2022 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).

A big congratulations to our 2022 recipients! 

Murshed Aldhahri is a Toronto-based singer who is deeply invested in the beauty of Classical Arabic music and the soulfulness of Sufi music. He is a choir member at the Canadian Arabic Orchestra and founder of Hikaya Project, an ensemble dedicated to his passion for the rich heritage of the classics and the long tradition of the Sufis. Murshed has participated in multiple shows and concerts as a singer from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver.

Born in Spain, Pilar América's sound is distinct, pure, and rooted in tradition. She combines classical music with flamenco, creating an innovative listener experience. Pilar began her studies with her grandmother and renowned guitarist, America Martinez, from whom she developed her exceptional technique and musicality. Pilar studied at the Superior Conservatory of Music of Seville and completed master's degrees in Music Education and Music Performance. Pilar won various classical guitar competitions across Spain and has performed in Portugal, France and Saudi Arabia. Pilar's interest in music beyond the classical world led her to create and lead projects with flamenco, Brazilian and Cuban influences. She has recorded her own compositions and arrangements of classical pieces with groups such as Son de Marte, Classenco and as a solo artist. Based out of Toronto, Pilar currently accompanies flamenco dance classes at Carmen Romero's Flamenco Studio and works with established Toronto-based artists like Alison McDonald and Benjamin Barrile.

Laurent Good is a visual artist born in South Pacific. He grew up in France before settling in Toronto. Laurent studied Politics in Belgium and presented his artworks to contests and juried exhibitions. Building on his success, he attended Liberal Arts classes at the Flemish Art Schools in Ghent and Brussels and European Art History in Madrid. His paintings result from a unique combination of characteristic pictural elements from Laurent’s regions of origin: the Mille-fleurs from Western France and the Polynesian Tattoo as a way to cover his paintings with monochromatic floral patterns or to add narrative elements. These elements are usually traditional Maori drawings used for tattoos that Laurent revised to connect with a part of his identity for a contemporary adaptation. Through his paitings, whose meticulous creation requires time and patience, Laurent tries to convey the sensations experienced by people with Sensory Processing Sensitivity. Dealing with autistic conditions, he seeks to show the impossible exit from mental blur and a representation of the ways found to balance oneself facing this pressure.

Sahar Askary Hemmat is a Toronto-based multimedia artist. She was born and raised in Iran. In 2018 she completed her bachelor’s in Photography at Tehran University of Art. In 2020, she completed her MFA in Documentary Media at Ryerson University. Her artworks include a wide range of artistic mediums, including photo, video, textile and installation. The subjects of her works are driven by her lived experience. They reflect on the ideas of “memory” and “place” and how place identity is created. She uses auto-ethnographic approaches for her art creation as an approach to self-reflect on and has been part of several group exhibitions in Canada and worldwide. Her latest exhibition, Gav Khouni, held at Prefix Gallery in 2021, is a multimedia installation looking at the intersection of landscape and identity. She is also the recipient of various awards, including the 2018 Mort Geenberg award in documentary media.

Omid Shakiba is a refugee filmmaker in Toronto who has directed many documentaries, fiction and experimental films, TV programs, and promos. As a university lecturer he taught filmmaking and media courses to undergraduate students for four years in Kurdistan of Iraq. He came to Canada in April 2017 by invitation of the Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival and began working in the film industry in Canada as a director and cinematographer. In 2019 he started teaching the 'Camera and Lighting' course at Centennial College and since then has taught different courses such as Directing, Core Production II, and TV Production Process in the Honours Bachelor of Film and Television program (BFTV) at Sheridan College/Oakville campus. He has been the recipient of RBC Newcomer Arts Award in 2019, and received a Toronto Arts Council grant for newcomer and refugee artists by mentorship of Ingrid Veninger.

