2021 Newcomer Arts Award Recipients

The Newcomer Arts Award is designed to support the future potential of newcomer artists working in a range of disciplines across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

The 2021 Newcomer Arts Award Recipients are...

Anahita Akhavan is an Iranian- Canadian artist who currently lives and works in Toronto, Canada. She holds a M.F.A from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and a B.F.A. from the University of Tehran, Iran. Anahita has had solo exhibitions at North York Arts (Toronto), Snelgrove Gallery (Saskatoon), and Negarkhane Honarha Gallery (Tehran), and participated in group shows in Canada and the USA. In 2018, Anahita participated in an artist residency ‘Joya: arte+ ecología’ (Spain). In 2016, she was awarded the ICCC grant to curate the show ‘Voyage’ to Vorres Museum in Athens, Greece. Most recently, Anahita participated in ‘Art with Heart Auction’ (Toronto, 2021). In her practice, she illustrates a visceral symbolic garden borrowed from Islamic architecture, tapestry, and carpet weaving. By revisiting ornamental patterns and decorative forms, Anahita explores memories and cultural signifiers of her homeland, creating a personal and intimate series of paintings.

David Machado Gomez is a Toronto- based award-winning artist and music producer from Medellin, Colombia with two decades of experience producing music and designing sound for theatrical and audiovisual works. He holds a degree in Anthropology (University of Antioquia) and a Postgraduate degree in Sound Art (University of Barcelona). David has worked with artists from Colombia, Mexico, Spain and Canada, including director Victor Gaviria and Casa America Catalunya. In 2013 he was named Best Revelation Composer by the City of Medellin for his album “Nochedumbre.” David composed and performed the music for “The Memory of the Pots or Calligraphies of the Orphanhood,” a play written by renowned artist Victoria Valencia about violence in Colombia. He has received grants from Medellin’s House of Memory Museum and the Ministry of Culture to perform throughout Spain and Colombia. David composed the music for a documentary about Venezuelan migration sponsored by IOM, as well as the music for a UNHCR podcast on the same subject. Currently, he is producing singles for his next album.

Felipe Téllez is a composer and orchestrator. Felipe holds a Doctorate in Composition from the University of Toronto (Canada, 2021), a Master's in Scoring for Film, Television and Video Games from Berklee College of Music (Spain, 2015), and a Double Major Bachelor's Degree in Composition and Music Production from the Universidad de los Andes (Colombia, 2013). His work includes scores for film and concerts. He has composed for the Bogotá Philharmonic, the Colombian National Symphony Orchestra, the San Rafael Symphonic Band in Spain, and the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He has also recorded and conducted his music with The Budapest Art Orchestra and at Abbey Road Studios in London with LSO players. In addition to composing for media and orchestra, he is an accomplished songwriter, releasing his orchestral debut album ‘Minstrelle’ (2016). He conducted the Canadian duo Whitehorse in their 2019 Juno nominated "Winter 2018" Christmas album. In 2021, he released his chamber music album ‘Songs of Longing’ for string quartet and piano quintet with Take Five Ensemble through the Canadian Music Centre’s label, Centrediscs.

Gizem Candan holds two BFAs, one in Plastic Arts and Painting and one in Graphic Design from Yeditepe University in Istanbul, Turkey and a Visual Effects certificate from Humber College. She uses oil painting, video and collage of readymade objects to create new realities. In her work she examines the anxieties people experience, their effects on the environment and their inner selves and the difficulties of being part of society in the modern world. One of her goals is for the audience to experience her preliminary research, mind maps, sketches and materials she creates as part of her creative process. She has participated in various exhibitions and fairs in both Canada and Turkey.



Hamed Tabein is a photographer and storyteller whose work specializes in ethno-photography. His intention is to use art to document people’s natural behavior in both private and public settings. Through art, Hamed has had to look for the hidden strings which connect us all, regardless of political and geographical boundaries. Hamed’s work traverses both Canadian urban photography and the diverse landscape of many Middle Eastern and Asian countries, including Iran, India, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Afghanistan. His artistic life is rooted in family; his mom, uncle and grandfather have each had a hand in art, from painting to poetry and sculpture. As Hamed discovered his own world, he realized what he is looking for is not hidden in the mind but outside, created and distributed to all people. He is mesmerized by photography and through his lens visualizes unrevealed connections and exposes them.


