Culture champions honoured at Oshawa Culture Counts Awards


Published May 29, 2024 at 1:45 pm

The Strumbellas were the main act at the Convergence festival last fall in downtown Oshawa

An urban landscape artist, an operatic soprano, the anthem singer for the Toronto Raptors and the team behind the wildly successful Convergence Music and Arts Festival were the big winners at Oshawa’s annual Culture Counts Awards.

The program, which has been recognizing those who contribute to the city’s vibrant creative and cultural scene since 2017, presents awards in three categories: Professional Artist, Emerging Artist, and Innovation and Creation Champion.

The Oshawa Culture Counts Professional Artist Award was presented to local artist Amy Shackleton in recognition of her outstanding creativity, originality, professional maturity and leadership in the arts community.

Artist Amy Shackleton accepting the Professional Artist Award at Oshawa Council

Shackleton, who graduated from York University’s Fine Arts program in 2008, has seen her art exhibited across North America and are held in public collections including the Town of Cobourg, Museum of Dufferin, Colart Collection and Facebook Canada.

At home, her work has been shown in partnership with The Robert McLaughlin Gallery at the Oshawa Centre in 2020 and at South Oshawa Community Centre in 2023-2024. Both murals included an augmented reality component created with Julian Brown.

Shackleton’s paintings portray hypothetical futures that show the harsh reality of climate change yet strive to offer a glimpse of hope by imagining a future where humanity and nature co-exist. Her inventive technique, described as ‘drip painting with a twist,’ has earned her a huge social media following. She applies paint with squeeze bottles and works with gravity to manipulate the falling drips by rotating her canvas.

Emily Rocha and Kalista Wilson received the Oshawa Culture Counts Emerging Artists Awards, which recognizes artists between the ages of 12 to 30 or have begun their artistic practice within the past five years.

Emily Rocha is one of two winners of the Emerging Artist award

Rocha is a soprano who has performed across Europe and North America, including New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall. She will join the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio for the 2024-2025 season and will be a Vocal Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Festival this summer.

Rocha, who earned her degree at the University of Toronto Voice Performance program in 2021 and her masters from the university’s Opera School last year, has offered dazzling performances in several celebrated operas, including M. Choufleuri restera chez lui, Disobedience, A Tale of Two Cities, Die Zauberflöte, Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and The Tender Land.  In a workshop for the new opera Melancholia, which premiered in the fall of 2023 at the Kungliga Operan, she sang excerpts as Justine.

She was a district winner in the Metropolitan Opera Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition (Tulsa District), and second prize winner at COC Centre Stage: Ensemble Studio Competition 2023 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, along with several other notable honours, including the University of Toronto’s prestigious Ivan Alexandor Chorney Opera Scholarship (2022).

Kalista Wilson, at just 19 years old, is an accomplished singer, actress, model and a full-time university student who was nominated for a Juno in 2020 as a member of Girl Pow-R. Her involvement as the national anthem singer for the Toronto Raptors over the last four years, as well as The Toronto Marlies and TFC, has made her a familiar face at major sporting events. She also proudly served as the anthem singer for her hometown Oshawa Generals and is the anthem singer for the City of Oshawa’s Canada Day celebrations.

Kalista Wilson, 19, is the second Oshawa Emerging Artist winner

Wilson also regularly donates her time and her voice to local charities and causes, including The Concert to Feed the Need Durham (2019- 2023), highlighting her commitment to making a positive impact in her community.

Her acting career has included lead roles and guest appearances in television shows and movies on networks such as CTV, Family Channel and the Oprah Winfrey Network. Her upcoming projects include Near or Far on CBC Gem this spring.

Oshawa Tourism, an arm of the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, is this year’s Innovation and Creation Champion, an award presented each year award to individuals, or organizations in the creative and cultural industries who have made significant contributions to an event, product, program or partnership in the past year.

Oshawa Tourism introduced the blockbuster event Convergence in 2023, which transformed downtown Oshawa into a hub of entertainment and celebration on a memorable day last September.

This event was created in collaboration with local artists and businesses and the free, family extravaganza unfolded across two stages: one dedicated to emerging artists, showcasing the talent here in Oshawa, and another featuring established bands, headlined by The Strumbellas. Along with the musical performances, the event included a wrestling ring, vendor markets, food trucks and art exhibitions.

Oshawa Tourism Director Krista Licsi accepting the Innovation and Creation Champion award

The goal of Convergence was to bring together 5,000 people for a day of shared joy and camaraderie and 15,000 people showed up local restaurants and businesses with an influx of visitors to Oshawa’s downtown.

“In Oshawa’s vibrant cultural landscape, your talents and dedication shine brightly. Congratulations to this year’s Culture Counts Award winners, your commitment to nurturing our artistic soul is truly commendable,” said Mayor Dan Carter.

The ceremony took place during the Council meeting held on May 27.

“We proudly recognize the importance of Oshawa’s culture, and we commend those who dedicate their hard work to bringing our city’s spirit to life. Through their creativity and community initiatives, they enhance Oshawa for all of us,” said Councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri, Chair of the Economic and Development Services Committee. “Your successes motivate us to embrace and celebrate creativity, diversity, and boundless potential.”

To learn more about the Oshawa Culture Counts Awards visit

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