Irina Lerman graduated from Vaganova Ballet Academy as a professional ballet artist in 2011 and 2016 with a Master's Degree in Choreography. Irina presented her first choreographic production, Mind Games (music by Max Richter), on The Mariinsky Theatre stage at 21. Irina performed classic and contemporary productions during her seven years at the Mariinsky Theatre, working with international choreographers like Sasha Waltz and William Forsythe. She won a Silver Medal at the International Competition in Riga, Latvia, produced independent ballet projects, and collaborated with artists, composers, filmmakers, and designers. Early in her profession Irina taught as a Guest Teacher and Choreographer at Ballet Intensives in Europe and the USA and participated in the Netherlands Dance Theatre SI and workshops by renowned choreographers Wayne McGregor and Edward Clug. In 2019 Irina joined the Atlantic Ballet of Canada as a Lead Soloist. In 2020, Irina moved to Ontario, where she currently shares her passion for ballet as a teacher, choreographer, and dancer.

New this year, we also celebrated noted finalists who did not receive the award, but who are doing outstanding work. 
Congratulations to the 2022 finalists:

Mahsa Alikhani was born in Tehran, Iran in 1981. She completed her formal studies in architecture and photography at Azad University. For the past ten years, her photography and installations have focused on Iran's social and cultural issues. Her work is a combination of imaginative and real structures and forms. Mahsa often integrates a degree of irony into her work, engaging elements from contemporary life, culture and art history. She has held solo and group exhibitions in Tehran and various other European and North American cities. She is currently working and living in Canada.

Tica Holiday​ ​(formerly Holiday Soul) is a 27-year-old singer/songwriter who moved to ​Tkaronto/​Toronto from the Grand Bahama Island in 2016. She is a Black Caribbean/West Indian woman who is queer and wants her music to cross barriers of skin colour, sexuality, gender identity, and religion. She received training as a national choir lead soloist in the Grand Bahama National Youth Choir. She competed in national art competitions for Solo Jazz Pop Vocal and Original Piece Solo. She played shows with her acoustic band Tica and the Two Left Feet and has headlined the Red Rose Ball (towards HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment), various Food Expos, Governors' Balls, and numerous events around the island chain and in Toronto. Tica released her single Black Love ft. Tona in 2020 and will be releasing her first EP in Canada in 2022. Her influences include Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, 90's R&B groups, and writers like Ne-Yo, The Dream, Norah Jones, and Frank Ocean.

Maryam Kheiry, also known as Sora, has more than ten years' experience in Art Education at the Art Universities and Art Schools in Iran. She has been a member of the Iranian Painters Society since 2005 and has participated in many solo and group exhibitions in different countries. In the fall of 2019, she moved to Canada. Sora is a visual artist and an art researcher. Her research depicts the relationship between images and texts and media as a tool in contemporary art. Her main research field is Social Semiology of Images, emphasizing “Look” Semiology. She has crafted her thesis in this field, and she has written articles and attended international conferences on this subject. In her artworks, her main media are painting and drawing, and she uses other media such as photos in her works. Her artwork is inspired by feminine elements and fertility concepts combined with natural elements like plants and flowers.

Metha Oz (he/they) is a Canadian, Tkaronto/Toronto-based (since 2016) artist of Kurdish, Arab, and Turkmen descent, born in the southeastern Anatolia region. His multidisciplinary practices include installation, participatory work, and sculpture to explore all aspects of institutionalized incidents in society. Metha’s artworks engage the viewer sociologically, politically and conceptually, calling their attention to the perception of social issues and traditional norms. Metha earned a bachelor of honours from the BFA Sculpture program at the Anadolu University in Turkey in 2010 and has pursued further studies at OCAD University in the Cross-Disciplinary Art: Life Studies BFA. Metha has held two solo exhibitions in 2009 and 2014 and exhibited in many group shows, including two In Situ Multi-Arts festivals at The Small Arms Inspection Building in Mississauga, ON, in 2016 and 2018. Since 2007, his artworks have been held in corporate and public collections and exhibited in galleries, art fairs and screenings across Turkey and Canada.