Toronto Arts Foundation awards highlight some of the best creative minds in the city


On May 16, Toronto Arts Foundation will recognize some of the leading artists and organizations making a positive impact on our city. Every year, the Foundation assembles a jury of artists, organizers, critics and others who apply their respective expertise and experiences to narrow down a list of outstanding arts community members who deserve recognition. 

At the annual Mayor’s Arts Lunch, this year’s finalists will learn whether they have won awards in their respective categories: Arts For Youth, Celebration of Cultural Life, Emerging Artist and Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition.  

Find out more about this year’s finalists and what they’re bringing to the Toronto arts community!

2018 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards Finalists


The Power Plant | This unique public gallery space does not build up its collection of works, but instead dedicates itself to showing contemporary art from across Canada and beyond. “Contemporary visual art is the visual art of our time, grappling with issues that are of global significance, of national significance, of local significance,” Joshua Heuman, the curator of education and public programs, explained to the Foundation recently.

Elyse Rodgers, the coordinator of the Power Youth initiative – for which The Power Plant is being recognized – says that the idea grew out of a lack of arts education in schools. “I think one of our major goals of the program is collaboration and teaching youth not only to explore these different art materials and gain skills, but to learn how to work together,” she says.

RISE Edutainment | Randell Adjei is the founder of Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere (RISE), which he believes will offer a place to build tomorrow’s visionaries. “The beauty of a movement is that you can create other leaders,” Adjei explained to the Foundation recently. “I think one of the more important things is building other people and their capacity, their knowledge, their ability to really be able to make things happen.”

RISE Edutainment creates the environment and conditions for helping youth grow as artists and community leaders, starting with safe and inclusive spaces that support creative self-expression.

UforChange | Through its drop-in workshops and eight-month arts programs, UforChange has been supporting youth for almost 10 years. “I think the whole point of our program is to reach out to the community and give them opportunities to indulge in the arts,” Toni Cater, design and communications coordinator, said to the Foundation recently.

Natalia Martinez Nagles, administrator and policy researcher, explains that the UforChange team wants to equal the playing field for those trying to freelance in the arts and culture space. That includes space devoted to their practice: “We really want to fight that space barrier that young artists are facing,” she says.


Ritesh Das | Das is the founder of Toronto Tabla Ensemble. He has shared his wealth of musical knowledge with Canadian audiences for over 25 years. One of his focuses at the moment is engaging youth to play and compose the musical styles to which he has dedicated his life.

“I’m heavily focused on the youth right now,” Das told the Foundation recently. “The kind of work I’m doing with the youth right now I would boldly say hasn’t been done in the world yet.” He’s also continuing to make strides in cross-cultural collaborations that help blend traditions and audiences.

Ruth Howard | As the founder and artistic director of Jumblies Theatre, Howard has been integral to the realization of large-scale productions and multi-year residencies across Toronto. She told the Foundation that she’s “very aware” of the many people who have been a part of her work. “I feel pleased on behalf of the type of work and the collection of people I represent,” she says.

Howard says that education is an important aspect of her organization’s efforts. “Working with other artists, emerging producers, to do art that is inclusive and engaging for communities and diverse cultures, is at the heart of our work,” she says. “It’s important because I believe in the kind of work we do … and we [Jumblies] can’t do it all.”

Dan Yashinsky | “I work this very obscure art form called storytelling,” Yashinsky told the Foundation recently. “When I started, it was barely known as a profession or something you could do for a living. It’s like that old proverb, ‘you make the path by walking it.’”

Yashinsky has founded 1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling and the Toronto Storytelling Festival, which first ran in 1979. “There are so many new voices and so many new listeners,” he says. “We’ve gone from being a little festival that could fit into a church, and now we have 6,000 people come over 10 days which is an honorable showing, especially since many of them are just getting involved in storytelling.”


Britta Johnson | Johnson’s creative path may have been set early on, having grown up in a household of people engaged with music and art of all kinds. “From the very beginning of my life, making music was how I spent time with the people I loved and how I communicated with the world around me,” she told the Foundation in an interview.

Now working as a composer, lyricist and writer, Johnson’s work has been produced by companies like Canadian Stage, Theatre Passe Muraille and Outside the March. She’s honoured to be an Emerging Artist Award finalist: “It is incredible to feel seen in the work that I do. I do not take this feeling for granted and want to use it as encouragement to dream bigger.”

David Norsworthy | An in-demand dance artist, Norsworthy has worked with companies around the world but calls Toronto his home. He co-founded Toes for Dance, which seeks to engage young people with dance education. “I feel really passionate about bringing dance education to young people and creating platforms for artistic exchange, among artists and between artists and community,” he told the Foundation recently.

His growing work as an educator has helped Norsworthy to reconsider what it means to be a student. “As soon as I started teaching, I entered classes as a student in a totally different way because I realized that I had all the tools and strategies at my disposal to be a better student … It was just a matter of applying them to myself and holding myself accountable for them.”

Jivesh Parasram | Artistic producer at Pandemic Theatre and associate artistic producer at Theatre Passe Muraille, Parasram feels much in our world is driven by politics. “The world we live in is very political,” he says to the Foundation. “Everything is in a certain sense. The safety of theatre is that it gives you a chance to practice those things you can enact in everyday life.”

He says being nominated for this award feels like acceptance. “I grew up in the Maritimes … Coming to Toronto where it’s a vibrant city, I keep learning more and more every year, exploring different neighborhoods, meeting different populations. In a way to be nominated, it feels like it’s an acceptance into the cultural fabric here, and that’s really cool.”


Mitchell Marcus | As the founder and artistic/managing director of The Musical Stage Company, Marcus tells the Foundation that his goal as a leader is to “treat people with respect, give them all the information they need so that these multiple voices can create a unified whole.” Then, he says, you just “stand back and let smart people be fantastic.”

Marcus says he was shocked to learn of his nomination. “It was really extra meaningful to feel that within the context of looking at music accomplishments in Toronto that my work and the work of the company would be recognized on that list. So very humbled and very excited at the same time.”

Musicworks | Supporting Toronto’s experimental music community since 1978, Musicworks connects local artists with a wider global audience through print, audio and digital works. The organization’s efforts are increasingly important in today’s landscape, the team explained to the Foundation. “There are fewer media outlets that are paying attention to new and innovative music and art in Canada. We have an important role to play in keeping young people engaged and interested and become part of our community.”

But “experimental” can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. For Musicworks, the word could just as easily be “exploratory” or “innovative.” They say it’s just about people who are trying new things and keeping music fresh. 

The WholeNote | This monthly print/online magazine publishes free event listings, reviews and more for fans of classical, world music, jazz, opera and more. “The objective from day one was not to do an elite magazine for already converted arts lovers, but to reach people who could use the information,” publisher David Perlman tells the Foundation.

The WholeNote team knows running a media organization today means staying on top of where readers are going.  “You gather information, you add value to the information, you find an audience that wants the information and then you give it to that audience in the media that they are using,” says Perlman. 

Find out more about Toronto Arts Foundation here.



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