2018 RBC Arts Access Award Recipients

RBC Arts Access Award for newcomer artists is presented by RBC Foundation and Toronto Arts Foundation and administered by Neighbourhood Arts Network. The RBC Arts Access Award is designed to support newcomer artists across Toronto. The awards range from $500 to $1500 to support costs associated with arts projects, such as artist fees, art supplies, equipment rental, space rental and food costs for a workshop or event. Additionally, awards may also support professional development, training and mentorship requests for newcomer artists looking to improve their skills regarding working in and with community.


The 2018 RBC Arts Access Fund Recipients are: 

Sahar Abdallah is a children`s books illustrator based in Toronto. She has worked with various publishers in MENA region. In 2009, Sahar’s illustrations were included in the Children's Books Encyclopedia (Egypt). Sahar’s publications include writing and illustrating “Fanoun's Tales", published by Elias (2012) and "I found a Home-Tout the Flea" published by Arab House Library for Books (2014), both of which were nominated for the Shaikh Zayed prize. Her third book, “Life is love, not War” was published by Al Banan-Lebanon (2017). In addition to various publications, Sahar has facilitated workshops internationally, including "Draw with Fanoun" in Cairo (2012) and "Telling, Drawing and Playing" in Algeria (2013). \Sahar has held three solo exhibitions: “Children and stories” (2009), “A painting and a book” (2012), and “Scribbles” (2014). The two former exhibitions were successful projects funded by the British Council and the Culture Resource in Egypt. Sahar has also participated in various group exhibitions, including Sharjah Children`s Reading Festival, Abu Dhabi book fair, and CANSCAIP Art Show. Sahar was awarded the State Incentive Award Egypt 2012, a runner up in Mahmoud Kahil`s award-Lebanon and in the same year 2017 nominated for Etisalat award in two categories- Sharjah.

Shabnam Afrand is Iranian-Canadian multi-disciplinary visual artist and educator born and raised in Tehran. Shabnam’s body of work reflects her life and creates an ambience of longing and memory by choosing the objects and forms in her practices. She obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree from Azad University with honored in 2001, with a thesis that examined the interpretation of women in art history.  She taught in the faculty of Fine Arts of Azad University from 2003 to 2010 and has been a member of the Iranian Painters Society since 2003. She moved to Canada in 2013 and is a member of Iranian-Canadian Visual Artist Association. Shabnam has been working as a painting and yoga instructor in the TDSB as of 2014.  She is currently completing the Jewelry Art program at George Brown College. Shabnam is currently based in Toronto.

Ghazaleh Avarzamani  is a multidisciplinary artist originally from Tehran, Iran, who is currently based in Toronto. Her academic background includes a MFA from Central Saint Martins, an MA in Painting, and a Diploma in Graphic Design. Her practices include fabric works, embroidery, sculpture, installation, video and photography. The craft dimension and research behind Ghazaleh’s work seeks to discover the socio-historical relevance of these disciplines as they reflect her own experiences, as well as larger cultural issues. Her research subjects have emerged from an interest in manipulation and manifestations of global powers, history, geography and knowledge. Ghazaleh is presenting the results of her research and practice in exhibitions and lectures nationally and internationally. Her selected exhibitions include Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium museum in Norway; Bocconi Gallery in Italy; Ab/Anbar Gallery in Iran; Asia House in the UK; Etemad Gallery in UAE; and Artmark gallery in Austria. Ghazaleh is a recipient of a Toronto Art Council grant (2018), Ontario Art Council award (2017) and the Red Mansion Art Prize (2013). 

Mirna Chacín is a Venezuelan-born Canadian visual artist who is passionate about working with people and telling their stories through images. Shortly before immigrating to Canada in 2011, she was awarded The University of Zulia's Gold Medal for her contribution to strengthening cultural identity and enriching Venezuelan Art history. Her main solo exhibitions, "Dwellings" (1989-1991), "A Bike's Tale" (1992-1994), and "The Visitors" (2000-2001), were shown in Art galleries across Venezuela, Uruguay, Italy, and France. Since she immigrated, Mirna has exhibited "The Paraguaná Project," at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Zulia (Venezuela, November 2014), and "Where The Sun Rises," a two days pop-up exhibition at Sur Gallery (Toronto, July 2017). Recent collective shows include: "TD Sunfest's Colors of Latin America" at The Arts Project (London, Ontario, February 2018); and "I Live Here", Arts Etobicoke's Storefront Gallery, (Toronto, January- February 2018). Mirna has received grants from the RBC Arts Access Fund and Ontario Arts Council, and is one of the recipients of the 2017 Newcomer and Refugee Artist Mentorship grant from the Toronto Arts Council. On November 2017, Mirna was awarded the Community Impact Award from the MNLCT for her outstanding contributions in telling the stories of newcomer inclusion through photography.

