Tonight, at a ceremony at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the Metcalf Foundation announced the five winners of the 2021 Johanna Metcalf Performing Arts Prizes/Les Prix Johanna-Metcalf des Arts de la scène (Johannas). The winners are Ian Cusson, composer; iskwē, musician; Ravi Jain, theatre director; Sandra Laronde, multidisciplinary artist; and Marilo Nuñez, theatre director and playwright.
Each winner received a prize of $25,000 and selected a protégé as a way of celebrating early career artists who are showing formidable promise. The five protégés are: Beverley McKiver, composer (protégé of Ian Cusson); Zeegwon “Zee” Shilling, musician (iskwē); Aaron Jan, theatre director (Ravi Jain); Aria Evans, interdisciplinary artist (Sandra Laronde); and Margarita Valderrama, actor and playwright (Marilo Nuñez).
Protégés were awarded $10,000 each, a $5,000 increase from the inaugural prize year in appreciation of the particular challenges faced by artists growing into their careers over these last two years.
The total value of the prizes at $175,000 provides a significant boost to Ontario’s performing arts community following the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This performing arts prize is named in honour of Johanna Metcalf, who was at the heart of the Metcalf Foundation’s work for over 40 years. The prize was created to amplify Johanna’s legacy as a passionate supporter of the arts and artists. Established in 2019, the Johannas celebrate artists in Ontario who have made a recognized impact on the field and the public, and show great promise in the ongoing pursuit of their ambitious and visionary practices.
The Johannas are delivered on a biennial basis in partnership with the Ontario Arts Council (OAC). The nominees are selected through several juried OAC competitions in dance, music/opera, and theatre, including creators from Francophone, Indigenous, and Northern communities. Artists who have been producing and showing work over a period of at least 10 years are eligible.
The five winners of the 2021 Johanna Metcalf Performing Arts Prizes/Les Prix Johanna-Metcalf des Arts de la scène:
Ian Cusson is a composer of art song, opera, and orchestral work. Of Métis (Georgian Bay Métis Community) and French-Canadian descent, his work explores the Canadian Indigenous experience including the history of the Métis people, the hybridity of mixed-racial identity, and the intersection of Western and Indigenous cultures.
iskwē is, among many other things, a Juno award winning artist — a creator and communicator of music and movement, pictures, poetry and prose. Through it all, she’s a teller of stories that have impacted our past and will inform our future. iskwē is Cree Métis from Treaty One Territory.
Toronto-based stage director Ravi Jain is a multi-award-winning artist known for making politically bold and accessible theatrical experiences in both small indie productions and large theatres. As the Founding Artistic Director of Why Not Theatre, he is well-known for his inventive productions, international collaborations, and innovative producing models.
A highly accomplished arts leader, innovator, and creator, Sandra Laronde is a multidisciplinary artist working as a director, producer, choreographer, author, digital storyteller, and as the founder and Artistic Director of Red Sky Performance. She is from the Teme-Augama-Anishinaabe (People of the Deep Water) in Temagami in northern Ontario and based in Toronto.
Marilo Nuñez is a Chilean Canadian playwright, director, dramaturge, and scholar. She is the 2022-23 Playwright-in-Residence at Carousel Players and has been a member of playwright units at Factory Theatre, Tarragon Theatre, Cahoots Theatre, Alameda Theatre Company, and Nightwood Theatre. Marilo has an MFA in Creative Writing and is currently obtaining her PhD in Theatre & Performance Studies at York University.
In addition to the five winners, the 15 finalists for the 2021 Johannas were: Nina Lee Aquino, theatre director; Natasha Bakht, choreographer and contemporary dancer; John Kameel Farah, composer and pianist; Yaovi Hoyi (YAO), musician and entrepreneur; Rosina Kazi, musician; Marie-Thé Morin, theatre creator; Kevin A. Ormsby, choreographer; Juliet Palmer, composer; Peter “Alo” White, spiritual guide and musician; and Norman Yeung, playwright.
Established in 1960, the Metcalf Foundation has three principal areas of focus: the performing arts, the environment, and poverty reduction. Through all of its work, the Foundation cultivates, supports, and celebrates those working on the frontlines of social change in order to improve the health and vibrancy of our communities, our culture, and the environment.
The Metcalf Foundation’s Performing Arts program supports innovation and leadership through a series of initiatives targeted at Toronto-based organizations and individuals from across the province of Ontario. Multi-year strategic funding initiatives help organizations build the capacity to adapt in rapidly changing environments and internships match promising leaders with exceptional mentors. The Johanna Metcalf Prizes celebrate promising individuals who will play a pivotal role in defining the performing arts sector’s future. The Foundation invests approximately $2.2 million each year in the performing arts.