MASC Arts Awards 2023

What an amazing evening! Over 200 people joined us in celebrating creative youth in our region at the MASC Arts Awards. Many thanks to our supporters and partner: French Family Foundation, boyden and the National Arts Centre.

Congratulations to all the nominees! And here are the 22nd annual MASC Arts Awards Winners:

Rishika Malhotra-Burt

MASC Arts Award Winner – Dance

“Teachers care for their students, they encourage them, they guide them, but Rishika has my full respect as a student, a dancer, and a choreographer. I cannot overemphasize their maturity, their willingness to lead, their desire to learn and their humility that makes working with them easy. They have the confidence of someone much older than themselves. Rishika will follow their dream and make it a reality; I have no doubt. They are driven. They have goals.They have focus. They have the right attitude to make anything they want a reality.”

Nominated by Maria Maclean, Hadley Junior High School

Scholarship donated by The School of Dance

Amarissa Nwabuisi

MASC Arts Award Winner – Drama

“Amarissa has been an exceptional drama student of mine for two years now. She has performed in two plays The Day the Internet Died and The Jungle Book. During this time, I have seen her grow considerably. She has become much more confident and showed real leadership during this year’s production. She really deserves this recognition, and this scholarship will give her the opportunity to shine”.

Nominated by Benjamin Postin, St. Francis Xavier High School

Scholarship donated by The Ottawa Children’s Theatre

Jaydon Moncrieffe
MASC Arts Award Winner – Music

“Jaydon is very deserving of recognition for his hard work and dedication to music. He has blown everyone away with what he has taught himself these last few months. Jaydon has taken it upon himself to learn the clarinet during his own time, both at home and at recess since starting to play in October. He is an eager participant in our beginner band and comes to the Music room regularly to practice and plays songs at a higher difficulty level than what we are working on in class or in band. He has a natural gift, and I am so grateful he has found something that really gives him the opportunity to shine.”

Nominated by Ashley Cardinal, Hawthorne Public School

Scholarship donated by Allegro Music Schools

Najah Meneem

MASC Arts Award Winner – Visual Arts

“Najah demonstrates exceptional focus, attention to detail and determination in all that she does. She always goes above and beyond and shows great leadership in our classroom. Najah is a leader, she is kind, and she is mature beyond her years. She is curious about her craft, and she is resourceful when looking for answers to her questions and takes great pride in her work. She is resilient and follows the creative process diligently until she is happy with her final product. I believe that these qualities all contribute to her success as a self-taught artist.”

Nominated by Mackenzie Jones, St Mother Teresa High School

Scholarship donated by the Ottawa School of Art

Kaya Hipwell
MASC Arts Award Winner – Literary Arts

“Kaya’s love for reading and writing is evident through her dedication and love of the craft.  She is creative, kind, curious, and brave, which is an ideal combination for storytelling. Her writing is inspiring, unique, and refreshing; her descriptive writing and word choice are masterful.  Her hard work, imagination and passion will surely leave a mark in this world.  It is exciting to see where she will journey with her calling.  It is an honour to stand behind Kaya Hipwell.”

Nominated by Erin McHardy, Hadley Junior High School

Writing mentorship with local author, Laurie Gough

Molly Ellens Award Winner

Claudia, Daijah and Mia Kakebeeke from York Street Public School.

Daijah Celestin

“Daijah Celestin is a talented and creative artist with the hopes of becoming an interior designer in the future. She has created multiple pieces of art for school and community events such as the York Street Public School 100th anniversary open house and the OCDSB Black Excellence Celebration. She is a girl of few words who speaks and connects with others through her art, and whois developing the confidence to shine by making York Street Public School and Lowertown a more beautiful place to learn and grow.”

Nominated by Mia Kakebeeke, York Street Public School

Prize donated by the Ellens family and DeSerres Ottawa

Jennifer Cayley Award Winner

Leticia Alvarez

Leticia is a trilingual twenty-two-year-old Canadian-Colombian living in New Zealand, in her fourth year of undergraduate law, English, and politics.

Leticia has had her work published in various publications and recently won the University of Auckland’s creative writing competition. She was nominated by the Law School as their representative at Georgetown’s Centre for Transnational Legal Studies at King’s College in London, in 2024.