David Chinyama is a visual artist originally from Harare, Zimbabwe, and is currently living in Toronto. David graduated with honors in Painting from the National Gallery of Zimbabwe School of Art and Design. He also holds a diploma of Fine Arts from the Harare Polytechnic College. David was a full-time visual artist for over fifteen years in Zimbabwe before migrating to Canada, and is determined to continue the same career in Toronto. David’s professional accomplishments include being offered an artist residency by the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in 2003; this culminated in his first solo exhibition and museum presentation 'Visual Poetry’ at the same institution. Additionally, David has maintained a full- time artistic practice, boasting over 10 solo exhibitions and several group shows in his home country of Zimbabwe, as well as abroad in numerous countries. David has been recognized for two Zimbabwe National Merit Awards in Painting in both 2004 and 2013. His work has been reviewed by numerous art journals and media houses both in Zimbabwe and abroad, and is in the permanent collections of several national institutions and private organizations.

Tenzin Desel is a visual artist based in Toronto. After graduating from the Academy of Art, she studied traditional Buddhist painting with a Tibetan master in High Himalayas, India. Art for Tenzin has always been a refuge. A beautiful painting holds so many possibilities. It can be a source of something like joy, that takes her out of herself; a moment of delight, a sense of recognition in the eyes of a portrait, a way for the brain to find order. Everything in the world is in a state of change, always influx. She tries to capture the glimpses of those things that bring a certain feeling of lightness, of escape, of joy. She finds things that bring her happiness and that is what she aims to share with others through her ar

Tareq Ghreri is a musician originally from Damascus, Syria. An experienced classical musician, in 2008 he was introduced to Flamenco music. Tareq soon after dedicated himself to learning flamenco music and creating a hybrid genre which blends flamenco with traditional Arabic music. In this hybrid genre, Tareq playfully pays homage to his Syrian heritage. Music saved his life during the Syrian crisis, when he was jobless and a stranger in exile after being forced to flee his home in 2013. Music gave Tareq hope, and became a source of livelihood, both during the Syrian crisis and after migrating to Toronto in 2017. He sees the positive effects of the music on his family, friends, fellow musicians, and artists who are touched by his music. Tareq continues to encourage others to join him and add elements of their own heritage’s musical styles, ultimately making the hybrid music richer and unique.

Rimah Jabr is a Palestinian theatre director and playwright with professional experience in Canada, Belgium, and Palestine. Since moving from Belgium to Toronto in 2015 Rimah has devoted her time to artistic training and community building initiatives within Toronto’s art world. Her involvement includes currently acting as an Artist Educator at Young People’s Theatre in Toronto, as well as working as a Metcalf Intern-Artistic Director at Volcano Theatre. Rimah is currently an artist in residence at The Theater Centre in Toronto. In 2014 Rimah obtained her Master of Arts in Theater from Erasmus Hogeschool Brussel RITCS in Belgium. During those two years at RITCS Rimah wrote Two Ladybugs, The Prisoner, and The Apartment. Other original pieces include High Heels and Stuffed Zucchinni (2015), and Two Birds, One Stone, co-written with Natasha Greenblat, (performed 2017-2018).

Nour Kaadan is a percussionist and videographer who started her music career in 2010. Originally from Damascus, Syria, Nour plays classical Middle Eastern rhythms. She is also well-versed in Flamenco rhythms (including Rumba, Tango, and Bullarias) on the cajon. Past performances took place in Lebanon (2014), as well as multiple performances in Toronto. Nour is the co-founder of Sounds of Change (Toronto), a non-profit initiative. At Sounds of Change she facilitates workshops which uses music as a therapeutic activity to help children in or from war zones to overcome their trauma. The program also helps children learn leadership skills, practice communication skills, and form mutual interests with their friends and teammates. Sounds of Change has been active in Toronto since 2017 and has hosted workshops in non-profit foundations including COSTI, Lifeline Syria, and the Canadian Arabic Orchestra.

