This month, in celebration of UNESCO’s World Art Day, the York Region Arts Council will announce the winners of the First Annual York Region Arts Awards at a virtual event covering six categories, each with a cash prize.
The contest called for submissions from all artists throughout York Region of work created in 2021 as they relate to the YR Arts Awards Categories: Community Engagement, Emergence, Innovator, Resiliency and Sustainability. From these submissions, the Evaluation Committee, made up of YRAC Staff and Board Members, selected Finalists in each category.
The five finalists in each category were announced in March, with a sixth award added for favourite submission overall. Voting by all active council members has been open since.
“We’re truly excited to be launching the YR Arts Awards,” said Sergei Petrov, Executive Director of York Region’s Arts Council. “Over the past couple of years, artists have not had the opportunity to showcase their work. The YR Arts Awards provides them with the chance to share their works, show folks what they’ve been doing and, if the work resonates with the audience, take home a $1000 prize.”
The 2022 YR Arts Awards feature six awards, five categories and a Members’ Choice Award, each with a $1000 cash prize.
“As we start to emerge from this challenging time, we want to celebrate what artists created in the past year and give them some revenue to support their work,” said Monica del Rio Pain, a Program Curator for the council. “The cash prize awards will also help support their art and hopefully provide a little relief after a devasting year financially due to Covid-19.”
The theme of the awards’ inaugural year was, Why Art? The goal was to explore what inspires them and how their work makes or builds community. The result has been a grand portfolio with a wide range of outcomes and inspirations from different perspectives.
“The diversity of York Region is extensive, and the arts provide a way to bring us together, they celebrate our uniqueness while building connections,” explained del Rio Pain. “These awards are one way for us to celebrate and build community. The arts are an important part of our ecology, they provide inspiration, hope, unity, compassion, a gateway for bridging different cultures and people.”
Celebrating uniqueness while building community through art is precisely the purpose behind World Art Day’s creation. First recognized in 2012 by UNESCO, the 15th of April is set aside as a day for highlighting and celebrating the connections between artistic expressions and our society.
Of course, these connections most often start at home.
“I believe the most important access to the arts, is (for people) to simply allow the space for arts in their lives,” said del Rio Pain, “whether it be music, dance, visual arts, any creativity they can be introduced to at a young age can contribute to their development and well-being in so many ways.”
There are many accessible programs across York Region, starting with local community centres and cultural venues. In addition, getting out and enjoying the many free cultural events throughout the year is a great way to see, hear and experience arts and culture in Markham.
To find a list of some available programs and events, visit
To see all the finalists and WINNERS in the YR Arts Awards visit:
Photo: 2 finalists for the York Region Arts Awards; The Social Bubble by Alysha Rocca and Theatre out of the Shadows by Shadowpath Theatre