Hossein Soleimani was born in Tehran, Iran and developed interest in music and performance during his teenage years. Beginning as a vocalist before expanding his portfolio of skills to include traditional Persian musical instruments Kamancheh and Setar, he has received numerous awards for playing Persian music instruments, Composition, and supervision of a music ensemble from prestigious festivals in Iran and other countries. While pursuing a degree in Engineering, Hossein studied music theory, harmony, composing, and arrangement under several prestigious musicians, including world renowned and Silk Road Ensemble, Kayhan Kalhor. Hossein has since continued to garner critical acclaim as leader of the band ‘Sayesar’. Together with his band, they have released 3 albums (‘Familiar Glance’, ‘Good Days’ and ‘Forty Nights of Solitude.' He has performed at several Sofar Sounds Toronto events and was a member of eMERGEnce 2020 at Small World Music.

Ivetta Sunyoung Kang is an interdisciplinary artist and writer based in Tkaronto/Toronto, Canada. She obtained a MFA from Concordia University. She has presented her work at Jeon-Ju International Film Festival (2009, South Korea), Leonard Bina Ellen Gallery (2016, Canada), M.A.I. (2017, Canada), Arlington Arts Center (2020, U.S.A.), Xpace Cultural Center (2020, Canada), The Korean Cultural Center Washington D.C. (2021, U.S.A.), and participated in an artist residency program at DAÏMÔN (2019, Canada) and ZK/U (2022, Germany) among others. She is a co-founding member of Quite Ourselves, a group of artists seeking sustainable mobility in life and art creation. Kang's practice is concerned with archive, video installation, text, performative work and participation. The artist observes colonial patterns of burdening linguistic encounters and bio/socio-political impacts of binary psychiatric approaches on individuals. Kang creates and applies imaginative means to ease mental disorders exacerbated by the dominant life model in excessive urbanism and post-colonialism. The artist seeks transcultural transmissions, diasporic, unsettling languages, and decolonial narratives as caring and reparative means in her practice.

Kareen Weir is a multidisciplinary artist dedicated to exploring and preserving Jamaican Patwah through her arts practice. She is a graduate of the Edna Manley College with a major in Sculpture, but has been exploring the world of mural painting since immigrating to Canada. Her work looks at themes of memory, retention, representation and identity through the Black experience and deliberate use of Patwah language as the primary means of expression. Kareen’s debut exhibition was as a participant in 'The Scratch and Mix Project: Empowering Black Youth through the Arts' group exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario. During the Professional Artist Development Initiative (PADI) residency at Watah Theatre, she wrote the beginnings of her Patwah novel and won an award for Outstanding Script Development. Weir is a member of the Black Wimmin Artist collective, who gathered in 2019 for 'The Feast', a performative dining exchange seating 100 Black women artists and arts workers. She is also a graduate of the Mural Routes: Mural Art Career Development program.

Kseniya Tsoy is a new Canadian community-engaged artist originally from Uzbekistan. Whether it's community murals, illustration or cultural production, Kseniya’s work has a distinct social purpose and focuses on diversity and inclusion. As a visual artist, her work is inspired by folk motifs and legends of different cultures that influenced her throughout her life. As a person of mixed heritage, Kseniya’s art is a visual expression of her never-ending exploration of identity and belonging.



Leila Refahi works with painting, installation, and digital media to create participatory art experiences. Her work mainly focuses on environmental issues, climate change, and endangered animals. Leila received her Master's degree in Art Education (Concordia University, 2021) and has a Master's and Bachelor's degree in Painting (Art and Architecture University, Tehran, Iran). In her research and educational projects, she inquires about socially engaged art and its impact on raising and transforming environmental knowledge in communities. Leila has presented six solo exhibitions and participated in more than 60 national and international group exhibitions and festivals. She also ran participatory projects, in which she engaged audiences in the process of the artwork by asking them to create and precede the artwork, cooperating with each other, and finally becoming artists of the work. The interactions between participants, the artist, and artwork are the most significant part of her practice.