In 2013 Leticia won the MASC Arts Award in Literary Arts, and she was mentored by Ottawa author, Frances Itani, a friendship that continues to this day.

The MASC Arts Awards winners received a year-long scholarship to pursue studies in their art discipline with: The School of Dance; Ottawa Children’s Theatre; Allegro Music Schools; Ottawa School of Art;  and mentorship with local author, Laurie Gough. All nominated students received commemorative name tags designed by Aurora Jade.

Aurora MASC artist.

Interview with three of the young MASC Arts Awards winners on CBC Ottawa on All In a Day

Listen to an interview with three of the young MASC Arts Awards winners as they share their feelings and apprehensions about public speaking on stage. They express their joys regarding the chance to benefit from their scholarship. Check out this CBC Ottawa interview on All In a Day with Alan Neal.

Congrats, Amarissa, Jaydon, and Najah on a great segment!

Amarissa Nwabuisi, MASC Arts Award Winner – Drama 
Jaydon Moncrieffe, MASC Arts Award Winner – Music 
Najah Meneem, MASC Arts Award Winner – Visual Arts 

Community Arts Educator Award 2023

MASC Executive Director Micheline Shoebridge and MASC artist JustJamaal ThePoet presented the Community Arts Educator Award to Jesse Stewart, award-winning composer, percussionist, visual artist, researcher, and educator, at the Ottawa Arts Council Awards earlier this month. We are delighted to see the work of arts educators being recognized in our community.

Micheline Shoebridge and Jesse Stewart
Nomination of Jesse Stewart

Interview with Laurie Gough on Rogers TV

What does it mean to be a writing mentor?  Journalist, travel writer, and memoirist Laurie Gough has seen the world and written about it – and now she’s in for a new adventure!

For the next year, Laurie will be mentoring grade 8 student Kaya Hipwell, who won the 2023 MASC Arts Awards for Literary Arts.

Find out about Laurie’s writing career and the incredible bond she and Kaya already share in this fun interview with Derick Fage on Daytime Ottawa, Rogers TV

Laurie Gough being interviewed by Derick Fage.
Laurie Gough and her mentee, Kaya Hipwell, winner of the Literary Arts Award at the 22nd annual MASC Arts Awards ceremony at the National Arts Centre.

Amanda Fox Powwow Workout on CTV Ottawa Morning Live

MASC artist Amanda Fox shared her Powwow Workout on CTV Ottawa Morning Live.

Amanda Fox is Ojibwe from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, and is based in Ottawa, Ontario. Amanda is a jingle dress dancer, singer, drummer, beadwork artist, sewing artist, powwow workout instructor, and workshop facilitator.  She started dancing as soon as she could walk and has a profound knowledge in powwow dance and protocols.  She started offering powwow workouts as a way to share her culture while promoting physical health. 

A powwow is a gathering to celebrate First Nations culture through dance, songs, food and crafts, and is open to all. This 30-minute high-intensity workout will incorporate powwow dance steps from different styles of powwow dance and the sounds of contemporary and traditional powwow music into a simple, follow-along workout. 

Gerald Dragon creates a legacy of combining art with community development

MASC sat down with Gerald Dragon of Sandy Hill Community Health Centre to chat about his incredible legacy of combining arts programming into his community development work. Gerald is also a member of the MASC Board of Directors and the host of CHUO 89.1 FM’s Raiders of the Lost Art.

You’ve worked with the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre since 2011, and you’re currently the Community Development and Engagement team lead. What motivated you to get involved with this organization, and what has kept you there?    

What brought me to the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre was an opportunity to work with the Community Development team as a Child and Youth Engagement Worker. What has kept me there has been the work that I’ve been engaged in within the Strathcona Heights neighbourhood in Sandy Hill. This is an Ottawa Community Housing neighborhood located at the intersection of Mann Ave and Chapel Crescent, and on the other end between Lees Avenue and Chapel Street. I’ve been fortunate to have seen many of the children I first worked with grow up to become young adults, going to high school and then moving on to university. It’s been an experience that has brought utter joy just witnessing their development.

Gerald with his arm around Noélia, MASC’s intern from Argentina

How did you become involved with MASC?

