Faculty of Education Master's student Collette Murray has been awarded the 2019 Community Arts Award by Toronto Arts Foundation’s Neighbourhood Arts Network. The $10,000 award sponsored by MOD Developments was presented to Murray this past October at a reception at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery.
Also known as “Miss Coco”, Murray is an award-winning artist, social entrepreneur, cultural arts programmer, dance educator, mentor, performer and writer. She is the Director of Miss Coco Murray, a mobile dance education business and the Artistic Director of Coco Collective, an intergenerational, multi-disciplinary team of artists offering collaborative arts-based projects. Her performance background includes traditional West African drum/dance and Caribbean folk dance. In 2013, Murray was the recipient of the Canadian Dance Assembly's "I love Community" dance award.
In 2014, Murray held dance workshops in South Africa during her YorkU study abroad courses. She also taught the creative arts program at Hamutsha Primary School and facilitated a Ministry of Education dance workshop for 200 educators/principals for the Limpopo District School Board in South Africa. She continues to develop cultural arts-based opportunities across Ontario, such as a dance mentorship program funded by Ontario’s Black Youth Action Plan and Afrodance 101, a completed SPARK project with the City of Toronto's Cultural Hotspot.
As an MEd candidate in the Faculty of Education, Murray’s research focuses on the successes and challenges of culturally responsive artists teaching in the Ontario education system. This research centers the experiences and perspectives of African, Caribbean and Black arts educators working with diverse student populations. The findings offer recommendations to boards, educators and administration to better understand the cultural artist’s role, circumstances faced and how their culturally relevant art impacts Ontario classrooms.
“This is an excellent recognition of Collette’s critical and creative work which is adding to the development of artistic skills and furthering of cultural knowledge, not only among students and educators, but also the wider community,” said Faculty of Education professor and current Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora Carl James. “Indeed, Collette’s international reach and her innovative and meaningful work toward the advancement of African, Caribbean and Black art and culture affirm how much she is well-deserving of this award.”
Established in 2013 as the Arts Diversity Award, the award was re-named the Community Arts Award in 2018. The $10,000 cash prize celebrates an individual that has made a significant contribution in Toronto by working with, in and for communities, while creating access and inclusion to arts and culture. This year's award jury included spoken-word poet Britta Badour; Charles Hong, artistic director of Ensemble Jeng Yi; Lindy Kinoshameg, community engagement facilitator at Young People's Theatre; lyricist and spoken-word poet Brittany Exmiranda Manu; and multidisciplinary artist Nadijah Robinson.
"This overwhelming honour recognizes my unwavering dedication to ensuring generations and neighbourhoods experience the multiple ways cultural arts and knowledge impacts communities," said Murray upon receiving the award. "This award affirms that I continue my socially innovative pathway so that cultural arts work thrives and that African, Caribbean and Black creative excellence is valued."