Yannis Lobaina is a Cuban writer, producer and filmmaker who moved to Toronto in 2014. Yannis is currently involved in helping the Spanish- speaking community through her storytelling program, Travesía Mágica, which has been disseminated in Toronto Public Libraries, as well as in various elementary schools. Her work explores immigration, diaspora, and sociocultural issues. Since 2004 Yannis has developed an extensive background in event management, production and communication. She has won awards for her work as a Production Director at prestigious international festivals. Yannis's writing has been published in countries including Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, and Spain. Additionally, Yannis frequently publishes with magazines that specialize in literature, such as Revista Paralelo Sur and Revista Quimeras, as well as other digital platforms. She is currently working on her short documentary “Where the Magic Happens, Outside your Comfort Zone”- her first work as an emerging filmmaker. Learn more at www.enlareddeltiempo.com.

Ali Massousi is an experienced musician, teacher, and musical scholar who plays several percussion instruments. He has had the opportunity to work with many famous musicians, musical ensembles, and orchestras, including concerts with the Tehran Symphony Orchestra, the Iran National Music Orchestra, and various concerts in Iran, France, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands and Switzerland. He has performed on national television, in traditional, percussion and Kurdish ensembles, and has been featured in film soundtracks as part of symphony orchestras. As a performer in traditional ensembles, including Naghmeye Kimia, Eal, Hamnavazane Mehr, Parnian, Taranome Jan, and Mahtab Rou, Ali has toured extensively, performing in Iran, China, France, Germany, Austria, Cuba, and Turkey. Since emigrating to Canada, Ali has collaborated with the Andalib, Shiraz and Barg Ensembles in concerts in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. He is also the leader of Navaye Kimia Ensemble, who perform frequently throughout the Toronto area, including the 2017 Tirgan Festival and recent concerts with Ramiz Guliyev and Maziar Heidari. Additionally, he is the author of five authoritative training books for Tonbak, Daf, and Udu, and has acted as a resource for many musical scholars.

Ahmed Moneka is driven with inspiration to preserve the unique perspective of the Iraqi-Canadian diaspora and personal experiences as an Iraqi immigrant. Ahmed has made himself indispensable as an artist to the collective narrative of Canadian theatre. Ahmed began humbly presenting himself to audiences in Toronto, finding himself in the midst of enriching experiences within Canada’s growing cultural narrative. In addition to dedicating time to his theatre career in Canada, Ahmed formed the culturally diffused band 'Moskitto Bar' with Fethi Nadjim, Tangi Ropars, and Yura Rafalui. Other recent creative collaborations with artists and organizations include: Jeremy Smith, Jesse LaVercombe, Turtle House, Jesse LaVercombeand, Soheil Parsa and Roshanak Jaberi. Ahmed acquired his world perspectives while attending the Academy of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad. Flourishing in his spiritual, embodied and intellectual pursuits, he anticipates further sharing his experiences and curiosity through his art.

Maryam Pazooki is a visual artist who was born in Iran. She recieved her 4-year teaching degree and Art and Design diploma from Sureh University, Tehran. After her studies, Maryam taught an Arts High School program where she developed and taught courses in drawing, painting, and batik using traditional techniques. In 2000, Maryam moved to Japan to study. While there, she was invited to join the cultural exchange program, which involved teaching Iranian art and culture in various schools. In 2005, she earned her MFA degree in Japanese-style painting (Nihonga). After graduation, Maryam returned to Iran where she taught and directed the Arts Department in the Tehran International School. In 2011, Maryam moved to Canada where she then taught at the Toronto Farsi School. Maryam also previously played a key role in the Georgetown, Ontario area school program as a printmaking instructor to approximately 400 students at the Helson Gallery. Maryam has exhibited her paintings in several art galleries and universities in Iran, Japan and Canada. She has also designed several book covers for various publications

Mahsa Pourbakhsh, who goes by the stage name Mahaya, was born in Iran and currently lives in Toronto. Growing up, she dreamed of becoming a singer. Mahaya faced many barriers to actualizing her dream, including cultural beliefs (such as the prohibition of women performing in Iran), and financial struggles growing up which caused her to wait until she turned 18 to be able to work to afford music lessons herself; she persevered. Her love of music inspired her to learn English in order to cover English songs. Mahaya learned to write her own songs in hopes of performing them one day. Following the release of a song which went viral, the exposure led to trouble with the Iranian government, ultimately forcing Mahaya to leave Iran. She settled in Toronto in May 2017. The barriers Mahaya faced have contributed to her becoming the passionate and powerful vocalist that she is today. She is ready to show the world - including all of the people and powers that tried to hold her back from her true potential - what she is really made of.

