Sandra Laronde is an inspirational leader, creator, and arts innovator.


Sandra Laronde is an inspirational arts leader, creator, and innovator.

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A highly accomplished leader, arts innovator, and multidisciplinary artist, Sandra Laronde (Misko Kizhigoo Migizii Kwe) which means “Red Sky Eagle Woman” in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibway) language, M.S.C., O.M.C., OOnt, B.A. (Hon), Hon. LL.D. has over three decades of experience in arts and culture. She is from the Teme-Augama-Anishinaabe (People of the Deep Water) in Temagami, northern Ontario and is based in Toronto.

Sandra plays a pivotal role in the ongoing Indigenous cultural resurgence in Canada. She has created an extraordinary body of work with collaborators that has led to powerful arts experiences elevating the ecology of arts and culture in this country while strengthening an international presence.

She is active in cultural diplomacy and forges stronger ties by representing the nation at numerous high-profile international events and platforms including the Venice Biennale, two Cultural Olympiads (Canada and Beijing), Canadian Heritage’s first Creative Industries Trade Mission to China, a Trade Mission to Europe, Global Affairs Canada visit to northern Sweden, Canada’s High Commission, Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Council of Mongolia, and as an Official Delegate and Speaker at the 19th ASSITEJ World Congress in Soweto, South Africa, to name a few. Sandra founded Red Sky Performance in 2000, Canada's leading company of contemporary Indigenous performance in Canada and worldwide.

Sandra's numerous awards include: the 2023 Indspire Award for the Arts; 2023 Horace Mann Upstarter Award; 2021 Johanna Metcalf Performing Arts Prize; 2021 Order of Ontario; 2020 Celebration of Cultural Life Award from the Toronto Arts Foundation; 2018 Meritorious Service Decoration on behalf of the Governor General of Canada, and the 2018 Lieutenant Governor's Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation. 2014 Vital Ideas (Toronto Community Foundation); 2013 Victor Martyn Staunch-Lynch Award for Outstanding Artist in Dance (Canada Council for the Arts); bestowed with a 2011 Honorary Degree (Hons LL.D) from Trent University; 2011 Expressive Arts Award (Smithsonian Institute); Ontario Good Citizenship Medal; City of Toronto and Toronto Life's "Face the Arts" recipient celebrating Cultural Mavericks; Paul D. Fleck Fellowship in the Arts (Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity); Toronto City Council's Aboriginal Affairs Award, and participated in the Governor-General's Canadian Leadership program that celebrates leaders who make a significant impact on Canada. Her company Red Sky garnered 17 Dora Mavor Moore awards and nominations (2023, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2016, 2012, 2010, 2006, 2004) and two Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, among other recognitions.

In 2019, Sandra was the Curator and brainchild of the inaugural “The Land on Which We Dance Festival” at Jacob’s Pillow in the USA which featured an embodied land acknowledgement, Indigenous traditional and contemporary dance, storytelling, workshops, masterclasses, and connecting with local Indigenous communities.

In 2017, Sandra was also a Curator for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra celebrating Canada’s diverse musical landscape. She curated and directed a singular concert featuring a new genre-defying creation that explored Indigenous, electro-acoustic, and orchestral music, dance and film involving 85 musicians at the Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.

For nine robust years, Sandra was the Director of Indigenous Arts at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity (2007 - 2016). She provided a vision for a compelling future of Indigenous Arts at the Banff Centre in the 21st century. Nine years of extraordinary growth and innovation for Indigenous Arts was achieved under Sandra's leadership.

Sandra is an inspirational speaker and guest lecturer. She has spoken twice at the Canadian Arts Summit, ASSITEJ World Congress in Soweto, South Africa, Luminato Festival, Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity, Blackfoot Arts Awards, Temiskaming Secondary School, and has lectured at numerous universities and colleges across Canada, the United States, and Asia including Ryerson University, York University, University of Toronto, MacEwan University, George Brown College, Humber College, University of New Mexico, University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, Carleton University, and Beijing’s Minzu University, among others.

Sandra is the author of She Holds Up the Stars, published by Annick Press. Her debut novel received a Kirkus Star which marks books of exceptional merit and considered one of the Best of Canadian Books for Kids and Young Adults in 2022 by CBC Books.

Currently, Sandra serves on the Steering Committee of the CSC Global Leaders 2023 which helps to build leadership capacity across the Commonwealth.

She served as a mentor for the Advancing Indigenous Performance Program, a new program to deepen support for US-based Indigenous performing artists and touring networking that is rooted in the shared values of openness, inclusion, equity and generosity.