Spotlight Recognition Program

The Spotlight Awards celebrate exemplary programming taking place each year as part of the Ontario Culture Days Festival. This year’s categories celebrate the creativity and ingenuity of local organizers who have brought events to Ontario audiences.

Both event organizers and festival attendees are invited to nominate programs that they feel have exemplified the themes below. Organizers are welcome to nominate their own programs, as well as others.

The winners of the 2023 Spotlight Recognition Program will be awarded a VIA travel gift certificate.

In order to be eligible for Spotlight, programming must have been registered as an Ontario Culture Day event and taken place in the province of Ontario over the Ontario Culture Days festival (Sep 22 – Oct 15, 2023).



Best In-person Program

In-person programming often allows for deep, meaningful engagement. This award recognizes organizers who offered creative in-person participation that resulted in an enriching, but safe and welcoming audience experience.

People’s Choice

People’s Choice is an open-category accolade that allows the general public to recognize any program and its overall contribution to the Ontario Culture Days festival. The nominee that receives the greatest number of votes online will be awarded the Spotlight.

Best Collaborative Program

Progress in arts programming is often fuelled by collaboration. The most unique events are the result of various artists or groups coming together to create something new. This category will recognize events hosted by two or more organizers, particularly interdisciplinary programming.

Warren Garrett Inclusive Programming Award

There are many barriers that exist that deter people from participating in arts and culture. This category recognizes organizers who have shown leadership in designing festival programming that works towards dismantling these barriers, and fostering a more inclusive arts and culture sector in Ontario.

2023 Winners

Photo by Mirna Chacin

Best In-Person Program Winner

The Dance Together Festival transforms public spaces and celebrates community through diverse and inclusive dance workshops, vibrant visual art and live music. The festival offers free workshops and events that centre on positive and accessible dance experiences. Dance Together Festival York Region 2023 offered nine free community workshops with local professional dance artists in Afro-Caribbean, Hip-Hop, Partner Dance, Lindy Hop, Cuban Fusion, Bollywood, Merengue and French Folk Dance, as well as eight open studio sessions featuring Contemporary Dance, Popping, Krump and Stilt Dancing. Presented in partnership with the Dance Together Project, Assembly Park, KasheDance, dance Immersion, York Region Arts Council, City of Vaughan, City of Richmond Hill and Richmond Hill Public Library.Open to all ages, levels and abilities.

A masked group of individuals gathered around a table, engaged in conversation and interaction
Courtesy of Miki Tamblyn

Best In-Person Program Runner-Up

Animal Forms

Organized by Miki Tamblyn & the City of Guelph

Guelph, ON

Guelph Artist in Residence Miki Tamblyn led Animal Forms, an interactive mask-making project exploring shapeshifting, play, and empathy between species. Participants engaged in ‘sit-spot’ sessions with hand-made animal masks, culminating in a forest gathering and artist talk, fostering community connection and reflection on our relationships with the land and other-than-human beings.

A Place I Call Home Halton 2023. Photo courtesy of Sarah Arfan

Best Collaborative Program Winner

A Place I Call Home Halton was a community-driven artwork created and led by Oakville-based artist Faisal Anwar exploring the concept of “HOME” in the context of migration, societal changes, and instability. Participants were invited to share their interpretations of home through images on social media, contributing to a large-scale installation projected on walls and monitors in prominent locations within the Halton Region.

Photo by Sarah Arfan

Best Collaborative Program Runner-Up

World Beats

Organized by Arts Milton

Milton, ON

World Beats, the opening event of Milton Culture Days 2023, brought together African drums by Akwaba Cultural Exchange, rhythmic music by 16 Miles Out, bucket drumming by Crash Rhythm, and beats from the Indian Dhol from Bollywood West Dance Studio, in a musical fusion that celebrated rhythm and unity. The evening highlighted diverse cultural traditions, encouraging active audience participation and fostering cultural appreciation within Milton.

Photo courtesy of City of Vaughan

Warren Garrett Inclusive Programming Award Winner

Daniel's Cafe

Organized by Daniel Xia with City of Vaughan

Vaughan, ON

Daniel’s Café (created by a youth living with disabilities), which took place at Pierre Berton Heritage Centre, in Vaughan, was an interactive social club where participants could enjoy live music performances and play games specially designed for youth with intellectual disabilities, fostering social interaction and mental health awareness. The program aimed to provide services to the marginalized population with disabilities including Autism, Down Syndrome, and others with mental disabilities.

Photo courtesy of Jude Akrey

Warren Garrett Inclusive Programming Award Runner-Up

As part of the 2023 City of Guelph Artist in Residence project, Jude Akrey organized arts-based skills workshops, an artist talk, and a drop-in art sharing event throughout the summer. Reflective artworks based on each event were showcased in an exhibition during the Culture Days Festival at Guelph Civic Museum. The initiative, known as “From One Queer to Another,” aimed to fill gaps in local queer communities by providing lateral opportunities for empowerment through arts-based programming, fortifying Guelph’s queer communities through shared experiences and dedicated place-making.

Woman examining textile art on display.
Photo by Sarah Arfan

People's Choice Winner

World of Threads Festival is an international showcase of local, national and international contemporary fibre and textile art. Festival 2023 features 426 artworks by 115 artists from 15 countries. It’s a celebration of art primarily made by women. There are thematic group exhibitions, solo shows and installations throughout Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre in Oakville. The festival is being widely celebrated through in-person attendance and online engagement. It is run and curated by Dawne Rudman and Gareth Bate, with the help of a team of dedicated volunteers.

Photo by Sarah Arfan

People's Choice Runner-Up

Taking place at the FirstOntario Arts Centre Milton, this event featured an hour of immersive dance performances highlighting the diverse cultures of South Asia, and evoking a sense of nostalgia through tastes, festivities, language, and audience participation.