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For distribution
3 December 2021

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The Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi announces new Laureate Award for an outstanding queer artist thanks to $300k gift

The Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi o Aotearoa is thrilled to announce a new dedicated Laureate Award to be presented to a queer artist in 2022. The annual award, named Toi Kō Iriiri, presents an opportunity to recognise and celebrate an outstanding queer artist, supporting them with a $30,000 gift, and sharing their story with New Zealand.

The Toi Kō Iriiri Queer Arts Award is the first of its kind in Aotearoa. It will celebrate an outstanding artist or collective of artists whose practice has a meaningful impact on the queer community. The artist/s will come from a queer community, and their work will be representative of their community and contribute to social change.

This award is made possible thanks to the radical generosity of philanthropist and recently appointed Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Trustee Hall Cannon, who has committed to backing this award for the next 10 years with a $300,000 gift.

“I am passionate about the arts and passionate about supporting great causes, and I think in this case – the time has come. With this award we have a really exceptional opportunity to be, frankly, a global leader in this space. And I hope, that in the process we can show that while we’re a small country, we can be very mighty with our voice.” - Hall Cannon

The name of the award – Toi Kō Iriiri – has been gifted by Dr Elizabeth Kerekere, Activist, Artist, Green Party MP. Her interpretation of this name references “art that transforms – that moves us in or out of discomfort, but always to a new place.”

While the inaugural Laureate receiving the Toi Kō Iriiri Queer Arts award will be announced alongside the rest of The Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate recipients next year, the selection process is unique. After 12 months of consultation with queer arts communities, a roadmap has been developed as follows:

  • Advisory Panel established to support Te Tumu Toi throughout this process, made up of val smith (queer artist, educator, 2019 Arts Foundation Laureate, Dr Elizabeth Kerekere (Activist, Artist, Green Party MP) and Elyissa Wilson-Heti (Creative Director of PRIDE festival, FAFSWAG member, 2020 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate).
  • In February 2022, The Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi will crowdsource a unique selection panel from the queer communities. From the nominations we receive, our Advisory Panel will select a panel of five.
  • In June 2022, the Selection Panel will choose the inaugural 2022 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate receiving the Toi Kō Iri Iri Queer Arts Award.
  • The inaugural recipient will be chosen and awarded alongside our other Laureates in August 2022.

“The timing of this award is significant as we look to celebrate next year’s milestone – 50 years of Pride. We’re also reflecting on the insane contribution that queer artists and practitioners have had on the arts. Some of the most innovative, form-pushing, boundary-breaking, glass-ceiling shattering work comes from queer practitioners. They absolutely should get recognised for that contribution.” – Elyissa Wilson-Heti, Artist, Producer, FAFSWAG collective member, Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate, Creative Director of Auckland Pride Festival.

We acknowledge that there is no single umbrella term to encompass the LGBTQIA+ communities. We also recognise that its use as a positive and reclaimed term isn’t for everyone. We use it in this context as an inclusive term to reference those who fall outside of cisgender or heterosexual identities – not as a pejorative. We use it here in celebration, with respect and love.


Established in 2000, the Arts Foundation Laureate Awards celebrate and empower New Zealand’s most outstanding practising artists across all genres. Every year, up to 10 artists are awarded with a $30,000 gift, thanks to the radical generosity of the Arts Foundation giving community.

The Arts Foundation Laureate Awards are for practicing New Zealand artists, working anywhere in the world, with significant achievements (for their stage of career) and the potential to continue as high achieving artists, who are:

  • Committed to a career in the arts
  • Outstanding artists in their field
  • A great New Zealand artist
  • Important to their communities and to New Zealand

In addition to a growing whānau of Arts Foundation supporters are a collection of major Laureate supporters – some who support an entire Laureate annually and some every second year. These include: My Art (Sonja and Glenn Hawkins), Sir Roger Hall, Theresa Gattung, the late Adrian Burr and Peter Tatham, Jillian Friedlander, Marti and Gerrard Friedlander, Dame Gaylene Preston and Sir Roy McKenzie in collaboration with Vista Foundation and the NZ Film Commission, and Ann Mallinson.

About the Arts Foundation

Backing artists to make their mark. The Arts Foundation was established in 1998 to honour extraordinary New Zealand artists.