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2021 City of Hamilton Arts Awards recipients

HAMILTON, ON – The City of Hamilton is pleased to share the recipients of the 2021 City of Hamilton Arts Awards. The winners were announced as part of a series of web-based podcast episodes aired during Hamilton Arts week from June 3 through June 12, 2021. 

Celebrated author, musician, and visual artist Tom Wilson received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Nine artists and arts managers working in a variety of disciplines received Creator Awards, and four individuals received the new Arts Champion Award recognizing arts sector volunteers.

The Jury, comprised of Hamilton arts sector leaders from diverse backgrounds, shares their reasons for selecting the award recipients listed below in the 2021 City of Hamilton Arts Awards Digital Magazine, available on the City’s Arts Awards webpage. The magazine also includes the 2021 Short List, profiles on the award recipients, and original illustrations depicting the recipients and their career highlights by a variety of Hamilton illustrators.

Thank you to the following organizations for their generous contributions in support of the 2021 Arts Awards Program:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award sponsors: IPC Securities, Next Steps Planning
  • Creator Award sponsors: BLR, LLP Chartered Professional Accountants; dpai Architecture Inc; Marz Homes
  • Arts Champion Award sponsor: The Incite Foundation for the Arts
  • Media sponsor: The Hamilton Spectator

Lifetime Achievement Award

Tom Wilson
Tom Wilson is the best-selling author of Beautiful Scars as well as a five-time Juno-winning Canadian musician with multiple gold records. Wilson has written and recorded songs with many internationally recognized artists and has toured extensively with his bands Junkhouse, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and most recently, Lee Harvey Osmond. His art has shown in galleries in New York City, Vancouver, and Toronto.

Creator Award

Jordi Alfaro
Based in Hamilton, Jordi is a settler/immigrant from Barcelona. Jordi’s creative practice consists of ceramic sculptures that express material presence in their elemental forms. Through attention to surface, form, and scale, the sculptures embody a timeless quality, inhabiting space with a quiet equilibrium in the way of rocks or architecture.

Karen Ancheta
Karen Ancheta is an actor by training, a storyteller w/Hamilton 7, co-founder @porchlighttheatrehamilton (developing & supporting marginalized Emerging/Professional Theatre Artists), 1/7 founder of The Garden Project:, collaborator with Kwentong Bayan Collective, vocal coach at Humber College, a mentor for The House Key Project.

Olivia Brouwer
Olivia Brouwer is a mixed media painter, printmaker, and sculptor from Hamilton, Ontario. Brouwer translates her own partial blindness into art that raises awareness around visual impairment and accessibility using abstract interpretations of nature and spiritual themes related to blindness.

Daniel Edmonds
Daniel Edmonds is a musician and visual artist based in Hamilton, Ontario. His artistic processes involve composition, production, and illustration. His work reflects a collaborative approach to making art that emphasizes cooperative creativity. In practice, his audio and visual work displays an understanding of both analog and digital techniques.

Jennifer Gilles
Jennifer Gillies started as a volunteer with gritLIT in its second year and has been employed as artistic director since the festival was incorporated. She has also worked as a freelance writer and editor and has taught Creative Writing at Mohawk College and at Sheridan College in Oakville.

Andrew McPhail
Andrew McPhail is a Canadian visual artist based in Hamilton, Ontario. His accumulative, craft-oriented work re-configures ephemeral materials such as Band-Aids, Kleenex, pins, sequins, and post-its into large sculptures, installations, and events. He also co-founded the Hundred Dollar Gallery and is a founding member of The Assembly.

Leon ‘Eklipz’ Robinson
Leon ‘Eklipz’ Robinson is a multi-dimensional artist who utilizes a vast skill set for the expression of Self. Throughout the years a constant muse has been his connection to Hip Hop Culture. His work is bold and dynamic and speaks to his life experiences.

Jim Ruxton
Jim Ruxton is an award-winning media artist and electronics engineer. He works and collaborates in film, installation, theatre, and dance fusing technology with art, often creating work that is interactive. Recipient of an OAC Chalmers Award, two Dora Mavor Moore Awards, and granted LED lighting patents, Jim directed the art and science festival, Subtle Technologies for 17 years.

stylo starr
stylo starr is an established visual alchemist and creative facilitator based in Hamilton, Ontario. Her artistic process involves both digital and hand-cut paper collage, with a focus on found vintage media. Her work is a meditation on Black culture, life, and fantasy.

