Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran is the keynote speaker. (Photo: Surrey Board of Trade)

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran is the keynote speaker. (Photo: Surrey Board of Trade)

Finalists revealed for Surrey Arts and Business Awards

Awards to be presented during a live digital event on Thursday, Dec. 3

Fifteen finalists will soon find out if they will be taking home the big prize as the Surrey Board of Trade presents its fourth Surrey Arts & Business Awards during a live digital event on Thursday, Dec. 3.

The ceremony, featuring Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran as keynote speaker, will run from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and celebrate the winners in five categories: Arts and Innovation, Cultural Ambassador, Philanthropy Award, Legacy Award and Music Award.

“The arts and culture industry enhances the livability of Surrey – and we still need to celebrate those in Surrey that make such a meaningful impact to this industry sector,” said Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade.

She noted most cultural institutions were indefinitely closed, and in-person exhibitions, events, and performances were cancelled or postponed on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In response, there were intensive efforts to provide alternative or additional innovative services through digital platforms, and to maintain essential activities with minimal resources,” Huberman noted.

“But financial stimulus from governments for artists varied greatly across Canada. The public demand for in-person cultural activities is expected to return, but at an unknown time and with the assumption that different kinds of experiences may occur,” she added.

“We need the arts now more than ever: For our city’s economic development, for our mental health, for our creativity.”

READ ALSO: Surrey Arts & Business Awards winners named at breakfast event

Finalists in the five award categories are, for the Arts and Innovation Award, Gigi Saul Guerrero/ Lucha Gore Productions, Sher Vancouver LGBTQ Friends Society, and the Youth Arts Council of Surrey. In the running for the Cultural Ambassador Award is Amarjeet Singh Vabhana/Naad Arts Center, Asad Khan/Khanvict, Latin singer Marlin Ramazzini and bass player Fito Garcia.

Finalists for the Legacy Award, recognizing a “rich and enlightening career in the arts,” are the late visual artist Don Li-Leger, Surrey Children’s Choir founder Stephen Horning, and Surrey Now-Leader journalist Tom Zillich, who has been covering arts and entertainment in Metro Vancouver for more than 30 years.

Three finalists are up for the Philanthropy Award: The Edith Lando Charitable Foundation, Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel, and Tom Douglas and Jan Lyle of Tom Douglas Art.

The Music Award recognizes and individual or company that supports musicians or has excelled in the music industry. The finalists here are Alexis Leibenzeder/Alexis Lynn Music, Natalia Pardalis/Pardalis Studio for Music and Performing Arts, and Surrey-based record label Snakes x Ladders.

Event sponsors include Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the Tien Sher Group of Companies, CTV and the Surrey Now-Leader.

To register for the event, visit

Biographies of all 2020 Surrey Arts & Business Award finalists:


Awarded for originality, ingenuity, and resourcefulness within the creative sector (music, dance, visual art, literature).

a. Gigi Saul Guerrero | Lucha Gore Productions

Born in Mexico City and raised in Surrey, Gigi continuously builds a prolific career in the film industry. As a Director and Filmmaker, her main genre is horror. She co-founded Luchagore Productions and directed an action-packed episode for ‘The Purge Season 2’. Gigi directed her debut feature ‘Culture Shock’ for Blumhouse Productions Television, which garnered the Best Primetime movie at Imagen. Her series with Warner Brothers/Stage 13, ‘La Quinceañera’, won the Audience Award at the 2017 Morbido Film Festival. She also lends her voice in Marvel Superhero Adventures and Spider-Girl, and as Vida in Netflix’s Super Monsters.

b. Sher Vancouver LGBTQ Friends Society

Sher Vancouver is a social, cultural, and support non-profit society for LGBTQ+ South Asians and their friends and families. Everyone is welcome. Sher provides advocacy, free crisis counselling, information, referral peer support groups, volunteer opportunities, and outreach presentations to combat bullying and racism and other forms of discrimination. Sher also offers an annual youth leadership award and produces short and feature-length social justice documentary films for high schools, colleges, universities, and the educational market, as well as for film festivals and broadcast. One of the documentary films that Sher produced is My Name Was January which has won 15 international awards and garnered 64 official selections at film festivals around the world. Most recently, My Name Was January was awarded as Best Short Documentary at the Director’s Cut International Film Festival in New Westminster.

c. Youth Arts Council of Surrey

Established in 2004 as a division of the Arts Council of Surrey, YACOS promotes and fosters the literary, performing, and visual arts in the City of Surrey. It has offered opportunities for youth aged 13 to 21, to plan, create, and execute in the visual, performing, and literary arts. Youth have participated in production plays, art exhibitions, and various festivals and cultural events showcasing their talent. Through these events, YACOS had open the doors for young emerging local talents to show their positive side while creating and presenting art in Surrey.


