TD Arts Diversity Award




Neighbourhood Arts Network is shining a spotlight on 3 artists who are making a noticeable impact in Toronto's communities through the arts, to acknowledge them for their artistic excellence! The finalists have excelled at incubating important conversations in their respective communities, through using art as a critical tool to engage in meaningful explorations about positive social change. ​


Mahlikah Awe:ri 

Sheena D. Robertson

Syrus Marcus Ware

Top: Mahlikah Awe:ri, bottom left: Sheena D. Robertson, bottom right: Syrus Marcus Ware.


About 2017 TD Arts Diversity Finalists:

Mahlikah Awe:ri considers herself a community arts warrior whose artistry enables her to better understand how her cultural traditions and contemporary urbanized art forms blend, merge into creations, collaborations, and which impact both community and the individual on an awakened journey. It is a journey grounded in the re-emergence and rematriation of indigenous futurism, truth and reconciliation and social justice across all levels of cultural divide. At the heART of her practice are four indigenous ways of knowing: 1. If we know we must do and if we do we must know; 2. Our decisions must consider always 7 generations in the past and 7 generations into the future; 3. Our relations to one another are in direct correlation with our relations to the land and water; 4. We are born as story; live as story and when we become an ancestor our people will tell our stories…therefore we never die. These ways of knowing guide her multidisciplinary re-imagining of art for social change, art for healing, art for learning, art for transcending. She believes strongly in inter-generational resiliency; the artist plays a central role in this. The role of a creative is to be a creator for not just the now but what is yet to be.

Sheena D. Robertson is a director, producer, photographer and passionate artist-educator whose professional roots lie in the multi-disciplinary world. She directed the one-man show Lizardboy, which toured nationally and received the acclaimed Audience Choice Award at the Summerworks Festival in Toronto. She completed a short experimental film exploring the poem Time Folds by Margaret Atwood and her collaborative digital storytelling project Stories from the Inner City, has received international distribution and much acclaim. Her current focus is on The Regent Park Project - a free collaborative film-making initiative telling the stories of Regent Park. This community engaged process sees professional artists working collaboratively with youth, to tell their stories with integrity and connection. An expert in the field of drama, media, literacy, and social justice consulting, she has done extensive work for 20 years with youth in diverse settings locally, nationally and internationally. Sheena pioneered the Artist-Education Certification Program for the Royal Conservatory - acting as the founding Course Director. She has trained hundreds of teachers and teacher-candidates in drama education. She is passionate about using the arts as powerful tools to create community, engage participants, and establish equitable environments that encourage critical thinking, debate, and creative freedom. She is the Artistic Director of Kick Start Arts, a not-for-profit organization with a mandate that utilizes the arts so community collaborators feel empowered to express themselves through the creative process, and in doing so engage diverse communities in thought and collaboration.

Syrus Marcus Ware is a Vanier Scholar, visual artist, performance artist, curator, community activist, educator, researcher, youth-advocate and PhD candidate (Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University). He identifies as a person of colour, trans, queer and disabled -- all of which inform his artistic and activist work. Syrus's award-winning visual art and performance art have been exhibited and seen around Toronto and across Canada. He curates and co-curates projects including a diverse range of cultural productions for diverse communities. Additionally, Syrus has presented and published on topics including contemporary art, museum practice and socio-political issues. Syrus is a core-team member of Black Lives Matter- Toronto, often making public appearances and serving as spokesperson for the grassroots organization, dedicated to fighting for equality for citizens of the African diaspora. In this role, he also advocates for the LGBTQ and queer community, people with disabilities, First Nations - all of whom are subject to systemic oppression by existing political and social hierarchies.


TD Arts Diversity Award is a $10,000 cash prize sponsored by TD Bank Group. This award celebrates an individual community-engaged artist that has made a significant contribution in Toronto by working collaboratively in, with and for communities, while creating access to the arts.