ARTS & CULTURE NOMINEES

For enriching the culture of our community through creation or promotion of the arts on a volunteer or professional basis.

Award Presented by:

Karem Orellana, Scotiabank

SB® Wordmark Red CMYKc E
Erin Bow

Erin Bow

Erin Bow is a creative writer with ten published books including three volumes of poetry and six novels. She is internationally known, published by major houses, including Simon & Schuster and Disney Books, with more 100,000 books sold and translations in ten languages. She is active in our community, where she visits schools, judges writing contests and runs programs at the Kitchener and Waterloo public libraries. She regularly appears in local venues such as the Watershed Writers radio/podcast program the Wild Writers Literary Festival. Erin worked at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, most recently as the Senior Science Writer. Erin is a strong advocate for people who might otherwise be left out, most particularly neurodivergent people and members of the LGBTQ+ community. With Erin Bow, we have a literary rockstar in our midst, one who puts her adopted hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo on the global literary map.
Roshan James

Roshan James

Roshan James (she/her/elle) is a Tibetan-Indian multidisciplinary artist, poet, and musician, living as a settler in southwestern Ontario. As part of the South Asian diaspora, with a spiritual connection to nature, humanity, and realms of consciousness, Roshan researches and creates to connect the everyday with timelessness. Entrenched in her work is anti-oppression advocacy and representation of marginalized, melanated voices, and her work creates spaces that make KW beautiful, connecting people to and through the arts. She is deeply involved in advocating for mental health and the arts - Roshan is on the Board of Governors for Lutherwood Canada and she volunteers with the Waterloo Region Community Foundation. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts, English Literature, from York University, summa cum laude.
Susan Koswan

Susan Koswan

For the past 30 years, Susan Koswan has sought creative ways to promote a culture of sustainability. This includes managing nine Dandelion Festivals in Waterloo, the 6-part Green Scene show, the KW Raging Grannies, and multiple speaking engagements. Her writing credits include a published novel, and both volunteer and paid positions on The Record’s community editorial board, writing book reviews and, since 2018, as a bi-weekly freelance environmental columnist. Knowing the importance of political engagement, Susan has run as both a provincial and municipal candidate, and collaborated to host local election forums through the Grand River Environmental Network executive.
https://womenoftheyear.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/cropped-WOY-Brand-Mark.png

Raechele Lovell

Raechele Lovell, based in Kitchener, ON, embodies a lifelong passion for the arts. Rooted in her father's steel drum band, she found her rhythm early on and blossomed into a multifaceted artist. As the Executive Artistic Director of DiverseWorks Dance Co., Raechele champions Afrocentric artistry and decolonial storytelling. Her work transcends the stage, advocating for equitable access to the arts and empowering communities. Through her art and activism, Raechele strives to create sustainable opportunities for Black leadership and combat economic inequalities. She inspires a path towards a more inclusive and equitable future.Through her company, DiverseWorks Dance Co., Raechele has created a space that not only nurtures artistic talent but also fosters a sense of community and belonging. Her commitment to equity and inclusion is evident in every aspect of her work, from the stories she tells on stage to the dancers she mentors off stage.
Sue Nally

Sue Nally

"Sue Nally, IRL Festival founder and Artistic Director, is a graduate of the University of Waterloo and holds post-graduate certificates in Events Management and Board Governance. Her varied work experiences include International Tournament Director for the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, Operations manager for CAFKA and freelance experience producer. Sue currently works at Crow Shield Lodge as the Operations and Events oversight and helps connect all nations to culture on the land. Grounded in her Irish heritage, Sue strives to unite people through cultural events and showcase positive Irish culture in the Region every March for the past 10 years.
Peggy Plet

Peggy Plet

Peggy Plet was born in Suriname, South America, moving to the Netherlands as a teenager, and to Canada in 2007. Peggy has researched and studied Black history for over 30 years. Now that Waterloo Region is her chosen home, her deep interest in research, particularly women’s history, has led her to explore the presence (and absence) of stories of the Black people who settled this area. A published author and in partnership with Stroll Walking Tours, Peggy’s research formed the basis for a Black history walking tour in Kitchener, enriching and balancing the dominant narrative of European influence of this area. The walking tour, Black Presence in Berlin, has been enjoyed by almost 600 people since it launched in 2022. Peggy’s research work has expanded our community’s understanding of early Black history and culture in Waterloo Region.
https://womenoftheyear.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/cropped-WOY-Brand-Mark.png

Sassy Ray

Elizabeth Priestley (stage name Sassy Ray) has been performing and teaching the art of burlesque in the region since 2006. Her classes and shows focus on empowerment and body positivity/celebration for all ages/sizes/genders and she has been a fixture in the local arts scene for close to 2 decades.Sassy has taught and mentored hundreds of students over the years - through workshops at many local dance studios, weekly drop in classes, and many bootcamp style multi-week sessions that ready and encourage the students to take the stage.She aims to change her students own perceptions of their bodies and abilities and inspire women to embrace and enjoy their own unique beauty.
Stephanie Scott

Stephanie Scott

Stephanie embarked on her entrepreneurial journey six years ago, starting her own business that specializes in murals, vinyl installations, editorial illustrations, and web illustrations. Her artistic talents have attracted clientele including: The University of Waterloo, The Kitchener Market, and Catalyst 137. Through her art, Stephanie has created spaces that inspire and uplift, fostering connections and conversations among residents. Stephanie's influence extends beyond her artistry. She has volunteered her time to speak at events, including panels with Kitchener Public Library and presentations at Conestoga College, inspiring others to pursue their creative passions. Additionally, Stephanie has mentored co-op students and aspiring artists, sharing her experiences and insights to help them navigate their paths in the creative industry.
Bingye (Belinda) Zhang

Bingye (Belinda) Zhang

Belinda Zhang, founder of Half Dot Art Studio, filled with enthusiasm and remarkable distinction in the field of Art. With over 20 years dedicated to the realm of Art Education, she has consistently devoted herself to the advancement of this field. Belinda graduated from Jilin Art College with a specialization in Art Design, majoring in Fashion Design, Belinda moved to Singapore after her studies, where she took on the role of senior graphic designer in an advertising firm. She has organized the "Xuan Se Cup" International Children's Painting Competition three times, which attracted participation from children across more than four countries and regions. Belinda is actively involved in local community initiatives, particularly in supporting and fostering young individuals with a passion for music, encouraging them to courageously follow their dreams. In 2023, she organized a rock music concert that garnered high praise from the local community.