The Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) is pleased to announce Emily Maxwell as the first recipient of the new Christine Karcza Disability Leadership Award. This new bi-annual award is presented to an individual who identifies as d/Deaf, Mad or d/Disabled and demonstrates leadership and advancement of the field. Ms. Maxwell receives a cash prize of $5,000 and selects Natasha ‘Courage’ Bacchus, a respected colleague of their choice who is also a leading d/Disabled or non-d/Disabled administrator, to collect a cash prize of $2,500.
This year marks the first year of the Christine Karcza Disability Leadership Award, honouring the passion and commitment of Christine Karcza, a disability activist and rigorous advocate of access in the arts. Ms.Karcza worked tirelessly and passionately with leading cultural organizations, including the National Arts Centre, the Stratford Festival, the National Ballet, the Toronto Fringe Festival, the Royal Ontario Museum, Creative Users Projects and Mirvish Productions, to build awareness of the many barriers that exclude disabled people everywhere. Christine’s sudden death left ambitious and collaborative projects unfinished and many grappling with the loss of a leader and mentor.
The vision for Ms. Karcza’s consulting company, I Can Do This, was for people with disabilities to be given the opportunity to be active cultural participants and leaders. As a mentor she inspired many to advocate for the same vision. It is with great admiration that TAPA presented the inaugural award to Emily Maxwell.
Ms. Maxwell is an extremely bright, passionate, intelligent and compassionate new force in our Toronto arts community, who has begun an impressive vocation as a disability advocate and leader, already making significant impact in our sector in just a few short years. She is the Artistic Director & Founder of The Disability Collective, which has provided paid opportunities for over 100 disabled artists in Toronto and around the world, and has established itself as a critical platform and hub for the intersection of arts, accessibility and disability justice.
Emily is dedicated to creating opportunities for disabled artists to showcase their work, and fighting for accessibility in performing arts spaces, both on and offstage. As a queer, disabled, and neurodivergent artist, experiencing a decade of ableism and discrimination in the performing arts industry, she is committed to lifting up voices of d/Deaf and d/Disabled artists who are so often left behind.
Emily also works as the Accessibility Coordinator for Luminato Festival Toronto, the Program Coordinator for the ReelAbilities Film Festival Toronto, and is one of the Accessibility Coordinators for the Toronto Fringe Festival. Emily is also on the Board of Directors for Kickstart Disability Arts & Culture, based in Vancouver.
As the 2023 recipient, Ms. Maxwell is also given the opportunity to select a leader of their choice who is a d/Disabled or non-d/Disabled administrator to collect a cash prize of $2,500. Natasha ‘Courage’ Bacchus, was chosen for her contributions to the field.
About the Christine Karcza Disability Leadership Award
The Christine Karcza Disability Leadership Award (Karcza Award) is a bi-annual award administered by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) and is presented to an individual who identifies as d/Deaf, Mad or d/Disabled. The award recipient will receive a cash prize of $5,000.
The recipient will demonstrate leadership within the performing arts in one or more of the following areas:
- advancement of accessibility for d/Deaf or d/Disabled audiences
- advancement of opportunities for d/Deaf and d/Disabled artists or arts workers
- development of skills or mentorship of d/Deaf or d/Disabled artists or arts workers
- leadership of commitment and excellence of practice as a d/Deaf or d/Disabled artist