Samyuktha Punthambekar is a Bharatanatyam dancer, arts educator and arts administrator. Samyuktha won the VAACT award in 2016 for her outstanding volunteering contributions. As an arts administrator, she has worked for Toronto Arts Foundation, lbs/sq” performance and Tapestry Opera on a 2018 Dora Award nominated production ‘Bandits in the Valley’. As an arts educator, she has conducted workshops for Peel Regional District School Board, multiple festivals and is a resident arts educator for Toronto District School Board. Samyuktha has graduated with Honours from Humber College's Arts Administration and Cultural Management program. She received the OAC's grant for her studies at Humber and also won the Dean's Award, Jerry Smith Scholarship as well as a Best Student Nomination for the program. She has sat on grant juries for many arts councils. Most recently, she has featured on Humber’s Alumni Success Stories and NOW Magazine. Samyuktha has mentored with Shannon Litzenberger as part of the OAC’s Compass Grant. Samyuktha received Theatre Ontario’s PTTP and OAC grant and worked as an Arts Management Intern for The Musical Stage Company. Currently, she works as an Administrative Producer for Jaberi Dance Theatre. Samyuktha, is the Founder and Director of her new company 'Infinite Arts Projects'.

Alice Il Shin is a Korean filmmaker who received her formal film training at Nihon University in Japan. Since then, she has worked in Japan, Korea, USA, and Canada as a director, producer, and editor. Her independent work has screened at the Cine Rail International Film Festival (France) and Jeonju International Film Festival (Korea), and has been showcased on major networks, including Fuji TV. Alice currently lives in Canada and is making independent films. Her most recent project 'Haru’s New Year' follows a young immigrant women living in Toronto. The project is supported by the Reel Asian International Film Festival, Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Nami Ueno grew up in the small town of Arashiyama, an important sightseeing district in Kyoto, Japan. Her first artistic experiences as a child were at home with her grandfather, a creative and self-taught artist and craftsman. At fifteen, she began formal art lessons with a local artist. After 4 years of graphite sketching and watercolor training, she was accepted to the Kyoto University of Art and Design (1997). With delicate techniques and careful detail, Nami spends a long time on each painting, yet still approaches every work with a sense of childlike wonder. Her wide-ranging work bears many influences and references, including the strange wonders imagined in 16th century European maps or the wild fantasies hidden in Northern altarpieces. Recently, she has been exploring the collective unconscious expressed in fairy tales. In 2018, after two years, she recently participated in her first Canadian solo presentations at the Riverdale ArtWalk, and at ArtWalk on the Square in Toronto with the Artist’s Network. In addition to her fine art, Nami is very interested in Japanese and European folk art. She is currently developing a workshop on the Northern European and pioneer American decorative painting tradition of tole art.

Andrea Vela Alarcón is a Peruvian-born self-taught illustrator and community artist with a focus on storytelling. Andrea has been working as a community artist since 2009. When moving to Toronto, in 2015, she has worked with organizations as a community artist delivering workshops for newcomer youth, LGBTQ+ and street involved communities. As an illustrator, her work is inspired by Amazonian culture and is influenced by the naïve genre. The main subjects in her practice come from folk culture and the link between femininity and nature. Through these approaches, Andrea creates her own mythology and maintains the connection with her homeland the Amazon, a land she emigrated from when she was 15 years old. In Peru, she devoted her time to creating platforms where oppressed communities, mostly underserved youth and Indigenous people, would have a space to express themselves and help reshape the discourse around them through different storytelling tools, such as documentary making, zines and three dimensional narratives. Contributing to social change is very important in Andrea’s practice. She considers art a tool to engage communities with social issues and politics, and believes it can heal and impact change. 

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