2023 Recap

Colourful graphic for the Celebration for the Arts hosted by Mayor Gondek.

Celebration for the Arts hosted by Mayor Gondek

Thank you to everyone who joined Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Calgary’s arts and business leaders at the 2023 Celebration for the Arts hosted by Mayor Gondek on Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at the Jack Singer Concert Hall.

More than 800 people were in attendance for an evening featuring Poet Laureate Wakefield Brewster as emcee and more than 200 local performers as part of an exciting lineup that included Reuben & the Dark with the Bullhorn Singers, Madhuban Performing Arts, Klave Latin Band and a collective of Calgary choirs. Mayor Gondek had the audience on their feet when she joined the Heebee-jeebees band in a surprise performance, belting out Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart.

2023 Cultural Leaders Legacy Arts Awards recipients (clockwise from top left): Sahar Hakimi, Kadra Yusuf, Kristy North Peigan, Francis A. Willey, Tara Vahab, Karen Begg (EAR) and Cassie Suche.

The evening also recognized outstanding achievement in the arts with the presentation of the 2023 Cultural Leaders Legacy Arts Awards.

This year, 65 outstanding artists and organizations were nominated for the awards, representing just some of the artistry that vitalizes our city every day. In 2022, Calgary Arts Development invested $13.6 million through 676 grants to individual artists and arts organizations, which resulted in over 26,000 arts experiences with a participation rate of 4.4 million. The Cultural Leaders Legacy Arts Awards are one way of recognizing artistic accomplishment and community impact.

We thank all the nominees and congratulate this year’s recipients:

ATB Powering Possibility Through the Arts Award

2023 recipient: Elephant Artist Relief Society
Elephant Artist Relief Society (EAR) develops and presents programming that supports artists of all disciplines to help sustain their well-being and livelihood, and powers possibility for the Calgary artistic community.

Calgary Catholic Immigration Society New Canadian Artist Award

2023 recipient: Sahar Hakimi
Sahar Hakimi is a visual artist whose work focuses on the human rights of minority groups, and mental health and cognitive barriers, while providing meaningful experience and services for people with disabilities, children and newcomers.

The Legacy of Doug and Lous Mitchell Outstanding Calgary Artist Award

2023 recipient: Francis A. Willey
Francis A. Willey is a multi-disciplinary artist and a pillar of the arts community in Calgary. Throughout his long and illustrious career, Francis has worked as a fine art photographer, poet, musician, visual artist, art curator, and a mentor to emerging artists in Calgary.

Mamdani Arts Leadership

2023 recipient: Fatemeh Tara Vahab
Fatemeh Tara Vahab is board chair at LOUD Art Society. Tara’s leadership skills include steering LAS to attain CRA charity status, developing operational strategies, engaging volunteers, mentoring youth and advocating art therapy.

RBC Emerging Artist Award

2023 recipient: Cassandra Suche
Cassandra Suche is an exceptional talent who has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to Calgary through her experimental art practice and outstanding contributions to the city’s arts community.

Rozsa Foundation Emerging Arts Manager Award

2023 recipient: Kadra Yusuf
Kadra Yusuf, artistic director at EMMEDIA, has made measurable impact on diversity and inclusion, created innovative programs, and fostered productive collaborations, positioning herself and the organization for future success. Her dedication to serving the arts sector and contributions to the Calgary arts community make her extremely deserving of this award.

Indigenous Artist Award

2023 recipient: Kristy North Peigan
Kristy North Peigan is a member of the Piikani First Nation and a freelance artist and designer in Calgary. She is a graduate of the Alberta University of the Arts, and uses Indigenous teachings and subject matter to portray a modern view of Indigenous voices. This award is sponsored by TD Bank Group.


Event History

The Celebration for the Arts hosted by Mayor Gondek continues the annual tradition of bringing the business and arts sectors together to celebrate Calgary artists and arts organizations and recognize outstanding achievement. This event, held in collaboration with Mayor Jyoti Gondek, replaces the previous Mayor’s Lunch for Arts Champions, a collaboration between Calgary Arts Development and former Mayor Naheed Nenshi. It evolved from a longstanding event established by the Calgary Professional Arts Alliance (CPAA) in 1993 to bring Calgary’s business and art sectors together in recognition of the important relationships that foster artistic achievement in Calgary. The Mayor’s Luncheon for Business and the Arts, and later the Mayor’s Evening for Business and the Arts, enjoyed support from each civic administration since their inception. From 1993 to 2010, the CPAA and the Mayor’s Luncheon for Business and the Arts recognized over 30 outstanding arts and business partnership and over 20 emerging, established and innovative Calgary artists.

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