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NEXT LEVEL: Black artist and creator Tim Whiten wins 2023 GGArts award from Canada Council for the Arts; 3 Black community leaders named YWCA Toronto Women of Distinction award winners

"Next Level" spotlights prominent Black Canadians who have been promoted, elevated, or honoured with a prestigious position, award, or monument. Check out Part 8 of the series.

NEXT LEVEL: Black artist and creator Tim Whiten wins 2023 GGArts award from Canada Council for the Arts; 3 Black community leaders named YWCA Toronto Women of Distinction award winners
Artist, sculptor, and creator Tim Whiten. He won a GGArts award and is also a York University professor in fine art. TIM WHITEN PHOTO 

The Canada Council for the Arts has announced the 2023 winners of its prestigious Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts (#GGArts).

Eight awards were honoured to various Canadian artists, including Tim Whiten, a Black image maker and creator of cultural objects based in Toronto.

“During 50 years of cultural production, Tim Whiten has sought to navigate the territory of the human condition and its transformative potential,” nominators Carolyn Bell Farrell and Virginia Eichhorn, said in a statement. “Rather than produce discrete, passive artworks for aesthetic contemplation, he creates cultural objects that can dynamically engage audiences in processes of self-reflection and self-awareness. His art-making is ritual. His artistic and spiritual pursuits are intertwined, a singular mix of intellect, passion, intuition, subjectivity, and psychological complexity.”

The York University professor has pieces in several collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), and the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

Whiten has been a fine art professor there since 1968 and was born in Michigan.

He has also received the 2022 recipient of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize from the AGO and was a finalist for the Government of Ontario’s Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

Check out some of the works celebrated for the artworks below:

YWCA Toronto announces 2023 Women of Distinction Award winners

YWCA Toronto has announced the winners of its 42nd Women of Distinction Awards Gala in June. It will be held at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel on June 8.

Out of seven, three Black women were selected for awards: Melissa Alexander (Community Service), Dr. Notisha Massaquoi (Health), and Agapi Gessesse (Social Justice).

“The International Women's Day theme this year is imagining a gender-equal world – an important focus that underscores the work at YWCA Toronto. Every day, we work tenaciously to break down barriers that hold women back from achieving equity,” YWCA Toronto CEO Heather McGregor said in a statement. “We also revel in the significant achievements of this year's Women of Distinction who are driven to advance gender parity, both locally and globally.”

Melissa Alexander is a community advocate that works with women who have been incarcerated. Alexander has worked with Walls to Bridges, a program at the University of Laurier that helps incarcerated people obtain postsecondary education and work in the skilled trades.

She also works as a peer support worker on a non-crisis peer support phone line and as a community peer through the City of Toronto's Youth Equity unit.

Next up is Agapi Gessesse, the executive director of the Careers, Education, Empowerment Centre (CEE) for Young Black Professionals and the founder of Lehizibu Consulting and Strategy group. She won YWCA Toronto’s social justice award.

Advocating against anti-Black racism, she speaks and writes on topics such as government relations, the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) initiative, workforce development and youth engagement.

Gessesse also works as the executive director of POV 3rd Street, an organization focused on breaking barriers for young people in the media and film industry.

Finally, Dr. Notisha Massaquoi, the executive director of Women's Health in Women's Hands Community Health Centre, will take home the YWCA Toronto’s health award.

The centre provides access to specialized care for Black and racialized women. Additionally, Dr. Massaquoi has played a role in shaping community-level healthcare programs for two decades.

She also founded Africans in Partnership Against AIDS and TAIBU Community Health Centre. Dr. Massaquoi is the founding director of the Black Health Equity Lab and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto-Scarborough.