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The Portia White Prize recognizes an outstanding professional Nova Scotian artist, who has attained mastery and recognition in their discipline and has made a significant contribution to the province’s cultural life over a sustained career.

This award helps showcase the recipients’ work to residents of the province and to people beyond our borders. This visibility will encourage artistic and economic well-being for the recipients and contribute to the health of Nova Scotia’s artistic sector in support of a well-rounded community.


This prize is named for Portia White, an extraordinary contralto who was born in 1911 in Truro, Nova Scotia. Without any doubt, she is the foremother of contemporary Canadian female singers of any genre. Born to a musical family, she was taught to sing by her mother and sang in the choir of her father Rev. William White’s church. Her talent was nurtured by the Halifax Ladies Musical Club and Dr. Ernesto Vinci of the Halifax Conservatory. A special Trust, first named the Portia White Trust, and later the Nova Scotia Talent Trust, was set up to provide financial aid for her career. The Trust continues to support Nova Scotian artists from all disciplines. Despite great adversity, between 1940 and 1948, Portia White had triumphant debuts in Toronto in 1941 and New York in 1944. She toured extensively across North and South America and the Caribbean. Portia White became a source of pride for Nova Scotians and all Canadians.

A trailblazing artist, she began her career at as a teacher in all Black, segregated schools in the Halifax area, including in Africville and Beechville. Her hard work, dedication and stunning stage presence endeared her to critics and audiences alike. Upon retiring from the stage, Ms. White devoted her time to teaching and coaching young singers and actors in Toronto. Her achievements continue to inspire many recognitions, including being named a Person of National Historic Significance by the Government of Canada. Though she died in 1968, her legacy lives on in Nova Scotia’s Portia White Prize.* 

*Text provided by Nova Scotian filmmaker Sylvia D. Hamilton whose documentary Portia White: Think On Me explored the life of Portia white. Hamilton received the Portia White Prize in 2002.

The Prize

The recipient of the prize receives $18,000.

The recipient selects a protégé, or secondary recipient, who is an emerging Nova Scotia artist or a Nova Scotia cultural organization. The protégé receives $7,000.

How Often is the Prize Awarded?

The prize will be awarded annually, unless the peer assessment committee determines that there is no suitable candidate.

Who is Eligible?

Professional artists working in any medium, who either were born in Nova Scotia or who have been a resident of the province for at least the past four years. 

Nominees must:

  • be Canadian citizens or landed immigrants
  • have made an impact on the province’s cultural life
  • be currently active in their artistic practice
  • agree to be nominated
  • not have received the Portia White Prize in the past

An artist cannot be nominated for both an Established Artist Recognition Award and the Portia White Prize in the same year.

Only one nomination package can be submitted for an artist in a year. 

How to Nominate an Artist

Nominations can either come from a cultural organization or business registered or incorporated in Nova Scotia or by three individuals who are all currently residents in the province. 

Nominators may make one nomination per year. 

Nominators are encouraged to contact the Program Officer for assistance when completing the nomination.

Required Documents

1.    Nominator Statement
Describe why the nominee’s key artistic achievements are important (1 page maximum)
•    Describe the nominee’s important contributions to Nova Scotia’s cultural life (1 page maximum)
•    How does the nominee demonstrate excellence in and mastery of their artistic discipline (1 page maximum)

2.    Nominee CV
Include a two-page CV or description of artistic practice and applicable training.

3.    Two letters of support 
Letters of support should be from professional colleagues or organizations that speak to the nominee’s artistic achievements, recognition, and progress. Letters of support do not count against the samples of work maximums.

4.    Support Material
Examples of work should be provided to give assessors an overall impression of the nominee’s body of work. 

Below is a list of accepted formats, file sizes and amounts of examples of work. A table of contents and annotations that alert the peer assessment committee to specific aspects of the support materials (e.g. title, size, year, medium).

  Maximum # Submitted Maximum Length/File Size Accepted Formats
Audio 3 samples 15 minutes for all material Soundcloud, YouTube
Video 3 samples 15 minutes for all material YouTube, Vimeo
Still Images 10 images 2MB each .jpg, .tiff, .tif, .png
Print   15 printed pages .pdf

How are Recipients Chosen?

Award recipients are chosen by an interdisciplinary peer assessment committee.  Nominators must ensure that their nominees agree that, if they are selected, the support material submitted may be used by Arts Nova Scotia and the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council for promotion of the Artist Recognition Awards.

Applications are assessed according to the following:

  • Demonstration of excellence and mastery of their artistic discipline
  • Provincial, National and International recognitionContribution to Nova Scotia’s cultural life 
  • Connection to Nova Scotia’s cultural community 

Nomination Submission

Send your application to according to the instructions below. You can watch our YouTube tutorial Submitting Your Application Over Email for more detailed instructions.

Before Sending Your Email

  • Include your name on all files
  • Number your files in the order they should be opened
  • Ensure your page limits and file sizes are in line with the program guidelines
  • Upload large audio and video files to a streaming service such as YouTube, Vimeo or SoundCloud

When Submitting

  • Address your email to
  • Send one application per email 
  • Subject line should be: “Portia White Prize for [Nominee]”
  • Keep attachments under 25MB
  • Do not attach large audio or video files; include a streaming link in the body of the email
  • Do not send cloud-based attachments (WeTransfer, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.)
  • Do not duplicate your application; do not send an additional hard copy

Only submissions will be accepted to this email address. Please direct all questions to the program officer. 

If you are unable to submit by email please contact the program officer.

All applications sent to ArtsNS Submissions should receive an auto-reply confirmation. If you do not receive confirmation within one week, please contact a program officer. You must contact the program officer within two weeks of the deadline for us to consider your application. Applications will only be considered if there is proof of email being sent by the deadline.

Past Recipients

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