I became involved with MASC as an attendee of the first Awesome Arts Festival that took place in the Lowertown community in 2011. I was invited by another colleague who previously worked at the Lowertown Community Resource Centre to attend this event that they were involved with. I was completely blown away during this festival and afterwards sought out the person who was responsible on the arts side [Micheline Shoebridge, MASC’s current Executive Director] to understand how we might work together to bring this spectacular celebration to the community I was working in. The following year in 2012 the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre held the first Awesome Arts program and festival in our community and we’ve continued to do so ever year since.

Gerald and Micheline Shoebridge

As a frequent collaborator on MASC projects, how do you think the arts can help strengthen communities, including the various partner organizations involved?

The arts have the ability to strengthen communities by way of bringing people together. They offer an opportunity for those who may not usually sit side by side to be able to work on a project and see it through until the end and then step back and marvel at the achievement of what was accomplished by working together.

For myself this has been an insightful process to witness because, for an organization which has as part of its mandate providing equitable opportunities for people to participate in their own health and well-being, the arts help to play that role, allowing people to bring the strength that they each have to any particular project. 

Within the perspective of community development – working with neighbourhoods to identify their issues and challenges and then coming together to identify potential solutions – the arts offer another pathway for people to talk to each other about those problems and allows for a different method of coming to solutions.

How would you describe MASC’s Awesome Arts en folie program and festival to those who have never experienced it before?

It’s AWESOME and that’s just it. It’s an 8-week crash course in various artistic disciplines being guided by world-class artists who are on the artist roster of MASC.  Throughout the years we have done some amazing workshops such as: body shadow theatre; various dance forms including Bollywood, Afro-Caribbean, Ghanian, Bboy/Bgirl; creating music and poetry videos; animation; West African drumming, just to name a few. And the final week we put on a festival where all of the participants involved in the workshops get the opportunity to take centre stage and share their creation with their friends, family, and the larger community. The festival is reminiscent of a concert: the lights, the performances, and all the energy coming from the crowd.

Young performers at MASC’s Awesome Arts Festival

Could you share examples of community arts projects that have had a positive impact on the individuals involved or on the community as a whole? 

We’ve done several community arts projects that I feel have left a lasting impact within the community.  A few of those are at Viscount Alexander Public School where over the years we have created four large murals with MASC artist Claudia Salguero, which can be found on the outside of the school as well as on the inside of the school.

One in particular is on the very front of the building and is able to be seen as people go up and down Mann Avenue, which is a heavily trafficked street. It can also be seen when going between the O-Train station at the University of Ottawa to Lees and vice versa. It stands out due to the vibrant colors and is just so noticeable. I’ve heard from people who know that I was part of the project how much the mural brightens the streetscape simply by being there.  This is a perfect example of how beautification of the spaces and places within our neighborhoods can contribute to a positive sense of well-being. 

Viscount Alexander Public School mural, visible from Mann Avenue

We have also been involved in the creation of music, poetry and animation videos which will live forever on the internet and get to be viewed over and over again by not just community members and participants but also anyone else who happens to stumble across Awesome Arts. This is a very significant way of leaving behind a legacy with a project that you have been involved in.

Gerald Dragon stands behind music artist Le R Premier at work

What are your plans to keep the Sandy Hill community thriving, and what role do you see the arts playing in that?

I envision continuing to find opportunities to partner with various arts organizations, including MASC, where we can demonstrate the power of the arts and its potential to change individuals as well as communities.

Asian Heritage Month

May is Asian Heritage Month! 🇮🇳🇱🇧🇺🇿🇯🇵

From Bollywood dance to Japanese drumming, Asian Heritage Month brings together cultural traditions from across Asia. Book a MASC artist and discover a unique artistic practice from the world’s largest continent!

MASC Arts Awards celebrates young people with an exceptional passion for the arts

MASC Arts Awards is a celebration of students in Grades 6 to 8 who are passionate, creative and would benefit from support to explore their artistic development outside the school setting. This year’s awards presentation is hosted by Stefan Keyes and features a special performance by Honorary Patron and MASC artist Claudia Salguero.

