Our Prize-winners in the News – January 2023 Edition

In early 2023, our prize-winners are involved with many exhibitions and shows. As promised for our 25th anniversary, we lead off with quotes from our inaugural 2001 Artist Prize recipient, Jay Wilson and our most recent 2022 Artist Prize recipient, Ghazaleh Avarzamani. Toronto Friends makes an impact!

25th Anniversary Reminiscences

Jay Wilson – Inaugural TFVA Artist Prize 2001

“For me, the prize was everything. I had just started my art career really. When I received the TFVA award I was just beginning to feel like an artist, so it was very important to be validated by a group such as yours. I remember awards night was on my birthday and you all sang to me. Your prize helped fund my studio, and I went on to show around the world… Officina America in Bologna, IT, The Havana Biennial, solo shows at Katherine Mulheron’s gallery and the now defunct KWT (Kristin Wong Tam’s Gallery). Although I’m still making objects and painting, I have recently retired as a full-time Professor of Design in the Art and Art History Department – a joint program at Sheridan College with the University of Toronto in Mississauga. Lately I have been more involved in the arts as a curator. In fact, my latest show (curated with the Art Gallery of Mississauga’s curator Shannon Anderson), will be installed in a little over a week. The TFVA had an enduring impact on me. The belief you had in me I have passed on to countless students, friends and artists. I can’t thank you enough”.
Ghazaleh Avarzamani – Artist Prize 2022

“The TFVA award represents a significant recognition and trust in my practice as an artist—I am so grateful for this honour. Without a doubt this acknowledgement from the TFVA has introduced my work to an even larger audience within the arts community. This award has continued my motivation in the studio and is contributing to the creation of current and future projects. It is so vital that we have groups like the TFVA who encourage and sustain creativity. Thank you”.

Michael Snow – Founders Achievement Award 2005

Toronto Friends expresses sincere condolences to the family of Michael Snow on his recent passing. Snow studied at the Ontario College of Art, now called Ontario College of Art and Design University. Snow is being remembered for groundbreaking work. In Toronto, Snow is known for Flight Stop, a collection of life-sized Canadian geese in flight at the Eaton Centre, (Designed by Eb Zeidler, Founders Achievement Award 2017) created in 1979, and The Audience, two massive, gold-painted sculptures at the Rogers Centre depicting sports fans in celebration, unveiled in 1989.

Click Here for an interview of Michael Snow, at the Venice Biennale 1970, from the CBC archives

Click Here for a review of his work from the Art Canada Institute

Anique Jordan  Artist Prize 2020
Vanessa Dion Fletcher – Artist Prize Finalist 2020
Jen Aiken – Artist Prize Finalist 2021

In April of 2022, RBC launched the RBC Community Gallery. The second exhibition, Structures to (Re)consider, opened to the public on November 10, 2022, and Anique JordanVanessa Dion Fletcher and Jen Aiken are featured. The gallery, located at the RBC Plaza at 200 Bay Street, Toronto, is free to access during regular business hours. Exhibitions will be rotated bi-annually.

Click Here to view some of the RBC’s full collection, including a work of Anique Jordan’s

Ken Nicol – Artist Prize Finalist 2014

Arsenal Contemporary Art New York, in collaboration with Olga Korper Gallery, present a solo exhibition of Toronto-based artist Ken NicolChecking Boxes is about boxes. Ken loves boxes. His studio contains almost a million of them. The show runs from January 13 – February 25 in New York City.

Click Here to learn more

Jen Aiken Artist – Prize Finalist 2021

Jen Aiken’s solo 2023 exhibition at The Power Plant is her first major institutional presentation. It features both new commissions and a selection of concrete sculptures from the past several years. The exhibition also debuts her first video installation which animates the geometric shapes of her sculptures to create an immersive prelude to the exhibition.

Click Here to learn more


Rouzbeh Akhbari – Artist Prize Finalist 2021
Anique Jordan – Artist Prize 2020
Erdem Tasdelem – Project Support 2021

At the Power Plant from February 4 to May 14, 2023, in parallel brings together six artists from Toronto to explore how visual documentation and cultural practices can reclaim the narratives of their respective communities despite colonialism’s persistence. The work of Anique Jordan and Rouzbeh Akhbari is included. The second iteration of the project, centred on language-based forms of resistance, will be presented as part of The Power Plant’s Summer 2023 program and will feature a group show including work by Erdem Tasdelen.

Click Here to learn more

Erika DeFreitas – Artist Prize Finalist 2016

Erika DeFreitas is one of three artists whose work is featured in This Unfathomable Weight, a three-part lightbox and billboard project by Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto Mississauga campus. The exhibition publicly grapples with how we make sense of living through the massive crises of recent years. In part three (Summer 2023), Erika DeFreitas looks to the miraculous as a way of contending with uncertainty through a daily ritual of attempting to capture the Virgin Mary (or what she refers to as the “divine feminine”) in photographs of the sun. The exhibition is shown in four light boxes on the UTM campus.

Click Here to learn more about the whole program

Oreka James – Artist Prize Finalist 2021

Oreka James is part of a group exhibition, WIP, which features the self-curated work of Black Artists Union members who were part of the 2022 Incite Foundation Residency Artists at Centre[3] for Artistic and Social Practice. The show takes place at the Centre, located in Hamilton, Ontario and runs from January 13 to February 24, 2023.

Click Here to learn more

Edward Burtynsky – Founders Achievement Award 2008

Edward Burtynsky’s exhibition, #African Studies, takes place at the Robert Koch Gallery in San Francisco from January 5 to February 25, 2023. The show features works from his series of the same name.

Click Here to learn more

Jay Wilson – Artist Prize 2001

Jay Wilson has co-curated a show, The Further Apart Things Seem. The theme of the group exhibition is resistance and difference, and features the work of Atanas BozdarovAnna Binta Diallo, Barbara Hobot, Adriana Kuiper & Ryan Suter, Brendan Lee Satish Tang and Couzyn van Heuvelyn. It runs at the Art Gallery of Mississauga until April 9, 2023.

Click Here to learn more and for information about the opening reception February 9

Laurie Kang – Artist Prize Artist Prize Finalist 2015

Laurie Kang is part of the group exhibition at the Franz Kaka GallerySeep State, which runs through February 18, 2023. Seep State brings together practices that explore boundaries and identities and propose new and novel ways of understanding being.

Click Here to learn more


Shellie Zhang – Artist Prize Finalist 2021

Shellie Zhang’s installation Beacons can be viewed along the Beltway Skate Trail, until February 20, 2023. The installation consists of five sculptural pillars of light. The images are inspired by the artist’s own experience of moving to Canada, experiencing the coldness of that first winter, and feeling the warmth of welcome and communal solidarity. A constellation of public programs will surround the installation.

Click Here to learn more

Tau Lewis – Artist Prize Finalist

Tau Lewis was the subject of a December 19, 2022 article in New York Magazine’s newsletter, “The Cut”, which featured Lewis’ 2022 exhibition, Vox Populi, Vox Dei at 52 Walker Gallery in New York City.

Click here to read the article


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