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NYA Grow North Awards

The Grow North Awards (GNA) acknowledge the significant contribution that North York based artists make to the vibrancy, arts and culture of the North York community. This awards competition offers the opportunity to receive city-wide recognition from a jury of artistic visionaries.

The Awards recognize emerging, established, and community artists in North York and spotlight their contributions to the community and their respective disciplines. Our goal is to highlight the achievements of these artists and to build our local community’s appreciation for the art that is being created in North York.

The Grow North 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.


Please note that these awards are self-nomination only. Artists can submit to one of the following awards:

  • Emerging Artist Award:
    The Emerging Artist Award aims to celebrate the achievements and artistic merit of a rising North York artist in any field. This award not only honors the past achievements of the artist but also champions the future potential of their work. The artists must have at least 2 years of an independent arts practice. The artists must be in the early stages of their career with a brief history of public presentation of their work. This award is a $1,000 prize.
  • Established Artist Award:
    The Established Artist Award honors a professional artist who has been creating and showing their work for an extended period. Their work has made a significant impact on arts and culture in North York, and the artist has established themselves as an artistic staple in the local arts community. This award is a $2,000 prize.
  • Community Arts Award:
    The Community Arts Award celebrates an individual or collective that has impacted North York communities through their creative programming. The work of this individual or collective will have increased public access to art and contributed to local appreciation for the respective artform. The artist or collective must have a clear history of demonstrated commitment to community engagement through the arts. This award is a $1,000 prize.
Grow North Awards

View the Information Session at the link below:

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 a resident of North York and they must be the one applying on behalf of the group/collective
  • **Be a qualified artist
    • Definition: A qualified artist is someone who is over the age of 18 and has developed their craft through formal training and/or equivalent practice; actively practices and pursues their art; must seek payment for their work; and has a history of public presentation of their work.
  • Must have contributed significantly to the arts and culture of North York
  • Be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada
  • Have a Canadian bank account
  • Applicants cannot be students enrolled in post-secondary education
  • Past North York Arts microgrant 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
15-Don Valley West
16-Don Valley East
17-Don Valley North
and M3N and M3J postal codes
Historically, North York included M3N and M3J postal codes, but now they fall under the Community Council of Etobicoke. We wish to honor 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.

Your application must include:

  • 2 samples of past works
    Note: The jury will examine the necessary amount of material to reach an informed decision, typically up to a maximum of 10 minutes
  • Your CV
  • 2 professional references
  • A 2-page cover letter that explains:
    • Your artistic history and achievements
      • Tell us about your past projects and their impacts
      • Describe any future projects you have on the horizon and the rationale behind them
      • Feel free to share whatever you’d like about your journey as an artist
    • Your artistic practice
      • What inspires your work?
      • What makes your work unique?
      • What are your goals as an artist?
    • Rationale for applying
      • What interests you about this award?
      • How has your work contributed to the vibrancy and inclusivity of the North York community?***The cover letter can also be presented in the format of a video or audio recording (3 minutes max)

The primary criteria for assessing the submissions will be:

  • The impact of your past art works on arts and culture in North York
  • The artistic merit of your practice and past art works
  • The strength of your artistic goals and future projects
  • The overall contribution of your work to community building and/or community activation through the arts
  • The rubric can be found here

Juried award review process:

  • Award applications will be reviewed by a jury of professional artistic peers and North York Arts representatives
  • Award recipients will be notified in mid-August
  • Award recipients will be publicly recognized on North York Arts’ platforms and other media outlets
  • Note: NYA will NOT be providing feedback on submissions

Accessibility Support

If you require accessibility assistance to complete this application, please get in touch with our Program Coordinator by July 19th: davinder@northyorkarts.org

If you would like more information on the Grow North Awards or to have the opportunity to ask any questions, North York Arts will be hosting an information session on July 12th at 6pm (EST).

The Program Coordinator, Davinder, will also be hosting office hours until the deadline of the application on a first-come first-served basis. Email him by July 19th at davinder@northyorkarts.org to book a timeslot for one-on-one or group support.

We would like to thank Northcrest Developments, Toronto Arts Foundation, Tarragon Theatre, and North York Arts Programming Committee for their support and feedback in the creation of this program.


SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Friday, July 26th at 5pm


Can an artist apply for more than one award category?

No, artists can only submit an application for one of the three award categories: Emerging Artist Award, Established Artist Award, or Community Arts Award.

Can I use ChatGPT in my application?

ChatGPT can be a helpful tool to structure your thoughts and enhance your writing. But what we’re looking for in your application isn't the perfect answer - it's to get a sense of who you are - which gets lost in ChatGPT responses. We encourage you to let your personality shine through in your answers!

Who reviews the applications?

Applications will be reviewed by a jury of professional artistic peers and North York Arts representatives.

What criteria is used to evaluate applications?

The rubric can be found here

How do I know if I qualify as an Emerging or Established Artist?

We intentionally keep the definition of each stage flexible to allow artists to define themselves based on their unique journeys and achievements. Generally, we expect those applying in the Established Artist to have reached a mature phase in their career, having built a substantial portfolio of original works. Recognized nationally or internationally, they have made significant contributions to their field. By not setting rigid criteria, we aim to honor the diverse ways artists can achieve and demonstrate their establishment in the field.

I identify as a “Mid-career” artist, which award should I submit to?

We have intentionally not put a cap on the years of practice for an Emerging Artist and have not specified a minimum number of years for an Established Artist. You should apply for the award that you feel aligns best with your artistic journey and achievements. We want this application process to be inclusive and open to all artists.

When will the award recipients be announced?

Award recipients will be notified in mid-August and will be publicly recognized during an awards ceremony, more details to come soon!

What happens if I miss the submission deadline?

Unfortunately, late submissions will not be accepted. Please ensure your application is submitted by Friday, July 26th at 5pm.

Is there support available if I need help with my application?

Yes, accessibility support is available. Contact our Program Coordinator, Davinder, by July 19th at davinder@northyorkarts.org. Davinder is also hosting office hours for one-on-one or group support until the application deadline.

Why do you ask for demographic information?

North York Arts is strongly committed to equity and inclusion in our programs. With this in mind, we have set out specific programming goals in our strategic plan to better serve our communities. We want to prioritize allocating funding to members of communities that have been historically marginalized. To ensure that we do so, we are collecting data on how our participants self-identify. This is optional and we appreciate your input. 


That being said, we also understand that some artists may feel pressure to relate their applications back to the hardships of their marginalization. If that is not something that is true to your work or you don’t want to share, please do not feel obligated to include that information. We aim for you to feel uplifted and supported during this process and not that this process is an exploitation of identity.


If you need further assistance, please reach out to our Program Coordinator, Davinder, at davinder@northyorkarts.org.

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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