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NYA Grow North Awards

North York Arts’ Grow North Awards (GNA) acknowledges the significant contribution that North York based artists make to the vibrancy and livability of North York. The awards competition offers the opportunity to receive city-wide recognition from a jury of artistic visionaries.

The NYA Grow North Awards program acknowledges and celebrates those who are helping to improve communities by creating publicly accessible artistic works or publicly available community programs and recognizes the significant contribution that artists make to the vibrancy and livability of North York.

The awards provide a snapshot of what has been accomplished and enables us to reflect on how we can best contribute to the growth of artistic excellence in the community.

The Grow North Awards awards are dedicated specifically to artists based in North York from a variety of disciplines including, but not limited to: Indigenous arts, Disability arts, dance, literature, media arts, multi and inter-arts, music, theatre, visual arts, film. 

The primary criteria for assessing the merit of all entries will be:

  • Positive contribution to the community through past artistic endeavors and plans of future artistic endeavors 
  • Precedent setting for an activity of its type through artistic excellence
  • Incorporation of low barrier access into past and future projects 
  • Positive contribution to a community building and/or well-being through the arts

Jury members will give special consideration to submissions that demonstrate an alignment to North York Arts’ Strategic Plan  and  support NYA’s values of equity, collaboration, community and innovation. Successful submissions will take into consideration North York Arts’ expectations for high-quality and accessible projects that align with the NYA’s mission and vision.

Artists can apply to one of the following award categories: 

Public art:

Past work and the proposal of a future artistic project* that is accessible to the public, with a goal to develop the public’s appreciation of art. This can include art in the public realm or artistic productions that the public can attend (paid productions included).

Public art programming:

Past work and the proposal of a future  arts-based* workshop or series of workshops open to the public to promote the appreciation of art through creation of art together with the community.

* At NYA professional artworks and arts-based workshops can include, but not limited to the following disciplines: performing arts, visual arts, digital arts, Indigenous arts, Disability arts, film, etc.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Be an individual artist or unincorporated group/ collective based in North York.
    • For groups/collectives: at least 50% of the group/collective must be living in North York and a resident of North York must be the one applying on behalf of the collective/group
  • **Be a qualified artist
    • Definition: A qualified artist is someone who has developed their craft through formal training and/or equivalent practice; actively practices and pursues their art; may seek payment for their work; and has a history of presentation of their work, whether that be to the public or in post-secondary institutions
  • Be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada
  • Have a Canadian bank account 
  • Applicants can be students enrolled in post-secondary education
  • Past award recipients are ineligible for the Award.

Where is “North York”?

North York Arts defines North York as the following Wards & postal codes:

  • 6-York Centre
  • 8-Eglinton-Lawrence
  • 15-Don Valley West
  • 16-Don Valley East
  • 17-Don Valley North
  • 18-Willowdale
  • and M3N postal codes

Historically, North York included M3N postal codes, but now they fall under the Community Council of Etobicoke. We wish to honour the relationships we have built while this part of the city was previously served by North York Arts.

You can check if you reside in these Wards by visiting this link

 Requirements to Apply for an Award:

  • Artists are required to determine which stream they are applying for; public art or public art programming.
  • Artists must present at least 2 past projects, demonstrating how their art contributes to the vibrancy of the community
  • Artists must provide a description and plans of a future  public artwork or public art programming (the Activity)  and demonstrate how it will continue to enhance the public’s appreciate of art in the community

Juried Award Review Process

  • Award applications will be reviewed by a jury of professional artistic peers and North York Arts representatives. 
  • Jury members will be announced once the award applications are open
  • Applications will be assessed on the basis of:
    • Positive contribution to the community through past artistic endeavors
    • Sensitivity to existing public art and/or community programming and the recognition the activity fills a gap
    •  Innovation and feasibility of the activity proposed
    • Precedent setting for an activity of its type through artistic excellence
    • Incorporation of low barrier access into past work and activity plans
    • Positive contribution to a community building and/or well-being through the arts
  • The rubric can be found here
  • Award recipients will be contacted within 2-4 months of the application deadline.
  • Award recipients will be publicly recognized on North York Arts’ platforms and other media outlets. 

***Stay tuned for when applications will be open.

Meet our 2023 Recipients!

Brian Jiang

Discipline: Visual Arts

Meet Brian

Brian Jiang (they/she) is a queer trans multi-disciplinary artist of Chinese-descent based in Tkaronto. Their practice comprises of animation, illustration, painting, graphic design and beyond. As an artist collaborator working within the cultural sector, their arts-practice is informed by the love for their communities. Brian’s work draws upon mythology, the natural world, and lived experiences to explore the ties between identity, diasporic migration, kinship, and ecological connections. They have been commissioned by Pride Toronto, Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, Inside Out Film Festival, Maisonneauve Magazine, LinkedIn StreetARToronto and more. Their work can be found at @_brianjiang.

This microgrant will be used to create a series of paintings that explore the implications of “passing” through my lens as a trans racialized individual.

Jay-Marie Phillips: pothound

Discipline: Music

Meet pothound

Jay-Marie Phillips, known as pothound, is a Trinidadian-Canadian musician, producer, and artist. Her music spans electro-pop and acoustic indie soul, exploring themes of identity, solitude, and the clash of cultures. pothound’s debut record, Video Garden is a concept album, drawing on visual themes of neon noir, solarpunk, and urban jungles.

Jay’s practice is intertwined with identity and belonging as a queer, trans, Scarborough-born, Trinidadian-raised artist and organizer living in Toronto. Her work strives to find meaning in being an outcast. In 2020, Jay co-founded Cooler Fete, a queer Caribbean diaspora party, and is one of the resident DJs.

