Cash prizes totalling more than $40,000 were handed out Thursday afternoon at the 2011 Toronto Arts Foundation awards ceremony, held as part of the sixth annual Mayor's Arts Awards lunch.
Mayor Rob Ford was a no-show at what would have been his first Mayor's Arts Awards. Presenting greetings on behalf of the city was Councillor Gary Crawford, chair of the recently formed Mayor's Task Force on Arts and Theatres.
The glamour of the gridiron trumped the lure of the arts for the mayor. Press secretary Adrienne Batra confirmed Thursday afternoon that the mayor was attending the last game of the season for the football team he coaches, the Don Bosco Eagles.
"It was unfortunate that he had this long-standing previous commitment," she said. "It had been established some time ago that Councillor Crawford would attend."
A spokesperson for the awards said that "up until yesterday [Wednesday] we were trying to make the schedule work so the mayor could be there . . . We knew he wasn't going to be there for the whole thing," but the hope was he could make at least a brief appearance, perhaps at the pre-luncheon reception or in the opening minutes of the lunch.
In an e-mail, Claire Hopkinson, executive director of the Toronto Arts Foundation, said she only got the official word from Councillor Crawford on Thursday morning that "the mayor had an urgent matter to attend to and regrets that he could not make the lunch."
Hopkinson said the TAF "in the last couple of weeks . . . had been alerted that there may be some challenges with his busy schedule. We assured them that we would welcome his participation at any point."
The Eagles crushed their opponents, the Richview Saints, 34-0 and ended the season undefeated with five straight victories.
Meanwhile, at the lunch, five individuals or organizations were honoured before a crowd of 300 artists, politicians, business leaders, arts patrons and culture bureaucrats. Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre won the $15,000 Arts for Youth Award, prevailing over two other finalists, Young People's Theatre and Theatre Direct.
TD Bank Group, noted for its cultural education programs and support of music festivals, took the Toronto Arts and Business Award, besting the Drake Hotel and restaurateur Roberto Martella.
Native director and filmmaker Adam Garnet Jones, best known for his short films A Small Thing and Cloudbreaker, received the $7,500 RBC Emerging Artist Award, while composer and sound designer Reza Jacobs and interdisciplinary artist Donna-Michelle St. Bernard each received $1,000 as runners-up.
The Muriel Sherrin Award for international achievement in music, worth $10,000, went to artist, composer and educator Trichy Sankaran (fellow finalists were pianist and music director Andrew Burashko and singer-songwriter Rita Chiarelli).
Jane Marsland won the $10,000 Rita Davies and Margo Bindhardt Cultural Leadership Award. Marsland is co-founder of Arts 4 Change and has managed arts organizations for more than 35 years, including the Danny Grossman Dance Company.
Marsland's co-finalists were Don Oravec, executive director of the Writers' Trust of Canada, and Sudha Khandwani, artistic director of the Kalanidhi International Dance Festival and Conference.