Toronto's original interdisciplinary arts festival is a critical forum for the independent media arts in Canada and around the world and provides artists with a supportive and professional forum in which to present their projects. Many influential media artists have been nurtured by Images' willingness to embrace new creative concepts and modes of expression in the media arts field. The Images Festival exhibits and encourages the work of artists producing film and video outside of mainstream commercial production, distribution systems and aesthetic conventions. In addition to the international competition programs drawn from submissions to the festival, Images includes artists' retrospectives, national and regional spotlights, publishing projects, touring programs and special guest-curated programs.
The Images Festival was established by the Northern Visions Collective to look closely at the dynamics of accessibility. Images began as Toronto's only alternative to the Toronto International Film Festival, integrating film and video from its inception, and later expanding to include installations, performances and new media. From the beginning, Images has been at the forefront in identifying and supporting work that has been marginalized or unrecognized by existing exhibition venues, and was crucial in opening up dialogue in the media arts community around issues of race, culture, gender and sexuality.
Images has presented numerous important retrospectives dedicated to Canadian artists (e.g. General Idea, 1989; Sara Diamond, 1990; Jean Pierre Lefebvre, 1991; Mike Hoolboom, 1995; Vera Frenkel, 1997; Ali Kazimi, 1998; Barbara Sternberg, 2000; Philip Hoffman, 2001; Richard Fung, 2002; Leslie Peters, 2004;Robert Lee, 2005, Vincent Grenier, 2006; Nelson Henricks, 2008, Louise Bourque, 2009, Ross McLaren, 2010, James MacSwain, 2011, and more recently Althea Thauberger, 2013, Jennifer Chan in 2014, and Iris Ng in 2015) featuring spotlights on Canadian organizations such as the Western Front (Vancouver), Quickdraw Animation Society (Calgary), Les Films de L'Autre (Montréal), MobileGaze (Montréal), Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative (Halifax) and La Bande Vidéo (Québec).