Awarded to an individual or business that has significantly contributed to Surrey’s arts and cultural community and raised the visibility of Surrey’s creative industry.

a. Amarjeet Singh Vabhana | Naad Arts Center

Amarjeet is an ambassador for Canada’s cultural diversity, music, and art. He is a bridge that joins people of different cultural traditions in their love of music and art. He is the founder of the Naad Foundation, a musical and cultural training and exposition centre that helps troubled youth to stay away from drugs and gang violence through music and arts. He promotes music, inspires, and teaches exceptionally talented young students. The Naad Foundation has cultivated local talent and represents Canada’s cultural diversity at many international events in countries such as USA, Uzbekistan, and Germany.

b. Asad Khan | Khanvict

Asad Khan is the founder and owner of Decibel Entertainment, a multi award-winning private event company that provides DJ, photobooth, sound and lighting services for over 1000 events a year, mostly in Surrey. Decibel has single-handedly changed the sector, redefining what it is to be young and South Asian in the city and spawning a generation of DJs and producers that are making a global impact. He is also a globe-trotting electronic music producer by the name Khanvict and has played hundreds of events and festivals across the globe – bringing his Surrey roots worldwide. Asad mentors, books and manages 19 young Surrey DJs, and is one of the driving forces behind Beats by Her, a female-focused DJ workshop series meant to address the severe gender imbalance in the South Asian music industry. He is on the advisory board of 5X Festival, the largest South Asian youth event in Canada.

c. Marlin Ramazzini & Fito Garcia

Marlin and Fito are two cultural ambassadors and musical artists for our diverse community in Surrey. Moving to Surrey in 1995, they brought their culture to the forefront of Surrey’s cultural events. Fito, a bass player, is a Juno Awardee, while Marlin is recognized as a versatile and accomplished Latin singer on the West Coast. Marlin is a recipient of several awards such as The Women’s Award from the Spanglish Magazine, Latino Soy Award and Western Canadian Music Award. Together they bring their Latin roots and exceptional presentation of their understanding of musical genres of diverse backgrounds, including jazz and Latin music.


Awarded for a rich and enlightening career in the arts, this individual or business may be celebrating a milestone anniversary or capping off a long career in the creative economy industry. Ultimately Surrey is more vibrant for their long-standing contributions.

a. Don Li-Leger

Don’s career as a visual artist spanned nearly five decades, the first two of which he spent building a reputation as a realist (nature) artist and printmaker. In his last decade, Don’s interest turned to videography and film making. From 1987 until his passing in 2019, Don worked from his home studio in Surrey, with his wife Cora, herself an artist and art therapist. They worked on several collaborative projects, including social practice and cultural development initiatives, which earned them an award from the City of Surrey as Civic Treasure Awardees in 2015, Civic Beautification Award in 2017, and Social Innovation Award in 2018. Earlier this year, the Surrey Art Gallery, in honour of Don’s legacy, has featured his paintings and video in Counting the Steps of the Sun exhibit.

b. Stephen Horning

Stephen founded the award-winning Surrey Children’s Choir in 1992 and the Surrey Community Chorus in 1999. He taught for 11 years in the Campbell River School District where he founded the Campbell River Children’s Choir and conducted the North Island Choral Society. Stephen has been appointed conductor of the Douglas College Children’s Choir and has directed the Surrey District Honour Choir in the past years. He represented the Greater Vancouver Schools on the board of the BC Choral Federation. Stephen has been recognized for his achievement and significant contributions to the arts and culture, among which are the Willan Award for Outstanding Service to the BC Choral Federation, Surrey Civic Treasures Award in 2008, Professional Music Award Elementary from British Columbia Music Educators Association in 2019 and in February 2020, he was presented the Certificate of Recognition by The Surrey Board of Education for his outstanding contribution to Surrey Schools.

c. Tom Zillich

Tom Zillich has been covering the arts and entertainment world of Metro Vancouver area for more than three decades, most recently for the Surrey Now-Leader newspaper and website, where he has worked as a reporter and editor since 2005. In those 15 years, Tom has written about a wide range of artists and performers in Surrey, including an untold number of musicians, actors, painters, and poets, and given a higher profile to arts organizations that make the city a better, more vibrant place to live. Tom is a familiar face at events, exhibits, and shows in Surrey, and works to share the stories of such gatherings with Now-Leader readers. Also, pre- and post-pandemic, Tom can be seen on stage as the bass player in Reckless, a Bryan Adams tribute band, and also Witchazel, which covers ‘80s hard rock – endeavours that crank the volume on his long time passion for the arts and entertainment.


