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Black creators announced as 2023 Toronto Arts Foundation Award winners

Celebrated Black artists took home awards in four of five categories.

Black creators announced as 2023 Toronto Arts Foundation Award winners

Winners of the 2023 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards have been announced.

Celebrated Black artists took home awards in four of five categories.

Artists from the Nia Centre for the Arts check out the goods. TORONTO ARTS FOUNDATION PHOTO

In the Arts for Youth Award group, Nia Centre for the Arts received the nod for its work supporting Black arts and creators in Toronto and beyond.

The organization supports public art showcases, educational workshops, and professional development programs. A new 16,000 sq. ft., purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility is currently under construction and will open later this year.

“We are part of a long lineage of grassroots community initiatives and organizations that have been investing in and supporting Black Canadian talent, without celebration, for decades. Our own work is grounded by the teaching of the artistic elders in our community who dedicated their lives to making sure our stories were written, photographed, and painted,” the organization said in a statement.

“(Winning) this award is a testament to the promising future of Black Canadian art and a sign to Black youth across the city that they matter.”

Multidisciplinary artist Oluseye Ogunlesi. TORONTO ARTS FOUNDATION PHOTO

Meanwhile, Oluseye Ogunlesi won the Breakthrough Artist Award. The Nigerian-Canadian artist creates sculptures, does photography, and makes paintings.

He has exhibited at The Albright-Knox Museum, Buffalo (2022); Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto (2021); The Agnes Etherington Art Center, Queen’s University, Kingston (2021); and The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2015).

“This recognition further validates my voice, my perspectives, and the singular visual language that I am honing. It is an acknowledgment of the work I am doing and the discourse I am sparking to centre Black history as fundamentally Canadian history locally, provincially, nationally and globally,” Ogunlesi said in a statement.


For the Community Arts Award, Randell Adjei’s R.I.S.E. Edutainment was honoured for its work with youth and combining education with live performance to self-express and teach.

“The award lets us know that carrying out good deeds and following your passion with consistency does not go unnoticed. It shows youth and artists across the GTA that the work we do is valued; it creates an impact that helps push the culture forward and can leave a legacy,” Adjei said in a statement.


Joy Lapps, a steelpan composer and educator, earned the 2023 Muriel Sherrin Award. Lapps works with organizations to create steelpan programs at schools and in communities.

She was also credited for her latest album, “Girl In The Yard” which received acclaim.

“This award is a co-sign from my peers, for whom I have so much respect, and I do not take that lightly. This award is one of the many reminders for me to keep going, keep creating and keep serving. It is also a reminder to take care of myself so that I can continue to do all of those things. To be recognized as a Toronto Arts Foundation Award finalist is an absolute honour,” Lapps said in a statement.

Lastly, Naomi Johnson rounded out the five award winners. From Six Nations, Ont., the artist is the executive director for imagineNATIVE, an organization that supports Indigenous talent and arts workers within film and media arts.