the award panelists of Cynthia’s impact. Cynthia serves on the board of directors of various arts organizations. 

Access Cynthia Lickers-Sage's detailed bio here.

Greg Staats

Skarù:reˀ/ Kanien’kehá:ka, Hodinöhsö:ni’. b. 1963,

Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.
"[Greg's] work is complex - layered, and deeply and unapologetically embedded in traditional visual language and customary address," said one of the award panelists. Greg Staats is a Toronto based artist whose Hodinöhsö:ni restorative aesthetic employs mnemonics of condolence and performative burdens articulated in visual forms that hold body and place including: oral transmission, text works, embodied wampum, photographic, sculpture, installation and video. Staats' practice conceptualizes Land as monument embodied within a continuum of relational placemaking with his on-reserve lived experience, trauma, and the explorations of ceremonial orality. "A prolific artist who has worked in non-traditional mediums for decades," said another award panelist.

Access Greg Staats detailed bio here.

Joseph Sagaj

Joseph is Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) of the Sturgeon Clan, and is from a remote and isolated community of 300 people in *Neskantaga, located 433 km northeast of Thunder Bay, Ontario. In his long career Joseph has been commissioned to design various logos, painting murals, illustrations for publications, and poster designs for events and festivals. "An outstanding graphic artist who has contributed a number of iconic and moving motifs all over Toronto," is how an award panelist described his contribution. Some of his notable commissions include Indian & Northern Affairs Canada’s (INAC) 2005/06 Time Planner about the "Thirteen Moons" calendar, “Seven Teachings and Seven Stages of Life” for the Ministry of the Attorney General, Aboriginal Justice Division, and a 9 meter (30-foot) diameter Terrazzo floor installation for Seneca College’s new building at their Newnhan Campus. "A humble and unsung hero," said another award panelist. 

Access Joseph Sagaj's detailed bio here.

*Neskantaga has been on the boiled water Sturgeon Clan advisory for a quarter of the century.

Click here to learn more about the award and the finalists.

Join us in celebrating the finalists of the inaugural Toronto Arts Foundation Indigenous Artist Award!

Thumbnail image provided by Vanessa Dion Fletcher: "Relative Gradient," Original Artwork 

About Toronto Arts Foundation Awards
Toronto Arts Foundation Awards are presented to artists, cultural leaders and businesses in recognition of artistic excellence, cultural leadership and contribution to the arts. Financial support of the annual Toronto Arts Foundation Awards is provided through a combination of legacies and annual donations from private and corporate donors. Through our awards portfolio, we spotlight Toronto's finest professional artists and arts organizations, celebrating their contributions to our city of arts.
Click here to read more about our awards. 

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

Toronto Arts Foundation and our supporters share a clear vision for Toronto – a vibrant and creative city where every neighbourhood is enriched by the transformative benefits of the arts. We hope our initiatives, research and awards inspire you to join us and make your own contribution towards our common vision.

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Contact information
For more information about the Indigenous Artist Award please contact: Catherine Tammaro, Award Program Manager, at or 416-392-6802 x223

For more information about Toronto Arts Foundation please contact: Haroon Khalid, Associate Communications Manager, at or 416-392-6802 x207.