Announcing 2021 Awards Finalists
$72,000 in awards to be presented at annual Mayors Arts Lunch

Our artists have been a source of great strength and connection throughout this pandemic making this year’s Toronto Arts Foundation Awards celebration uniquely important. We are delighted to give Toronto the opportunity to show some love to our artists.
This year we received more nominations than ever before, reflecting the strength and diversity of our beautiful city. Nominators took the opportunity to highlight the work of both emerging and established artists from every neighbourhood, practicing in all arts disciplines.
Award recipients will be announced at the 16th annual Mayor's Arts Lunch (at home) on May 11. In addition to Toronto’s Mayor, John Tory, those attending the lunch will include federal, provincial and municipal politicians, artists, civic leaders as well as our generous award donors and lunch sponsors, without whom this celebration would not be possible. A total of $72,000 will be distributed in awards to recipients and finalists.

“It is heartening to see the amazing talents of our Award Finalists highlighted during this difficult time when artistic output exists primarily in virtual space," said Claire HopkinsonDirector & CEOToronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation. "Our artists are a symbol of the resilience of our incredible city. Every day I am uplifted by the innovation and creativity they continue to show. On behalf of the 2021 Finalists I want to thank our donors for supporting them during these unprecedented times."

We invite you to learn more about each of the finalists listed below and celebrate their contributions to Toronto. Among them are familiar names as well as those less known, artists who have performed before thousands, organizations making vital contributions to our communities and individuals who are just emerging onto our stages. Our peer assessors responsible for the selection were incredibly impressed with the numbers and strength of the nominations.
We thank you, our donors, for continuing to support arts and artists providing us with the opportunity to celebrate arts in Toronto.
The finalists are:

  • Del Mahabadi Founder and Chief Executive Director of Waveland, a non-profit music organization
  • Denise Bolduc – an established creative director and producer who programs to transform perspectives and activate change
  • Dwayne Morgan – spoken word artist, author of 13 books and 9 audio collections

  • Britta B. a poet, performer, emcee, voice actor, and educator
  • Irma Villafuerte dancer and educator
  • Olivia Shortt transdisciplinary performing artist and musician

  • Virginia MacDonald  – clarinetist and educator
  • Joanna Majoko vocalist, composer and bandleader
  • Sarah Thawer  – a JUNO-Award nominated drummer and recording artist

  • Emily Cheung – a leader in cross-cultural exchange and liaison with foreign artists practicing traditional and contemporary Chinese dance in Toronto
  • Mi Young Kim – Founder & Artistic Director of the Korean Dance Studies Society of Canada, Soo Ryu Dance Festival, Soo Ryu School for the Dance and Drum and Mi Young Kim Dance Company from 1979 to present
  • Vivine Scarlett – Executive Director and Curator for dance Immersion, an organization that supports dancers and dances of the African Diaspora

  • BAM Collectivea youth-led collective aiming to empower equity-seeking young individuals through art and community engagement
  • Paprika Festival – a youth-led professional performing arts organization providing year-round theatre training and mentorship programs that culminate in a festival of new work by young artists
  • Xpacea not-for-profit artist-run centre dedicated to providing emerging and student artists, designers, curators and writers with opportunities to showcase their work in a professional setting

The recipient of the Toronto Arts and Business Award will be announced at the Mayor’s Arts Lunch.
A picture of Joana Majoko standing. She is wearing a dress with stripes, one hand on her waist and the other in her hair. She is looking at the camera. The background of the picture is yellow and her dress is black with yellow stripes.
“When I received the call that I had been selected to be one of the finalists, I was actually brought to tears. This accolade comes at a time where life has felt more and more difficult as a musician in our current climate. This achievement has brought me a lot of joy.” Joanna Majoko, Emerging Jazz Artist Award Finalist

For more details about the finalists (including interviews and portraits of each finalist) and the Toronto Arts Foundation awards, please visit
A picture of Jesse. Its a side pose. He is looking at the camera. He is wearing glasses, a brown coat and blue shirt.
The event will be hosted by the celebrated Jesse Wente, a cultural leader in Canada's film industry and Chair of the Board of Canada Council for the Arts.

A picture of Denise. She has short hair. Her hands her behind her back. She is wearing a black sleeveless dress and looking at the camera, while smiling.
Denise Fujiwara, dancer, educator, and a recipient of our Muriel Sherrin Award in 2017 will provide entertainment for the event.
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.

Your friends at Toronto Arts Foundation
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

Contact information
For more information or to book an interview with the finalists or Claire Hopkinson, please contact: Haroon Khalid, Interim Communications Manager, at [email protected] or 416-392-6802 x 217.