Early this fall, four significant arts organizations celebrated the accomplishments of Canadian artists by announcing major awards and prizes. The Prix Culturel Samuel de Champlain was awarded to choreographer Marie Chouinard, while Aszure Barton was awarded the Charles and Joan Gross Family Foundation Prize. Vancouver bestowed its Mayor’s Art Awards for 2014, with Jai Govinda winning the performance award, while Alejandro De Leon received $45,000 from the funding body CALQ (Le conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec) to create a new dance web series.
Marie Chouinard was awarded the Prix Culturel Samuel de Champlain for her outstanding contribution to Canadian culture. The award is meant to support the ongoing development of relations between France and Canada, and each year two artists receive this award — one Canadian and one French. This year, the French winner is Brigitte Lefèvre, the director of dance at the Paris Opera. It is most significant that both laureates for 2014 are dance artists, as the prize is not specific to dance and can recognize leaders in culture from any discipline. Past winners include Robert Lepage (Canadian actor, playwright, film/theatre director, designer, 2005), Jean-Pierre Pichard (French Celtic music festival director, 2005) and Michael Snow (Canadian visual artist, 2006). Chouinard has already been highly decorated for her achievements, holding both the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre des arts et des lettres (France 2009) and Officer of the Order of Canada. She has also won the Prix de Québec Denise-Pelletier (2010), the Grand Prix du Conseil des Arts de Montréal (2006), a Bessie Award (2000, New York) and the award for best choreographic work for The Golden Mean (2012) from CALQ.
On October 7, the 2014 winners of the Vancouver Mayor’s Art Awards received recognition at the Roundhouse Centre. Performing arts awardees include Jai Govinda for his excellence in bharatanatyam dance, Brad Turner for music and Nancy Bryant for theatre. Each of these established artists selected a new-generation artist to be recognized for their contributions. In dance, Jai Govinda selected Shay Kuebler, dancer, choreographer and artistic director of Radical System Arts Society. Importantly, all winners receive a $3000 cash prize, recognizing that new-generation and established artists as equals in their ability to nurture the development of the arts in Canada.
Aszure Barton, a pre-eminent Canadian dance artist, has won the first ever Charles and Joan Gross Family Foundation Prize alongside composers Lev Zhurbin and Curtis MacDonald for their collaboration Awáa. This award will be given biennially to the creative team of an outstanding piece of choreography with original music. Composers and choreographers each receive $15,000, and the website humorously notes “only checks (sorry, no statuettes)” will be sent to the winners.
In a unique partnership between CALQ and the television company Télé-Québec, five artists and two collectives in the domains of dance, visual art and cinema have been selected to create new web series. A remarkable 137 project applications were submitted, and dance artist Alejandro De Leon was the only dance artist to have been selected. His project, a dance video series titled Get Back to Me, invites the viewer to interact with the video and to create his or her own story. The project was allotted $45,000. View the videos here.
These four significant prizes celebrate the accomplishments of Canadian artists on a grand scale. Between the Prix Culturel Samuel de Champlain, the Charles and Joan Gross Family Foundation Prize, the Vancouver Mayor’s Art Awards and CALQ’s new Télé-Québec grants, there is clearly remarkable support for Canadian dance artists and a large number of artists who merit this support through their dedication and talent. Canada can be grateful for both.