Longtime donor recognized with Governor General’s Performing Arts Award

Lynda Hamilton honoured for support of arts organizations, including Al & Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre. (Photo: Aleksandar Antonijevic)

If you take a walk through University Health Network’s (UHN) Al & Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre, you immediately see Lynda Hamilton’s impact. Prominently placed in the reception area of the Centre sits a photo of Lynda with the team. It’s a fitting testament to an impassioned philanthropist whose generosity has touched many artists across Canada.

This very generosity earned Lynda the 2021 Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts, one of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards. The honour acknowledges outstanding voluntary service to the performing arts by an individual or group.

The time, resources and wisdom Lynda has graciously given to arts organizations has helped fill a gap and deliver support to performers when it was lacking. Her investment in the Artists’ Health Centre, the Dancer Transition Resource Centre, the Artists’ Health Alliance, the University of British Columbia, the Canadian Senior Artists Resource Network and the Valleyview Artist Retreat is why she was selected for this prestigious distinction.

“I’m very proud of all the organizations I’ve supported. Artists are so important to Canadian society, and supporting them is an absolute need,” Lynda says.

Philanthropy’s role in supporting artists

Thanks to donor funding, including that of Lynda, and support from the Artists’ Health Alliance, Toronto Western Hospital and UHN, the Artists’ Health Centre first opened its doors in 2002. Now located in a beautiful space across the street from Toronto Western Hospital, the Centre is the only healthcare clinic of its kind in Canada that specializes in caring exclusively for artists of all disciplines. More than 1,650 patients are seen at the Centre, and there were about 5,800 patient visits – virtual and in-person – in 2021. The interprofessional team offers medical and complementary care to help artists return to their craft. The goal is to grant artists with financial challenges access to the array of therapies they need to be creators.

“Not all artists are poor, but sometimes there’s only a job here or there. They can’t always afford the treatments they need,” Lynda says. She explains that her interest in complementary medicine has been an important focus of her involvement with the Centre as it aligns with the needs of artists who are outside of the medical system.

“You can give people access to massage and osteopathy and other modalities, but they have to be able to pay for them. Not everyone can, so we had to devise a subsidy program,” she says. This program was named after Joysanne Sidimus, who was a leader in the conceptualization of the Artists’ Health Centre and supported the project to completion. “I have been a supporter of this program since its inception,” adds the former dancer and dance teacher.

One artist who has benefitted from the subsidy program is Claire Doyle, a singer-songwriter whose stage name is Claire Davis and who has collaborated with Daniel Caesar, Charlotte Day Wilson and Jessie Reyez. She has received treatment at the Centre since 2019, when neck and back pain drove her to seek therapy.

“As a recipient of the subsidy program, and a patient of the Al & Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Lynda for her generous support. Because of the subsidy program, I’ve been able to access care that would normally have been out of reach for me as a self-employed artist,” Doyle says. “Being able to prioritize my mental and physical health in order to show up fully in my work – and in life – is the biggest gift someone could give me. Having this resource, especially during a difficult time like the pandemic, has been invaluable. I thank Lynda for believing in the importance of the arts and those who create it.”

Aside from the subsidy program, Lynda has also contributed to an emergent research program that explores how care is best provided to artists. Additionally, her philanthropy has increased services offered around mental health – an essential component that has long been overlooked.

“Lynda has been a support for the Artists’ Health Centre for so long. The Centre is here to help artists get back to their art, to flourish and to thrive. Her support with the subsidy program makes this happen,” says Teri Arany, Executive Director, Toronto Western Family Health Team. “I congratulate her on the award – it is incredibly well-deserved.”

It is because of donors like Lynda that research, education and the enhancement of patient care across UHN are possible.

Lynda would like to recognize the Centre’s devoted group of diverse practitioners and staff, who work together in the interests of artists’ health. She acknowledges their continued contributions to the success of the clinic. Lynda also gives credit to the Family Health Teams for contributing to the Centre by providing the necessary medical care in various clinic locations.

The Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards

Established in 1992, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards honour Canadian artists and volunteers. Recipients from a variety of disciplines are championed for lifetime achievements, having had an extraordinary performance year or for volunteerism.

A gala celebrating recipients of the 2021 Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards aired on CBC Television and CBC Gem on November 26, 2021. Other 2021 laureates include film, television and stage actor and activist Tantoo Cardinal; composer Alexina Louie; choreographer, dancer, instructor, philosopher and writer Zab Maboungou; actor and writer Catherine O’Hara; actor, producer, screenwriter, entrepreneur and activist Ryan Reynolds; and singer-songwriter and guitarist Florent Vollant.

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