The 5 winners – to be announced at the 22nd MASC Arts Awards on Friday, May 12, 2023, at the National Arts Centre – will receive a year-long scholarship to pursue studies in their art discipline with: Allegro Music Schools; Ottawa Children’s Theatre; Ottawa School of Art; The School of Dance; and mentorship with local author, Laurie Gough. A free MASC workshop will be offered to the class of each winning student.

Two more awards will be presented at this gala event. The Molly Ellens Award, named for a beloved volunteer, offers a generous supply of visual arts materials to a young artist. The Jennifer Cayley Award, named for MASC’s co-founder, is awarded to a previous MASC Arts Award winner who, years later, still incorporates the arts into their everyday life: this year the recipient is Leticia Alvarez, who received the Literary Arts Award ten years ago.

Earlier this year, Ottawa-Gatineau teachers were invited to nominate students for these awards, according to the following criteria: the student demonstrates an exceptional passion for the arts; and the student has had limited opportunities for arts education beyond the school setting. All nominated students (24 in total, listed below) will receive awards designed by Aurora Finkle, a Plains Cree artist from Peepeekisis First Nation.

This year’s award is designed by Aurora Finkle, a local singer, songwriter, visual artist, and Indigenous craftsperson. She is Plains Cree from Peepeekisis First Nation.

Aurora participated in the 2022-2023 MASC Reconciliation Legacy Indigenous Internship that pairs emerging Indigenous artists with MASC artists to collaborate on school and community projects that include Indigenous content and teachings.

“Writing hasn’t just been weaved into my life, it’s been the driving factor behind most things. I don’t go more than two days without writing something, or I feel like something is off kilter. Who knows if I’d still be at it, if you hadn’t believed in me then. I have no idea what my life would look like otherwise. You really did just handover a box of absolute happiness, faith, and opportunity, to a thirteen-year-old on the cusp of discovering something really incredible. The night of the MASC Arts Awards event, I told my parents, ‘I feel like an empty glass and tonight was just a jug of happiness being poured in until it overflowed.’ What a gift. There’s so many more things I could say, but for now, I just want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

Leticia Alvarez, MASC Literary Arts Award Winner 2013

Leticia Alvarez currently studies at the University of Aukland and recently won the New Zealand Red Cross International Humanitarian Law contest – and met former prime minister Jacinda Ardern – for a short story she wrote.

This year she receives the Jennifer Cayley Award for continuing to incorporate the arts into her everyday life.

“I had recently joined [a theatre] school on scholarship through an arts education organization called MASC and had way less formal training than my peers. It was pivotal because I realized my life opportunities didn’t have to be limited by my financial circumstances.”

Stefan Keyes, MASC Theatre Award Winner 2000

#DidYouKnow that CTV Ottawa news anchor Stefan Keyes was one of the first students to win a MASC Arts Award?

Nowadays Stefan stays involved with MASC’s Board of Directors and hosts this year’s MASC Arts Awards.

National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month!

From spoken word to song lyrics to illustrated verses, poetry comes in all forms. Book one of MASC’s wordsmiths and discover the limitless possibilities of language. 

Amanda West Lewis, JustJamaal ThePoet, Eleanor Crowder, Mehdi Cayenne

Earth Day

Celebrate Earth Day with MASC Artists 

How do you show your love for the planet? Leading up to Earth Day, discover the many ways in which our artists take action for the environment through the arts. Book environmentally-themed workshops and performances in visual arts, music, theatre, storytelling and more!

Claudia Salguero, Chris McKhool, Jennifer Cayley, David Finkle, Rhonda Doxtator, cj fleury, Skeleton Key Theatre

News: Bollywood music video

CBC Ottawa’s Olivia Robinson dropped by Sandy Hill Community Health Centre’s March Break camp, as part of Awesome Arts where the kids are not only the dancers in a Bollywood music video – they’re also the directors.

Don’t miss the premiere of this Bollywood masterpiece at the Awesome Arts Festival on Friday March 31st in the auditorium at Viscount Alexander Public School. Book your FREE tickets at

March Newsletter

There’s so much to celebrate this month! From Francophonie Month to International Women’s Day, plus three of MASC’s popular festivals, our team is keeping busy in March! Read this month’s newsletter for MASC highlights and an inspiring interview with Roslyn Bern, President of Leacross Foundation.