Arts Champion Award

Erica Commisso
Erica Commisso has been a dedicated volunteer with McMaster radio 93.3 CFMU since 2018. This dedication led to her current role as Music Director and radio show host, where she uses her platform to promote both local and out-of-town musicians. Erica has also been an active member of VIE Division, a semi-professional hip-hop dance team based out of McMaster University, both as a dancer and volunteer.

Bradlee Henry
Bradlee Henry has been a driving force in helping Hamilton’s Indigenous youth reconnect with their community through his vibrant traditional drumming and singing. He has performed at events across the city, including Living Rock’s Arts of August Youth Arts Festival, the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts’ Together in Dance Festival, Hamilton Regional Indian Centre’s Virtual Youth & Elders Gathering, and more.

Judy Marsales
Judy Marsales has been a consistent supporter of the arts and culture sector, both as a business owner and an active volunteer. In addition to supporting numerous organizations and fundraisers, Judy has served as a board member for the Brott Music Festival, Hamilton All Star Jazz Band, Hamilton Music Collective (An Instrument for Every Child), and the Hamilton Music Advisory Team.

Nancy McKibbin Gray
Nancy McKibbin Gray is a founding member and volunteer of the Carnegie Gallery, including over ten years as Board Chair during which the Board oversaw the building purchase, renovation, and expansion of the gallery. Nancy has served on many committees including the Arts Advisory Commission, Telling Tales, gritLit, and Arts Dundas Weekend, and was a long-time employee of Bryan Prince Bookseller

Shirley Elford Emergency Arts commission prize

Fareh Malik
Fareh Malik has erupted forth into the poetry field like freshwater does an estuary. Formerly a spoken-word poet, he's been recognized by dozens of literary presses and has been included in several anthologies in a little over 6 months. He was also the first-place recipient of the MH Canada 2020 Poetry Contest.

Dylan Vandemaele
Dylan Vandemaele is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Hamilton, ON. He found his passion for performing while taking the Glendale Secondary Schools program of the arts. Since then, he’s gone on to work with companies such as Theatre Aquarius, The Frostbites Festival, Defining Movement Dance, and more. Dylan enjoys connecting with other artists and loves Hamilton for its tightly knit arts community.

Quick Facts

  • Recipients were selected through a new process in which public nominations were reviewed by a large Arts Sector Review Panel comprised of discipline-specific artists and arts professionals. The Panel put forward additional nominees and created a Short List for award consideration by a Final Jury of Hamilton arts sector leaders from diverse backgrounds. The Jury selected the strongest nominations, based on each nominee’s work, career, and reception by the arts community at large.
  • A total of $29,000 in prizes was awarded to 2021 City of Hamilton Arts Awards recipients.
    • Lifetime Achievement and Creator Award recipients received a $2,500 cash prize and bronze medallion.
    • Arts Champion Award recipients received a recognition piece designed and fabricated by artist David Trautrimas.
    • Shirley Elford Emerging Artist Commission Prize recipients, supported by the Hamilton Community Foundation's Shirley M. Elford Artists' Fund, received $2,000 towards creating an artistic work for the 2022 Arts Awards event.
  • A total of 122 public nominations were received for the 2021 Arts Awards, the highest number of nominations on record.
  • The City of Hamilton Arts Awards is one of the oldest municipally-led arts awards programs in Canada and is managed by the Tourism and Culture Division.
  • The program celebrates and builds awareness of the valued contribution that artists make to Hamilton, demonstrates the City’s pride in Hamilton’s arts community, inspires and enhances success, fosters growth, and develops talent.
  • The Hamilton Arts Awards program is managed by the Tourism and Culture Division of the City of Hamilton.
  • Cobalt Connects, the 2021 Arts Awards community partner, oversees the adjudication process and event production.


“The unique format of the Arts Awards event this year is in step with the resiliency of Hamilton’s arts community who continue to creatively adapt to the challenges of the pandemic. I am grateful we were able to find a way to safely announce and honour the achievements of the fourteen artists and arts community leaders that have made a remarkable impact on Hamilton.” 

Mayor Fred Eisenberger

“Our arts community has experienced significant setbacks due to the pandemic including our inability to attend theatres, live music venues, film screenings and other vital arts spaces. The 2021 Arts Awards online presentation is a powerful reminder of how essential artists and arts workers are to our collective wellbeing and identity as a city. Congratulations to the well-deserving 2021 Arts Awards recipients.”

Jason Thorne, General Manager, Planning and Economic Development 

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