2014 marked the 20th year anniversary of the MARTYS! The Meadowvale Theatre provided the stage for the first Mississauga Arts Awards in 1994. Originally, the Music Council had annual Music Awards, however the Mississauga Arts Council began organizing an event, which would represent all artistic disciplines after the Music Council was discontinued.
In the beginning, ten awards were created and awarded; one emerging and one established winner in the categories of music, dance, theatre, literary and visual arts. The awards included financial honourariums. In 1994, the Mississauga Arts Council was actively presenting an annual Arts Festival at Square One. It was decided to move the award presentations to Square One as the finale for the Festival. This continued until 1996. It was around this time that the Living Arts Centre was being built. With so much energy invested in this project, the event took a one year hiatus in 1996.
In 1996 the Arts Award would take place in Hammerson Hall. The move to the Living Arts Centre meant a major increase in budget including an increased honourarium for winners of $1,000 each. A development committee was created to handle the fundraising for this event and several major corporations were secured as sponsors- many of which are still sponsors today.
Quartetto Gelato headlined the stage for a live broadcast on Rogers Television in 2000 and by 2001, the event had grown into a full-blown production with professional performers on-stage. In 2002, it was decided that the event would hereafter be a fall event. New award categories were established to balance and reflect the entire arts community, the onstage event reflected more those applying for/receiving the awards through integrated multimedia and in the selection of live performers.
In its ninth year, the award categories became Literary, Media, Performing and Visual Arts. Each category had an emerging and established award with the Performing Arts having awards in both individual and group. In 2003, a Silent Auction was added to round off the evening. 2004 was the 10th anniversary of the Arts Awards.
In 2007, the council held its “Name the Award Contest” looking for an exciting new name for the Mississauga Arts Awards. During the arts award celebration, past President Benjamin Thornton revealed the new name, the “MARTY Award.” The MARTYS stand for “M” as in Mississauga, teamed with “ARTY” for arts. Contest winner Barbara Prins was called to the stage, congratulated and awarded a cash prize.
In 2011, the MARTY Awards returned to the Living Arts Centre for one of the most exciting MARTY Award celebrations in history. The MARTYS were presented to a sold out audience in the Living Arts Centre’s Hammerson Hall. During the event, the council was pleased to introduce its “People’s Choice” Award, which was presented to Canadian songstress, Liberty Silver. The People’s Choice contest allows the general public to select its favourite MARTY nominated artist by voting online via the Mississauga Arts Council website.
2013 marked the 19th annual MARTY Awards. The show was presented in a theatrical format complete with live music, hors d’oeuvres, and mainstage performances featuring host Tristan Barrocks, the Johnny Max Band, the Alma Quartet, the Con Brio singers, Vibonics, Zohra Zoberi, and the Cawthra Dancers. Marielba, Eduardo & Greg entertained everyone in the atrium and Kyle Fraser performed at the VIP after party. A total of 91 artists were in the running as nominees.