The AMY Project wins the 2017 Arts For Youth Award

Left to Right: Mayor John Tory, Artistic Director Nikki Shaffeeullah, General Manager Rachel Penny, Award Supporters Sandra and Jim Pitblado, and CEO of Toronto Arts Foundation Claire Hopkinson. Photo by Sean Howard

Left to Right: Mayor John Tory, Artistic Director Nikki Shaffeeullah, General Manager Rachel Penny, Award Supporters Sandra and Jim Pitblado, and CEO of Toronto Arts Foundation Claire Hopkinson. Photo by Sean Howard

A Message from Artistic Director Nikki Shaffeeullah
May 19, 2017

Dear AMY community,

We are still a bit bowled over at having won the 2017 Toronto Arts Foundation Arts For Youth Award Wednesdayat the Mayor’s Arts Lunch. Our work can be so process-based that it’s easy to forget to zoom out and appreciate the creative communities we have built and the impact our work has. We are so moved by this prize, and by the accompanying support from our friends and colleagues from far and wide!

The cash prize that accompanies the award is a tremendous gift. As a small organization, we design our programming to be as impactful as possible in the most efficient ways. This unrestricted $20,000 prize will allow us to bolster our existing programming, and to dip our toes into projects we’ve been dreaming of for a while – projects that will better serve the young artists already in our community, and those we look forward to connecting with! We look forward to sharing more about our plans in the months to come.

Reflecting on the legacy of our company, General Manager Rachel Penny and I are ever grateful to those who nurtured this organization through its first decade: Claire Calnan, Pasha Mckenley, Weyni Mengesha, Paul Beauchamp, and others. I’m amazed at how many people I meet week to week in Toronto who are excited to share how they have been impacted by AMY at some point – past participants, mentors, designers, and many more. When I became AMY’s Artistic Director in January 2015, I was determined to honour the legacy that the company had built through its then-decade of existence, and to grow AMY in ways that respond to the artistic, social, and political needs of our constantly expanding community. These goals continue to drive our work.

AMY is what it is because of who it is: the dozens of mentors who invest time and love in their mentees’ artistic and social development; our incredible and hardworking directors, who have included the likes of Toronto superstars Julia-Hune Brown, Gein Wong, Nicole Stamp, Sarah Kitz, Mumbi Tindyeweba, Lisa Codrington, Maya Rabinovitch, and Megan Watson; the amazing designers who work with us; the constant support of Toronto’s arts community, especially our current and past partners at Canadian Stage,Jumblies Theatre, SummerWorks Performance Festival,Theatre Passe Muraille, and elsewhere; the guidance and encouragement of our board of directors; the generous financial support of many great individuals, businesses, and government partners, and of course, our amazing network of AMY participants. To take one’s own lived experiences and craft them into theatre requires a bravery and creativity that many working artists never endeavor to explore; AMY’s young artists do it every year. They do it even when they don’t have stories like their own represented on stages and screens elsewhere. They do it with honesty, grace, and skill, and we work in service of them. We work to build frameworks to help transform performing arts industries into more equitable and interesting places; to make generous and glorious space for storytellers who otherwise have to work thrice as hard to receive a platform; to work against the systemic barriers to artistic training that permeate larger institutions; and to nurture the creation of the kinds of theatre that we want to experience.

On behalf of the whole AMY community, thank you to the Toronto Arts Foundation and the Arts for Youth Award benefactors for the 2017 Arts for Youth Award! We are energized, grateful, and excited to deepen our work.

Nikki Shaffeeullah

Artistic Director, The AMY Project