Spotlight Recognition Program 2023

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.
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.
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 In-Person Program

People dancing in groups of 2 in an open area outside Photo by Mirna Chacin

Dance Together Festival – York Region

Organized by Dance Together Festival
York Region, ON
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.

People wearing masks depicting various animals. Courtesy of Miki Tamblyn

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.

Best Collaborative Program

Art display on a wall showing many pictures of nature and people. Photo by Sarah Arfan

A Place I Call Home Halton

Organized by artist Faisal Anwar with Town of Oakville, Town of Halton Hills, Town of Milton, Museums of Burlington & Halton Region
Halton Region, ON

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.

A person holding a large drum Photo by Sarah Arfan

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.

Warren Garrett Inclusive Programming Award

Groups of people sitting at tables in Pierre Berton Heritage Centre Photo courtesy of City of Vaughan

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.

2 people looking at art on a canvas in a room

From One Queer To Another

Organized by Jude Akrey with City of Guelph
Guelph, ON

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.

People’s Choice

2 people admiring intricate art scuptures indoors World of Threads, Oakville Culture Days 2023. Photo by Sarah Arfan

World of Threads

Organized by World of Threads Festival with Town of Oakville
Oakville, ON

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.

A person striking a post on a stage wearing distinctive clothing Photo by Sarah Arfan

South Asian Mommies of Milton Cultural Hour

Organized by Arts Milton
Milton, ON

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.