Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts Announces the 2024 Artist Prize Award Winners

Rita Daniel, President of the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts, recently announced the recipients of the 2024 TFVA Artists Prize Winners. “For 2024, the Artist Prize committee has awarded prizes to three Artist recipients, including one prize winner and two finalists.  The Artist Prize committee has carefully researched, analyzed, and selected artists based on their compelling and multi-facetted creative merit.  Congratulations to this year’s award winners!”  And thanks to Alex Bowron, curator, writer and gallery director in Toronto, who provided the Artist Prize write ups.

Since TFVA was formed twenty-six years ago, we have given awards to 240 artists, visual arts organizations and those engaged in the visual arts in the GTA.

Founded in 1998, the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts is an independent, membership based, non-profit organization that promotes knowledge of the visual arts to its members through an extensive education program and provides support and recognition for artistic achievement to artists and art organizations in the GTA and surrounding area.



Image: Couzyn van Heuvelen, CAMP, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2023. Photo courtesy of Stacey Sharpe


2024 Artist Prize of $15,000 is awarded to Couzyn van Heuvelen

Couzyn van Heuvelen is a Canadian Inuk sculptor who grounds his work in increasing the visibility of Inuit practices in public spaces and across the landscape of contemporary Canadian art. Born in Iqaluit, Nunavut, but living in Southern Ontario for most of his life, van Heuvelen’s work explores his culture, history, and identity through a mixture of materials, geographies, and personal narratives. Van Heuvelen’s work strays from established Inuit art-making methods to explore a range of fabrication approaches and processes, both old and new. The resulting objects sometimes appear grand, celebratory, and graceful, and sometimes express a more critical take on hybridization, the process of combining existing forms to create new and original forms, that illustrates its potential shortcomings and redundancies. Having received his BFA from York University in 2011 and his MFA from NSCAD University in 2015, van Heuvelen’s work has since appeared in numerous exhibitions across Canada including, The Lost Stories Project (Ottawa), The Winnipeg Art Gallery (Winnipeg), The Power Plant (Toronto), the Visual Arts Centre of Clarington (Ontario), and Nuit Blanche (Toronto). In 2018, van Heuvelen was longlisted for the Sobey Art Award, and he has been shortlisted (2021) and then longlisted (2023) for the Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award.




Image: Artist Isabel Okoro, Solo exhibition, Constructing Eternity, 2023. Photo courtesy of the Artist


2024 Artist Prize of $7,500 is awarded to Isabel Okoro

Isabel Okoro was born in Lagos, Nigeria and is a visual artist currently based in Toronto. She maintains a multidisciplinary practice that includes community, commercial, and educational work that explores the interactions between the motherland and the diaspora. Okoro has coined the term normatopia to describe a space which considers the tensions between a harsh reality and a utopia. She ultimately chooses to rest and thrive in the sweet spot that exists in between these. Through a practice of visualizing and developing an imagined world that embraces her principle of normtopia, Okoro explores the idea of eternity as a space to immortalize community. This approach comes through in the way her images are infused with care, intimacy, and a spiritual sense of elegance in the everyday. Okoro holds a B.Sc in Neuroscience and Psychology with High Distinction from the University of Toronto. She has a self-published book titled Friends in Eternity, has delivered workshops, received several grants and residencies, and has exhibited her work widely, including a mural for Nia Centre for the Arts (Toronto), Gallery TPW (Toronto), Gallery 44 (Toronto), Strada Gallery (NYC), MOCCA (Toronto), Nuit Blanch (Toronto) and FÁBRICA (Mexico City), where she was also recently artist-in-residence. Okoro co-founded the creative studio, local•global, and is currently the Creative Director there.




Image: Shaheer Zazai, carpet titled ‘KGOBLWN1’ from solo exhibition ‘A Call Home’ hosted at Patel Brown Toronto, 2022. Photo courtesy of the Artist


2024 Artist Prize of $7,500 is awarded to Shaheer Zazai

Shaheer Zazai is an Afghan-Canadian artist who works in both painting and digital media. His practice, which includes digital processes, textile work, public installation, and video, focuses on exploring and developing a cultural identity within the present geopolitical climate and diaspora. Zazai has become known for a visual digital language that uses Microsoft Word to mimic the detail and repetition involved in traditional Afghan carpet-making. He translates every knot of a carpet into a typed character to build increasingly intricate and graphically bold geometric patterns that read like textiles. In contrast to this structured and logic-driven approach to image-making, Zazai’s painting practice is fluid, emotive, and self-reflective by investigating personal responses to vulnerability and fear. Zazai received a BFA from OCAD University in 2011 and was artist-in-residence at OCADU as part of the Digital Painting Atelier in 2015. He was a finalist for EQ Bank’s Emerging Digital Artist Award (2018), and has received numerous grants and participated in several solo and group exhibitions, including Capacity 3 Gallery (Guelph), Doris McCarthy Gallery (Toronto), Owens Art Gallery (Sackville), CAFKA Biennial (Kitchener), The Power Plant (Toronto), the Aga Khan Museum (Toronto), the Textile Museum of Canada (Toronto), Patel Brown Gallery (Toronto) and the Florida State University’s Museum of Fine Arts.


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