This microgrant will be used to help aid in the creation and development of visual elements for my debut project, Video Garden, using 3D animation and illustration.

Nailah Renuka

Discipline: Circus and Dance

Meet Nailah

Nailah Renuka is a circus and dance artist celebrated for her exceptional athleticism, curious spirit, and captivating stage presence. Her creative approach prioritizes interdisciplinary collaborations among diverse visual, musical, and movement-based art disciplines as well as between various circus disciplines like contortion, pole, and lyra. She weaves transitional patterns and evocative imagery into her work, channelling the full spectrum of human physicality and the intricacies of musicality in her explorations of what it means to be human. Most recently Nailah has worked with Les 7 Doigts as a pole artist in the creation of a new show.

This microgrant will fund 8-month contortion, hand-balancing, and acrodance training with Samantha Halas and Katelyn Ettinger to enhance skills, artistry, and receive mentorship in the circus industry.

Natalie Paton

Discipline: Writing and Filmmaking

Meet Natalie

Natalie Paton is a writer and filmmaker who tells stories about womanhood, immigration, generational relationships, Western society, and power dynamics. She loves calling the multicultural city of Toronto her home and is continuously inspired by her experiences and the experiences of those around her. Her work focuses on a mix of fiction and documentary with the goal of contextualizing the systems around us through character-driven stories.

This microgrant will be used largely to pay for location-based filming in North York, interviewing local residents, and renting equipment for filming dates (est. 4 days).

Yago Mesquita

Discipline: Theatre

Meet Yago

Yago Mesquita is an emerging, queer Brazilian-Canadian theatre artist from Toronto, ON. He is a playwright, performer, and producer with values of authenticity, care, connection, creativity, and fun grounding his artistic practice.

Yago creates character-driven work from a young, queer, first-generation Canadian lens, heavily informed by his experience and that of friends, family, and fellow artists. Yago is keen to push the boundaries of theatrical storytelling through highly imaginative, poetic, sensitive, and revealing multidisciplinary work that uses stylistic surreal elements that divorce itself from realism.

This microgrant will support a self-directed experimentation process within the context of ABfe47 to better understand its theatrical form, which is essential to ABfe47’s development.

Meet our 2022 Recipients!


Discipline: Pottery and Ceramics

Meet Aalyaland

Aalyaland is a Pottery and ceramics Artist that will use the Grow North Micro Grant to create a ceramic art installation entitled “Vigilaunties” depicting tea cups with red flags –spilling the tea on toxic aunties that perpetuate patriarchal mindsets and societal norms through their behaviours towards people of all genders.

“First and foremost, my goal is to make people laugh because of how relatable and unfiltered this project is. Most South Asian womxn and non-binary folks I know have experienced toxic aunty behaviour. My hope is to create an art installation that people capture, share, and send to aunties via WhatsApp (the App that they most use to send forwards on to their peers).” – Aalyaland


Anaiah Lebreton

Discipline: Multimedia

Meet Anaiah

Anaiah Lebreton is a Multimedia Artist that will use the Grow North Micro Grant to create a music video – merging graphic design with music production and videography to an original song highlighting queer love. On the second slide, you can find examples of Anaiah’s past work featuring snippets from a collaborative zine “Youth In Revolt, Rookies With Friends.”

“This project is important to me because I see it as an opportunity to actualize a vision of powerful rebellious Queer people I often see missing from media spaces” – Anaiah Lebreton

Miguel Caba

Discipline: Visual Arts

Meet Miguel

Miguel Caba is a visual artist/painter that will use the Grow North Micro Grant towards research on the demolition of apartment housing in North York and the stories of the people that live there and then produce art objects based on that research.

“This subject is important to me because I have also experienced displacement in North York as the building I have lived in for my whole life was demolished to build new condos. I know that this is not an isolated experience since many buildings are pending demolition or have already been demolished in North York and in each of those buildings resides hundreds of people all with their own stories similar to mine about navigating displacement.” – Miguel Caba

Pierre Poussin

Discipline: Sculpture

Meet Pierre

Pierre Poussin is a large-scale sculptor that will use the Grow North Micro Grant to learn and refine his skills of digital-hand-sculpting, helping his concept development and fabrication processes become much more efficient.

“This activity is very important to me because it would allow me to bring my digital art-making processes and public art skills to the next level. I want to take the time to learn digital sculpting, because I will be able to use this newly-acquired skill within my public art practice. I will hopefully be able to digitally-sculpt just as effectively and efficiently as sculpting with clay.” – Pierre Poussin

Shan Fernando

Discipline: Theatre

Meet Shan

Shan Fernando is a theatre artist, who will use the Grow North Micro Grant to fund research and writing of a new play, in addition to paying for a playwriting workshop.

“My play is about an affluent Toronto family, the Austins, as they navigate mental health, addiction, and the acceptance of one’s sexuality”- Shan Fernando

Shanika Lewis Waddell

Discipline: Music

Meet Shanika

Musician Shanika Lewis-Waddel will use the Grow North Micro Grant to fund the creation of a new work mixing electronic/ambient/experimental music with steelpan.

“I am curious to incorporate styles/instruments/sounds that aren’t commonly heard together. With a goal of play, exploration, curiosity to see what new things can expand from these often separated genres…I plan to interview my 94 year old maternal grandfather who lived the majority of his life in Trinidad. I want to incorporate some of his stories into the music and let that guide the creation. I want this to be a project that allows me to learn more about him and Trinidad through his eyes.”- Shanika Lewis-Waddel

This program is supported by:

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