Borelson took a leap of faith when moving to Toronto on his own, as a permanent resident, after formative years in Gabon, Congo and France. His empowering music and other creative projects are always community oriented, a community that he was able to quickly build. Through his art, Borelson has integrated stories and values drawn from his own journey. In 2020, he released his album ‘As Far As Eye Can See’ which took him to perform on stages including Afrofest, Afrochic in Ghana for ‘Year of Return’, and various local virtual and live showcases. In each performance, Borelson exchanges valuable energy with the audience. Borelson also directed the docuseries 'This FAR' about the success stories of newcomers and first generation Canadians in partnership with Artscape Daniels Launchpad, where he participated in a music entrepreneurship program (2020). Borelson just released his sophomore album, 'Building Bridges' about the theme of building bridges between sounds, genres, cultures, continents and people given his international journey. He is also working on a documentary about the societal impact of COVID, highlighting love, resilience and unity in people.


Mariana Topfstedt is a Brazilian photographer who has lived in Toronto since 2017. Her interest in photojournalism started when she was impressed by the photos of James Nachtwey and Henri Cartier Bresson presented in the Photography Course; these influences led her to follow the path of photojournalism for almost 5 years. Photography allows her to tell facts, which can be a story, a moment or a state of mind, believing that it is an honest, spontaneous way, without prior warnings or preparations, to generate social awareness. Mariana is inspired by daily life, in reality, observing others or herself, using her intuition as a tool. In Canada, Mariana started to find new ways to show her work, presenting at art fairs and photography exhibitions.



Mosab Alnomairy is a Syrian poet, journalist and curator based in Toronto. He published his first poetry collection ‘Stars Are Clearer In The Countryside’ (2017). Building on his writing, artistic practice and curatorial work, Mosab established Henna media platform, which sheds light on issues faced by newcomers and offers critical analyses of Canadian political and social issues in Arabic and English. Through Mosab and his wide network of writers and artists, the Henna platform has succeeded in attracting members of the Arab community through its artistic and cultural activities, and plays an important role in building meaningful connections and networks between Arab and Canadian activists. Since migrating to Canada in 2019, he has participated in numerous projects and events as a poet, journalist and curator. His work focuses on highlighting the voice of Arab activists and artists fleeing from the oppression of dictatorial regimes and militias, and uses writing and art as a process for healing, learning and creating community.

Naghmeh Ghasemzadeh aka NAG is a Toronto-based multi-disciplinary Iranian-French artist. She has a BA in Visual Arts and New Media (Université de Paris 8) and a Master of Arts (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi). She participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions in France and in 2019 she was part of the TAC Artists in the Library program in Toronto, Canada. Her focus relates to her own stories of immigration and cultural assimilation, uprootedness, women’s rights, gender equality and resilience. She expresses such subjects through fragmented materials and narratives. Her artworks depict her perpetual endeavor to find an imaginary link between events, beings, belongings and destinies. The use of materials that usually don’t fit together acts as a reflection of her quest for finding a place and community to which she'll finally belong. Her video and sound installations contribute to the narrative by assembling sounds and images in never ending loops. Having adopted the western way of life, she questions frantic consumption, accumulation and purpose in her collages and installations where she gives a new life to outdated and broken things.

Tan Vu is a Canadian singer, actor, mover, and storyteller of Vietnamese descent. His artistic practice combines vocal performance (classical & contemporary), spoken word, movement, and cross-cultural symbolism to convey themes of social justice for marginalized populations, especially immigrant artists facing systemic barriers. A Fulbright fellow, Tan has performed in theatre, musical theatre, and opera with Saigon’s leading institutions before moving to New York to train under a scholarship. He immigrated to Canada in November 2019, and has since worked with Buddies In Bad Times Theatre, Cahoots Theatre, No Strings Theatre, Talk Is Free Theatre, Toronto Operetta Theatre, Toronto Fringe Festival, and other arts institutions. Tan is the grateful recipient of career development grants from Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, and Canada Council for the Arts, of Buddies In Bad Times Theatre’s 2020 Queer Emerging Artist Award, and of Toronto Arts Foundation’s 2021 RBC Newcomer Arts Award. He is currently working on his original work PHOENIX as part of Buddies In Bad Times Theatre’s Emerging Creators Unit.