Awarded to an individual or business that has generously contributed to arts and culture through grants, donations or other investments.

a. Edith Lando Charitable Foundation

Established in 1974 and named after Edith Lando, a philanthropist and visionary, the Edith Lando Charitable Foundation is dedicated to fostering the self-esteem of children and encouraging adults to treat children with more understanding and compassion. Arts Umbrella is one of the organizations that have received support from the Foundation and these include the creation of dedicated space for vulnerable children and youth, the launch of Head Start, an early childhood outreach program that provides young learners with broad experiences in artistic disciplines such as dance, theater, and visual art classes. As a result, the foundation has supported a wide range of projects within the Canadian arts and culture sector, encouraging creativity amongst the next generation of artists.

b. Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel

Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel has been an active supporter and advocate of the arts and culture in the City of Surrey for over 20 years. Sheraton firmly believes that when business and arts combine, business thrives. It has supported Blues for the Bank, the Royal Canadian Theatre Company, and even during the pandemic, the hotel has offered large meeting spaces for the Surrey City Orchestra Society to convert to a digital platform in recording and broadcasting their life performances while ensuring appropriate physical distancing measures. These live performances include the Virtual Canada Day Celebration, the Remembrance Day video, and the City of Surrey Tree Lighting Virtual Celebration.

c. Tom Douglas and Jan Lyle | Tom Douglas Art

Tom is a painter, an art expert, and owner of antique shops called The Metropolitan Home and Heaven and Earth, which have catered to collectors around the world. Over the years he and his wife, Jan Lyle has developed a substantial and highly unique art collection which they donated to the Surrey Art Gallery in 2019 as a legacy for their passion for arts. The majority of their donation to the Surrey Arts Gallery consists of photographic prints, including work by significant Canadian artists along with pieces by critically acclaimed American photographers. The cultural benefits of this donation will have an enduring legacy and will help fulfill the cultural needs of Surrey residents (and other guests to the Gallery) for many years.


Awarded to an individual or company that either supports musicians or has excelled in the musical industry.

a. Alexis Leibenzeder | Alexis Lynn Music

Alexis Lynn is a Surrey-based singer, songwriter, pop, and R&B artist whose music career is gaining momentum. She earned the Achievement by a First Nations/Indigenous Artist Award at the 4th Annual Fraser Valley Music Awards in 2018 and 2019. Her song Worst Behaviour was named in February as among the Top 50 songs in the annual Searchlight competition while her latest single Ghost is featured in Spotify’s Editorial Playlist.

b. Natalia Pardalis | Pardalis Studio for Music and Performing Arts

Natalia is a vocalist, pianist, composer, and educator. She obtained her Performing Arts degree from Capilano University, Douglas College, Langara College, and the Vancouver Community College. She founded the Pardalis Studio for Music and Performing Arts with a mission to create a diverse musical community that is rich with culture and social responsibility. Natalia’s vast performance experiences have earned her several awards like the 2019 Fraser Valley Music Awards for Jazz, Close Look TV: Inspirational Award for her work as a music educator in 2015. Natalia is active on Factor Canada as a jury member, her most recent stint is being a judge at the 2020 Juno Awards.

c. Snakes x Ladders

Snakes x Ladders is a Surrey-based record label and cultural channel that seeks to empower local youth by helping them create global impact with their music. Only a year old, Snakes x Ladders has released 15 albums and singles by local artists amounting to over 100K streams on various platforms, hosted numerous events, and defined itself as the voice of the young creative community in Surrey. They curated the music at the Indian edition at the Celebration of Lights in 2019, the largest civic event in the city curated the afterparty for Skookum Festival 2018 and for Rifflandia (Victoria) in 2019. In Spring of 2019, the label traveled to music conference FIMPRO in Guadalajara, Mexico to represent the sound of Surrey. They are a frequent collaborator with 5X Festival and Blueprint Events, and most recently are co-producing the first North American tour of India’s biggest rapper DIVINE.

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